Home decor is all about reflecting your own personal style. It’s an opportunity to use your home as a blank canvas and paint a masterpiece that is decidedly you. And that style is never more apparent than in your living room—the spot where your guests gather and your personality is most on display.
We’ll never tell you to betray your decor desires in this room (or the rest of your home). But if you’ve gone nuts painting your living room in wild colors or spent thousands laying down Moroccan tile, bear in mind how potential buyers might perceive your choices.
Buyers need to picture themselves living and loving that space: throwing parties, entertaining guests, enjoying a lazy Saturday with a book. If your favorite living room design looks are dated or divisive, buyers might give your home a pass. So ditch these seven polarizing decor choices while you still can—before they sink your chance of a sale.
1. TV looming over the fireplace
“Today’s buyers are interested in beautiful, serene rooms with seating revolved around a focal point of beauty,” says Chicago interior designer and stager Kara O’Connor. A personality-free black box is neither serene nor beautiful.
Heads up: If you’ve already mounted your television on a wall or over the fireplace, you may have to remove the evidence after you take it down. No buyer wants to see unpatched holes in your walls.
2. Dead things
Obviously you’re not leaving dead mice lying around your living room (we hope!). Perhaps you should get rid of the enormous steer head hanging over your fireplace, too.
“We totally get it. Cowhides and taxidermy are super kitschy and trendy,” says Justin M. Riordan, a Portland designer with Spade and Archer Design Agency. “The combination of creepy and beautiful is all the rage. Unfortunately, for many, the creepy is far more powerful than the beautiful.”
Real or not, you don’t have to say goodbye to your animal skulls. Just tuck them away until the home is sold. Far away.
3. Blond wood
Don’t stain your hardwood just because you’re listing your home, but if you’re thinking about doing it anyway, O’Connor has some advice: Go dark.
“Dark, wide-plank floors are ‘in,’ and blond wood is ‘out,’” she says. “If the floors are dated, I encourage refinishing. The impact is huge.”
Alongside new baseboards and neutral paint, deep chocolate floors will give your home the modern edge that could attract on-the-fence buyers.
4. Saturated walls
Yes, your deep teal walls look rad alongside your dark wood credenza and velvet chaise. But all potential buyers see are dollar signs.
“More likely than not, your home’s next owner has some very distinct taste in furniture, which they recently spent quite a bit of money on,” Riordan says. “They are not going to buy new furniture to match your saturated wall colors.”
Many buyers do repaint before moving in, but painting over saturated tones requires more coats, more time, and, naturally, more money. And some buyers don’t want to deal with any of that.
To get the highest selling price—and the most interested buyers—paint the entire place in simple neutrals.
5. Outdated furniture
Buyers bring their own furniture. But picturing their gorgeous modern furniture in your space can be daunting if everything you own is outdated and overwhelming.
“If the furniture distracts the buyer from the square footage, a focal point, or hardwood floors, then it should be carefully edited out,” says Jill Hosking-Cartland, an interior designer in Windham, NH.
Not only might they struggle to see themselves in your place, they might also worry about the quality of your home.
“Old furniture can leave a buyer with the impression that there is a lack of attention to routine maintenance and updating,” Hosking-Cartland says.
Work with your Realtor® to stage your property using updated, on-trend furniture.
6. Narrow baseboards
New baseboards and crown molding can take a room from blah to bangin’ with an afternoon’s worth of work. But make sure the sizes and designs you choose look modern.
“Crisp, white baseboards that are a minimum of 5 inches high are preferable to the dated, 2- or 3-inch baseboards from the ’90s and early 2000s,” O’Connor says.
Teeny-tiny baseboards might not be a deal breaker, but they can make a room feel kind of off. Beware of going too big—though it is possible to overwhelm a room with your molding. Find the right size trim for your space before you embark on that weekend project.
7. Faux finishes
You might hate ordinary paint, but funking up your living space with a faux finish can be a sticking point. Even if your DIY job looks amazing, buyers see only another thing they need to change. Paint over your fake Venetian plaster, reclaimed wood, or “textured” walls before the first showing.
“Asking a buyer to adopt your specific design style is risky,” Hosking-Cartland says. “Most buyers see these polarizing design elements as work they will have to do and spend money on to make the home a reflection of their own personal style.”
When you’re flipping a house, time is money. And you don’t have time to make a lot of rookie mistakes.
