Home buyer turn-ons and turn-offs

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2014 - 4:20 PM

Buyers can be turned on – or off – by a host of details when they’re house-hunting, triggering an emotional reaction that prompts them to make an offer or move on.


Illustration for Sunday Homes; illustrates home buyers dealbreakers -- and dealmakers. Credit: Ali Douglass, Special to the Star Tribune

Photo: Ali Douglass • Special to the Star Tribune,

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Andy and Christine Brown were enticed by the online photos of a suburban home’s four bedrooms, finished basement and big yard that faced wetlands.

But it wasn’t until Christine stepped inside and saw the grand staircase that she knew the Prior Lake house was “the one.” “I thought of Finley [their 4-year-old daughter] walking down the stairs in her prom dress,” she said.

Andy got excited about the house when they pulled up and saw hordes of kids riding bikes and playing in the cul-de-sac on a spring day. “Since we had two kids, we were thrilled about the neighborhood,” he said.

After looking at more than 20 houses, the Browns had finally found one that triggered an emotional connection, as well as fulfilling almost every item on their wish list.

Buyers have a multitude of reasons for making an offer, but “it’s pretty obvious when people like a house,” said real estate agent Fritz Kroll of Edina Realty. “They get excited, and the tenor shifts from what’s wrong with the property to everything that’s right about it.”

Bruce Erickson, a Coldwell Banker Burnet agent, can tell when a client loves a house because “their face just lights up,” he said.


Buyers are attracted to certain properties for a wide range of reasons, but agents say there are some common characteristics that appeal to the vast majority of today’s house hunters.

People want open floor plans, stone countertops, maple rather than oak cabinets, updated kitchens, newly refinished hardwood floors and fresh paint on the walls. Flex rooms that can be used as a playroom, office or dining room are an added value. “People want rooms that serve a multitude of purposes,” said Sara Huebener, an agent for Edina Realty.

For Megan Sigelman, it was the “good vibe” of her late 1800s home in Minneapolis’ Linden Hills neighborhood that sealed the deal. She bought it despite some of its quirks, including a small, outdated kitchen cut off from the rest of the house and no back yard. “It was in good condition and had been loved,” she said.

Exceptional curb appeal persuaded Angie Carrigan to take a look inside the suburban Savage home her family recently bought. “The yard was beautiful, with gardens and nice large trees. You could tell it was a well-kept house,” she said. “And my daughter was sold on the swimming pool.”

Views of the Minneapolis or St. Paul skyline motivate many buyers who want to live in a downtown area, said Kroll, who specializes in selling condos and lofts.

Ivan and Sharon Fong were mesmerized by the panoramic vistas of the Mississippi River, Gold Medal Park and Minneapolis skyscrapers from the 10th floor of their recently purchased condo in Stonebridge Lofts, one block from the Guthrie Theater.

An added bonus — the Fongs could tweak the floor plan and choose all of the finishes and materials, since the unit was in a newly constructed building. “We knew we made the right decision,” Sharon said. “It was just perfect.”


Everything from grimy light switches to a musty-smelling basement can prompt buyers to turn around and head out the door.

“I’ve seen some crazy things in houses over the years,” said Erickson, “even mice running across the floor.” A big no-no is leaving the toilet seat up, he added. “As soon as people focus on those details, they lose sight of the positive features in the house.”

Dirty dishes in the sink, soiled towels in the bathroom and showers covered in soap scum give the impression that other things in the home weren’t maintained, said Kyle White, a ReMax Advantage Plus agent.

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  • Sharon and Ivan Fong to a look at their Stonebridge Loft with their dog Bexley which will be completed this summer. ] JOELKOYAMA’Ä¢jkoyama@startribune Minneapolis, MN on April 21, 2014.

  • Finley Brown rides her trike in the cul-de-sac. Her parents, Andy and Christine Brown, were attracted to many features of their Prior Lake home, including all the kids they saw playing outside in the neighborhood.

  • TOP: Sharon and Ivan Fong have a view of the Mississippi River from their 10th-floor condo at Stonebridge Lofts .ABOVE: Andy and Christine Brown, with Finley and Noah, in the house that fulfilled their checklist, including the school district where they both teach, a big yard and open kitchen.

  • Sharon and Ivan Fong have a view of the Mississippi River from their 10th floor condo at Stonebridge Lofts with their dog Bexley which will be completed this summer. ] JOELKOYAMA’Ä¢jkoyama@startribune Minneapolis, MN on April 21, 2014.

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