Deal Breakers That Make People Turn on Their Heels and Leave

When people are shopping for a new home, they schedule tours of the properties that look good on paper, so to speak—the ones in their price range, with the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, in a good location, and so on. No one buys a home until they’ve walked through it and imagined building a life there.

When they open that front door to begin looking around, they’re often filled with eager anticipation, hoping this will be their dream home. But all too often, something destroys that vision, and before you know it, they’ve turned on their heels and left. Here are some deal-breakers.


Dark rooms look small and can make people feel a little uneasy or claustrophobic. If you have a room without much natural light, open the window treatments and turn on all the lights. Paint the walls a light color and consider using mirrors to reflect the light.


Although the tub may be so clean you could perform surgery there, if it’s stained, it looks dirty. Tubs can be resurfaced or replaced—and should be if they’re badly stained.


If you’re cringing at this header, you are not alone. For a short period, carpeting bathrooms came into vogue. If you are trying to sell a house with carpet in the bathroom, consider replacing the carpet with tile or linoleum or wood or any surface you can actually clean. The bacteria will hate you but prospective buyers will thank you.


It’s fine to have a playroom with toys visible, as long as the toys are organized and the room doesn’t feel cluttered. Similar to dark rooms, cluttered rooms feel small. How neat and tidy do the toys need to be? Imagine trying to please your mother-in-law (who went to finishing school). Just make sure there’s a place for everything and put everything in its place, rather than on the floor.


Although very few California homes have basements, some have unfinished storage areas that can feel clammy and cold. To make these areas more inviting, make sure they have adequate light and consider installing shelves so the space seems useful rather than just creepy.


Run-down or outdated kitchens are no fun to deal with. If a major kitchen renovation isn’t in the budget, consider painting old cabinets and replacing pulls or handles, hanging new window treatments, putting a new rug in front of the sink, adding task lighting or a pendant lamp, applying a fresh coat of paint (or maybe just an accent wall), and installing roll-out shelving.
Once you’ve done what you can to remodel, make sure you clean everything as well as you can, including the grout between the tiles, the grease catchers under the burners on the stove, and before you leave, replace the kitchen towels with fresh, nicely folded ones.

It’s tough to know what home buyers will be willing to fix or remodel versus what will make them dismiss a property outright. Best to err on the safe side and present the cleanest and most up-to-date version of the property you can.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you send me an idea I use in a column, I’ll send you a $5 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *