Are You Passing Up Your Dream Home?

Are you passing up your perfect home without even knowing it? Don’t let the ‘little things’ get to you when you’re looking at houses. Here are three updates that are easy to make — and three bigger changes that might make you think twice — so you can be on your way to spotting that diamond in the rough.

Easy Updates

When it comes to house shopping, sometimes basic cosmetic features can make you pass up an otherwise great house. Bad carpeting, lighting, and paint colors can be total downers. But they are also relatively easy and inexpensive to change.


An ugly, stained carpet is an instant turn-off for many people. But don’t despair. Cleaning or replacing carpet is a fairly easy project that can fit into nearly any budget. Your first line of defense is a solid steam clean to see if the carpet is salvageable. Rent a steam cleaner for $60 from your local hardware or grocery store, treat the carpeting, and assess from there.

Putting down new carpet (especially in bedrooms and living rooms where carpet may still be desired) is the next option. Carpet installation can cost $3-5 a square foot, a more economical choice than hardwood floors. Upgrading to hardwood floors can cost $7-12 per square foot installed. You can DIY it if you have the time and want to save a few dollars per square foot on installation costs.

Light Fixtures

Light fixtures can easily date a home. They make low ceilings more obvious, wall colors less than appealing, and give you a sinking feeling that this home might not be ‘the one.’ However, upgrading light fixtures is an easy weekend project that won’t break the bank. Envision the place with modern fixtures, bright LED or CFL bulbs, and even additional ceiling lighting.

The cost for upgrading existing ceiling lights is relatively minimal. If you can install them yourself, you’re only paying for the cost of the fixture, which can be as little as $23 for a flush-mount ceiling light to $100 for a bathroom vanity light. Ceiling fans with and without lights can be found for $50-250, depending on the style and quality.

If you need to add more ceiling lights, such as recessed lighting in a dim kitchen, you’re looking at higher installation costs from a professional. Budget around $250-500 for this upgrade.


If the avocado walls or knotty pine cabinets aren’t your style, don’t run away just yet. Changing interior paint is one of the easiest home projects, and it can make a huge difference in the look and feel of a house.

DIY painting requires more time than money. Painting interior walls and ceilings will cost $200-400 per average-sized room. Hiring a contractor to do the job for you will likely double the cost.

Painting kitchen cabinets is a more expensive project, about $1,000 or so, depending on the number of cabinets. However, this will cost you about one-third of the price of installing new cabinets.

Challenging Changes

Popcorn Ceilings

Popcorn ceilings are a common feature in older homes. If it bothers you, know what you’re getting into to remove it. The cost of removing a popcorn ceiling is $1-3 a square foot, which doesn’t seem like much until you factor in every ceiling in the entire house. Expect to pay at least $1,500, depending on the total square footage of your home. If the popcorn texture contains asbestos, this cost will likely triple.

For a more cosmetic change you may be able to add a plank ceiling in certain areas of your house to cover up the popcorn ceiling and add a country or cottage charm to your space.

Bathroom Remodels

If you can’t stand the bathroom, think twice because you could be stuck with an expensive project. Remodeling a bathroom, even though it’s one of the smallest rooms in the house, has a big price tag attached. Toilets alone cost upwards of $200 plus installation costs, and a new vanity can cost $500-700. A new bathtub will cost at least $1,000, and new vinyl flooring is $1,000-2,000 installed.

Adding More Doors/Windows

Many old homes are ‘light’ on the windows, but adding new ones can be a costly endeavor. Creating a new opening and installing a new window will likely cost $800-1,200 per window.

Expect to pay similar prices for adding or replacing doors. If you can’t live with the amount of light available from ceiling and floor lights, getting more in the form of windows, skylights and doors is an expensive proposition.

When looking for your next place, keep in mind not everything is as it seems. You can make a home yours with a few easy updates that will take the place from good to great. Beware some of the larger issues though that are harder to fix. Be sure to have your own list of “fix it” or “leave it” features and you’ll be well on your way to getting the home of your dreams.


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