top 10 turn offs for midcentury homebuyers

by Nov 6, 2012ModMarket0 comments

this modern kitchen replaced the inappropriate traditional cherry kitchen (pictured below) in an MCM in Wyoming. Kitchen design by architect Chris Magee


this insensitively remodeled traditional kitchen was in an MCM home in Wyoming

We have been in A LOT of houses over the years.  We probably get so excited about the untouched original owner MCM’s (no matter what their condition) because of all the dastardly deeds we have seen done to perfectly innocent MCM houses.  Since I am feeling rather snarky today, I thought I would share our list of the TOP 10 TURN OFFS FOR MIDCENTURY HOMEBUYERS.  If you are reading this, we are probably preaching to the choir, but here it goes.  If you are thinking of putting your house on the market, here is our top 10 list of things to avoid, or un-do as the case may be:

  • Brass – quite simply, buyers hate brass or most anything gold-toned.  If you have an original brass sputnik fixture, OK.  If you have shiny brass door knobs, or cabinet pulls that are not original to the house, swap them out for something more period appropriate. 
  • Clutter – buyers have to be able to see the house and the architecture.  They really cannot see through piles of your stuff.  Rent a storage locker if you have to, but clear out your house as much as possible.
  • Currently leaky or signs of previously leaky roof – people are very wary of flat and low slope roofs anyway.  Don’t give them any more reason to worry!  Flat roofs are very fixable, and associated inside damage must be repaired, too.  Make sure your roof, flashings and ceilings are in tip top shape!
  • Dropped/Popcorn/Swirley ceilings – there are some very cool Midcentury acoustic tile ceilings.  But some other ceilings do not go over as well with buyers.  Smooth ceilings in good condition are greatly preferred.
  • Remuddling – ANY type of remodeling done poorly implies that the overall quality of the house is not up to par – whether it is or not.  Make sure that whatever work you do (or was previously done) is done properly and to code.  Extraneous trim pieces used to cover imperfections fall into this category.
  • Time-stamped ‘updates,’ furnishings, color schemes, walls of mirrors – If your midcentury home looks like the 1980’s, we have a problem, Don Johnson!  Take your house back to its midcentury roots, paint your walls,  and put the inappropriate furnishings in storage.  You want buyers to focus on the architecture, not your (dated) stuff!
  • Non-sensitive ‘updates’ (aka: the boob light & home depot door syndrome) – need I say more?  If it ain’t mod, don’t do it!  There are so many great alternatives available today if your original bling is missing – check out the Midcentury Modern hardware and lighting collection available at, hardware from Ikea, and door options from to name a few. Bona Hardware in Oakley is a literal treasure trove of architectural hardware of every style imaginable.  
  • Wallpaper – some people really love retro wallpaper, but true retro paper is usually not in great condition after all these years and most people really don’t want someone else’s taste on their walls.  Opt for plain walls if at all possible.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so don’t make the mistake of waiting for negative feedback to come in and then dealing with it – head it off before it becomes an issue! The exception to this is grass cloth, which is a great modern wall treatment. 

this paper was in the powder room of our previous house. not even kidding!!  we removed it but in retrospect, I find it so absurd that I just might have kept it. it’s certainly a conversation piece.

  • Fuse boxes and old electric panels – let’s face it, a 50-60 year old house was not built for the electric loads of 2012.  If your electric has not already been updated, this is an excellent time to do it.  A new upgraded panel and service costs about $2,000 and is always money well spent!
  • Carpet over hardwood (or cork or tile) – if you’ve got it, flaunt it!  Buyers want hardwood!  Even if your floors need refinishing (or you don’t know the condition), uncover those puppies and let buyers see them!!

Not sure what to do (or not to do) to your house?  Contact us for a no obligation consultation.  We’re always happy to share our opinions and expertise with current and potential clients!  We could very well save you money – and make you more money in the process!

 midcentury ranch ‘before’ with multi panel front door.


midcentury ranch ‘after’ with plain slab door from home depot with lite kit from crestview doors, and a Remcraft bullet light fixture.


master bedroom of an amberley quad level ‘before,’ with carpet over hardwood and a ‘boob’ light.


same room ‘after’ – with beautiful hardwood floors exposed and a retro looking light fixture installed. windows were also replaced with modern casement windows.


MCM in North Avondale ‘before’ with light fixtures added by a previous owner.


same original 1955 kitchen ‘after’ with simple globe fixtures from Lightolier (available online for under $100 ea)



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