9 Things Real Estate Agents Say Shouldn’t Be on Display in Your Home

updated Jun 22, 2021
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If your home is on the market, that means showings and open houses are bringing a parade of potential buyers through it. You’ve probably already decluttered and then decluttered some more. (You’re no rookie!) But what overlooked items in your home could be turn-offs, pulling down the value of your home — or worse, pushing buyers away altogether? 

I asked real estate agents to tell us what should never, ever be on display in your home once that “for sale” sign goes up. Here, nine things you should make sure to stash out of sight:

1. Family photos 

You’ve got a mantle full of family photos and some on the fridge, too. While they’re cute, you’ll want to put ’em away, because buyers need to be able to visualize themselves in your home, explains Jlyne Hanback, a North Texas-based agent with Keller Williams Realty.

“It’s much more difficult to see yourself moving into a home when there are personal photos on display of another person or another family,” she explains.

Backing this sentiment up, Julianne Bond, an agent with Triplemint in New York City, says she once showed an apartment that was filled with family photos.

“It turned out my buyers knew the family,” she says. “Their children attended the same school. They got distracted and were ultimately uncomfortable about moving forward with the property.”

2. Packed boxes 

Try to avoid piling up your packed boxes, as it can make the room appear smaller, says Jen Hormer, a Realtor with RE/MAX Masters in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Also, the packed boxes could be mistakenly interpreted by sellers as “I need to move, stat! I’ll entertain lower bids!” she cautions.

Hormer suggests renting a storage unit to keep the boxes out of sight.  

3. Pet supplies — especially litter boxes

Ready for a cold, hard truth?

“You could have a spotless home, and if the buyer turns the corner and sees the litter box displayed, something happens where the buyer starts to smell it everywhere throughout the home,” Horner explains. She suggests scooting the litter box into the garage during a showing. 

And while we know that your dog/cat/lizard is adorable, hide their bowl or bed during showings, explains Andrew Helling, a Nebraska-licensed agent and the owner of REthority.com, an online resource for real estate professionals and their clients. Many buyers prefer pet-free homes, and signs of a furry friend can turn away buyers.

4. Your air fryer 

… or Instant Pot, toaster, slow cooker, paper towel holder, or anything else that takes up valuable space on your kitchen counters.

“You want to allow the buyer to picture a clean, large space where they can envision their belongings,” says Maria Dininger, an Indianapolis-based real estate agent.

The same rule applies for bathroom vanities — you don’t want tissue holders, soap dishes, and toothbrush holders cluttering up a countertop.

5. Religious decor or materials 

Several real estate agents told us that religious material and decorations — like wall art, statues, and religious texts — should not be on display when you’re selling your home.

“While people should not be judgmental, many inherently are — even without being cognizant of it,” says Linda Dressler of the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® in Illinois. “This safeguards the seller and leaves their property in more ‘neutral’ territory.”

6. Air fresheners

Buyers will ask themselves what smells you may be trying to cover up with all of the scent pods and air fresheners, explains Benjamin Ross, a real estate agent in San Antonio, Texas. Also, if a buyer has allergies or is sensitive to strong scents, they’ll want to get out of your home quickly, Ross says.

7. Bank statements

You want to make sure you’re not leaving notepads with passwords out, or bank statements, credit card statements or other documents with sensitive information, says Aaron Bowman with eXp Realty in West Hartford, Connecticut.

“It is easy for someone to take a picture with their cell phones and gain access to your accounts,” he says. 

8. Prescription drugs 

When you’re showing your home, you probably know to lock up your jewelry, expensive collectibles, and cash. But don’t forget to secure your prescription drugs, too, cautions Hanback. When it comes to expensive valuables and drugs that could be illegally sold, unscrupulous potential buyers or even burglars could be targeting your home, she cautions.

9. Political signs

Consider this your reminder to do a sweep of your garage and get rid of any yard signs that indicate who you voted for in past local or national elections.

“In the current divisive political climate, it is not advised to display political items that could potentially be in opposition to a buyer’s political preferences,” Hanback says. “This could be a dealbreaker for a buyer.”

One final note

While I’ve covered the basics, I’ll leave you with an anecdote from Joan Kagan, a New York City agent with Triplemint, who once had a seller who had a collection of wigs that were stored on Styrofoam heads. 

“Walking into the bedroom and seeing a row of blank heads with no facial features is freaky,” Kagan says. “When I explained that to the seller, she laughed and arranged for them to be stored outside of the apartment.” 

The moral of the story: Oftentimes sellers can’t see their homes the way another person would, Kagan says, so it’s good to have your real estate agent to make some friendly suggestions of what needs to go during showings.