March 2, 2012 — A colleague and I recently had a discussion that I would like to share with you about a phenomenon she refers to as “HGTV syndrome”. It causes Buyers to assume that most properties are fitted with the spectacular finishings seen on so many of today’s popular home makeover shows.
As a result, managing Buyers’ expectations is an increasing challenge. This aptly named syndrome seems to particularly affect first-time Buyers, whose expectations are often based solely on such programming. The reality though, is that much of the housing stock throughout our city is now more than 60 years old and in some cases, considerably older. In many households, owners are faced with undertaking essential improvements like replacing lead pipes or knob and tube wiring, rather than installing stunning light fixtures or natural stone countertops.
As REALTORS®, it’s our responsibility to advise our clients on a property’s strong features and its disadvantages, so that they can be weighed judiciously. Although most of today’s Buyers prefer move-in ready properties, there are significant advantages to homes that present as a diamond in the rough, and it’s our job to help Buyers visualize all of the possibilities. Dated finishings offer the opportunity for Buyers to breathe new life into a home and in doing so, to put their own stamp on it. A less than desirable property in a great neighbourhood might also present a chance to be part of a community that would otherwise be financially inaccessible. As REALTORS®, we know that finishings are replaceable, but location is key.
Provided the property is well maintained, dated finishings can actually be a reflection of responsible Sellers, who invariably make the transaction process a pleasure. Perhaps for example, they have strived to pay down their mortgage rather than be seduced by the trappings of the latest design trends. As the Bank of Canada has cautioned, keeping household debt in check should be a goal for all Canadians. Fortunately, we’re making some headway in this regard. A recent report by the TransUnion credit reporting firm indicates that credit in Canada grew by just less than one per cent in 2011, which represents the lowest annual rate of increase since TransUnion began tracking this statistic at the outset of 2004. In the interest of all Canadians, I very much hope to see this trend continue.
The next time you are drawn to a property that is staged within an inch of its life, it might be worth remembering that the best things in life are those that we work hard to achieve over time, and this is certainly true of all that goes into making a house a home.
Look to your REALTOR® to advise you realistically, and keep track that you don’t let a designer kitchen or bathroom throw you off your stated goals.
Richard Silver is President of the Toronto Real Estate Board, a professional association that represents 32,000 REALTORS® in the Greater Toronto Area.