That’s what Steve Cederquist learned when he first began renovating and flipping properties in 1994.
“I bought a house with a bad foundation and lost $30,000 on the deal,” says Cederquist, a general contractor who’s now a veteran house flipper and president of Cornerstone Property Services in Huntington Beach, CA. “I didn’t think I’d have to do much to a 1,200-square-foot house. But it cost me a ton of money.”
No house flipper is born wise. So we talked to several pros who outlined mistakes newbie flippers often make. Avoid these pitfalls to ensure your profits come out on top.
Mistake No. 1: Not getting a home inspection
This one’s a biggie. Even if you plan on making major changes to the house, you still need an inspection. Of course, if you’re going to tear down the whole thing, there’s no need for one. But house flipping usually involves making cosmetic changes—maybe opening a wall or remodeling a bathroom. It’s a makeover—not a complete rebuild. So you need to get it checked out before you buy.
“Never buy as is,” Cederquist says. “I can’t tell you the number of times people lose everything because they don’t do the safest thing: getting a home inspection.”
Inspections can turn up all kinds of problems. Some issues, like cabinet doors that don’t close properly, you won’t care about if you’re planning to rip and replace the kitchen anyway. Others, such as a cracked foundation, can cost you dearly.
At the very least, an inspection can identify problems you can use to bargain down the price. Every dollar counts toward your bottom line; whatever money you save on the purchase price will help you turn a profit when you flip.
Mistake No. 2: Overestimating your renovation skills
Every dollar saved on labor is a dollar you earn when you flip a house. But all too often flippers think they’re better plumbers, drywall hangers, and carpenters than they really are.
“This ends up being a major drain of time and resources, because you must redo work and spend twice the amount of money fixing it,” says Allen Shayanfekr, co-founder and CEO of Sharestates, an online crowdfunding platform for real estate financing.
There’s a simple answer to your DIY delusions of grandeur, Shayanfekr says: “Consult an expert prior to undertaking any major project.”
And make sure to ask for an estimate in writing. That way you’ll know what you’ll have to spend to make the house attractive to buyers.
Mistake No. 3: Underestimating total costs
Inexperienced flippers often add the purchase price to renovation costs and figure the sum is their break-even point. If only.
But the true cost of your flipping adventure involves much more. Think: state and federal taxes on profits, real estate commissions, title searches, transfer taxes, inspection and appraisal costs, and a bunch of other fees that show up at closing when you buy, and again when you sell your property.
Do yourself a favor and thoroughly research the total cost of your project (don’t forget permit fees, which can be substantial) and then add a cushion—10% to 15% is customary.
“Be prepared to pay over your expected fees when coming to the closing table,” Shayanfekr says. “Better safe than sorry.”
Mistake No. 4: Being a jerk
Even if you’re determined to do this on your own—you’re a whiz at mitering crown molding, after all—successful flipping requires some level of interaction with others. You’ll need to build a trusted team of craftsmen, suppliers, lenders, and real estate professionals that you can call on time after time.
Not only do you need to find people you can depend on to get the job done quickly and on budget, but your teammates must also be able to trust you to treat them with respect, pay on time, and not make their lives a living hell by changing your mind repeatedly.
“People want to do business with others they like and trust,” says Cody Sperber, who has flipped more than 1,000 properties in 15 years and has started a mentoring program called Clever Investor, based in Tempe, AZ. “So many deals have materialized because I listened and was empathetic. Not because I was shrewd and smart.”
Mistake No. 5: Jumping the gun
Some flippers put a “For Sale” sign on the property before completing renovations, hoping a buyer will be able to envision how gorgeous the house ultimately will be.
That’s a big mistake, says Bill Golden, an Atlanta-area real estate agent.
“Many people think they can get a jump on things by getting folks interested before it’s done, causing multiple issues,” Golden says. “Many people don’t have vision and can’t really see how things will look once they’re done. Also, missing molding, trim, and other details that may seem minor to you can reflect poorly on what the buyer perceives the quality of the renovation to be.”
Don’t list the project until it’s move-in ready. It will save time in the long run, because potential buyers won’t nag you about missing finishes you already plan to include.
Mistake No. 6: Designing a flip like you’re going to live there
Flipper rule of thumb: Never fall in love with a property.
Unlike your own home—where you’ll raise a family, build memories, and make modifications that suit your needs—flips are short-term projects that must appeal to the widest possible market.
When you design your flip, take yourself out of it. You may love aubergine, but stick to whites and neutrals when you pick paint colors. Research design trends, walk through open houses of new construction, and survey real estate agents to find out what’s selling and what’s not. If you don’t create an attractive yet blank canvas, your flip may languish on the market—costing you money with each painful, passing day.
“Don’t get attached to the house, because you’re not going to live there,” Cederquist says. “Keep it generic, what’s popular. Then stick to a design and budget.”
If you’re hoping to score a deal while house hunting (and who isn’t?), one bargain basement option well worth exploring is a HUD home. So what is a HUD home? Simply put, it’s a place owned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but there’s some backstory here, so allow us to explain.
Long before a home becomes the property of HUD, it typically was owned by a regular homeowner who’d made this purchase with an FHA loan. FHA loans are easier to qualify for than a conventional loan because they require a low down payment (as little as 3.5%). However, if the owner ends up unable to pay his monthly mortgage, he ends up in foreclosure, which means the home goes to HUD, which then must figure out how to unload this home and make back its money. That’s where you come in!
The process of buying a HUD home varies from a conventional sale in a couple of ways, so here’s what you’ll want to know before you buy.
Benefits of a HUD home
The government doesn’t want to own these foreclosed homes any longer than it needs to, so HUD homes are priced to move, often below market value. Plus, HUD offers special incentives to buyers in certain markets to sweeten the deal.
For example, the HUD “Good Neighbor” program offers HUD homes in revitalizing areas at a 50% discount to community workers (e.g., teachers, police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel) who plan to live in the property for at least 36 months.
Other perks: Low down-payment requirements or sales allowances you can use to pay closing costs or make repairs. So be sure to inquire about the possibilities; it could be an even better bargain than how it first seems. Another bonus for home buyers is that HUD gives preference to owner-occupants who intend to live in the home for at least one year, so odds are good you’ll beat out investors to boot!
How to buy a HUD home
HUD homes aren’t listed on conventional real estate websites, and can instead be found at hudhomestore.com, where you can shop for homes by state or ZIP code. You never know what you might find, in what location and at what price.
Listings typically contain photos, an asking price, and—here’s where things get different—a deadline by which you should submit your offer. HUD homes are sold through an auction process; once the deadline is past and bids are in, HUD reviews its options. If none of the bids is deemed acceptable (usually because it’s too low), HUD extends the auction deadline and/or lowers the asking pricing until a match is made.
All offers are considered, but in almost every case, the highest acceptable bid wins, says Mark Abdel, a real estate professional with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Minneapolis–St. Paul. Which begs the question: How much should you offer? Well, that all depends on how hot the local market is and the condition of the home (more on that next).
Risks of HUD homes
HUD homes are sold as is—meaning what you see is what you get. If the leaky roof or electrical needs repairs, it’s all on you to cover the costs. That’s why it’s critical to get a home inspection before you put your bid in.
“A quality home inspection will alert you to what types of repairs or improvements need to be made, which you should factor into your bid accordingly,” advises Abdel.
That’s not to say that HUD homes always sit in disrepair. Each one, once HUD takes it over, is assigned a “field service manager” who keeps a watchful eye on the home to make sure it’s secure and provides maintenance while the home is unoccupied. The field service manager may even oversee cosmetic enhancements or repairs, depending on the home’s condition, before the bidding process begins. Some HUD homes are even move-in ready, so never presume you’ll end up with a clunker; you could luck out!
Where to get HUD home loans
All financing options are available for HUD homes, including FHA, VA, and conventional financing. If you’re buying a HUD home that needs repairs, check out a FHA 203k loan, which can allow you to include the renovation costs in the loan. Your real estate agent can help you determine what programs you might be eligible for.
Also: In order to represent you in your bid for a HUD home, your real estate agent must be officially registered with HUD. Many are, so ask your Realtor® or else you can specifically search for HUD-registered agents at hudhomestore.com.
When you’re selling your home and your house is on the market, it’s almost inevitable that strangers will enter your house. Even if you don’t host an open house or showing, there may be strangers coming in and out to appraise your home, do renovations, clean the house or perform other necessary jobs related to the sale of your house.
