Homebuyer Hints: 10 Easy Fixes for that Almost-Perfect House
by Laura Gaskill in association with
From price and location to the physical structure itself, the list of things to keep in mind when shopping for a house can seem endless. But some problems you encounter don’t need to affect your final decision. Although easy is a relative term, accomplishing the 10 fixes that follow is generally pretty straightforward. We also point out some big-ticket fixes to watch out for. Happy house hunting!
1. Repaint or reface existing cabinetry
If the interior structure of the cabinetry is still sound, refinishing, repainting or refacing (replacing the cabinet fronts) can be a more cost-effective way to refresh a dated kitchen than completely replacing the cabinetry. If the cabinet doors are in poor condition or you want to change the style, consider refacing.
2. Replace the appliances
Swapping out old appliances for shiny new models is one of the biggest-impact ways to makeover your kitchen without getting bogged down in a full renovation. And because the cost of appliances and installation is pretty straightforward, it’s easier to plan and budget for this upgrade than projects that might expand beyond your original scope.
NOT SO EASY-FIX: Replacing what’s already in your kitchen is one thing, but when you start to move the plumbing and electricals around, costs can rise quickly. If possible, go for a house with a kitchen that has a layout you’re happy with – you can always tweak the details.
3. Consider fresh carpet
Stained, worn-out carpeting is a real bummer, and it can be hard to see past it when viewing a potential home. But ripping out old carpeting and putting in something new – especially something as fresh and fun as the colourful carpet tiles shown here – can make a huge difference to how a space looks and feels.
4. Paint the walls
It’s amazing the effect colour can have on us – remind yourself of this fact the next time you tour an open house with some (ahem) unusual colour choices. You can easily (and cheaply) replace any wall colour with a beautiful hue.
5. Replace light fixtures
Swapping out dated light fixtures with new ones you love is a quick and easy fix an electrician or DIY-savvy homeowner can accomplish in relatively little time. From modern pendants to Edison-bulb chandeliers, there’s a light for every style and taste.
NOT SO EASY-FIX: Exchanging one light fixture for another in the same spot is simple; updating old or unsafe systems is another matter entirely. Electrical work should definitely be left to the pros, and electrical repairs in an older home can cost a pretty penny, so be sure to get a thorough inspection and review it in detail.
6. Repurpose a room
Just because a room is shown as a messy kids’ room or workout space doesn’t mean that’s what will make the most sense for you. As you tour potential new homes, think creatively about the spaces you see and try to imagine your own furniture in them. One person’s overstuffed home office could be your perfect sunroom.
NOT SO EASY-FIX: Renovation costs get a whole lot bigger whenever you talk about changing the footprint of a home, so try not to be seduced by talk of how ‘easy’ it would be to tack a room onto the back of the house. Although there are always exceptions, your best bet is usually to find a house with a footprint you can work with.
7. Remove or cover up stucco ceilings
Not much dates a house like the lumpy, bumpy texture of a stucco ceiling. Thankfully, fixing it isn’t too complicated, and you’ll soon have a nice, smooth ceiling. The most common method is simply scraping it off, but if there’s any chance that lead and/or asbestos might be present in the paint or the stucco material itself, you’ll need to cover it up with plasterboard instead.
8. Add architectural interest
If you love the look of older homes with lots of original architectural details, but haven’t been able to find the right one at the right price, it’s still possible to get some of the detail you crave, even in a newer build. Cornices, skirting boards, picture rails and even built-in features like bookshelves and bench seating can be added by a carpenter to give a boxy new build added character. It’s an extra cost, but it’s not especially difficult, and it can make a big difference to how you experience a home.
9. Refinish floors
If you’re lucky enough to spot a house with real timber floors, don’t let a dull finish turn you off. While engineered hardwood can usually be refinished only a few times during its life (the number depends on how thick the veneer is) solid hardwoods can take a lot more, so you can have gorgeous, glossy floors (or artfully beat-up floors if you desire) for years to come.
10. Do some landscaping
Backyard looking a little bare? Adding landscaping, whether a simple DIY job or a landscaper’s design and installation, is something that can have a huge impact on curb appeal and, more importantly, how you feel when you come home each day.