Design Recipes: Design choices that can sink a sale

Cathy Hobbs
Tribune News Service

With the summer selling season in full swing, many homeowners are looking to sell their homes in what remains overall a vibrant selling market. Those looking to sell their homes for top dollar in the quickest amount of time also need to keep the wishes of potential buyers at the top of their minds. When it comes time to sell a property, it is no longer someone’s home but a product on the market that will be compared with other products. Some designer or decorator items that served a seller well and they enjoyed while living in the home may be potential negatives when it comes time to sell.

Here is my list of five decorator/designer items that may hurt a potential real estate sale.

■Transforming or altering bedrooms. If you have a home that has four bedrooms, when it comes time to sell, you are going to want potential buyers to see four bedrooms. Transforming a bedroom into a walk-in closet or a dark room may be something you will enjoy while you are living in the home, but it will be a big negative to potential buyers.

■Carpeting. While it is lush to have something soft underfoot, the reality is most potential buyers prefer hardwood flooring. Further, many will see carpeting as traps for odors such as pet smells and often feel carpeting is too hard to keep clean and tends to be personalized in color.

■Accent walls. Accent walls are an inexpensive decorating tip and are popular with many homeowners. However, the reality is many potential buyers view even small, quick fixes like changing paint as money, worry and work.

■Small appliances. While you may be pressed for space and like the slim line version of your favorite appliance, most homebuyers prefer to see full size and scale of appliances. Appliances are expensive, and many homeowners will not want to have to purchase new ones when they buy your home.

■Pools and hot tubs. These may be a status symbol in your neighborhood, and if you live in a hot climate, they are perhaps a necessity. Even so, many homebuyers see pools as a negative, especially families with young children who many have safety concerns. On the same note, many homebuyers are turned off by hot tubs and view them as a potential breeding ground for germs. Both pools and hot tubs are also seen as potential negatives to homebuyers because of maintenance costs.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at