House Hunting Tip #2: Look up. Look down. Look all around… at the finishes.

Evaluating finishes when you are house hunting.

Most of the houses we see are older homes.  As a matter of fact, the best values are often the “fixer up” option, not brand new construction.   Evaluating the finishes can make a huge impact on your decision about which house will make the perfect home.   We spoke with two home improvement experts to help you evaluate the finishes in every house you tour.  Lauren Muse is a home designer who is also a licensed real estate agent.  Pat Lovallo is a licensed general contractor and founder of Facelift, a remodeling company in New York and Connecticut.  Here is what they shared that we should all be exploring and rating when we evaluate homes on our house hunt.

Finishes can make homes truly unique throughout the house.   Wainscoating in the mudroom.   China cabinets in dining rooms.  Built in bookshelves in the office or family room.

The three easiest and cost efficient finishes to refresh are hard wood floors, kitchen cabinets and light fixtures.  Here are a few tips how to evaluate these three aspects of homes you are touring.

Look up…at the Lighting 

Lighting is a key finish that can really change the feel of a home.  Recessed lighting is expensive but gives a better distribution of light.   Typically you will find recessed lighting on the first floor and not in the bedrooms.  If you find it in bedrooms as well, this is a signal the current home owner has invested well in the home.

Lighting fixtures are also a huge asset to add a unique feel and character to your new home.

If you see light fixtures you like, take pictures of them in your DADO App so you can make sure to include that in the purchase contract.  Light fixtures are also easy to replace and update.  So don’t be worried if the current light fixtures are not your taste.  You can replace them with your own style.   (Take pictures of the fixtures you want to replace too, for post purchase planning and budgeting!)

Look down…at the hard wood floors

As you walk through the house and inspect the floors, here are a few tips for evaluating them:

  • Are the floors hardwood through the whole house or just in a few rooms. Usually the selling agent can confirm if hard wood floors are under carpeted rooms. If not, when you get an inspection, they can lift a corner of the rug to check.
  • Real hard wood or a laminate to look like hard wood? General Contractors can tell immediately because they work with all these materials so often.  If you can’t tell, you might want to have a GC tour the final houses you are considering with you to confirm details like this.
  • Wide plank? Special patterns like Herringbone?   Older homes often have incredible craftsmanship like this but we often forget to just look DOWN.  Don’t forget to add a picture of any special floor finishes and add to your DADO property file!
  • While you are looking down, another finish that is rare in new construction, but often found in older homes is 5” baseboards instead of the less expensive 3” baseboards typical of new construction.

Look all around… the Kitchen Cabinets

Instead of evaluating the color of the cabinets or the nobs and drawer pulls, our two experts recommend looking at the quality cabinetry.

  • Are they solid wood? Open a drawer and see if the inside is solid wood or a wood composite. Solid wood doors and drawers are also heavier.
  • Cabinet door thickness. The typical stock door is ½ inch and so ¾ or 1’ thickness is the best.  They last longer and hold up better to everyday usage.

The easiest facelift for a kitchen is to have the cabinets freshly painted any color you like and new hardware installed.   Regardless if you choose to paint and replace the hardware yourself or hire professionals, this is significantly less expensive than installing completely new cabinets.

You don’t have to rate a kitchen on the existing look, but instead evaluate the bones of your kitchen cabinets.

Up, down, all around, take time to notice the details that make each house unique.  The finishes and how your rate them in their current state as well as their potential could be what tips the scale to buy or not to buy each home.

Happy House Hunting!

Special thank you to our two contributors, Lauren Muse and Pat Lovallo.  Please visit their websites to learn more about their expertise in home design and remodeling!

Pat Lovallo, Facelift Remodeling

Lauren Muse, Muse Interiors

Become a DADO House Hunter!

Download our DADO house hunting app and join the home buyer first movement!   Get the unbiased crowd sourced home buying app with a smart and fully -customizable house hunting interface where you can see other home buyers’ reviews, onsite descriptions, photos and more.   A lightning fast mobile app that shares school ratings, commuting scores, tools to add infinite number of pictures of each house you see as well as real time sharing with family, friends and the real estate professionals you are working with.   Available for free on iOS devices in the US market.

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