7 Things Guaranteed To ‘Turn-Off’ Potential Home Buyers

7 Things That Turn-Off Home Buyers
Struggling to sell a property? There are a number of things that turn off home buyers, so don’t panic!

Your first step is simply to try and establish exactly why your home isn’t appealing to buyers.

Start by asking the estate agent for any feedback they have received from people who have viewed your house.

Just remember that people aren’t always entirely honest about why they don’t like a property, so you may have to read between the lines a little.

To help you out, here are the top 7 things we learned from our experience to guarantee to ‘turn-off’ potential home buyers:

1) Poor Kerb Appeal

This is so easy to overlook, yet it’s so important. If the outside of your property isn’t up to scratch, it may be turning people off before they’ve even stepped foot in your home.

Creating a good first impression is an essential step in finding a buyer.

Make sure any bushes are trimmed, and the front lawn has been mowed. Make sure the guttering and fascias are clean and in full working order. If your front door is looking tired, put a new letterbox and door handle on to bring it back to life.

In short, do whatever you need to do to get things looking up to scratch. A well-maintained front garden will show you care for your home and make viewers eager to get inside and see the rest.

Just keep in mind that the state of your neighbours’ gardens can also come into play. If necessary, be prepared to offer to look after your neighbour’s garden too until your property sells!

Our home from the front
Our previous home looked small but was well-presented as soon as you pulled up.

We have sold and bought several homes over the years and one thing that we learned is that it is vital to make a good first impression. Not all houses look pretty. One of our houses looked rather ugly. But as this isn’t something you can change, focus on the front garden and make sure everything is clean, tidy and nothing is broken.

And even an attractive looking house, like a cute cottage, won’t give a good impression if it looks a bit tired and untidy.

So before you put your home on the market, do what we do. Get the pressure washer out and give the paths and floors a good clean. Trim bushes and cut the grass. If you have a low maintenance front garden, why not get some flowers in pots to brighten it up.

Get a workman in to make little repairs you never got around to doing, such as repointing walls and fixing this leaking gutter.

We found that you should never underestimate how much these little things matter. Make sure the outside of your house is in tiptop condition before going on the market. Because an untidy or tired outside is one of the things that turn off home buyers.

2) Untidiness/Lack Of Cleanliness

Untidy Room Puts Off Home Buyers

Keeping your home clean and tidy is really important when trying to find a buyer. Untidy or cluttered rooms make it hard for people to visualise themselves living there.

We have viewed houses that looked more like a dump than a home, and it put us off straight away. For one, it makes you wonder what the sellers are hiding under all this stuff they have lying around.

Dirty rooms, appliances, or furniture put doubt in buyers minds as to how well the property has been looked after.

Before your property goes on the market, it’s worth having a declutter and getting rid of any unnecessary items. The added bonus is that it’ll also mean you have fewer things to try and keep clean!

We have made it a habit of decluttering every time we decide to sell our home. Sometimes I can’t believe the stuff we have accumulated over the years.

Another thing we do before getting our house on the market is de-personalise it. It’s kind of part of tidying the house for us. Because you see, if you have lots of family pictures up, any prospective buyer viewing the house will feel more like a visitor.

And what you want is that the buyers start imagining living in your house. We love having up pictures of the best moments in our lives, but when we want to sell our home, we remove them.

But don’t just leave your walls bear either, as this will look cold. Replace your family snapshots with general pictures, such as landscapes or animals. Anything that will appeal to a wide range of people.

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Really hate cleaning? If your property attracts a lot of enquiries, it can be quite demanding to keep on top of the cleaning and tidying before every viewing.

Don’t we know it? Having sold several houses over the years, we know a thing or two about keeping our home clean at all times for viewings.

That’s where hiring a cleaner could really help. While it’s a somewhat unessential expense, it’s only for as long as you need to find that buyer.

We have considered getting a cleaner for one of our homes we sold, mostly because it was quite a big house. However, in the end we decided to just bite the bullet and give up our lazy evenings in front of the telly and clean instead.

So every other evening we cleaned our house. Doing it this way meant that it didn’t take very long, because you are keeping clean rather than having to get rid of lots of dirt and dust. While it is annoying, we can recommend it.

We got so many comments from potential buyers about how clean and tidy our home was. Showing that the house has been well-cared for will give them more confidence that they won’t find any nasty issues.

This is why an untidy or dirty house is one of the things that turn off home buyers.

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3) Serious Issues (Damp, Subsidence, etc)

Damp causing mould in room corner
One of the first things we did was fix damp issues like this.

If your property is suffering from potentially serious issues such as damp or subsidence, buyers may run a mile.

Few people want to risk expensive repair bills unless the property is their dream home or a potential bargain.

If your property has such issues, the best thing you can do is rectify the problem. This may cost you substantial money, but it may be the only way you’ll find a buyer at the right price.

As an alternative, conduct a survey and/or get quotes from qualified tradesmen who can fix the issue.

This way, you can show potential buyers exactly how much they will need to spend. This can then be built into your negotiations with them.

We found that the decision you make about how to handle such serious issues will depend on various things. Your finances are one of them. If you are unable to afford the necessary repairs, then getting quotes from qualified tradesmen is a good alternative.

However, you should be prepared for buyers to negotiate hard and be prepared to accept a lower offer.

The market also plays a big part. In a buyers market, where there are lots of properties available, it might be worth repairing the issues. Because serious issues like subsidence are definitely one of those things that turn off home buyers.

And if they know that they will easily find a house that will meet their requirements without these issues, then it will become more difficult for you to sell your home. Unless you are prepared to reduce the price considerably to make it a real bargain.

On the other hand, in a market where supply is short and demand is high, buyers might be more accepting of such serious issues and willing to buy the house anyway. Although, you should still be prepared for buyers trying to negotiate.

