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Buyers Seek Small, Turn-Key Properties

Updated on February 7, 2013

These days, buyers are in a great position to negotiate the best deals on properties. Yet, they’re not seeking out the giant behemoths of yesteryear. Instead, they’re searching for smaller properties that are affordable, energy efficient and easy to manage. A popular strategy being employed is to buy a smaller, less expensive property and fix it up with high-quality fixtures, creating a champagne palace within the confines of a beer budget property. Many home buyers are successfully creating a perfect little paradise by purchasing turn-key properties that are structurally sound, and upgrading their living spaces with clever multi-purpose furnishings and high-quality appointments.

Smaller houses, structurally sound and loaded up with upscaled amenities, successfully attract the buyers of today. (CCL 1)
Smaller houses, structurally sound and loaded up with upscaled amenities, successfully attract the buyers of today. (CCL 1) | Source

The days of the big box mini-mansions are over. Not that long ago, home buyers were snapping up over-sized two-story homes boasting two- or three-car garages and more rooms than families knew what to do with. But the economic conditions prevailing in recent years have changed the game. Rather than staking claim to the biggest and most expensive house, today’s smart home buyers are preferring to choose smaller homesteads for their primary residences.

These buyers aren't so interested in size; they’re investing in the quality of a property itself. What good is a great deal on a hulking house with a large footprint if it’s going to need a new roof or other large expense in the relatively near future? Modestly-sized properties in top-notch condition, preferably with energy efficient and eco-friendly features, are instead being eagerly sought after. Rather than spending their dollars on more brick and mortar, laying out buckets of cash for square footage they’ll never use, these buyers prefer to put their signature on a cozier home that’s structurally in turn-key condition. An attractive purchase price, structural integrity and reasonably low monthly costs are the winning combinations for the home buyers of today.

The purchase price is a top concern, and buyers are leveraging the economic climate and the current housing market to get the most for their dollars. Due to the sheer number of properties on the market today, buyers are well positioned to negotiate very favorable deals. Properties that are reasonably priced are receiving counter-offers below the asking price, and beyond that, some buyers are even requesting--and receiving--luxurious extras thrown in at no extra charge. This indicates that in order to receive top dollar for a property, sellers would be wise to ensure their home is in tip-top condition and include special amenities not typically found in a smaller home.

Here are some tips for sellers who want to move their house quickly while getting a top-dollar price. This information is just as useful to buyers who are considering moving down from a larger home into a cozier cottage.

With 1.8 million homes in shadow inventory coming down the pike, buyers have the upper hand right now. Sellers can improve their sales outlook by giving buyers what they want. Buyers should act before Summer 2011, when rates are expected to rise.
With 1.8 million homes in shadow inventory coming down the pike, buyers have the upper hand right now. Sellers can improve their sales outlook by giving buyers what they want. Buyers should act before Summer 2011, when rates are expected to rise. | Source

The Mini-Mansion Look Without the Mini-Mansion Price

While these buyers are unwilling to remodel on a major scale, they do want to personalize their space and give it a fresh, updated look. They've done their homework to achieve these looks with a combination of economy and longevity. For example, instead of installing a pressed tin drop ceiling in the kitchen, they may instead opt for applying cost-effective metallic glazes on existing ceiling tiles, burnishing their kitchens with an affordable gleam. Back splashes may receive metallic finishes made of heat-resistant materials to achieve the glamorous look of upper-scale kitchen appointments at a fraction of the cost. The look is completed with expensive but long-lasting kitchen fixtures in updated styles, and natural granite counter tops that are made to fit over existing cabinetry and counter tops.

It’s a “quality over quantity” mindset that’s fueling buyers’ interest in smaller homes that are well appointed. Just as the fashion world knows it’s better to have a few choice designer items and minimal yet striking accessories than to have a closet full of discount store knock-offs, home buyers are realizing it’s better to have a very few special amenities in a smaller space than an over-sized cave fitted with cheap materials. A property with a well-designed layout, outfitted with durable, fashionable fixtures and finishes exuding craftsmanship, makes everyday living far more pleasurable.

How to Open Up Your Small Space

Small Space Challenge
Small Space Solution
Room feels closed in
Paint walls white or light/pale color; add mirrors to increase perception of depth
Lack of storage space
Utilize space between wall studs by installing shelves; cover with cabinet door or curtain
Hampered flow of traffic
Rearrange (or remove!) furnishings to enable easy passage through the home

Giving attention to little details can make a big difference for small properties!

Energy Efficient, Space Saving and Eco-Friendly Design

Creating Usable Space

A strong desire of urbane buyers is to save space and energy with a focus on incorporating eco-friendly products into the home. They want to make the most of each room, squeezing out all the utility that can be obtained in every square foot. Kitchens have returned to their original roots as the gathering place of the home, but other rooms can become multi-purpose rooms through strategic design. One room could serve as family room, den, study area, craft room and home movie theater when designed with several tasks in mind.

While most homes are sold without furnishings included, some special built-in items may be worth installing, particularly in smaller properties. And space conservation doesn’t need to mean loss of style. Don’t drudge up old colors and designs of a few decades ago. Any built-ins installed should reflect modern tastes. That’s not to say that you can’t retain any existing old-fashioned charm; just liven it up with current-day amenities.

