Read through our list of easy-to-fix “deal breakers” before turning up your nose at the next open house.
Have you turned up your nose at a home’s paint colors (totally forgetting that repainting is an easy solution) or gotten mopey about the lack of a Sub-Zero fridge? Even if you’re generally open-minded, it’s practically impossible not to have at least a little red-flag crazy as you make your way through your first few open houses.
We’ve cataloged a few open-house reactions — and some easy-to-implement counterpoints — to keep first-time buyers focused on the big picture during the house hunt.
1. “The wood paneling makes the house too dark.”
This is a problem many homeowners beg to have. Original wood = a home with history and character. But despite what purists say, painting it is totally allowed. Win-win, either way.
2. “Vinyl siding isn’t my style.”
On the flip side? It can be a serious pain to have to repaint your home every five years. Instead of cursing the home’s siding, keep the low-maintenance lifestyle in mind (or go seek out exterior-maintenance horror stories from people who own Victorian homes). Plus, here’s a lesser-known fact: Vinyl can actually be repainted.
3. “The master bedroom is too small.”
Here’s the funny thing about bedrooms: all you really do is hang out on the bed, whether you read in it, watch TV in it, or sleep in it. In most cases, if there’s room for a bed, you’re golden. Most of us are more likely to spend the majority of our time in our living room or kitchen. So if you love everything else about the house, take a second look.
4. “There aren’t enough closets.”
Consider adding a wardrobe or armoire — they make great statement pieces.
5. “There’s no wine fridge.”
First of all, these little refrigerators are really affordable — and since they don’t take up a lot of space, they’re usually an easy addition. But even if space is a concern, there are plenty of wine geeks who don’t keep their wine in a fridge. Unless your wine collection is approaching hoarder levels, the temperature in your home or apartment tends to fluctuate, or you have a few really nice bottles that you want to hang on to for a while (in which case the correct, constant temperature is important), a regular fridge (or a decorative wine rack) will do nicely.
6. “Where will the flat-screen go?”
It may take a little trial and error, but even the smallest apartments tend to be flat-screen friendly. Whether you need to mount yours on the wall or atop a new piece of furniture, don’t let this concern keep you from an otherwise perfect home.
7. “How can we live with only two bathrooms?”
If you’ve got a large family, this is a valid concern. We feel you. But in most cases, even for a family of four, unless everyone wants to shower at the same time, two bathrooms will do the job — and if a third bathroom prices you out of the neighborhood you’ve fallen in love with, this might be a good place to compromise.
8. “The wallpaper is too old-fashioned.”
Wallpaper is chic again! But if you absolutely detest the sight of that country chic wallpaper, don’t fret — it’s a little labor intensive, but stripping down wallpaper is definitely doable. And it will leave you with a superdramatic before and after to share on Instagram.
9. “Isn’t oil heat expensive?”
Don’t write this one off without doing a little research. As long as you remember to fill the tank, oil can actually be a cheaper and safer (i.e., nonexplosive) way of heating your home.
10. “The fireplace is nonfunctional.”
Another way to look at it? It’s a beautiful focal point with zero maintenance.
11. “These light fixtures are hideous.”
Look at this one as an opportunity. Your first fun decorating mission? Choosing new chandeliers!
12. “Wish the bathroom had radiant floor heating …”
We feel you; radiant floor heating is pretty spectacular. But buying a home is all about priorities, so this one has to be a judgment call. If this is on your must-have list and your real estate agent keeps showing you homes without it, maybe it’s time to rethink your price range or bite the bullet and have it installed.
It may be expensive, but if you make this a priority and add it to your new home, it’s sure to be a big selling point when it’s time to move on — and you’ll be able to enjoy it in the meantime.
13. “Who cooks with an electric stove?”
One famous electric-stove-using cook: Julia Child. During her years living in Europe, she perfected some of her recipes while working on modest electric burners. (Fun fact: she also called her first garbage disposal an “electric pig.”)
14. “Driveways are a pain to maintain.”
On the other hand, a driveway is the quickest way to avoid street parking headaches. And if you reside in a snowy region, you will forever be grateful that you don’t have to battle neighbors over shoveled spots.
15. “The counters are Formica.”
Laminate is a durable material, and one you won’t tearfully mourn if your child one day draws all over it with indelible marker. If a kitchen renovation isn’t in the budget, those same counters can usually be polished or recovered to hide flaws. At the very least, it’s the perfect excuse for a kitchen reno or face-lift.
16. “The basement is unfinished.”
Finish it! Home office, wine cellar, epic laundry room — imagination is your only barrier. And you might just add hundreds of square feet to your home’s footprint (i.e., equity) in the process.
17. “There are weeds between the patio bricks.”
It’s not just potato chip flavoring: Salt and vinegar make a nasty (yet all-natural) weedkiller. Pressure-wash them into oblivion — or dig the whole thing up and lay down sheets of plastic. In any case, it’s an afternoon project, tops — and a supersatisfying one. Consider it your weekend warrior christening.
18. “Venetian blinds are gross.”
They’re also incredibly easy to replace. The best part? If you really hate them, you won’t feel even the slightest bit guilty about ripping down perfectly good (but outdated) blinds to put in those plantation shutters you love.
19. “The crown molding makes the room feel crowded.”
Crown molding is surprisingly easy to take down, DIY style. Before you commit, you might experiment in one room by refreshing it with a new coat of glossy white paint first. If you still want it gone? Go get thee a crowbar!
20. “The backsplash in the kitchen is cheesy.”
If that’s the biggest complaint about the kitchen, then it’s actually a pretty desirable kitchen. The subway tile will come in due time — and, bonus, this is a project you can probably complete yourself! Check out your local home improvement store. Many of them offer free DIY workshops, and tile is a popular topic.
21. “No dishwasher?”
OK, we have no retort for this one. Run for the hills.
Meaghan Agnew is a writer and editor based in Boston. Even though she recently bought a home, she still obsessively checks the real estate listings in every town she visits. When she’s not petting strange dogs or watchingBeverly Hills 90210 reruns, she’s imparting her lifestyle, food, and travel knowledge for outlets like Time Out,Forbes, and Modern Farmer. Follow her on Twitter at @meaghandeth.