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Why Won't My House Sell? 11 Decorating Mistakes to Avoid

Michelle Jackson has studied art and interior design since 1983. She attended design school and has worked as an artist/visual artist.

Selling your outdated house can be difficult.

Selling your outdated house can be difficult.

11 Outdated Interior Decors

When I was younger, I discovered Architectural Digest and started drafting house plans. To say that I have designer pet peeves would be an understatement. I follow the real estate market religiously and notice that when homes sit on the market forever, there is always a reason. Buyers see certain home features as a negative and if they cannot figure out how to fix that negative for a reasonable amount of money and time, that house is going to sit.

People want to buy a home, not a project. The reality is that it takes much more than an hour-long television show to renovate a house. Buyers want to move in and be done. Today we are going to talk about why that house won’t sell.

1. Three-Sided Fireplace

Three-sided fireplaces are dated and unattractive. This once-cool answer to "I have no room for a fireplace" is now an awkward nod to the 1990s-era tract homes. What’s worse is that the fireplace is supposed to be a focal point in a room. So when it is stuck somewhere weird, it throws the whole room off.

What is the fix for this situation? Update the fireplace with new finishes. The new three-sided fireplaces are surrounded by natural stone and seamless glass for a sleek designer look. Turn that fireplace into a feature of the room instead of an eyesore.

This wallpaper is a nightmare.

This wallpaper is a nightmare.

2. Dated Wallpaper

Holy mother of wallpaper! On the list of things I never want to do again is stripping wallpaper. I’m not alone. If you're selling a house, ditch that wallpaper. Buyers see old wallpaper as a horrific chore to take down—because it is. Your home needs to be either a showplace or a blank slate to attract buyers. Also featured in this room is the oh-so-1990s light bar. Are we in Hollywood?

The fix on this one is obvious. Strip that wallpaper and paint that room a neutral color.

3. Old Tile Counters

I have seen nice tile counters, but it shouldn't have them if your home is priced over $300,000. Tile counters are for low-median-priced homes. No one buying in the $800,000 range is going to get excited about white, 4 x 4 kitchen counters.

This house was almost a million dollars with a tile counter. I would say something about the white appliances, but some people prefer white.

The fix is obvious. Replace the counters with granite.

Horrible glass brick

Horrible glass brick

4. Glass Brick

Glass brick has a place in design. That place is Florida or a 1950s diner. Otherwise, glass brick looks off. I’m not going to lie, I hate glass brick. On an Art Deco building, it’s right at home. Everywhere else, glass brick looks weird.

The sad part is that some home builders are still using glass brick in new designs. Some buyers like glass brick. Those buyers are not the majority. People do not know how to decorate around glass brick. It creates a bad dynamic for design.

The cheapest fix is to remove it and complete the wall. In the case of this shower, I would do a clean tile half wall.

5. Mismatched Tile

Speaking of bad tile decisions, was there a going out of business sale at the tile store? This shower design is kind of cool, but the entire thing needs updating—or at least to have the color tiles replaced with the same white tile.

The second picture is a hot mess. Here the creatively challenged have grouted in what looks to be rocks, and the floor doesn't even match itself.

The fix for this: all-new flooring, strip the vanity, and repaint it white. Get a new vanity top that does not wrap around the toilet and clean up the tub. I would probably frame the mirror with molding as well.

Carpet in the bathroom is a nightmare.

Carpet in the bathroom is a nightmare.

6. Carpet in the Bathroom

That, my friends, is the notorious carpet in the bathroom. That carpet has that lovely smell of mildew mixed with who knows what. Due to its smaller square footage, flooring a bathroom is not expensive so do your potential buyers a favor and replace that carpet.

Your buyers don't want to touch that carpet. They don't want to know what went on in that bathroom. Bathrooms should appear sparkly clean.

Bad architecture can throw everything off.

Bad architecture can throw everything off.

