Selling your house? These are the 10 things that put buyers off

Learn how to avoid these red flags for potential buyers.

Nothing is more frustrating than finding your perfect next home, but being prevented from buying it due to a lack of offers on your existing property. Well, actually, there is one thing that’s more frustrating – and that’s when the lack of offers is down to some easily fixable issues.

Because while you may see nothing wrong with your characterful and cosy house or apartment, potential buyers might have picked up on some big red flags.

Open-plan living room and dining areaCredit: David Wilson Homes
This pared-back space by David Wilson Homes is a good example of how to present a home for sale

Anything from your ‘unique’ taste in wallpaper to a lack of parking or even a flickering lightbulb could have buyers running for the hills. 

“Your aim is to impress your potential buyers and showcase the space available,” explains Elaine Penhaul, director of Lemon Lime Interiors who, having staged thousands of properties over the years, has seen it all. “A property which is cluttered, dated or dirty sends a strong message that the vendor doesn’t care about the buyer. It can also be the difference between achieving a good sale price for your property and not.”  

There’s a big incentive for presenting your home at its best, too. “The sale achieved on a home which has been well maintained, where the décor has been updated to reflect current trends and where clutter is not kept on show, may attract an offer as much as 10% higher,” reveals Penhaul.

Both Penhaul and Philippa Stewart, Sales Director at David Wilson North West, have given their expert contributions to our list of things that put buyers off. How many are you guilty of? 


1. Too much clutter

Tidy up and upgrade storage

“The first mistake that many home sellers make is leaving rooms cluttered and full of stuff,” says Penhaul. “Not only does this make it really hard for the potential buyer to visualise the room, but it also can decrease the size of the room and make it look smaller than it actually is.”  

“Less is more. Buyers want a home with a good amount of space. Cluttering a house can be overwhelming when it comes to viewing, so maximising space is key to selling a home,” says Stewart. “A cluttered home can also be hazardous when it comes to selling the property and could potentially devalue the property when it has its valuation.”   

The main areas to keep clear are floors and worktops. Also, don’t make the mistake of stuffing everything into a cupboard – your viewers may well open it and hitting them with an avalanche of clutter isn’t going to help you make a sale. If you can’t tame your belongings easily, consider renting a storage unit for a couple of months until you move – but make sure you do a full declutter before you bring anything into your next home.

Lemon Lime Interiors’ decluttering tips 

“If you feel that your home needs to be decluttered, then spend the time getting it right,” says Penhaul.  

  • Equip yourself with boxes, labels and marker pens so you have a way to organise the clutter.  
  • Decide what is to stay and what must go and allocate everything into piles – keep out, keep but pack now, throw away.  
  • It can be a challenging task, so spread it across several days and enlist the help of friends and family to help lessen the load.
Mature woman adjusting thermostat at homeCredit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature will entice buyers.

2. A house that’s too hot or too cold

Check the thermostat before any viewings

If you and your partner like to engage in the battle of the thermostat, it’s wise to call a truce before the viewings begin. More importantly, don’t be a miser when it comes to heating your house if it’s on the market. Sure, the cost of heating is rising, but failing to keep your property warm or cool enough could deter buyers from making an offer.

“Having the correct temperature is vital when selling a home. If it’s too cold, a prospective buyer probably won’t want to look around for long and will think of reasons to leave quickly,” says Stewart.

“Showing buyers around a cold home could lead to worries about heating bills during the winter months. The same applies when a house is too hot. A future buyer could even cut a viewing short because the temperature is uncomfortable.

“In the winter, 18 degrees is the perfect temperature for a home, according to the World Health Organization. Open the windows or patio doors in the summer to let the fresh air in.”

3. Bad maintenance

If it is broke, do fix it

“Outdated or poorly maintained features such as old appliances, stained carpets or chipped paint can make a home feel unappealing and outdated,’ says Penhaul, “and may lead buyers to question the quality of other aspects of the property. 
For example, a flickering lightbulb could be a sign of faulty wiring, and even something as innocuous as a dripping tap – while an easy fix for you – could be intimidating to a first-time buyer. So get it fixed, cleaned or exchanged, and give everyone peace of mind.

Open-plan living space with oak beamsCredit: F&C Photography
This room was previously painted in a deep teal, which made it feel dark. Lemon Lime Interiors gave it a fresh white look.

4. Brightly coloured décor

Stay neutral

Unusual features – such as brightly coloured walls – can put off buyers who are looking for a more neutral or traditional home that will suit their own furniture,” says Penhaul. “Neutral colours are often seen as timeless and high-quality and for buyers, they immediately see the cost and effort in repainting the walls to a neutral colour palette.  
It’s another easy fix for a seller, and worth the price of the paint. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, hire a decorator. It’s likely to cost a few hundred pounds per room, but you will see a return on your investment when the offers start rolling in, and it’s amazing what difference it will make to the space. 


