3 surprising elements of a listing that buyers focus on


What do buyers want in a home? It’s a common question for sellers in Chicago to ask their agents. And for a good reason: Figuring out what buyers want and then delivering on it is the fastest way to sell a home.

Today, buyers are getting pickier as the market turns in their favor. Fortunately, many of the asks you’ll hear from homebuyers aren’t big or impossible to fulfill. Prepare your sellers for this market by understanding these four elements of what homebuyers are looking for today.

1. Spotless walls and floors

If your listing has carpet, know that potential buyers will pay close attention to its appearance. In fact, Kiplinger recently rated a dirty carpet as one of the top 15 things homebuyers hate most. Before you list your client’s home, make sure the carpet is cleaned, vacuumed and free of odors. Suggest they replace old carpets, especially if they’re thin or worn through in places.

When looking over your listing before a showing, pay special attention to dirt in the corners, smudges on the walls, and grimy floorboards.

Another issue to remedy is musty smells or odors, which can immediately put homebuyers off. Smoke and cigarette smells are particularly bad (a realtor.com study recently found that smoking in a home could reduce its resale value by as much as 29 percent). To help clients who need to get rid of nasty odors, add a few professional air duct cleaning companies to your list of recommended service providers. These teams will clean out the vents to ensure the air is circulating in the house. If the system is old, suggest your clients consider replacing it before the sale.

2. Energy-efficient appliances and windows

Those little Energy Star stickers don’t seem like a major selling point, but most would-be buyers want to keep the utility bill on their new home as low as possible. That’s why adding energy-efficient windows and appliances to the house before selling it can be such a big draw. Not only do energy-efficient additions make the home more comfortable, but they promise long-term cost savings for the buyer.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat gain and loss through outdated windows is responsible for 25 percent to 30 percent of all residential heating and cooling energy use. By replacing single-pane windows with modern, energy-efficient versions, homeowners can make their properties more saleable.

The same goes for appliances. Simply replacing old appliances with new Energy Star appliances will allow a home to consume anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent less energy each year.

That’s why updating windows and appliances comes out to be such a simple move to help a listing sell much faster. According to research conducted by the North Carolina Energy Efficiency Alliance, energy-efficient homes sell an average of 89 days faster than traditional homes.

3. Exterior lighting

Security is essential for the modern homebuyer, so it’s no surprise that exterior lighting is the second most-wanted outdoor feature, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ 2019 report, “What Home Buyers Really Want.” In addition to increasing curb appeal, exterior lighting provides an added safety feature for the home. Good lighting helps prevent trips on dark walkways and makes it more difficult for intruders to prowl the premises unnoticed.

Encourage your sellers to install motion-sensor lights, which turn on automatically any time they detect movement outside the home. Sellers who want to take it one step further can install smart outdoor lighting, which can be programmed or controlled remotely via a smartphone app.

Telling it like it is

Of course, it’s not always easy to have these conversations with your clients, but it’s crucial that you do. When it comes to things like mold, smells, outdated appliances, and dirty carpets, you must be forthright and transparent. Don’t assume buyers won’t notice these things — they will, even if they don’t say it. This could cost your client a sale and result in the listing sitting on the market longer than necessary.

While fixing these issues involves time and expense, it’s a critical duty for home sellers. Be sure to inform your clients that it becomes especially crucial if they want the property to fetch the highest possible sales price. Fortunately, sellers will find that resolving troublesome issues and giving buyers what they want in a home pays dividends in the end.


Diana Rodriguez-Zaba owns and operates ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, one of Chicago’s largest commercial cleaning and restoration companies. Over the years, she’s worked hard to make a positive difference for women in this demanding industry. Diana has been actively involved in the real estate industry from an early point in her career and has owned multiple multi-unit properties.

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