7 Things in the Kitchen that Concern Potential Home Buyers

Don't let these red flags scare them away.

When you decide to put your house on the market, you start looking at your surroundings through a new lens: What would a potential buyer think of this space? Likely you know there are rooms and specific items that need some attention or a complete replacement before anyone tours your home.

What's normal or concerning for a potential buyer is not always easy to see. Grown accustomed to your space, the high expectations of home buyers might come as a surprise. Despite how the rest of the house looks, the kitchen tends to have the most influence over buyers. The kitchen is the heart of the home, and as much as we love to look at beautiful photos of newly renovated kitchens, the reality is your kitchen does not always stay as pristine. It's a workspace, a gathering spot, a cleaning area, and an eating space. Several things in your kitchen may concern potential buyers, but here are seven you should address before your first open house.

White Modern Kitchen
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Baked-on Food Stains

A few crumbs on the counter are one thing, but spills on the stove that have been there for weeks (or years) are another. Believe us that buyers can tell the difference. It can be easy to get used to some of the mess with routine cooking habits. If you think your kitchen might be a little on the well-worn side, hire professional cleaners before listing your house. Don't forget the insides of your appliances and cabinets. Buyers might take a peek to see how well the home is maintained, so you don't want that to scare them off.

Any Sign of Pests

Bug and pest infestations can come at any time of year and, quite frustratingly, to homes at every level of cleanliness. More times than not, they'll end up in your kitchen. Any sign of bugs will turn off a potential buyer because there's an instant concern that the problem is more significant than it looks. If something is an issue before you mark the house for sale, try to resolve the infestation before you list. If you get a sudden outbreak while you're already on the market, make sure to hide any treatment products or traps before showings so as not to alarm buyers.

Shoddy Remodeling Projects

If you've been making do with a dated kitchen and don't have the budget for a remodel before selling, it can be tough to see how much a fully updated kitchen would raise your listing price. Don't let that tempt you to do a cheap, quick fix on your kitchen, though. It'll only take one or two noticeably amateur projects to completely turn off a buyer for fear that you've addressed other issues in the house the same way. If your kitchen is functional, just outdated, do some low-lift replacements like switching out cabinet hardware and your faucet, or even paint your kitchen cabinets if you know the wood is an unpopular shade. But don't waste your money on poorly executed "improvements" that only look nice from far away. Buyers will see the lack of quality in an instant and walk away.

Evidence of Your Pets

Everyone you know may love your cat, but many potential buyers will not love learning the house has a cat living in it—or a dog, for that matter. We know it's a bit of an irrational concern for buyers since the pet obviously won't stay with the house, but it carries a lot of weight, so it's worth addressing. If your pets can stay at a family member or friend's house while your home is on the market, that's probably for the best. Seeing your actual pet, their litter boxes and food bowls, or smelling anything animal-related could turn off any number of buyers.


If your home is anything like ours, calendar schedules, notes, medication refills, and other mess collect in the kitchen. You may have a solid organization system for anything on your counters or the walls in your kitchen, but anything visible to someone walking through your home will come across as clutter. Try to eliminate as much as possible from your countertops, completely clear anything on your refrigerator doors, and take down any calendars or bulletin boards you wouldn't post a picture of on Facebook.

Don't stash all these extra items in your pantry or cabinets, though. Buyers are likely to look inside storage areas, and you don't want it to look like you're bursting at the seams. That'll give buyers the impression that the house is too small and would quickly run out of available storage space.

The Sight or Smell of Trash

You might forget about taking out the trash if you are still living in your home during an open house. Removing any garbage before buyers enter the home is essential, even if the waste is not filled to the brim as it usually would be before removing. Buyers will not enjoy the sight or smell of your trash as it reminds them of your time in the home and prevents them from imagining themselves moving into this new space.

Kick-Knacks and Trinkets

While you may love your knick-knacks, buyers most likely do not want to see them. Pack away your sentimental collections or souvenirs from traveling across the country before opening your home because you might have differing specificities in taste. Whether it is a rival sports team's memorabilia or an off-putting collection of trinkets, there are some things that potential buyers would rather not see.

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