12 Things Buyers Won’t Like About Your House
When you’re selling your home, you do everything possible to showcase all the positives — but there are certain things buyers simply won’t like about your house.
Whether it’s a wallpaper-lined dining room, an outdated bathroom, or weird pet smells, home buyers might consider one feature reason enough to pass on an offer.
If you’re ready to put your house on the market, then check out this advice from industry experts regarding the top 12 things would-be buyers prefer to avoid.
“Unless the homebuyer is handy or ready to take on DIY projects, buyers want to move into a home and not have to start a long list of projects,” notes Sara Hopkins, a Midwest-based realtor. “I always remind sellers that kitchens sell houses."
She says, "You would also be surprised at how easy it is to give your kitchen an updated look. New hardware, paint the cabinets, put in new appliances, and voila — an aesthetically updated kitchen that will help your resale. If you’re going to make a big investment in updates, always start with the kitchen. They are the heart of the house.”
According to Los Angeles realtor Chantay Bridges, buyers might be pet lovers, but not when it comes to their dream home. Keeping several cats, dogs, or other animals in your home can cause a buyer to pause and reconsider making an offer, and for some people, might even be a total deal-breaker.
“I get that you love your pets, and they’re a part of your family, but selling a home with animals is tough,” adds Hopkins. “It’s a big complaint and can be an instant turn off for buyers. If they are opposed to animal smells, they can rule out your home before they’ve even had the chance to walk around and fall in love.”
A Poorly Done DIY Job
Realtor Bill Leeper recently showed a house with new granite countertops in the bathroom, but carpet on the floor, and the buyer wasn’t interested. Then, they went to another home with a partially remodeled bathroom, but the sellers left a 1980s shower enclosure with gold trim behind.
In Leeper’s opinion, both homes tried to do a remodel project, but because they didn’t fully complete the job, the value of the work ended up being zero in terms of finding a buyer.
That’s exactly why Renee Greenwell, a realtor in Virginia, advises sellers to go to the professionals for certain remodeling jobs.
“Pay a licensed contractor to do things correctly, not to jerry-rig a solution,” she says. “For example, if you need to replace some damaged tile around the toilet, don't just put any old thing in—either match the existing tile or redo the floor. No one thinks it looks like a quirky rug. Wainscoting installed correctly is lovely; unfinished edging and angled lines are not.”
Even though location might be what buyers use to find desirable potential homes, this can also backfire, as you ultimately have little control over the size of your yard or the proximity of your house to a traffic-jammed road. Maybe those things were fine in your book, but some people might feel differently, and there’s not much you can do about it.
“No backyard, on a busy road, bad location — these are all traits of your home that you have no control over,” says Hopkins. “But these deal breakers are something buyers know they also can never change in your home. You need to consider what price you need to be at so that potential buyers can now overlook these less than desirable parts of your home.”
Unusual Paint Colors or Lots of Wallpaper
“Buyers really do not like seeing eccentric wall colors or wallpaper,” says Boris Sharapan Fabrikant, a real estate broker at Triplemint. “I always tell my sellers to repaint any non-neutral colors. Some resist because they think it looks really good. In those scenarios, I offer to pay for it myself. Recently, a client with a dark apartment had a very dark blue accent wall in the living room. I told him painting it a light neutral color would brighten the place up. He did not believe me, but after I had it painted, he was shocked at how right I was. This has made a big difference in how buyers perceive the apartment. It no longer looks like a dark cave.”
With wallpaper, style preferences vary greatly, and if you’re a buyer who wants to make a decor change, it’ll involve a ton of time, energy and money. Greenwell says wallpaper is not only difficult to remove, but it’s often very personal, too, especially in main rooms like master bedrooms or the living rooms.
Almost every single realtor agrees: the trend of carpet in the bathroom is beyond over, so get rid of it and replace with tile before trying to sell your house. Additionally, an outdated bathroom (like an outdated kitchen) can be a pain point in general for buyers, for similar reasoning.
“This one can be tricky because it could involve major renovation if your bathroom is really outdated,” explains Connecticut realtor Aaron Bowman. “Maybe your home was built in the 1940s-50s and the color is pink or seafoam green, but the current trend is clean and bright with one or two major features, like a rain shower head or heated towel bar. However, there are many more things you can do to a bathroom during a remodel to get a good return on investment.”
Weird Paraphernalia or Personal Photos
You don’t necessarily have to full-on stage your home before an open house, but walk through and consider what items might be a distraction to a potential buyer.
Bridges warns against leaving out items that may be viewed as superstitious or tied to very strong points of view, such as statues, odd paintings, artifacts like masks or crystals. Even if those things represent your personality, you want to instead offer buyers a chance to visualize living in your home themselves.
“Clean out the clutter and the personal photos,” agrees Bree Vialpando of Madison & Company Properties. “You want the buyer to be able to imagine themselves living in your home. If they see your personal photos around the house, sometimes the opposite can happen. Instead of looking at your home, they'll be looking at the photos of your dog.”
“Buyers always make a comment about popcorn ceilings, and although it might not be a deal breaker, they always ask what they can do to remove it,” says Vialpando.
“It may be worth getting a quote from a contractor to see what the cost would be to remove the popcorn from the ceilings before buyers walk in the front door.”
Michael Kelczewski, a realtor with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, says he most frequently encounters buyer objections related to home layout, particularly for older properties.
Even though you can’t control how each room in the home you’re selling is laid out, know it might be viewed as a problem by a buyer.
Still, the right buyer might look at a well-built, well-maintained home, and see options for cosmetic updates.
Dirt and Clutter
Hopkins says you don’t need to make your house picture-perfect, but too much clutter prevents clients from seeing your home and limits their ability to imagine how they will use your space.
Sherry Cree, a realtor in Denver, CO, also reinforces the importance of a clean home, which seems like a small thing, but goes a long way winning over the heart of a buyer. If you don’t have the time, and you can afford it, hire a company to thoroughly clean your house top to bottom, from carpets to grout.
“The cleaner, the better. The neater, the higher the offer,” says Bridges. “If your home looks like new, buyers will perceive that it is. Yet, if it looks like it has been dirty for years on end, expect lowball offers from investors who hope to get your home for free. Having lots of clutter is another way of saying, ‘I am not interested in a fast sale; I will sit on the market for several months going un-sold.’”
Too Much Air Freshener
Kim Evans, a realtor with Sage Choice Group warns against trying to cover up bad smells with tons of candles or air freshener. This is a bit of a catch-22, of course — if there’s an odor in your home, you do want to try to get rid of it or cover it up because buyers will walk out.
But if you overdo it on the extra scent, buyers might become suspicious.
“I recently showed a home, and we could smell the plug-ins and scentsy warmers from the front porch,” says Hopkins. “The smell was so overpowering, it made us wonder what they were hiding!”
No Big-Ticket Items Done
Many sellers wonder about replacing major appliances or other big-ticket items like a furnace or HVAC system before selling a house, and while it’s not mandatory, think about what kind of position you’re putting a buyer in.
Plus, home inspectors will most likely point out any item nearing the end of its functional lifetime, so it may be worth paying for an upgrade now to get an offer on the home.
“Buyers understand home maintenance will mean they eventually need to invest in large updates such as a furnace, A/C, a roof, a water heater, windows, and more,” says Hopkins. “But when all of these need to be done within the next few years, it’s a major turn off for buyers.”