Avoid Buying a Home With a Bad Layout Design

Illustration of bad home layout designs

The Balance / Nusha Ashjaee

A home's owners can easily become oblivious to the layout after occupying the same space for several years. Day-to-day activities become rote after a while, and it might not make any difference to a homeowner how the home is navigated, but a bad layout will turn buyers off.

Buyers might not know a bad layout design when they first see it, but they will know if something about the house doesn't feel right. Generally, that feeling is caused by a bad layout.

It's often difficult to correct a bad layout without spending a lot of money. Before deciding that a bad layout can be improved by moving walls, ask a contractor to tell you whether the walls you want to relocate or remove are load-bearing walls, because if they are, it might be impossible or financially unfeasible.

Here are a few home layouts you may want to avoid.

Key Takeaways

  • A buyer might not know a bad layout when they first see it, but they will know if something doesn't feel right.
  • It's often difficult to correct a bad layout without making major changes to the house and thus spending a lot of money.
  • Bad layouts include a staircase that’s facing the door, adjoining bedrooms, and no views from one room to another.
  • Keep in mind that you'll likely sell the home at some point, and a bad layout could make it more challenging to sell.

Inside Stairway Facing the Entrance

Some consider this design to be bad feng shui. Followers of this ancient Chinese tradition believe a staircase located directly in front of the entrance lets a home's energy escape. However, proponents say it also depends on each individual's birth element, and doesn't affect everybody with the same degree of intensity.

Practically speaking, being greeted by a stairway immediately upon entering the home is confrontational and off-putting to some people. Visually pleasing stairways are wide, well lit, and off to the side.

Hallway Facing the Entrance

An entrance is important because it forms a first impression. Buyers make up their minds within a few seconds of entering a home. It might not be a conscious decision, but buyers feel either good or bad when they walk in the door.

A long, narrow, dark hallway is a huge turnoff, especially if the hallway constitutes the entire view from the entryway. Homes designed in this manner are sometimes duplexes that were converted into single-family residences, with a living room to the left, a dining room to the right, bedrooms along the hallway, and a kitchen at the back of the house. It doesn't convey a warm, cozy home.

Dining Room in the Center of the House

In this layout, upon entering the home, you walk through the living room into the dining room. To get to the kitchen, family room, or bedrooms, one must walk through the dining room, because all rooms are connected through multiple entrances to the dining room. The chief complaint is the inconvenience of navigating around the dining room table to access other areas of the home. It does not provide a straight path or easy access.

Adjoining Bedrooms

In some areas, appraisers won't consider the value of adjoining bedrooms and will consider two bedrooms as one. Real estate ads might call this set-up a two- to three-bedroom home if two of the three bedrooms adjoin. For privacy reasons alone, buyers expect a separate entrance to each bedroom.


Buyers typically want a master suite with a bathroom. Even if there is a bathroom located directly outside the door of the master bedroom, if the bathroom is not accessible from inside the bedroom, it is undesirable.

Bedrooms Located off the Living Room or Dining Room

It is undesirable to have a bedroom door directly leading from a room where family members or guests gather. Apart from the noise factor, it reduces privacy. Most people want to dine, entertain family in the family room, or greet visitors in the living room without a view of the bedroom.

Poorly Located Guest Bathroom

The only thing worse than staring down a long hallway upon entering a home is capturing a full view of a toilet at the end of it. Many older homes placed the bathroom at the end of a hall rather than to one side or the other. Closing the door to the bathroom is unattractive and uninviting, so that's not a practical solution. A main-floor or guest bathroom, which is accessible only by walking through a utility/laundry room or bedroom, is unappealing as well.

No Views From One Room to Another

Even if your home is small, as long as one can see several other rooms from a central spot, it will make the home appear larger. Multiple doorways or arches to main meeting areas help to accomplish this purpose. Open spaces create a feeling of spaciousness. It's unnecessary to open the kitchen to the living or family areas, but it is popular.

Satellite Living Rooms

This type of layout generally places the living room off to one side of the entrance, and it connects to no other room but the entrance. You see this feature more often in older homes that have been remodeled, where walls were moved. People don't want to feel disconnected from the rest of the home, especially if they use the living room for its intended purpose. However, in all fairness, living rooms are falling out of favor with buyers as lifestyles move toward more casual living. In new home construction, the trend is moving away from building homes with living rooms and replacing those areas with great rooms or expanded family rooms.

The Bottom Line

While you might not object to some of these features, keep in mind that you'll likely sell the home at some point, and a bad layout could make it more challenging to sell. Look for a home that has a good layout or layout issues that can be remedied relatively easily.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you fix a bad house layout?

There are many ways to fix bad house layouts, some more costly than others. You may have to add or remove walls, move appliances, or reroute things such as air conditioning and plumbing. The more things you have to do, the more expensive it will be. Consult an interior designer and a structural engineer to be sure your decisions are safe and cost-effective, and that they'll deliver the results you hoped for.

How do you pick the best house layout for your family?

Every family has its own lifestyle and preferences, and these will affect what type of layout best suits your needs. Consider things such as how often you entertain, how much you use the kitchen, whether you prefer an open or closed design, how much time you spend outside, and how much space you'll need in five or 10 years. Think through how your home layout will facilitate your lifestyle for the foreseeable future.

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  1. California Department of Real Estate. "Reference Book - A Guide to Real Estate: Chapter 15 - Appraisal and Valuation." Page 399.

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