Designing for Re-Sale vs. Custom Design


I work with a number of clients, investors, who build new homes for re-sale or gut and re-sell existing homes for resale. We help with materials selection and overall design plan and final staging. There is always one big difference between those that do well and sell quickly and those that struggle to get the price they want/need. Custom design should be left to spec homes not for re-sale homes that need to appeal to a broad number of buyers.

When I meet with a new client who are having difficulty selling their home, I often hear the words “we liked this – so we did it this way”. Unfortunately, selling a home quickly and for a good price is not about what you like. It’s about what buyers would like. Many people have a very hard time getting out of their own heads and getting into the head of the buyer. This is where your Real Estate Professional is critical long before it’s time to list your home. 

A good Real Estate Professional, familiar with the area, will be able to give you some key factors that you should be using to determine the renovation plan, budget and design of your project. Who is the target demographic most likely to look at purchasing this style of property? What is the best price range to shoot for that will generate the most traffic and result in a quick sale? What key factors are they looking for in a renovated home? Do you need to design for a family or empty nesters? The number of bedrooms and their size and accessibility are all key factors to drawing in the buyers. A main floor laundry or powder room may be nice in older homes, but when you remove a bedroom to accomplish this design, it removes a whole group of potential buyers who need the third bedroom and limits your buyer pool, which may mean it takes longer to sell the home. You need to know who you are designing for before you plan the design. A neighborhood with young families will not find a home with only one bedroom on the main level appealing if the families have young children, empty nesters may not mind it at all. Who you are designing for is as important as the proverbial “location, location” when it comes to selling the property.

Your color and material selection is equally as important. Dark colors make a space appear smaller. Dark walls visually bring the wall closer to the viewer. In a small space, lighter colors on the walls will make the space appear larger. White walls with white trim (or the same color on walls and trim regardless of shade) create no definition and look exactly like what it is – someone trying to save money on painting! Not the way to impress a buyer! Selecting bold bright colors because you “love” them can be a real turn off to many buyers; bright purple or green is not everyone’s favourite. Although more neutral tones may not be the color a buyer loves; few buyers will walk away from a home because of neutral paint tones. It’s all about appealing to as many buyers as possible, not appealing to 1 out of 100!

Lighting in a room plays a huge roll. If you have room without natural daylight, no overhead lighting and you paint it a dark color, it will appear dark and unwelcoming. If you have a space with an abundance of natural light and good overhead lighting and you choose a darker shade it will look completely different that the previous room just as a direct result of the lighting. Take this into consideration when designing the space.

Finally, material selection from flooring to tile to counters…just because you like the wild tiger stripe doesn’t mean most buyers will! The more pattern in your materials the “busier” and more overwhelming the room will appear. Too much for the eye to take in will overwhelm the buyer not impress them. One “busy pattern”, with the right complimentary colors and tones can look beautiful and classic. I’m referring to a bold material design not a standard variation in flooring or counters. I’ve seen some really wild design and very frustrated sellers that don’t understand why their homes are not selling.

Just because materials are on clearance and can be purchased at a low price, doesn’t mean they are a good buy. If it’s that old and doesn’t go with the rest of the home, you are doing yourself a disservice. For the few hundred dollars you may have saved, it may have cost you a lot more in terms of how long it takes you to sell the home. Save a few hundred here and hold the house for another 2 months – was it really worth it?

The most successful sellers are those who can take their personal preference and set them aside for their own personal homes. Plan your design to appeal to greatest number of potential buyers and you will sell quickly, successfully and be on to the next project before you know it!