It’s no secret that the word luxury is egregiously overused in the real estate community.

While the definition may vary from market to market, agents and marketing professionals use the term so loosely that it has become practically devoid of meaning. But no one seems to be discussing how the same can be said on the other end of the spectrum with “the gut renovation.”

I cannot tell you the number of houses and apartments I’ve toured that the agents misrepresented as a “total gut job.” Truthfully, many of these properties were totally acceptable and livable. They just weren’t perfect.

With these buzzwords floating around, we’ve lost sight of the “in-between house” — properties that aren’t 100 percent pristine, perhaps a little dated, but are otherwise full of potential and more than suitable for living.

Before we blame our clients for this conundrum, we need to take some accountability.

The real estate community created a superficial need for perfection. Our listing descriptions, presentations and attitudes have caused a shift in consumer behavior where it seems nothing less than modern, turnkey and flawless will do.

Here are four ways to reverse course and get back to the heart of the deal:

1. Redefine ‘deal-breakers’

Contrary to popular belief, Formica is not the end of the world. Dated countertops should not be a deal-breaker, and agents should recognize and communicate details like this. Fixtures can be easily replaced, walls repainted and floors re-stained.

Small renovations are part of owning a home, and it’s up to real estate agents to help their clients see the reality as well as the potential.

2. Reevaluate what’s important

For most people, a home is much more than a monetary investment. It’s a sentimental and tangible embodiment of family, love and the foundation upon which memories are made.

Of course, money matters and a house is a significant purchase for most buyers. But this is a greater opportunity to discuss with your clients why an imperfect kitchen or a funky living room layout shouldn’t be a strong deterrent.

3. Take a step back and ask the right questions

Don’t let the glossy magazine spreads of coiffed homes and flashy amenities turn you off from showing your clients a more understated yet perfectly wonderful home.

Maybe the property is old. Maybe the appliances need a complete overhaul. But could you see yourself living there? Could you be comfortable? Could you slow down just a tad and build this space into something that you’ve always wanted?

The best stuff in life takes time, and a house is no exception. Emphasize these points with your buyers.

4. Choose your words carefully

Only use “luxury” and “total renovation” when you mean it.

To restore definitions to their former glory, we need to stop overusing them in our descriptions and everyday banter. Fast food may be good, but you wouldn’t qualify it as fine dining.

A modest one-bedroom with nice natural light may be charming, but can you honestly claim it’s luxury? A prewar home may have some wear and tear, but do you really need to go through with a wrecking ball if it’s in a wonderful location and the price is right?

If you want to talk numbers and appreciation, it’s better to buy the worst house on the best block versus the best most renovated house on the worst block.

We’ve thrown the pendulum so far to the extremes that the middle has all but lost its luster, and there is such fabulous inventory in between.

Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan is the President of Stribling & Associates, a family-run business and New York City’s premiere boutique residential brokerage specializing in the sales and marketing of exceptional resale properties as well as new developments.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription