For Today’s Home Buyer, Small is Beautiful

No longer is the sprawling luxury home the pinnacle of real estate in the North American market.

As baby boomers look to downsize and homeowners trade luxury for function, there is renewed interest in smaller homes. Eighty percent of 1,300-plus real estate agents surveyed in 2011 said that baby- boomer clients aged 54 to 64 are interested in smaller homes. Saving money and living more simply were among the reasons for the interest.

A recent study showed that the economic downturn has altered the landscape of housing. It predicted that by 2015, homes will be 10% time smaller than the average single-family home in 2010. While homebuyers may be looking for smaller residences, they’re not interested in sacrificing functionality. Instead, they’re trading luxury amenities for practicality. According to architects in a recent survey, buyers are losing interest in spaces such as home theatres and exercise and game rooms and are embracing spaces like home offices and mud rooms. Aging baby boomers will also be looking for features to make their lives safer and more comfortable.

Baby boomers, more than any generation to date, are looking for homes that have been adapted to their needs instead of making the move to retirement homes. The two- or three-storey single-family home may also be on its way out, as boomer homebuyers launch their search for an entirely different type of housing, offering a maintenance-free lifestyle. This important demographic is looking closely at options such as condominium apartments or bungalow communities. Many are also considering rental units.

Boomers aren’t alone in pursuing smaller homes. Young people and immigrants will also continue to drive demand in future.

Buy in the Right Location to Ensure Your Home’s Value

True, the phrase, “location, location, location”, is a cliché. But smart homebuyers have come to realize that the location of their new home not only determines how happy they’ll be with their purchase but also dictates its resale value. Following is a primer to help you find the right home in the right location.

Don’t be tempted to buy a great house in a bad neighbourhood unless you can see signs that the neighbourhood is changing for the better. Future buyers will not be willing to pay top dollar for a house surrounded by fixer-uppers.

Decide what you want in a neighbourhood before looking. If it’s important to have excellent schools nearby, don’t look in areas where your kids will have a long drive or bus ride to school.

Safety first

How safe is the neighbourhood? Be sure to check it out at night and on weekends. Neighborhoods that may seem safe during the day can change when the sun goes down. Also look around you. Are your neighbors’ homes and gardens well maintained or are there rusted cars in their backyards?


What amenities do you need nearby? If you’re looking for parks, walking trails and recreation centers, a suburban location is for you. For the local restaurant, bar and theatre scene, check out downtown properties.

And be sure to ask your sales agent about any likely changes in zoning, new schools to be built or recently approved projects that could have a negative impact on the neighbourhood.

Nine Easy Ways to Make Your Home More Attractive

These days, staging your home involves more than decluttering and inexpensive fix-ups. You can spend big bucks. Or not. The following tips can help you add value to your home:

1. Listen to your real estate agent. He or she views hundreds of houses a year and knows what works.

2. Watch the trends and incorporate them in simple, effective ways. In 2012, buyers will be looking for extra storage and great laundry rooms. Declutter all your closets and add inexpensive but attractive storage in the laundry area. Fresh paint and attractive baskets can go a long way.

3. Position one of today’s colors – any shade of blue from cobalt to turquoise, for example – against neutral walls, either by painting an accent wall or by adding hints of color with accessories.

4. For accessories, try light woods, brass and stone.

5. Switch down your lighting – dimmers create a warm, romantic mood in bedrooms and dining rooms.

6. Hardwood floors are still number one, but sisal and seagrass carpeting are becoming popular.

7. White or off-white kitchen cabinets are still in. Painting cabinets may be labor intensive, but you may avoid that “dated kitchen” label.

8. Stainless steel appliances remain popular, but building them in to match kitchen cabinets is very now.

9. Move out all but essential pieces of furniture. Buyers want to imagine their possessions in your home.

No Granite? Don’t Let That Be a Deal Breaker!

If you’re looking for the perfect house, that huge wish list you’re carrying around may be holding you back – and ultimately could cost you your dream home.

Even the casual HGTV watcher will be familiar with “granite obsession.” Picture this: A real estate agent is showing a couple a house that has great curb appeal in their chosen neighborhood, at a price they can afford. It’s perfect. Or is it?

“Hate that fixture,” the husband says, as the couple checks out the dining room.

They pause in the kitchen.

“This has to be completely redone,” he says. “No granite countertops.”

She agrees. The husband and wife nod knowingly at each other, and the real estate agent, who has heard it all before, says to himself, “Granite obsession.”

Despite the home’s obvious advantages, the couple can’t see the forest for the trees … or rather the house for its décor.

Instead of obsessing over paint colors, fixtures and granite countertops, the couple should be asking their real estate agent about the neighborhood; discussing recent energy-saving upgrades and the home’s electrical system; checking for leaks or cracks that may signal a roof repair or foundation problem; and deciding if the floor plan and room sizes will meet their lifestyle needs.

The couple should ask if window coverings are included and if the appliances are in working order. And even if these are not to their tastes, the couple will save a lot of money if they can live with the status quo and not have to buy new appliances, fixtures or drapes immediately.

Got questions?

Ask your real estate agent. He or she can recommend home inspectors, contractors, designers and others you might want to ask for a second opinion.

But don’t hold out for granite, hardwood or high-end appliances. You may never get a second chance at your dream home.