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15 Common Turnoffs for Homebuyers

By Rachel Warren - Oct 25, 2022 at 10:10AM
People in front of a home that is for sale.

15 Common Turnoffs for Homebuyers

It's always a good time to maintain your property value

Whether you're ready to list your house on the market just yet or not, it's a good idea to make sure your home is as sale-ready as possible if you're contemplating moving soon.

In a day and age when consumers are bombarded with real estate and home improvement shows, potential buyers are more selective than ever. Let's take a look at 15 common turnoffs for homebuyers you should know about.

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Can of paint and color swatches.

1. Brightly painted walls

While that eye-catching accent wall or brilliant cabinet color may fit in perfectly with your decor, chances are overly bright interior colors will be off-putting to people shopping for a home. When potential buyers enter your home, they want to visualize their own furniture and decor in the home and whether it's a good fit. In other words, they want to see the home as a blank canvas, and too many bright colors can detract from that.

That doesn't necessarily mean you must repaint the entire interior if you've chosen some bold hues in your home. But sticking to neutral tones as a general rule is optimal if you plan to list it soon.

ALSO READ: 3 Pros and Cons of an Open Floor Plan Home

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Close-up of a dirty air filter.

2. Unwelcome aromas

You only have one chance to make a good first impression on potential buyers. In addition to the visual aspects that feed into that first impression, senses like smell play a big role.

Whether it's the pungent scent of cleanser after a deep clean or the aroma of recently fried food, if you can smell it when you enter the house, that's a big no-no.

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Old window with condensation on it.

3. Peeling paint

The small details matter to a potential homebuyer. Even seemingly simple cosmetic aspects can detract from someone's view of your home and result in an overall negative impression. If you notice peeling paint on your home's doorways, cabinets, ceilings, or walls, a little sanding, putty, and paint can provide a relatively simple fix for minimal cost and effort.

On the other hand, if the peeling is extensive, it may indicate a deeper problem, such as water leakage, that may require a professional's attention. Peeling paint isn't something to ignore, and you can bet a potential buyer won't, either.

ALSO READ: Could You Afford a Home in Europe?

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Person tiling a floor in a home bathroom.

4. Dirty grout

It's inevitable that with the events of daily life, such as cooking and trudging in and out of the house, grout in places like your bathroom and kitchen will get dirty. The good news is this is typically an easy, inexpensive repair.

You should be able to get the job done with a few basic household cleaning supplies you probably already have, such as a sponge or mop (depending on the area) and dish soap. A mixture of vinegar and baking soda is another popular homemade solution to get your grout back in sparkling shape.

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A hand adjusts a floor vent.

5. Shag carpets

While they may nostalgically harken back to a bygone area, shag carpets are a common point of contention for the average homebuyer. Not only do they lack the sleek and subtle ambiance that many homeowners crave today, but they also gather dirt and grime far more easily than other types of flooring, like hardwood, luxury vinyl, or more modern carpet products.

If you have shag carpet in your house and can afford to replace it with a more modern alternative, it may be wise to do so before you list your home. Strategic floor upgrades are an investment that can pay off big-time and could tack on thousands of dollars of additional value to your home.

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A person measures skylights in a ceiling.

6. Popcorn ceilings

Popcorn ceilings could potentially detract from your home's value, but potential buyers also don't like to see them. Thankfully, you don't necessarily need to hire a professional to rid one or more rooms in your home -- particularly the core living spaces -- of these dated details. If you have the time to scrape and paint over the popcorn ceilings yourself, you can easily get the job done in a weekend.

ALSO READ: How I'd Invest $20,000 Today if I Had To Start From Scratch -- Including Real Estate

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Pile of junk, including old furniture and rugs

7. Too many personal items

Not all homebuyer turnoffs require a do-it-yourself project or a professional to remedy. Something as simple as putting some of your personal items away, such as photos, and clearing out the clutter can work wonders for that all-important first impression.

Again, this goes back to buyers wanting to see a blank canvas and visualize themselves in your home. Leaving too many personal items out -- even if well organized -- can detract from that.

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Person cleaning off and decluttering bookshelf.

