Home Features That Can Deter Potential Buyers

When selling your home, it’s crucial to address certain features that can significantly deter potential buyers. Over my 40 years as a real estate agent in Chicago, I’ve identified several key elements that can make or break a sale. Here are the most common deal breakers and how to address them:

Deferred Maintenance

Visible deferred maintenance can be a red flag for buyers, signaling potential hidden defects. Buyers and their agents often ask for maintenance records and the age of the roof, windows, appliances, and mechanicals. Making sure you are up to date on maintenance and repairs before showings begin can prevent a deal from falling apart due to issues raised by the buyer’s home inspection. A pre-listing home inspection could be a consideration.

Dated Finishes

Today’s buyers, influenced by stunning homes showcased on social media, are often turned off by dated finishes. Unless the home is priced at a steep discount, outdated features can be a significant deterrent. Modernizing finishes can make a home more appealing and competitive in the market. Think neutral and on-trend.

Poor Lighting

Yellow, dim, or overly warm lighting can be unappealing. Buyers prefer interior lighting that mimics natural daylight. Replacing yellowed recessed lights with soft warm daylight spectrum LED kits is a cost-effective way to enhance the home’s ambiance and appeal.

Cherry Toned Floors, Cabinets, Doors, and Trim

Styles do vary by market and price point, but overall, at least on the near north side of Chicago, reddish, orange tones are out of favor. Neutral and classic colors like soft white or neutral tones are preferred. These colors offer a timeless appeal and are more attractive to potential buyers. Use vibrant colors in easily changeable decor like artwork, throw pillows, and rugs.


Clutter can be one of the easiest problems to solve. A tidy, organized home creates a more appealing and spacious environment. Professional home organizers can be incredibly helpful in achieving this. Open your closets and ensure they are orderly and spacious—this can leave a lasting impression on potential buyers.

Dirt, Dust, and Mess

A dirty home is an immediate turn-off. It suggests to buyers that the homeowner may neglect other aspects of home maintenance. A thorough cleaning can significantly enhance the home’s appeal. Ensure that your home is spotless, creating a welcoming and well-maintained appearance.

I often tell my clients that if I were to sell my own home, I would have to move out first—juggling three dogs, and lots of guests in and out, and my mantra of a home should be clean enough to be healthy but messy enough to be happy. I understand the challenges, but my advice is all about maximizing your sale price. Addressing these issues can significantly improve your chances of selling your home quickly and at a desirable price.