Q: I read something you wrote saying that wall-to-wall carpet is a buyer turnoff. Call me old fashioned or out of step, but what is with all the hating on carpeting? Like anything else, it needs to be cleaned occasionally, but I will take the warmth and quiet of it over hard surfaces any time.

The nylon wall-to-wall in my house is more than 20 years old and has worn like iron. Who can say that this type of flooring won’t be back in fashion in a couple years, with people buying it in droves to cover up their faux wood floors or even the real thing?

A: Allow me to be clear: I don’t hate carpet! In my own home, I have carpet in my bedroom, on my stairs and in my office, which has an unlevel floor that was nearly impossible to finish with wood. The rest of my home, though, is finished with hardwood floors, which studies have shown to be the increasingly overwhelming preference of homebuyers.

Here’s the skinny on why carpets are falling out of vogue:

1. Think like a buyer, to understand why carpet is falling out of fashion. Today’s buyers are seeking low-maintenance, high-performance home finishes that allow maximum versatility and healthfulness for their families. And wall-to-wall carpet triggers many of those concerns:

  • Maintenance: By and large, buyers see carpet as something that requires regular, professional cleaning — or labor-intensive self-cleaning — at a couple hundred bucks a pop.
  • Performance: There are certainly high-end carpets that wear well over time, but many of the carpets that are installed by sellers just prior to putting a home on the market do not qualify. These light-colored, inexpensive carpets often look old and worn relatively early in their lives, and buyers know this.
  • Versatility: A buyer of a home with carpeting everywhere is somewhat limited in their decor and design choices by the preferences of the seller before them. By contrast, hard flooring finishes allow the buyer a near-infinite range of decor palette choices.
  • Healthfulness: Buyers see traditional carpeting as something that off-gases toxic fumes and traps dirt and allergens that may exacerbate family members’ allergies or other respiratory issues. Many see hardwood and other hard flooring finishes as more healthful and sustainable for their families — and for the planet. To boot, buyers who have pets and children know that these little wild family members can be very hard on carpet.

2. But buyers share your concerns, too. Buyers also crave warmth and noise muffling — and many install area rugs over their hard flooring finishes for precisely that reason. Also, buyers who like carpet often enjoy selecting their own (so they can choose the color, select nontoxic materials or even choose those versatile carpet tile systems) or may want to install carpets in certain areas (e.g., bedrooms) and not others (e.g., living and dining rooms, and hallways).

3. Don’t let buyers be the boss of you. The article you read was about buyer turnoffs, and I stand by my designation of wall-to-wall carpet as one of those. However, if you don’t plan to sell your home anytime soon, there’s no reason for you to let what might turn buyers off down the road stop you from enjoying the carpet you love in your own home. If you’re planning to stay put in your home over the long run, put carpet on the walls if you want to! Your home is more than just an investment — it’s the place you live, and your largest monthly expense — so you should enjoy it.

If, on the other hand, you are planning to sell your home in the next few years, and you are contemplating an investment in carpet, it might make more sense to take buyer preferences into consideration. Consider just placing it in your bedrooms and leaving the rest of the house finished in hardwood — perhaps placing area rugs down to get you the warmth and sound dampening you seek. Or go ahead and put carpet everywhere you’d like, but make sure you either (a) invest in a high-grade carpet and maintain it impeccably, or (b) be willing to pull it up before you sell the home.

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