Could these 10 outdated features be the reason you're struggling to sell your home?

Discover the features real estate professionals know put buyers off – and discover the reasons why they do

House for sale sign with house in background
(Image credit: Alamy)

Selling your home and wondering why, despite lots of showings, there haven’t been any offers? The reason could be that outdated features may be stopping you from selling your home.

There are some items and finishes that are a major turnoff for buyers because they envisage dealing with them will take too much time, or cause too much trouble or expense. And while it’s true that some buyers do take on home renovation projects providing they think these are worth the investment, that’s definitely not the case for every potential purchaser. 

To help you discover if your home contains something that’s putting off buyers, we asked real estate experts to share their insights, and these are the passé features they told us can prevent offers from coming in.

Outdated features stopping you from selling your home

Housebuyers can find it hard to see past some finishes and items when they look at a home. The result? They won’t make an offer at all because the work they think is required isn’t something they want to take on.

While there are some room colors that mean lower offers, there are features that, although they might be relatively easy to deal with, result in buyers not making an offer at all. 

This advice from real estate professionals will allow you to look at your home with a fresh eye to discover whether it’s harboring the obsolete features buyers just don’t want to have to tackle.

1. Popcorn ceilings

dining room with stained glass window panel and cream walls

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Textured ceilings are a feature that put potential buyers off, according to Chelsea Werner , global real estate advisor at ONE Sotheby’s. 

‘Ceilings adorned with a popcorn texture, once trendy, are now considered passé and can date a home,’ says Chelsea. ‘Many buyers prefer smooth or textured ceilings. Typically, the removal of popcorn ceilings can be an additional expense and an inconvenience for potential homeowners.’

Chelsea Werner
Chelsea Werner

Chelsea Werner is a global real estate advisor at ONE Sotheby’s. In real estate since 2011, Chelsea brings two complementary skills to her work: creating profound personal relationships and comprehensively analyzing the market. She deeply invests herself in her clients, becoming a part of their lives, delving into their goals and tailoring her approach to their specific needs. 

2. Carpet

family living room with gray ottoman sofa and bright cushions with bright blue armchairs

(Image credit: Jenn Verrier)

While you might be a fan of cozy carpet underfoot, it could be scaring away buyers. ‘Carpeting is definitely high on the list of outdated features that prevent home sales,’ says Jared Blumberg, licensed real estate salesperson at Compass.

‘No matter how nice the pattern or quality, most people do not like carpeting in their homes and prefer almost any other flooring type in its place,’ he explains. ‘Wood floors – like wood floor ideas for living rooms and wood floor ideas for bedrooms – are certainly the top choice for buyers, but even a nice well-placed floor tile could be attractive. 

‘Even if the carpeting can be removed, there can be a mystery of what is underneath and the current condition of it,’ Jared adds. ‘Removing carpeting and having to add new flooring can be an expensive undertaking that most buyers do not want to bother with. Whatever you do, please do not put carpet in your bathroom. I have seen this more times than I probably should have.’

Jared Blumberg
Jared Blumberg

With family in real estate and a childhood spent obsessed with building, Jared’s career felt predestined. He began in commercial real estate in 2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2011, he joined two friends in his hometown of New York to start a residential brokerage firm, and he’s never looked back.

3. Colored baths

white bathroom

(Image credit: Chango + Co)

Grown used to your colored bathroom fittings? Be prepared for buyers not to be so tolerant of these blasts from the past and show their preference for white bathroom ideas.

That goes for a colored toilet, bathtub, and/or sink. ‘If the bath features are old and white, a buyer can wrap their head around refreshing the flooring with minimal outlay,’ explains Sarah Goss, managing broker at Southwestern Real Estate. ‘If the shower, bathtub, toilet, etc. are Pepto pink, a buyer will see a total gut job and way too much time and money to be invested.’

Sarah Goss
Sarah Goss

Based in Sugar Grove, IL, Sarah Goss is the managing broker for Southwestern family of companies and is well versed in the surrounding western suburbs. Sarah has 20 plus years of prolific sales and management experience including being voted as Chicagoland’s salesperson of the year (Home Builder’s Association, 2002).

4. Sliding barn doors

green staircase runner

(Image credit: Roger Oates Design)

Sliding barn doors are a much more recent favorite than some of the features that scare away offers, but while barn doors are still in style and therefore an option for those staying put, if you’re selling, they can be a problem. 

‘One of the surprising features that is really pushing buyers away from homes is the inclusion of barn doors that slide,’ says realtor Maureen McDermut, of Sotheby’s International in Santa Barbara. ‘They were trendy for about five years but have since become an eyesore to some, and buyers don’t want to have to convert these into traditional doors.’

Maureen McDermut
Maureen McDermut

Maureen McDermut has 20 plus years of experience specializing in residential real estate. She is ranked consistently among the top 1 per cent of agents in Santa Barbara and Sotheby’s International Realty.

