6 ways to focus on a property’s potential behind the cosmetics

Have you ever visited a property and been immediately turned off by what awaited you inside? Think ratty old carpet, dated décor, ancient appliances and wood panelling as far as the eye can see?

If so, you’re not alone. But instead of driving right by a home that hasn’t seen a design upgrade in decades, why not look past the far-from-perfect cosmetic elements and see the good bones of a property that could be perfect for you. You can also potentially save yourself money in the long-run. Here’s how to do it:


Focus on a property’s location

First, find a location you like, because no matter how nice a renovation is, if you hate the location, you can’t do anything about it. Plus, being on a great block fosters a sense of community. That will also help you narrow your search field. Too many choices can become confusing.


Think about loving the layout

Changing a home’s flow and layout is really expensive, so if a property you’re touring features high ceilings, original hardwood floors in terrific condition under all that gross pink carpeting and an open-concept living space, try to imagine that not-so-gorgeous granny wallpaper and flowered sofas out on the curb.

If the layout works, and it feels like a solid home with no big red flags, then the rest can be dealt with over time. If your kitchen is dated or you’re using a pink toilet for the first couple of years, but the layout works for your family, it’s probably a good buy.


Appreciate a home’s best features

Pay attention to how much sunlight fills the space. If there are plenty of lovely floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, overlook the super-ugly draperies that frame them.

If a house isn’t getting good light, it’s difficult and pricey to change window placements.

Also, don’t fixate on newly-done renovations that may have been slapped on to sell the house quickly. It’s actually better to buy a blank canvas.

You just don’t know what’s underneath, and it may not have been renovated to the standard you would have chosen had you been doing it yourself, or using the materials you would have preferred, so you’re paying for somebody else’s renovation.


Look at what your family’s future needs might be

Many people are fixated on having three bedrooms upstairs. However, home buyers need to
consider how long they plan on being in their dream house, and whether their preferences might change over time.

If you have teenagers, in a couple of years you are going to want some separation of space. Plus, at least one child is going to really love a bedroom downstairs for privacy.


Take advantage of below-market prices

Often, a dated home with tired décor and no “wow factor” comes at a lower cost, making it a great purchase for first-time home buyers.

These types of homes are always priced better, so if you can see past those little things such as ugly paint colours on the walls or dark cabinets that you can easily get sprayed out, you will get a better buy.


Plan for some temporary design fixes

Big on design dreams but short on cash? Major renovations can wait, but you can instantly improve the overall look of your new home with some imaginative and affordable upgrades.

Ripping out old carpeting to expose hardwoods underneath, or painting the sub-floor white, can open the whole space.

Painting kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities  will freshen those rooms up until you can afford to renovate them.

There is a lot you can do to make your space cool on a limited budget, provided that the house as a whole works for you.


So if you use your imagination and see a property’s true potential, rather than just the cosmetic needs, you can pick up the house of your dreams for a great price.

— Realtor.ca