7. Weird Architecture

The original home that inspired this paragraph is in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. I couldn't copy the pictures due to a copyright issue. Gothic arches were a thing in the 1960s and '70s. Most people pulled them out and squared off the entries, but not the people who own this Havasu home. The golden arches of McDonald's in brick are not a good selling feature. There are good arches and bad arches. The arches in that home look weird. Square it off since the '60s brick look isn’t coming back.

The picture below is of another bad arch situation. Rip it out. Create a blank wall. Or turn those arches into a bookcase (after you remove the mirror tile).

A huge round fireplace in the middle of the living space isn't a good idea.

A huge round fireplace in the middle of the living space isn't a good idea.

8. Camping in the Living Room

Right in the center of this room is a Benihana fireplace. If you like roasting marshmallows, then this house is for you! But weirdly placed fireplaces are difficult to pass in resale. If your fireplace requires someone to have custom-made furniture, then you can bet buyers are going to pass.

The fix is to remove it or move it. Neither option is going to be cheap.

9. Ugly DIY Home Projects

You saw it here first! Someone took the floor/accent tile rocks and did the entire shower in rock. This is why people need a design consultant. I love rock, but this rock is too small and too busy for an entire shower. As your shower floor or in a band around the middle, yes. But having the whole shower in pebbles looks like you are moving into the hobbit house. Don't even get me started on cleaning this mess, because you can't keep that clean.

How to fix it? Take it out and put in a neutral tile. You can save money by keeping the floor pebbles.

Avoid installing features that don't make sense.

Avoid installing features that don't make sense.

10. Strange Style Choices

I owe you two apologies for the following picture. I’m sorry you can’t unsee this picture, and I'm sorry it's such poor quality.

This bathroom is a nod to Art Deco for sure (although I’ve never seen evergreen tiles used in Art Deco). Consider this same space with a granite counter and updated tile. It would be amazing.

Don't limit your market with features that don't make sense. Nothing else in the house was Art Deco.

Poor pool design won't sell your home.

Poor pool design won't sell your home.

11. Poor Pool Features

I know what you are thinking: what could she possibly have a problem with this photo? I’m completely against the 12-foot outcropping of rock stuck in the middle of a pool. When I showed this picture to my mom, she said it looked like poop stuck in the middle of the pool. You can’t see in this picture, but they used 1-inch white tiles in the back of that grotto. Nothing says “nature” like 1-inch white tiles. It's just such a strange instinct.

If you are going to build a pool, pick a style. In nature, the rock outcropping would never be dead center, and in my opinion, it isn’t adding anything to the pool. If you go with the natural setting, do the rocks all the way around with small walk-in areas and plants. Yep, I’m a pool snob.

Design Goes a Long Way

Styles come and go. You could spend your entire life remodeling your home to fit the market. If you are going to remodel to sell, stay neutral with your color selections. You might like an over-the-top blue tile, but that tile is going to age. Keep it neutral, and then add decorator touches with your paint colors.

Humans are fickle creatures. This year's must-have color is next year's has-been. Look at your space and see the opportunities to get top dollar with small updates. Your realtor will thank you.

© 2018 MD Jackson MSIOP


MD Jackson MSIOP (author) from Western United States on August 30, 2018:

I know what you mean about the clutter. I was viewing a million dollar home and the bathroom looked like a group of teen age girls had been in there getting ready. You would think the realtor would have had them pick it up before they took pictures.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 30, 2018:

This is an interesting article. I can relate to many of the points you make. Another would be for me over-cluttering. I prefer a minimalist approach.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 29, 2018:

I watch HGTV and see all the problems that can occur in a house hendering a good sale. I was recently surprised to see some designers putting wallpaper up agin, but usually only on 1 wall. I was so glad when we got rid of our wallpeper, and If I never take wallpaper down again it would be too soon. (Excuse the very old saying).

I enjoyed your article as it addressed so many home issues.