5. Dark cabinets

White modern kitchen with silver hardware

(Image credit: Vani Sayeed Studio)

Look to kitchen and bathroom cabinets for a possible reason why your home isn’t selling. ‘Dark cabinets, and especially 1980s and 1990s oak cabinets, are just out of style,’ says Missy Derr, real estate advisor with Engel & Völkers Atlanta. ‘Overwhelmingly, buyers want white or light-colored cabinetry. It’s fresh and it’s highly desirable.’

You might be able to rescue the situation, though. ‘If a full kitchen or bathroom remodel is out of the question regarding time, or monetary constraints prohibit it, then the best thing one can do is pay to have cabinets painted,’ she suggests. Prefer to DIY? You can paint cabinets without sanding.

Missy Derr
Missy Derr

Missy Derr is a real estate advisor with Engel & Völkers Atlanta. She is originally from Columbus, Georgia, where her family has been involved in real estate for two generations, cementing an enthusiasm for helping people achieve the ultimate American dream of home ownership.

6. Old wallpaper

bedroom with cream walls and velvet headboard in warm brown tones and view to en suite bathroom with cream panelling

(Image credit: Tim Lenz)

Think your old wallpaper’s a great retro feature? Think again, says Bradley Wilson, licensed real estate salesperson with Finger Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty in Skaneateles, NY, and also Richardson Sotheby’s in San Luis Obispo, CA.

‘Outdated wallpaper can deter buyers due to the uncertainty of what might be hidden beneath or behind it,’ he says. ‘The removal process is hard work, and buyers may worry about potential issues lurking behind it, making it a less appealing feature.’

Bradley Wilson
Bradley Wilson

Bradley Wilson is a licensed real estate salesperson with Finger Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty in Skaneateles, NY and also Richardson Sotheby’s in San Luis Obispo, CA. He has over 10 years of experience, working with both buyers and sellers.

7. Home theaters and sound systems


(Image credit: Boca do Lobo)

If you have a home theater and sound system with plenty of wires on show, it could be deterring buyers. 

‘The older home theater/sound systems required racks to hold all the various amplifiers and all the wiring that was required before everything became wireless,’ says John Gluch realtor and real estate coach at Gluch Group. ‘These tend to be a nightmare. They’re difficult to deal with and they break frequently. The sound system technology now is much better.’

John Gluch
John Gluch

John Gluch is a realtor and real estate coach at Gluch Group. He leads a real estate team facilitating the sale of more than 700 homes each year across Arizona, Nevada, and California.

8. Sliding glass doors

bedroom with gray scheme and bubble light fitting doors open to patio

(Image credit: Trevor Tondro)

Super-sleek modern sliding glass doors are fine, but what can stop you from selling your home are the old-fashioned versions, according to real estate investor Danny Johnson of Danny Buys Houses.

‘Old sliding glass doors are almost always a buzz kill,’ he says. ‘Nobody wants to have to jiggle the door as you slide it to get it opened or have to slide a bar down to lock the door. Swapping out these old doors with French doors goes a long way to making a home much more appealing.’

Danny Johnson
Danny Johnson

Danny Johnson of Danny Buys Houses has bought and sold nearly 1,000 houses in San Antonio, Tx. He’s been a real estate entrepreneur for two decades, house flipping, wholesaling, rehabbing, renting, and creating real estate notes. 

9. Sunken living rooms

A neutral-toned living room with a large curved couch and tall windows

(Image credit: Button Atelier)

OK, it worked in Don Draper’s New York city apartment in Mad Men, but now the sunken living room can frighten the offers away.

‘These were so popular in the 1960s and 1970s,‘ says independent real estate broker in San Diego County, California Mylène Merlo. ‘Many were designed to create a separate cozy gathering space. Today, they are considered tripping hazards, and break up the floor plan. 

‘Remedies can be expensive – if the ceilings are high, many homeowners will pay a contractor to raise the floor and even it out with the rest of the space. Home buyers generally prefer a flowing open floor plan; sticking to one-floor height is a big plus.’

10. Brass-framed shower enclosures

Tile shower, white sink

(Image credit: Madden/Dan Duchars)

A brass-framed shower enclosure might be what’s stopping the offers from coming in when you’re selling a house. 

‘In the 1990s and early 2000s, brass-framed shower enclosures were prevalent in bathrooms,’ says real estate investor Chris McGuire, Founder of Real Estate Exam Ninja. ‘However, the brass finish can make a bathroom feel dated and less luxurious. Buyers now tend to prefer frameless or brushed nickel shower enclosures, which provide a more modern and sleek appearance. Upgrading the shower enclosure can greatly enhance the overall appeal of a bathroom.’


Do I need to fix everything before selling a house?

You don’t need to fix everything before selling a house, but there are some things you should address. ‘If a buyer has no idea of the cost involved with bringing plumbing or electrical up to code and it’s creating a safety concern, it will likely be too much to bear,’ says Sarah Goss, managing broker at Southwestern Real Estate. 

Some buyers are prepared to see beyond the outdated features, of course. If you are one of these, be sure to get in the know about the home renovation mistakes to avoid. You can save money on home renovations, too. Calling in the pros? The questions to ask a contractor before you hire them will ensure you get the right person.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.