Although the vast majority of these folks will be well-intentioned potential buyers, you have no way of knowing for sure who is and is not targeting homes for sale for all the wrong reasons. The good news is, you can take precautions in order to keep your home and family safe. Here are a few things you can do to protect your home and family:
De-personalize your home
Remove all family photos, diplomas, kid’s drawings and other display items that may inadvertently give away personally identifiable information. For example, while a school photo may seem innocuous, it could give away information like what school your child goes to, what sports they play, or what grade they’re in – all of which can be used by a stranger to potentially track down and approach your child.
Check all of the walls, shelves and display areas of your home to be sure you’ve cleared the house of all such items to help keep your family life private.
According to home staging expert Darlene Parris, depersonalizing your home also allows buyers to “picture themselves making their new home out of your home for sale,” so you’ll be helping to make your home more presentable to potential buyers too.
Speaking of photos, taking pictures of each room before and after showings is also recommended. This should help you quickly identify any out of place or missing items, especially for children’s rooms, since kids may be less likely to notice if things have gone missing. If necessary, they can also be used as evidence for a police report or insurance claim.
Protect your confidential information
Things like prescription medications, checks, or bills and letters that contain confidential information should be locked away or removed from your home completely. Don’t forget to check your trash as well, especially if you don’t shred your bills or take special precautions when it comes to sensitive data.
And be vigilant; monitor all of your accounts for fraudulent activity and consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report. In the United States, this can be done by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus and is free of charge.
“An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit,” according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Secure your devices and other valuables
Computer security expert Avi Rubin warns that “anything that has software in it is going to be vulnerable” and can be compromised, so tablets, phones, memory drives with personal data or any electronic devices that are connected to your email and social accounts should be removed from the house completely.
Your smart TV or refrigerator could also make you vulnerable to more tech-savvy criminals.
“Attacks such as those launched by smart TVs and fridges do not at this point threaten people’s lives. However, they do compromise people’s privacy insofar as they reveal information about victims that they might not otherwise want disclosed,” says security journalist David Bisson.
Upgrade the password and login information for all of your devices, and consider installing locator apps on all of them as well.
Other valuables like family heirlooms, jewelry and fur coats should also be locked away in a safe, safety deposit box or other secure location.
Talk to your agent
Ask your real estate agent to walk you through what they do during an open house and go over the details of the safety procedures that they follow. Check to see if they keep a visitor’s log, whether they use a lockbox to store your house key and how often they change the code, etc. Suggest enhancements if you’re unhappy with any of their policies.
“As an industry, we collectively work very hard to promote safety awareness among our members,” says Chris Polychron, president of the National Association of Realtors.
Real estate agents are particularly knowledgeable when it comes to safety and will have your best interests at heart as well, so an honest conversation voicing any concerns will be beneficial to both parties.
In case of emergency
If there is an incident at your home, or you suspect theft or vandalism, call the police immediately. The police should also be able to work together with your real estate agent, using visitor logs and other information gathered during showings.
You can also go online to create an emergency or safety profile to help expedite the information gathering process when you dial 9-1-1. Tools like Smart911 allow you to create profiles with information about your home and family that may be valuable to first responders.
“Even the simplest of details can help our officers during an emergency,” says Sgt. Brent Kock of West Des Moines Police. “From knowing the access points to the home, whether there is a pet we need to be aware of when approaching or entering the home, or just knowing the name of the person in distress can enhance the safety of our citizens and our officers.”
Check with your city or local police department to verify which tools or apps are available in your area. For example, in Toronto the police have an app that allows users to file damage to property reports, amongst other things. Edmonton and Ferguson also have similar apps.
Taking practical steps to eliminate any opportunities for wrongdoing is the best place to start. Work with your real estate agent to establish an action plan, and maintain an open channel of communication so you can alter the plan as needed.
According to child psychologists, children can experience moving as a type of loss. “A child loses friends, a home, and her early childhood program, the losses often resulting in feelings of sadness and anxiety or even anger,” says professor Marian Marion, Ph.D.
Equipping children with coping skills and teaching them how to manage the stress of moving could help ease their sadness and anxiety, particularly if these lessons are delivered in a relatable form, like a children’s story.
Here are eight children’s books to help your child adjust to moving. Click on each book cover to learn more about each story.
Moving to a new home is one of the most stress-inducing experiences that a family can face, but turning it into an adventure can help ease some of the tension. What are some strategies that you have used to help adjust to a new home?