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Alison on Money

Buying a house is all about good bones

It used to be that prospective homebuyers would zero in on three places while searching for added value - kitchen, bathroom and rec room.

A kitchen island, separate shower and finished basement, preferably with a tiki bar, were guaranteed to draw offers.

Then along came whirlpool tubs, children's wings, great rooms and soaring foyers.

But what comes around goes away in the real estate market. Today, value-conscious buyers and profit-conscious builders are opting for less is more.

On the wane are sunrooms, outdoor kitchens, two-storey family rooms and media rooms.

But popular once again are basics such as well-planned spaces, storage and functional (not necessarily fancy) outdoor areas.

The lesson for those house shopping this spring - in the still mostly vibrant Canadian real estate market - is to spend your money on features that are difficult or expensive to add later.

The right choices now will pay off when you become a seller.

According to a 2011 survey, Canadian buyers are most eager for the following three home features or qualities:

1. Efficiency

The soaring foyer may look great but give it a pass if re-sale value is important.

Two-storey rooms and open fireplaces also have reduced appeal because of rising heating costs.

2. Spaces not rooms

The number of rooms or overall square-footage is less important than how they fit together.

Increasingly buyers are drawn by a home's flow and utility rather than its statistics.

3. Green, green, green

This includes not only energy efficiency in windows, appliances and insulation, but also green building products to reduce or eliminate concerns over toxicity.

While the survey was primarily focused on features desired by Canadians shopping for homes south of the border, they hold true in every real estate market over time.

Conspicuous consumption in a home can appeal temporarily, but if you are shopping for the best

value, pay attention to the basics.

There are three specific home features Canadians adore:

1. Walk-in closets

2. Linen closets

3. Family-style kitchens

Alison Griffiths is the author of Count On Yourself: Take Charge of Your Money.Reach her at or

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