Are Home Buyers Getting Too Picky? Minor Home Flaws Derail More Deals

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

welcome_forblogMany buyers are demanding perfection in home’s today.

A small stain on the carpet? Forget it. Distracting paint colors? They can’t look past it. No granite countertops? Onto the next house!

As home values drop, offering buyers some of the best bargains in years, more home buyers have realized they can get more choosy when home-shopping. And with inventories high in many areas, sellers realize their home needs to exude perfection if its going to stand out.

During the housing boom a few years ago, buyers were more willing to overlook flaws, or accept them, that is. They may have negotiated with the seller over repairs or upgrades, but some buyers were willing to even take the home “as-is” to win a bidding war or to get the home in the area they wanted.

Times have changed.

Even first-time buyers, who once were lured to the “starter home” (a.k.a. a fixer-upper), are getting choosier. A Coldwell Banker survey earlier this year found that 87 percent of first-time buyers say they want a “move-in” ready home over a fixer-upper–and they want it to be affordable too!

Buyers are “missing out on some excellent, older lived-in houses,” Holly Kirby Weatherwax, a real estate professional in Reston, Va., told the Toledo Blade. “It’s a shame, simply because they can’t overlook” flaws that wouldn’t have bothered most buyers in the previous two decades. Those flaws could be anything from minor imperfections like kitchen appliances by different manufacturers to the home’s color not matching the buyer’s furniture, Kirby notes.

“Anything that can be a distraction, you want to eliminate,” a Tennessee home seller noted in a recent news article. “A light bulb isn’t a big issue, but it can affect [buyers’] subconscious.”

So how did buyers get so picky anyway? Is it just the power of a buyer’s market? Some also blame the rising popularity of home design shows on TV for making buyers more selective when viewing homes. But in recent months, more home design TV programming is showing a slight shift to fixer-upper housing make-overs, showing how a home’s flaws can be overcome to still become a dream home. Will such TV shows eventually make more buyers give less-than-perfect homes a second chance?

Until then, before the for-sale sign goes up, more sellers are heeding the advice of their real estate agent to clean, paint, upgrade and stage to avoid lowball offers. Plus, with the huge glut of low-priced foreclosures, such finishing touches may help home owners rise above the competition.


In general, do you think home buyers today are getting more picky when it comes to the appearance of listings, unable to overlook even minor flaws?

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

More Posts - Website

  1. Mar

    Today’s young buyers want to much. They don’t know what a starter home is, they want it all now and think nothing of going into debt which is a crisis in this country. This is a result of having been given to much by their parents. Work for it like we did in the 80’s and 90’s.

  2. I agree with Mar…Too many of the younger buyers today are coming from “McMansions” or at least upscale homes. They want what their parents have and they want it now. The parents are no help either…they come along and trash every house the kids look at.

  3. Also most 1st time buyers aren’t willing to learn the basics of maintaining a home; even simple things like replacing a faucet. Imagine turning down a home because it needs a new faucet & you’re not willing to learn ( free lessons) to do it yourself. Yes, they are passing up some wonderful deals on older homes because they want it all and want it now! They are requiring sellers to do everything even mentioned as a ” future watch item” on the inspection report & since sellers are short of cash the deals fall apart. All this despite the fact that we fully educate 1st time buyers in every way!

  4. As a home stager, I know that today’s buyer is very influenced by HGTV. In addition, today’s typical young family has two income earners with one or two children who are looking to make the transition to their new home as quickly as possible. Especially in a job transfer situation, the couple has a limited amount of time to find a home, move, get settled, and get back to work. They want everything done because they don’t have the time to devote to fixing up a home in such a tight timeframe..

  5. Fred Schneider

    Welcome to the Buyer’s Marketplace:) Being in the real estate business for nearly 40 years I have pretty much seen everything once can experience in the roller coaster market place of real estate. After years of Sellers telling the buyers to take it as is or leave it and having full control of the market in many areas, times have changed. All property owners should take good care of their homes anyway, so it seems to me this is “pay back time” for the sellers and their agents dictating the market. Good communication between the parties and full and adequate disclosure go a long way in helping keep transactions together and this includes seller’s getting all the necessary and anticipated inspections done PRIOR to listing a home so there are hopefully NO surprises.

  6. Sheryl Thomson

    I agree with all the comments. Another factor may well be a monster the real estate community as created for itself. In our efforts to woo buyers to the market, we have created the mindset that the buyer is in the driving seat. The buyers have heard that this is a Buyer’s market for so long, they now believe “they can have it all!”.

  7. Denise Adame

    Hell yes they are too picky. I used to enjoy working with first time buyers, now, I don’t. They want cheap, large, and upgraded with all their costs and repairs paid for. With the low prices/commissions it’s just not worth driving them around town for months trying to find their fantasy home. Now I only work with all cash investors, who I might add are giving them plenty of competition.

  8. Money is scarce and homes on the market are plenty. Buyers want to make sure not only they are getting their money’s worth, but also find a house that is a steal. Now my clients come to me with their own list of homes they want to see. This is a service industry and service is what we should provide for them.

  9. I have seen the attitude change over the years, but attributed it to the economy. With the stingent mortgage requirements, those in position to buy a home are definitely in the driver’s seat.

  10. Dru Satterfield

    It truly is a Buyer’s market these days, but the motivation of the Seller and Buyer play a part in the sale of a home also. The longer a house lingers on the market, the lower and fewer the offers become. When listing a home for sale, I try to give the Seller all the facts through comparables, motivation, and conditions that made other houses sell qucikly. The current real estate market has been difficult for everyone, but hopefully we have seen the worst of it.