Top 5 Things to Ignore When Looking for a Home

We stage our listings, because it works. When we're listing a property it often takes a few weeks from our original meeting with the home owner, for the listing to go online. This is because our stager needs to view the home and make recommendations, the work has to be done, the photos and video have to be shot and edited and then it all has to get uploaded. It takes time, and we wouldn't waste all that time if it didn't work. It helps sell listings faster and for more money.

Now think about this from the other perspective... a buyer.

When you're looking a listings, and you choose the ones that look like show homes (or the ones that are show homes) you're paying more. Granted, you're paying for work that someone else has done, but you're probably paying a premium for it. Choosing a home that needs a little work - whether it be through your own efforts, or by professionals - can save you money. It may also give you a little more time to make a decision, when the market is moving quickly, as it is right now.

Here are the top 5 things to ignore when looking for a home:

1. Paint

Painting your home has the highest return on investment of any improvement you can make, mostly because it's pretty much the least expensive improvement you can make. We have seen homes sit on the market, simply because they are some horrible mauve or dated mint green, when all it would take is a new paint job. Just because a home is beige, or the latest trendy greyish colour, doesn't mean you won't end up repainting to personalize your new home anyway. It's not like it's any harder to paint over "ashes of roses" than beige. 

Before and After Painting

2. Carpet

If carpet is much more than 10 years old, it should probably be replaced. If the current owner replaces the carpet, just to make their home more attractive to buyers, they're probably going to choose the cheapest carpet they can find. Wouldn't you rather choose your own flooring, be it carpet or something else, that looks and lasts the way you want?

Replacing Carpet

3. Wallpaper

While replacing wallpaper is more difficult than simply re-painting, it's  not that much more difficult. It's certainly not a job that requires skill... think local teenager, or "Odd Job Nation" your own elbow grease. It's a relatively quick and inexpensive fix that many people are just not willing to do, and that is an opportunity.

4. Appliances

Like carpet, appliances have a lifespan, and unless they're brand new you're probably going to have to replace some or all of the appliances in a home while you live there anyway - why not choose appliances you like? An old or ugly fridge should not be a deal breaker. You may even be able to work a deal for an allowance for new appliances, or arrange for the seller to put new appliances of your choice in before you take possession. Just make sure your lender is aware and approves of any arrangements not included in the listing.

5. Window Coverings

Yes, you can spend a fortune on window coverings, but you don't have to. You can replace vertical blinds and horrible valences very affordably. The transformation below can be done for about $40. It's the windows behind the curtains that are really important. 

Replacing Ugly Curtains

Of course, the argument against updating a home is that it's hard work, it takes time, and it's not included in your mortgage. There are also many arguments in favour of doing the updates yourself - you get the end result you want, you save money, and you don't pay interest through your mortgage on improvements. Plus, there is something really satisfying about enjoying the results of your own efforts at personalizing your home. 


Sara MacLennan is the Director of Marketing at Liv Real Estate and a licensed Real Estate Associate. The bulk of Sara’s experience and wealth of expertise lies in on-line technology and marketing both for agents and consumers. Sara is the former National Director for Interactive Marketing for Coldwell Banker Canada where she was responsible for an extensive training program traveling to offices across the country training agents and brokers on marketing and technology. Find Sara on Twitter @edmontonblogger. Digg

8 Responses to “Top 5 Things to Ignore When Looking for a Home”

  1. George StromboNo Gravatar 26. Mar, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    Anyone remember Squidly77? The guy who conducted a savage character assassination against Sheldon and Sara and other realtors? Well, his real name is Gary Bench and he’s been successfully sued for $70,000.00 and had to issue an apology to a Calgary realtor for posting defamatory remarks on his website. He posted the apology on his old blog “Alberta Bubble Blog” for the past week but I see it’s recently been taken down. I do remember this much…”My name is Gary Bench and I apologize whole heartily for any comments or blog postings…”

    What a creep he was. Glad to see he’s been held accountable.

    • Sara MacLennanNo Gravatar 28. Mar, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      So… I haven’t been ignoring this comment I just wanted to get the facts straight. He did post an apology, it was later taken down, the suit is still ongoing. That’s about all I can say.

  2. GMNo Gravatar 27. Mar, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

    When we sold our home a few years ago the inspector found that the sump pump wasn’t working. So the buyers demanded that I replace it with a new one.
    What they really should have done is price out a good sump pump and demand that I lower the price by that much, because what I did, and I imagine what most people would do, is go out and buy the cheapest one I could find to replace the one that didn’t work.

    Always demand a price reduction and buy the item yourself or it’ll be replaced with the cheapest one they can find, or possibly even a used one that still works.

    • Sara MacLennanNo Gravatar 28. Mar, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      I totally agree with you.

  3. GMNo Gravatar 27. Mar, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    I love the before and after photos.

    A great future article would be to show a bunch of before and after photos of various rooms to show what a difference small things can make.

  4. JustinNo Gravatar 28. Mar, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    You totally forgot lighting! Old lighting can make a home look ancient!!! For even 300 dollars, you can make a 2000 sq ft home look WAY better!

    If you want to do it right with beautiful lighting, expect to pay around 2500 for a 2000sq ft house with LED lighted chandeliers, modern regular lights, and exterior lighting as well. This will add at least 5k to the value of your home and looks so unique.

    Plus, it only takes around 10 minutes to replace a light.

    • Sara MacLennanNo Gravatar 28. Mar, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

      I totally agree. I have changed lighting fixtures myself, but I can’t recommend DIY for electrical projects, either way if it’s done right, you can add a ton of value.

  5. MichelleNo Gravatar 05. Apr, 2014 at 3:27 am #

    Great tips. Thanks. Yes when buying a home or property I never considered those things. Not looking at the paint or carpet. However now I will look with a new vision.