It's a known fact that buyers are attracted to pretty, de-cluttered homes when searching for their newest piece of real estate. A lesser known fact, is what truly attracts a buyer, psychologically speaking. As an event designer, but more importantly a home buyer myself, I know first hand that there are two feelings that happen when you walk through a potential home: Right, and wrong.
So if you are flipping a home, getting ready to list yours, or buying a piece of property that you hope to rent out or sell in a few years, there are some things you should focus on when it comes to its design.
Create that warm, fuzzy feeling of "home" - The best way that you can do this is to drive around on a Saturday and visit all the open houses in the area. Pay attention to your feelings when you first walk into the house, and try to put a word to it. Is it positive or negative? If it's positive, why? Try to pinpoint exactly what it is about the space that makes you feel welcomed and cozy. It could be the color scheme, the softness of the rugs, the warm colors in the art hanging on the walls, or the smells coming from that sunny kitchen. Do the same with any negative feelings that may come up.
Consider the neighborhood - Are you in a trendy, new part of town? If so, modern finishes and the latest glass tile design will attract your buyers. If you are in an older area, your potential buyers will most likely be looking for traditional finishes, such as brown and warm tones, hardwood floors, traditional countertops, and classic tile styles, such as travertine or marble. Building an extremely modern condo with edgy finishes in a traditional area will make buyers feel out of place, and most likely walk away. Same thing will happen with traditional finishes in a modern, up and coming area.
Color schemes can intrigue, or scare off buyers - Colors are powerful. Some can be soothing, and some can be anxiety provoking. Designing the perfect home means finding the right balance between a custom feel, but leaving it neutral enough so that EVERY potential person that walks through the house can imagine themselves there. Grey and beiges (or the latest greiges) are always a good neutral choice, and crisp white trim is a must. Bring in a bit of color with small touches in the decor and staging, but don't go crazy painting the walls with colors you personally like, as that may shrink the pool of potential buyers that can fall in love with the home. Stay away from "aggressive" colors such as red and purple, and don't over customize. It may seem like a good idea, but it tends to backfire. Leave it open to the buyer's imagination, and don't set too strong of a theme.
Give your home its special "thing" - May it be a bright front door, or an interesting mail box, your home needs something the buyer can refer back to, later. You can bet they are looking at millions of homes, and if they can remember "the house with the blue door", you are still in the running.
Don't under, or over-build for the area - Pay attention to what people are buying and expecting to get in the area you are trying to sell. If it's an entry-level home, buyers will not be expecting luxury finishes such as high-end granite kitchen tops, real hardwood floors, top of the line appliances, or expensive real stone tile. You are probably safe going with nice laminate flooring, ceramic tiles, and regular appliances. This enables the first time home buyer to get into the home, and upgrade later on their own time. Win-win for buyer and seller!
But if you feel your home needs and extra oomph... - With that being said, if your home feels a little "blah", spend money where it counts. Put in a nicer sink, or redo the kitchen backsplash with an eye-catching stone, a very visible and important part of the house. Pick one room of the house and pick one to two items to really upgrade. Don't get carried away, as they can add up fast and don't necessarily pay off.
Kitchens sell houses - This is an universal truth. If you only have the money to renovate one room, let it be your kitchen! The bulk of your budget should go into it, as it is certainly the part of the house the couple or family will use the most. It doesn't mean you should use expensive products, but make sure it's bright, clean, and provides lots of storage. Buyers love natural light in the kitchen, so if adding a large window over the sink is in your budget, it will definitely pay off.
Ask for feedback - If you are the agent or owner, stay back while potential buyers look around, but ask them to fill out a quick 5-question survey at the end. Include questions such as "How would you describe the feeling when you first walked in", and "Can you envision your family in this home". Don't verbally ask them questions - putting buyers on the spot will annoy them and create a negative experience right before they leave, which can take away from all of your hard work.
In the end, buying a home is an emotional purchase, and you have to appeal to the purchasers' emotions. Every sense should be kicking in as they walk through the home. Some of the homes I have loved the most while shopping, were the ones that had freshly-baked cookies in the kitchen, fresh flowers spread throughout, the fireplace going, and soft, relaxing classical music playing in the background. Remember that your taste is not necessarily the buyer's taste, and you must constantly check your decisions to make sure you are staying in the "neutral" zone. Happy designing!