Social media causes a lot of hype, but trends change frequently and could hurt resales. Sellers are wise to play it safe with timeless simplicity.
Midcentury modern interior design with yellow sofa and decoration wall, pastel colors

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Three Key Takeaways

  • Not everyone loves pastel colors, scalloped furniture or up-cycled pieces, so suggest sellers set aside such items during showings
  • What appeals to a wider audience are mainstream classics like monochromatic color palettes, one accent wall and overall simplicity
  • Remind sellers the goal is to play up space rather than show off personal possessions

You’ve cautioned your home sellers that the pastel pink upholstered sofa they love because it’s oh-so-Barbie-ish, won’t fly with most buyers. You’ve also warned them that their attraction to antique farmhouse items is great, but the style is light-years from the modern American farmhouse vibe that many now favor since it looks so much fresher and hip. You also empathize with them about their deep attachment to their possessions and how difficult it can be to store them away during showings.

But then it’s time for some brutal honesty. Selling a house is business, and ignoring what’s in and out of favor with the widest pool of buyers may hurt the bottom line. Chris Heller, a real estate expert and co-founder of Agent Advice, based in Austin, Texas, offers a list covering the decor styles that are the least-searched-for and most off-putting by a percentage of site visitors over the last year.

Pastel Colors

Top on the list of least-liked were pastel colors. And it wasn’t just Barbie pink; light blue and lilac both took a hit as well. 

Scalloped Furniture

Next was scalloped furniture, which rose in favor last year among homeowners who liked vintage, doll-like or mermaid-style aesthetics, whether in pillow or bed covers, rugs, curtains or any other place the motif could be introduced. Don’t tell Ariel of “Little Mermaid” fame, however.

Antique Farmhouse Decor

Third was antique farmhouse decor, whether it was full on or using the associated elements of wall paneling, hardwood flooring or rustic brass hardware.

Upcycled Furniture

Fourth was upcycled furniture, which once appealed to those thrifting or repurposing vintage pieces, often from flea markets and consignment shops, to be creative and save money.

Industrial Elements

Fifth was industrial elements, which had come and gone before due to the popularity of factory- and loft-style exposed bricks, high ceilings, wooden floors, open layouts and oversized windows. When they first appeared in the 1960s and 1970s, many artists made them popular in their gritty urban homes. That look came to influence even suburban decor for a while. Recently, its popularity returned, but still, some consider the look too cold and austere.

The remainder of the 10 most out-of-favor designs included Scandinavian decor (yes, hygge), botanical wallpaper, vintage decor, gold cabinet hardware (just when you’ve removed chrome and nickel pulls and knobs to add gold), and geometric wallpaper.

Heller offers this additional caveat against using social media as a design influence. “The data shows the short-lived appeal of trends that rise to prominence of social media, which will attract some, but likely not the majority,” he says. Furthermore, this may also be due to generational preferences, with the biggest supporters of fleeting trends typically younger home buyers.

Data from Google compiled and analyzed by Heller’s team also revealed what potential buyers are interested in: an accent wall that can visually alter the size, shape and feel of a room depending on its color; pendant lighting with oversized fixtures rather than yesteryear’s three small ones; minimalist elements, such as monochromatic color palettes; natural light; and open floor plans, which have appealed for years and remain on trend, though some also like having a niche available for some privacy.

Influencing all of these looks is the desire for simplicity, with Heller recommending a fine line between that and the potential for a lack of personality or warmth. His recommendation? “Opting for warmer neutral tones, plenty of natural light, and removing clutter that may distract from the potential of your home.”

Why should this matter now when inventory is still tight?

The months from March through May are considered the best time to sell a home, and how a home looks can affect potential offers. According to Heller, “Many buyers will be willing to pay more for an aesthetically pleasing property, as it requires less immediate renovation or redecoration.” He continues, “Staging your rooms in a way that feels inviting and comfortable makes it easier for buyers to imagine themselves living in the property, whether viewing it in person or online. Hence, the decor is really key.”