8. Disorganized interiors

The inside of your home should always be clean and organized before a potential buyer walks in. Even details as seemingly negligible as too many items left out on the kitchen counter, disorganized bookshelves, or too much clutter in your personal office can catch a buyer's eye the wrong way.

Taking a few extra minutes to tidy up before you have a showing can greatly influence a buyer's mind, and it requires only a little time and effort.

ALSO READ: 3 Real Estate Market Predictions for the Rest of 2022

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A person using a screwdriver to adjust a French door.

9. Busy curtains or window treatments

Bright or heavily patterned curtains may look dreamy with your current interior decor but could prove too busy visually for a prospective buyer. Does this mean you need to go out and buy new window treatments? Not at all.

If a few of your current window treatments aren't neutral, don't necessarily blend into the space, or simply haven't been updated in a while, you might consider taking them down. Just be sure to touch up any nicks or pits left behind in the wall.

Not only will this open up the room and allow in more natural light, but it will also allow a potential buyer to see the room as a clean palette ready for their personal touch.

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An outdated kitchen.

10. An outdated kitchen

To a potential buyer, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. And it makes sense. The kitchen is a central space in the main living area, one where you prepare meals daily, eat with family and friends, and entertain guests. As such, an outdated kitchen can negatively impact buyers' perceptions and the resale value of your home.

While upgrades to your kitchen can bring you a return on investment to the tune of anywhere from 50% to 80% on average, you can make some meaningful changes that add value to your home -- without breaking the bank.

For instance, replacing a dated backsplash, switching out an old-fashioned appliance for stainless steel, refinishing or repainting the kitchen cabinets, or putting in new countertops are individual changes that vary widely in terms of cost. Still, each can make a huge difference in buyers' perceptions of your home and how much they're willing to pay for it.

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Someone installing an LED lightbulb in a ceiling fixture.

11. Old-fashioned light fixtures

Again, it goes back to the details. Old or audacious light fixtures are another common turnoff for homebuyers but a relatively inexpensive one to fix. Replacing a light fixture in your kitchen or dining room, for example, could cost as little as $200, exclusive of installation expenses.

ALSO READ: Utility Costs Are Skyrocketing. These 5 States Will Feel It the Most

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Person measuring cabinets with a dog by their side.

12. Outdated cabinet or door hardware

From old-fashioned door knobs to dated cabinet pulls, these minor elements in your home can also be a turn-off to homebuyers, despite being relatively simple and inexpensive to fix.

As the current homeowner, that's good news for you. If you currently have cabinet or door hardware that could use sprucing up, a quick trip to your local home improvement store for some new knobs can remedy that.

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A person looking out a window.

13. Lack of natural light

Light doesn't just illuminate a room; it can also make it appear larger. While you can't do anything about a particular room in your house not facing direct sunlight, there are ways to open up the space to allow more light in and to make the most of the light that's there.

Whether that means switching out heavy curtains for sleek shades (or no window treatments at all) or painting the room a lighter color, you can work with the natural light and make even a smaller, darker room appear more inviting.

ALSO READ: Will Moving Affect My Social Security Benefit?

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Person planting flowers in a backyard landscape.

14. Overgrown landscaping

From unkempt weeds encroaching on your flowers to unsightly hedges, your home's landscaping is one of the very first things a potential buyer will see before they ever enter the structure. And overgrown landscaping -- or no landscaping at all -- could leave a less-than-favorable impression that a prospective buyer may not overcome. Even simple changes like trimming the shrubbery can instantly boost the home's visual appeal and make a difference in the final sale of your home.

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Basket filled with beauty products, lotions, and bottles of essential oils.

15. Strong fragrances

Prospective buyers are surprisingly picky, even in the current market. What may seem like an inviting scent -- for instance, your favorite candle burning -- may actually have the opposite effect. When in doubt, it's better to put the air freshener away and let your clean, organized home speak for itself.

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Two people smiling and hugging while holding out keys.

The real estate market is going through a tough period, but that shouldn't deter investors

Perhaps you're not interested in moving anytime soon and are happily settled in your current dwelling. Even so, there are plenty of ways to make money through real estate that don't involve buying or selling a house.

A range of volatile factors is impacting the real estate market right now, and that may continue to influence real estate prices for a while longer. But abundant opportunities to create and build long-term wealth in this sector remain and would be a mistake to overlook.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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