Yes, But You Also Have To ‘LIVE’ There Too…

I find myself telling my clients this a lot these days.

Home-owners become so absorbed with valuation, future-appreciation, and renovation costs that they forget why they bought the property in the first place:

To live there…


Does it sound obvious? 

Does it sound cliche?

Does it sound like I really need to write 1200 words on it?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said to my clients, “Yes, but don’t forget that you actually have to live here too,” I could almost afford to “finish” my new condo at the West Side Lofts.  (zing!)

Whether we’re in an up market or a down market – buyers are always concerned with potential appreciation.  And of course, they should be!  But to what extent is another question…

Asking me, “How much do you think condos in this building will appreciate compared to condos in that building” is an excellent question, but what you do with the answer is up to you.

If you think that a unit in a brand-new building might appreciate at 4% per year for the next two years, and a unit down the street and up the block in an eight-year-old building might appreciate at 1% per year for the next two years, how much will that factor into your decision?

Some of my buyers are absolutely consumed by this.

I agree that it makes a huge impact on your purchase decision, but some people think only of this, and barely even consider the space that they’re going to be living in.

Because after all, that’s what a “home” really is, right?  It’s where you live!  Isn’t that what’s most important?

This is where you sleep, wake up, eat, watch movies, hang out with friends, play in the yard, build snowmen, have drinks on your patio, and maybe even raise a family.

Isn’t this what should be on the forefront of your mind?

Not to my bankers, accountants, and financial advisors!  All they care about is the very last penny of their ‘investment.’

If you’re buying strictly as an investment-property, then that’s another story.

But when you buy a house or a condo to live in as a primary residence, I think some people stray too far from the task at hand: finding a home.

Projecting future appreciation is not an exact science, and it’s guess-work at best.  You’d also need to forecast trends and styles to figure out what building or neighbourhood is going to be more popular than others in order to truly determine where the best appreciation potential lays.

I tell my clients, “If you miss out on $5,000 – $10,000 by buying in Building A instead of Building B, is that going to negate the four great years of your life that you’ll have spent living there?”

I certainly hope not.

Renovations is another head-scratcher for home-owners consumed with the last penny.

A client of mine, who has also become a friend, called me over to check out some potential “upgrades” he wanted to do to his condo last week.  When I arrived, he introduced me to both his painter and his flooring-guy!

He told me, “I absolutely hate my stupid laminate flooring!  It’s awful!  I hate the sound it makes when I tap it with my toe, and I hate the feel of it under my socks.”

I completely understood.

And then he said, “So if I spend $4,500 on new hardwood flooring, is it worth it?”

I said, “Of course it is.  You hate the existing flooring, and you’ll love the new flooring!  It’s a no-brainer!”

But he followed up by saying, “What I mean is – will I get the $4,500 out when I sell it?”

I asked, “Are you going to sell soon?”  And he said “no.”

So I replied, “Then who really cares?”

If he’s going to be in that condo for another year, two years, or ten years, it’s worth upgrading his flooring just for the sake of enjoyment!

He told me that he “hates” the existing flooring and he had rage in his eyes when he said it!  It’s almost as if he lays in bed at night thinking about his awful laminate floors!

So the solution is simple – get new floors.  Right?

What if I told him that some buyers might not like the colour or style of flooring that he picks, and if he’s here for another three years, it’ll get worn and it won’t add more than $2,000 of value.  Would he forego the renovation and continue to hate his “awful laminate?”

Some people are so concerned with the value of these upgrades as an investment that they forget about the actual enjoyment they’ll get out of doing it!

Why do people go out to eat at restaurants?

Why would anybody pay $100 for a meal at The Keg when they can stay home and eat toast for $0.60?

Well, because they enjoy the food, the experience, and the outing.

Two friends of mine recently sold their house in Leaside and made a few bucks in the process.

They were only there for a bit less than three years, but it’s because their situation changed along the way.

When they first bought this cute bungalow, they put about $18,000 into the new kitchen.

And when it came time to sell we knew that a builder would likely buy the house and tear it down to put up a beautiful new 2-storey home, so many people figured, what was the point in putting in the new kitchen?

Well first of all, they assumed they’d be there for 5-7 years.

But even if they “only” lived there for three years, was it really a “waste” of $18,000?

The previous kitchen was from the 1980’s and was a nightmare for two 27-year-olds.

So my clients removed the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room, and made it a huge open-concept kitchen/living/dining.  They put in new granite counters, slate flooring, a Scavolini kitchen, and installed new stainless-steel appliances.  The kitchen was gorgeous.

They had more than their fair share of social events there; it wasn’t just the standard house-warming followed by two birthdays, and one holiday dinner per year.  If our mutual friends’ Facebook accounts are any indication, there were a LOT of good times had in that house, and most of it was spent entertaining and socializing in that beautiful new kitchen and living area.

I can guarantee that this young couple, as they move their lives down under, will look back on their years in that house with nothing but fond memories, and not once will they ever think, “Geez, I wish we didn’t spend that $18,000 on the kitchen since we likely didn’t make most of that back when we sold.”

Don’t get me wrong – I believe in financial responsibility, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat toast for every single meal…


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  1. Craig says:

    I’m currently renovating my master bathroom and after having done my kitchen last year, I can say that these are the best things I’ve ever spent money on.

    When I bought my condo 2 years ago, I loved the space but hated the crappy basic finishes that the previous owners opted for. I knew though that I could swap them out to make the place a complete reflection of my taste and style. I have no immediate plans to sell the place – just want to enjoy living in it with the shiny new upgrades.

    The great thing about doing renos for yourself is that it’s like moving into a new place, but without all the headache of having to sell your old place, deal with a potential bidding war, packing/moving and paying a much higher mortgage.

  2. LC says:

    This is the warped relationship with housing that resulted after stock markets decimated most people’s net worth. Not to mention, the effects of countless hours subjected to the wonderfully transformational power of HGTV.

    People rarely enjoy or love their homes anymore. I know with the $12K in strategic renos I’ve spent on my house I could flip it and make a huge profit after only a few months, but I won’t because I love this place. It’s *home* to me and much more than a financial investment.

  3. dogbiskit says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve been struggling with whether or not to cover up one of my boring concrete walls with a stone veneer finish. If the joint wasn’t temporary (~ 2 years) I’d do it in a heartbeat. Hmmmmmm….