Things That Make a Buyer Walk Away From Your Listing (and never come back)

A listing needs to be absolutely perfect to fetch the highest price possible. Here are items to look at when listing your home for sale.

Real Estate Advice / Chris

Things That Make a Buyer Walk Away From Your Listing (and never come back)

Things that make buyers walk away

Old carpet

Carpet that is worn, faded, improperly stretched or an odd color is something a buyer notices immediately. It can often make the entire home feel old or run down. It is often beyond repair so having the carpet shampooed isn’t a viable option.

What should you do?

There are two ways of fixing old carpeting. The first is to simply replace it. Pick a neutral color with a quality pad and have it all redone. The second option is to offer a flooring credit to the buyer. If the rest of the home is in fantastic shape and shows beautifully, a credit at closing in the amount of the carpet replacement estimates is a great way to go.

Old furniture

Furniture that is tattered or obviously old in some way can detract from a buyer’s positive experience in your home. I know, I know… the furniture isn’t staying with the home. Regardless, it leaves a bad taste in the buyer’s mouth.

What should you do?

If possible, get rid of the old furniture and replace it with the new furniture you were going to buy when you moved. Or, remove it and hire a stager to refurnish the home.

Walls painted in bold colors

We’ve all seen on HGTV’s (fake) shows like House Hunters where people walk in and instantly mention the bad paint color inside. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a buyer say, “It’s just paint. We can change that.” However, do buyers want to buy a home and have to invest a lot of time or money into a new paint job? Nope. I’ve experienced this too many times and can tell you that crazy accent walls or non-neutral colors can hurt the chances of your home being picked.

What should you do?

Repaint! It’s often just a room or an accent wall that has to go. Grab a gallon of paint down at Sherwin Williams and neutralize your home.

Yellowed smoke detectors, light cans or wall plates

This may be the easiest task on the list. Over time, outlet covers, light cans and smoke detectors tend to turn a yellowish, off-white color. These are so incredibly affordable to simply buy new and replace. Plus, it’s an easy task!

What should you do?

Head to Home Depot and purchase new replacements and take the time to replace every yellowed cover or smoke detector in your home. These are dirt cheap and you can often find them in “contractor packs” of 10, 25 or 50.

Dirty home

Although it seems obvious to have a perfectly clean home while on the market, this is sadly often neglected. Very few things detract from a showing as much as a dirty home.

What should you do?

Start with the entrance to the home and get all of the cobwebs and debris away from the front door. Make sure all windows are crystal clear as well. Heading inside, you’ll need to work diligently to get everything spotless. Even items like baseboards should be completely free of dust.

What I recommend is to do an incredibly thorough cleaning when the home hits the market. Then, spend 15-30 minutes each night straightening up. That will keep the home in tip-top shape and ready for short-notice showings.

Smoke or pet smell

We become accustomed to the smell of our own home and actually won’t notice a lot of the pet smells in the home. Or, homeowners may smoke in their own home which causes an awful odor.

What should you do?

Invite a close, trusted friend or relative over to your home to do a “sniff test.” You need someone that is going to be 100% honest with you to tell you if your home needs some help.

Don’t “cover up” a smell; fix it. If you smoke in the home, you’ll likely need to repaint to get rid of the smell or even replace carpeting. If it is a pet smell, make sure your pets are regularly washed and not having any accidents inside. Shampooing the carpet will help a great deal with pet smells.

Termites, bugs, etc.

It amazes me how often I will go into a home and see dead bugs hiding in places like the sliding glass door tracks or window sills. Few things turn off a buyer faster than seeing what looks like a bug infestation.

Call your local exterminator and then clean!

An exterminator is a quick fix to any bugs that are coming in. However, for a few days after the exterminator sprays, you’ll have dead bugs around baseboards and other areas of the home. Be sure to really clean deeply to get rid of the dead bugs and pay close attention to the windows and doors of the home.

Poor interior lighting

When I have showings on my listings, I make an effort to arrive before the buyers do and turn on every light in the home. A bright home shows so much better than one that is dark. It is really important to lighten up your home before showings.

What should you do?

Make sure you have adequate lighting in your home. Daylight bulbs do an amazing job at lighting a home and cast a very natural light. In fact, they’re somewhat hard to get used to after having yellow or white lights for years.

Also, clean every window and leave the blinds open. This is often the best way to have your home showed (assuming the view is ok).

Crowded counters

Crowded counters make the kitchen and the bathrooms look so much smaller and make buyers think they need to find a home with more space. Plus, it just doesn’t look good.

What should you do?

Get rid of everything on your counters. I know this sounds a bit crazy but even things like knife blocks need to be put away elsewhere.

A lot of times, we have things on our kitchen counters that aren’t even used often like mixers or food processors. Move those big items into the garage if you need to.


Do you have a lot of stuff? It’s amazing how much we accumulate after living in a home for a while and clutter can make a home not only look smaller but also look like it is not well taken care of.

What should you do?

Have a Goodwill or St. Matthew’s House around you? It’s time to donate. Grab everything you don’t absolutely need and get it in the hands of someone that could really benefit from it.

If your home is admittedly cluttered but with things you really do need or keepsakes, consider renting a short-term storage unit.

Mismatched appliances

I see homes all of the time with various brands of appliances or worse, appliances that do not match in color. Stainless steel refrigerator with a black stove? That’s a no-no.

What should you do?

Well, this is a tough one. I don’t advise my buyers to replace appliances unless they’re old and need to be replaced anyway. If the appliances need to be replaced, buy all of the same brand and color. You can even score a great package deal at most big box appliance stores.

Sliders don’t roll properly

Buyers interested in your home will absolutely go outside on the lanai or balcony. I’ve seen so many buyers struggle to get sliding glass doors open because the lock isn’t easy to operate or the rollers prevent the door from sliding freely.

What should you do?

This is such an easy fix! There are plenty of window companies, handymen, etc. that can fix bad rollers on sliding glass doors! It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg either! Give someone a call and get those sliders rolling!

Landscaping not maintained

Last but not least is this no-brainer. What do we see the second we pull into a driveway? The landscaping! Don’t you want to make the best first impression you can?

What should you do?

Spruce up your landscaping with flowers. They look beautiful and add color that will help make the best first impression possible.

Remulch! Mulch is dirt cheap and Ace Hardware will deliver it for free! Grab yourself some bags and you’ll be shocked at how much better your home looks.

Get the trimmers out and make the bushes look uniform by making them the same height and evenly trimmed.

All this sounds great but what if you live in an HOA that handles your landscaping? The best thing you can do is call the landscaping company and let them know you’re looking to sell. Tell them you need things spruced up. They will usually help you out. If they do not, it’s time to put in an ARC (Architectural Review Committee) request with the HOA board and get to work on your own!

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