If you're a home seller, you've probably studied the little tricks that attract buyers, like painting the door the dog scratched and putting down a new "welcome" mat. But if you're a prospective buyer, it's not a bad idea to pay attention to the things home sellers and agents do to make a house look better. "It's not about keeping problems from buyers; there are laws that say sellers have to disclose issues with the house," says Doug Robinson, a real estate agent in the Chicago area. "But if I can highlight a home's best features when you come see it, I'm doing my job." Here are seven techniques you may see while home shopping: Lights turned on: It's one of the oldest real estate tricks in the book: Turn on all the lights in a home so visitors can see the available space. Keeping a home lit can also help hide a room that's perennially dark. As you inspect each room, turn the lights off briefly to look for natural light. Your eyes may need to adjust for a few moments to get a clear picture of the lighting. Cookie mania: The owner or realtor might leave a plate of homemade cookies. This is, of course, a thank you for checking out the home, but there's also a subtler message. Comfort foods like chocolate chip cookies can make you feel at home as you look around. Partake, but remember: You're being bribed. Less furniture for more space: If the carpeted den or living room looks nice and spacious, walk around and check for furniture indentations. A chair or couch might have been moved to the garage or basement to give the appearance of extra space. Keep that in mind when you're picturing how your furniture would fit.
Wet grass: Sometimes a home's yard might be wet when you arrive, which helps give the grass an attractive sheen. Take a moment and make sure all areas of the lawn are wet. Dry patches could indicate problems with automatic sprinklers. Mood-setting music: It's pretty common for real estate agents to play light music during an open house. However, if you're near an airport or a busy highway, ask if the stereo can be turned down to see if the noise is bothersome. Clean carpets: If the carpets are fairly new and in good shape, the owners probably had them cleaned before the open house. If they aren't nice, sellers won't want to put money into cleaning them since a new buyer will probably replace them anyway. If you think you would keep the carpets if you bought the home, inspect them closely. Any stains still visible after a cleaning probably won't ever come out. Plant patrol: If you see potted plants stationed strategically outside a house where flowers and shrubbery would normally go, be a little suspicious. Sometimes this is done to give the yard a fresh look, but it could also indicate soil problems or a lack of sunlight.