Our favourite real estate agent – Gary Alison – dropped by yesterday. He’s the amazing guy who helped us find our house 10 years ago. Honest, forthright, professional. We wanted to chat about updating our house (no desire to move) and since he’s relocated 19 times, we figured he had the experience-chops to give us some useful advice.
First of all, Gary is very successful. And funny. Doesn’t take himself too seriously. Regaled us with a tale about the house-sitter who accidentally locked their cat in the master bedroom. The cat, of course, was ‘not happy’. Urinated everywhere on the carpet over a weekend. Gary said they’ve had professional carpet cleaners in several times – no dice. Still smells of cat-pee. And now, he’s discovered he’s allergic to the cleaning solution. There’s nothing left to do but rip up the carpets, possibly replace the sub-floor, and install hardwood. But of course, that has its own challenges because their weighs-a-ton custom-made furniture will have to be relocated and they really don’t have space anywhere else.
According to Gary, the best renovations for return on investment are kitchens, bathrooms and upgraded non-carpet flooring. When we toured him through our bubble-gum pink monstrosity of a master ensuite, his eyes got big – not in a happy way. All he could say was, he’d find us ‘a guy’ to do the work. Great that the room was square and large. Yes, installing a sexy bathtub to go with the giant glass-walled shower stall will enhance value. Then he escaped.
We chatted about some of the properties for sale in the neighbourhood. We’ve visited a few during open houses and found that the prices were high, the yards were small, the layouts odd and the décor dated. Didn’t matter – they sold like hotcakes. In one, the bungalow, the homeowners had blown their brains out on granite when they renovated the kitchen. Thing is, that was the only updated room in the house. In the other house, they’d blown out the dining room to make a huge kitchen with lots of counters (not stone) and an abundance of storage, except for the odd pillar (obviously a load-bearing support) in the middle of the room.
Lessons learned: upgrade the bathrooms. Reface the kitchen cabinets. Add stone countertops. Install stainless steel appliances. Why? Today’s buyers, even of million dollar plus homes, are mortgaged to the hilt. They can’t afford a new lawnmower or appliances because every cent they have is going to pay off their massive debt. The other thing is, they’ve been brainwashed by all of the HGTV design shows that lead people to believe that a bathroom gut-job can actually be completed in three days and that designer fixtures and appliances can be installed ‘on the cheap’.
They want it all. They want it done.They don’t want to do it themselves. Scary.