5. Being too personal

Make it a home for anyone

Don’t take this the wrong way – but a house that screams ‘you’ isn’t necessarily what your potential buyer had in mind. Your buyer wants to picture themselves living here, not you, and may otherwise feel like they are intruding.

Start by taking down family photos and removing the kids’ or grandkids’ artwork from the fridge. Pare back displays of trophies or quirky collections, and tone down the inspirational ‘word art’. For example, not everyone will appreciate your instructional ‘Get Naked’ sign in the bedroom…

Neutral bedroom with clustered pendant lightsCredit: David Wilson Homes
In this David Wilson showhome at Pinewood Park, Merseyside, the designer has kept the scheme neutral and introduced colour through cushions

6. Signs of mould or damp

Black patches can put fear into buyers

“Damp is probably the biggest turn-off when a potential buyer is viewing a property,” warns Tim Leonard, personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “Failure to address the issue is not only likely to reduce buyer interest, but could also come back to haunt you on a survey.”

You might not even have a damp problem, but that patch of black mould in the bathroom, or even peeling wallpaper, could convince buyers that you do. Be sure to clean any mould, regrouting where necessary, and use filler to cover any small and innocent cracks.

7.  There’s nowhere to park

Be upfront about parking spaces

Does anyone remember the 1980s TV show Bread, when Joey Boswell used to leave road cones outside his ‘ma’s’ house so that he could always park his precious Jaguar? It might have been a neat trick – but it’s not one that potential buyers will be too keen to perform.

“If a prospective new home doesn’t have parking, the buyer will need to have a drive around the area at different times of the day, on both weekdays and weekends to assess parking accessibility,’ advises Stewart.

“The buyer should be asking themselves questions such as the easiness of carrying a weekly shop and children into the house from the car. Will a permit be needed? Potential buyers will be put off by a house if they don’t have accessible entrance and exit routes.”

If it’s not immediately obvious to buyers where to park, be sure to explain your current arrangements and put them at ease. You could even consider creating parking – by switching a front lawn for a permeable gravel parking space.

New build detached homes by David WilsonCredit: David Wilson Homes
A pristine plot with ample parking is a boon to potential buyers

8. Untidy gardens

Kerb appeal is everything

Gardens can be intimidating – even to those with green fingers – so it’s essential to trim back overgrown shrubs, mow the lawn and pressure wash the patio before any viewings.  

“Both front and back gardens are important and could easily put a buyer off if they aren’t in good shape,” says Stewart. “Having a disorganised or untidy garden is not only a safety hazard, but also makes it difficult for the buyer to visualise its potential.”

9.  A noisy viewing

Get them to keep it down next door

Potential buyers might be put off if they hear lots of noise during a viewing,” says Stewart. Again, walking around the area at different times and on different days can help a potential buyer – and you – gain more insight into how noisy or quiet an area is.  
For example, a Sunday afternoon might be quieter than a Friday evening.  A buyer should always ask about the different noise levels, especially from neighbours, schools, local traffic, and shops. Meanwhile, as a seller, try not to hold viewings when you know it’s likely to be loud, and look at ways to insulate your home from noise. If you’re living in an apartment, consider asking your upstairs neighbour to put a rug down on their wooden floors (even if it’s just while you have viewings).

White bedroom with teal cushions and en suiteCredit: Jon Holmes Photography
This was an empty bedroom, but Lemon Lime interiors staged it for sale, without making it seem cluttered

10. Empty rooms

Don’t dare to leave it bare

“Selling a home with empty rooms can make the space look uninviting and sterile,” warns Penhaul. “It can be difficult for potential buyers to imagine how their own furniture and belongings would fit into the property. Not only do empty rooms create the perception that the home is not worth the asking price, but it can be a turn-off for potential buyers who are looking for specific functionality such as a home office, guest room or playroom.”  

“To avoid these issues, staging with furniture and accessories will give the space a warm and inviting feel, helping potential buyers to visualise themselves living in the space, ultimately leading to a quicker and more profitable sale.”

Amy Cutmore

Written by Amy Cutmore she/her


Amy Cutmore has been writing about interiors for more than 20 years, harking back to the days when glossy red kitchens, toile de Jouy and rag rugs were all the rage, and everyone wanted a Changing Rooms makeover. You’ll have seen Amy’s work at Britain’s biggest homes titles, including Ideal Home, where she served as Consumer, Technology and Group Digital Editor. She has also edited or written for Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Real Homes, Gardeningetc, Inside Readers’ Homes, Inspirations for Your Home, Country House & Home, Top Ten Reviews, Trusted Reviews and Country Life.

  • instagram
  • linkedin