Lines of space-saving, multi-functional furnishings have been cropping up to meet the popular demand to achieve more in less space. New designs go far beyond the old bed-in-a-couch look with innovative ideas presented in fresh, fun styles. For example, this is not your grandmother’s Murphy Bed:

Living stylishly can be accomplished in a small space. Bright, bold colors add splashes of cheer, and the simple elegance of clean lines provides an open, airy feel. Compare that look with a large, dark heavy chest with lots of added detail:

Nothing wrong with this big, bulky piece in and of itself. It simply has no place within a small dwelling. (CCL 2)
Nothing wrong with this big, bulky piece in and of itself. It simply has no place within a small dwelling. (CCL 2) | Source

The bulky darkness of this piece would overpower a small room, and its detail would be more than a small room could bear. The more detail and clutter, the more chaotic a room feels. Keep it classically simple to make even the smallest spaces feel light and airy.

Lovely bamboo flooring. (CCL 2)
Lovely bamboo flooring. (CCL 2) | Source
Faucet artwork with granite counter. (CCL 1)
Faucet artwork with granite counter. (CCL 1) | Source

Adopt Environmentality

Enhance that light and airy feel by incorporating natural fabrics and finishes throughout the home. More and more buyers are preferring natural finishes over synthetic fabrics and surfaces. Bamboo flooring has grown in popularity, not only due to its durability and beautiful look, but also because of its environmentally-friendly nature.

Stone finishes for sinks and counter tops are also very popular, and easy to care for. Bringing nature indoors translates to bringing the wide open spaces inside the structure of the home.

Energy Smart

Smaller dwellings require less energy outlay to heat and cool the home, but expenses can likely be reduced even further with a little sleuthing on how energy is being used in the house, and if it’s being used as efficiently as possible. Give the house a thorough check for energy leak spots (cracks and crevices where heated or cooled air may escape from the home), and bulk up on the insulation if possible. Choose energy-efficient appliances, Install water-saving devices in the bathroom and kitchen, and consider how to best take advantage of natural lighting. Perhaps a strategically placed mirror or other reflective surface can help extend the hours of natural illumination within the home, reducing the hours needed for the electric meter to be running.

Even small houses and condos can benefit from solar energy. There are light, flexible, portable and affordable solar units available today that can even be used out on a unit’s balcony to capture the sun’s rays and turn them into valuable energy.

The Little Luxuries are Necessities

When space is sacrificed, make up for the loss with enjoyable luxuries throughout the home. This is key to living lavishly in a small space. One delightful treat is a heated towel rack. Fluffy coziness awaits you the moment you step out of the shower. And since it’s wall-mounted, it takes up virtually no space at all.

A towel warming rack placed within reach is a luxury that fits even in a small bathroom. (CCL 1)
A towel warming rack placed within reach is a luxury that fits even in a small bathroom. (CCL 1) | Source
Install energy-saving appliances to reduce monthly costs. (CCL 3)
Install energy-saving appliances to reduce monthly costs. (CCL 3) | Source

Other nice touches of luxury include old-fashioned glass doorknobs and other classic hardware, found online or in specialty shops around the country. Each reach for the door is a grasp to the past. Crown molding and antique-looking lamps updated with modern bulb fixtures are more ways to add charm to small dwellings.

The Great Outdoors

This is the era of the Staycation. More people are choosing to create a little oasis at home rather than spend money and energy on far away travels. The benefit to creating a relaxing outdoor environment at home is that even when you’re not on vacation, you get to enjoy the amenities whenever you wish simply by stepping out your back door.

Because of this, buyers love to see lanais and gazebos at properties for sale. It allows them to imagine peaceful relaxation time with their families, and warm welcoming of friends when entertaining guests. Outdoor living areas also extend the limited square footage of the house, effectively bringing the everyday living experience outside. Kitchen features aren’t limited to barbecues; wine refrigerators, full ovens and other items essential to creating l’art de la cuisine al fresco are now commonly found in the outdoor entertainment area.

Tent canopies in a wide range of prices can be quickly and easily installed in even a small backyard. Glam up any tent with a touch of romance by adding strings of delicate lights inside. Place chunky candles (protected with hurricane glass) on side tables, toss soft cushions onto the outdoor furniture and roll out an all-weather carpet on the ground, and you’ve just added a room to your home without having to call a single contractor.

Buyers love to see gardens overflowing with blossoms. You can provide those blossoms, and do so in an eco-friendly way, by selecting water-wise garden plants. Yards don’t have to be stuck with succulents everywhere to save water. There are thousands of plants that will grace the property without hogging the garden hose. Cleveland Sage, Matilija Poppy and Coral Bells are just a few examples of gorgeous blooms that are stingy in water usage.

Smart Plants for Small Yards

Cleveland Sage (CCL B)
Cleveland Sage (CCL B) | Source
Matilija Poppy (CCL A)
Matilija Poppy (CCL A) | Source
Coral Bells (CCL 3)
Coral Bells (CCL 3) | Source

Smaller properties generally have smaller yards, which translates into less watering and maintenance. Reduce the watering requirements even more with drip irrigation lines and by segregating collections of flowers, bundling plants with similar watering needs together.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Improvements in home automation help homeowners monitor and conserve water and power usage, economizing the monthly outlay of costs while making their home a more green place to live. Offering a modest-sized property that is structurally in great shape, with a balance of luxury and energy-saving features thrown into the mix of elegant design, will likely result in a steady stream of interested buyers.

© M.S. Ross - All Rights Reserved

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