5 Things Real Estate Agents Wish You Wouldn’t Ignore (Before Listing Your Home)

published Mar 26, 2024
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Back when interest rates were under 3% and homes were flying off the market just as quick as “for sale” signs went up, buyers let a lot slide. But the market is a bit more balanced these days, and interest rates are hovering around 7%, which means prospective buyers are pickier and likely don’t have as much cash (or willingness) to update kitchens, repaint walls, and replace zany tile choices.

In a nutshell, current buyers are disadvantaged by the high interest rates, making it very important to put down the most money possible when making a purchase, says Chrissy Grigoropoulos, real estate broker and author of the upcoming book, Ladyshark: How to Make Millions in Your 30s. As such, they’ve upped their standards and are looking for move-in ready homes that don’t need much TLC. 

“We hate seeing the dated homes that are listed at the top of the home value range that clearly need more than just a paint job to move in,” Grigoropoulos says. Even if the kitchens and bathrooms were renovated within the past 10 years, they will no longer look sparkly and new, she says. 

Ahead, realtors share five home features that they dread seeing and their best tips on how to fix them before listing a home. 

Dated Kitchens 

Kitchen trends come and go, but some features like linoleum floors, laminate countertops, and boxy white refrigerators can make a space feel particularly passé. Realtor Bethany Stalder, owner of Fidelis Property Group in the Washington, D.C. metro area, says an updated kitchen is a “must-have” for about 90% of buyers that she represents. 

“It makes sense,” she says. “Kitchens are both functional and a gathering space, so for as much time as we spend in them, we want to love them,” she says. 

But unfortunately for sellers, it rarely makes financial sense to renovate the kitchen before selling as you simply won’t get back all the money you spent, she says. Thankfully, there are a few lower-cost tasks that can help bring your kitchen up to date, like painting cabinets in a more contemporary color, adding modern hardware, or popping in a backsplash, she says.

Some kitchens, though, are more difficult to refresh. For instance, Stadler says, if you have melamine cabinets and formica countertops, it may be best to just leave it as is and let the next owner do the work.

Small Primary Bathrooms 

Homebuyers today are accustomed to large primary bathrooms with double vanities, spacious showers and tubs, and plenty of elbow room, Stadler says. 

“However, older homes were not built with large primary bathrooms — and in many cases, these bathrooms were not even built ensuite — which leaves these places at a disadvantage when marketing to a modern home buyer,” she says. 

If you’re short on square footage, it probably won’t make sense to knock down walls and do a full bathroom reno before listing your home, but Stadler suggests making sure the space is beautiful. Even just replacing the vanity, vanity light, and mirror can often change the entire character of the room, she says. 

If you have a dated shower or tub, and a replacement isn’t in the budget, Stadler says, consider reglazing the tub and tile in a more modern finish. 

“Replacing dated flooring can also be very useful, and is usually not too expensive given that it’s a small area,” she says.

Signs of Pets

Whether your dog greets you at the door or your cat snuggles up to you when you’re reading, a pet can be what makes a home feel like a home.

“As a pet lover myself, and mother to two rescue pups, I understand the joy they bring to a home,” says New York City Realtor Madison Sutton, also known as @TheNYCAgent on TikTok. However, visible evidence of pets, such as a prominently placed litter box, can raise concerns for buyers, Sutton says. “They may worry about potential damage or odors associated with pets, even if none exist,” she says. 

Fortunately, you can easily remedy this issue is by making sure any pet-related items are stored away during showings, helping to create a more neutral atmosphere. 

Got stubborn pet stains? Your best bet is to replace the carpets before listing, says Erin Hybart, a Realtor in the Greater Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area. But keeping the carpets pristine can be tough if you and your pet are living in the home while it’s listed, so, another option is getting them steam cleaned and being ready to offer the buyer a credit to replace the carpets, or coming down on price to account for the carpet replacement. 

Lack of Sunlight 

With so many people working from home these days, natural light is a high priority. If there’s a lack of windows (or they’re just placed in an area that doesn’t capture a lot of sunlight), buyers take notice, says Omer Reiner, a licensed Realtor in West Palm Beach. In this instance, the seller will need to stage the home well with well-placed lamps and full-spectrum light bulbs that simulate sunlight. (Here’s some more tricks for faking natural light). Similar to lack of light, low ceilings can make a home feel smaller and darker than it actually is, Reiner says.

You Live on a Busy Street 

While a lot of features can be fixed (or, at least improved) before listing a home, there’s no solution for homes situated in noisy locations, whether that’s from traffic, construction, or a nextdoor party house. It makes it difficult for potential buyers to imagine living peacefully in the home, says Adam Chahl, a Vancouver-based real estate agent

Homes on busy streets can also limit the use of outdoor space, and be a particular challenge for families with young children who worry about their kids opening up the front door to a major street, Chahl says. Ultimately, these types of noise issues can pull down the value of a home by about 10- to 15%, he says.