Shopping for a new place? If so, make sure you scrutinize the bare “bones” of the home. Failing to do so may cost you precious time and money

If you’ve been eyeing those low interest rates and getting ready to take the plunge by investing in the Hawaii real estate market — then allow me to say “yay!” Buying a home is always an exciting venture. So what should you look for when you’re shopping for a new abode?

Any TV show or article about what to consider always starts with location, location, location — so I won’t go there. But let’s just say you’ve already narrowed down your choices. What should you be looking at?

Just as a woman with great bone structure doesn’t need a lot of makeup, a well-structured home makes things easier on the homeowner. Take a look at the bones: Is it well-designed? Is there a good floor plan? Does it have a good flow so that it functions well for you and your family? The answers could save you a lot in remodeling costs.

Other things to look for: Higher ceilings that give a sense of spaciousness. An attic or some sort of insulation that offers protection from the direct heat of the sun and makes the home cooler. Wider hallways. Decent-size bedrooms.


In many condos, storage is a consideration. Did developers include enough closet space? How about built-in storage? That’s always a plus.

Also, is there natural light streaming in? What about good cross-ventilation?

This is what I mean about the bones of a home.

Here’s a fun trick that always gets a giggle from my workshop attendees. Look at the home naked. OK, now don’t get too excited … I’m not saying walk into an open house with no clothes on! What I mean is to look at a house as if it were completely stripped of all the pretty things — the furniture, accessories and other things that can stage a home. Unless you’re making an offer for a completely furnished home, the finishing touches won’t necessarily be there when the sale is complete.

There’s a lot you can do with smoke and mirrors, i.e. staging. You see, I’ve been on the other side. I’ve assisted homeowners and Realtors in creatively distracting potential home buyers with wall color, furniture and accessories. It’s amazing what you can create in warmth and ambience when you have a well-decorated space.

It’s almost like becoming a magician. A home buyer might be so taken with the charming pictures on the wall, the coordinated towel sets and the basket of spa amenities on the vanity that he or she doesn’t see how outdated and worn the bathroom is.


So look at the home naked. Avoid the temptation to be sidetracked. In your mind’s eye, strip away everything you know will not come with the home.

Is the basin in good condition? Is the toilet new or will it have to be replaced? Are you going to have to install a frameless glass shower enclosure in place of the shower curtain that’s there now?

Area rugs on the carpet or floor should be lifted up if possible to see if they’re hiding a stain or a tear, or even critters who shouldn’t be there!

And what’s the condition of the kitchen appliances? It’s those appliances that will be staying — not the cool coffee machine with the cute tray of coffee cups next to it. Trust me, I’ve done that!

Hey, I’m not saying not to appreciate what the homeowner or stager did. If you’re charmed, take away ideas for your eventual home. But as you move through each room, see the space for what it is. Look for things that will end up costing you money to fix up or replace.

This simple step can save you a lot of grief and dollars down the road.


Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. in Moiliili. Lee’s interior design work has been featured in local and national publications, on HGTV and in her DIY design workshops that teach homeowners the basics of style. To find out more, go to