4) Lack Of Storage

Storage Space In Homes

Our modern gadget-rich lives have meant that our homes have become more cluttered than ever. This has coincided with a trend to turn any spare storage space into usable areas such as downstairs toilets or simply to gain a little more room size.

The result? Storage in houses is now at a premium.

While a toilet under the stairs will always be preferable for buyers than a plain old cupboard, it is possible to lose too much storage space.

If storage is tight in your home, think about where you could put things. Can you board out the loft to hide away those Christmas decorations? Can you install more wall-mounted cupboards in the kitchen as an extra place to store those tins and jars?

Adding a little more storage space can go a long way to showing prospective buyers they could live happily in your home.

We found that creating more storage is definitely a winner. We got built-in wardrobes for one of our homes. The bedroom was a good size, but it had a chimney breast, which meant the wardrobe imposed on the room, making it look smaller.

Also, the space next to the chimney breast was a bit wasted. So we decided to get a fitted wardrobe. We did also think about getting rid of the chimney breast, but the cost involved would have been too high.

The result was that the bedroom looked bigger and people viewing the house commented on how great the storage in the room was. As you can see, this is one of the those things that turn off home buyers that can be resolved fairly easily.

5) Rooms That Are Too Hot Or Cold

View of our previous house from rear
Our master bedroom was a loft conversion which made temperature regulation tricky.

People want to feel comfortable in their home, and that means they need to know it will be easy to keep at the right temperature – no matter what the weather is outside!

We always make a point of putting on the heating an hour before a viewing if we are selling our house during the cold months. What we want to hear from potential buyers as they enter the house is “Oh, nice and warm in here” or something similar.

The reason is simple: it makes you instantly feel comfortable. And a buyer who feels comfortable as soon as they enter your house, they are more likely to imagine themselves living there.

If someone steps into your property in winter, and it feels cold, they’ll assume the heating is inadequate or that the insulation is poor.

If a viewer visits in summer and finds rooms too hot, they’ll assume ventilation is poor, and they’ll always be struggling to stay cool in your property.

In one of the houses we sold, the master bedroom was in the loft space. This meant that during summer, it got quite warm in there. So when we decided to sell the house, we did all we could to keep the master bedroom cool.

Finding the right temperature and then using a thermostat or thermometer to ensure you stay at the right temperature is a sound idea.

It’s generally recommended that homes should be kept somewhere between 18°C and 21°C.

6) Lack Of Light

Our double doors in a rear extension
Double doors helped us flood an otherwise dark room with light.

Dark rooms are a big turn-off for many people when it comes to finding somewhere to live.

If you have a room where there just isn’t enough natural light, consider whether it’s possible (or worthwhile) to install another window.

If that’s not an option, ensure the decor is light and bright, the room is free of clutter, and that you’re using things like mirrors to bounce as much light around as possible.

In our first home, we had a living room that was quite dark due to an extension that robbed it of a window. While it never really bothered us, when we came to sell the house, we knew we had to do something.

Installing a window just wasn’t an option, so we decided to put a big mirror above the fire place. We also painted the walls white to lighten up the room.

The fire place and the stairs, which were also in the living room, were quite a dark wood. So we sanded them down to lighten the wood. This took ages but it was worth it.

In the end, after we finished, the room looked much brighter and lighter. And once the lights were on, you wouldn’t see a dark room any more.

We sold the house within a weekend and got the asking price. This just shows how big of an impact these changes can have. This goes to show that even though dark rooms are one of these things that turn off home buyers, you can solve them.

Even in fairly well-lit rooms, it’s often a good idea to open blinds and curtains fully and turn on a few lights to make your rooms feel brighter and more welcoming to potential buyers.

7) Dated Installations

Our dated kitchen cabinets
The dated kitchen units might have impacted the sale of our first house.

If your property looks dated, it’s likely to put off a fair share of buyers.

It’s not just the cost, it’s also the hassle of removing things like wood panelled walls or polystyrene ceiling tiles.

But it’s not just the aesthetics. If your electrical wiring hasn’t been updated for years, or your boiler hasn’t been replaced for decades, potential buyers are likely to be put off.

That’s because many people will see such things as essential, yet expensive updates they’ll need to make.

We found that if you only think about these things when you come to sell your house, you are likely to incur additional costs. Either by having to update appliances and decor or by having to settle for a lower price.

That’s why we would recommend keeping on top of such things. We try to re-decorate every 5 years or so to keep our house updated.

We also make sure we update necessary appliances and boilers. Of course, you could argue that if a boiler isn’t broken, why change it? And while this is a valid argument, newer boilers tend to be more efficient saving you money.

Generally, we would recommend keeping your home in good repair; this will stand you in good stead when you come to sell it. And by doing so you can avoid some things that turn off home buyers.

What About Features That Help A Property To Sell?

So, we’ve covered a number of things that turn off potential home buyers, but what about the things that turn them on?

There are a number of features that help properties to sell and may encourage buyers to turn a blind eye to the ‘turn-offs’. These include:

  • Open-plan living room/kitchens
  • A recently updated kitchen or bathroom
  • A south facing garden
  • Good local schools & amenities
  • Parking for at least one car

Some of these you won’t be able to do much about; your property either has it or it doesn’t.

Some you may be able to add, but you’ll have to weigh up whether the cost of adding it is worthwhile.

Whatever approach you decide to take, just remember that there are plenty of things you can do to sell your house faster.

Once you do find a buyer, remember there’s a knack to negotiating a higher sales price for a house; you just have to approach it in a non-emotional way.


  • Paul James

    Paul James, is a marketing expert with a passion for property. As well as being a property investor, Paul has also worked within the marketing departments of some of the UK’s leading estate agents. Paul is the founder of Property Road.

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