In today's market, it takes a little bit more than stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops to dazzle home buyers and give a million-dollar impression.
Here's a look at some Long Island homes with some extra wow factors -- functional designs, outdoor oases, even an indoor fish pond -- without the seven-figure listing prices.
Four bedrooms, three bathrooms
The living is easy in this renovated split-level home in Bellmore, which gives off the vibe of a summer retreat.
Off the fourth-floor master bedroom is an extension with an open veranda that the owners say feels like a treehouse. Seller Leigh Koch hung curtains and installed teak flooring, which is raised and allows water to flow underneath it and off the roof. Much of the backyard is taken up by a curved gunite pool and a lounge area with pavers and a fire pit.
The eat-in kitchen was recently renovated with granite countertops, and it opens to a large living room with herringbone inlaid wood floors. The three bathrooms are all updated, including one tiled in vibrant shades of blue, green and gray.
Koch, who owns a chain of eyeglass stores, did most of the renovation work himself, with many of the ideas inspired by magazine spreads showcasing interior design trends.
The house is listed with Tina Canaris and Ellen Kehrli-Steinberg of RE/MAX Hearthstone (516-771-8300).
ROCKY POINT $779,000
Five bedrooms, four bathrooms
Most million-dollar listings boast a chef's kitchen. This Rocky Point home has plenty of space for a serious cook and entertainer. The main kitchen of the Postmodern-style house was renovated to include custom wood cabinets with specially designed spaces to hide oft-used appliances but still allow them to be easily accessible.
"It pops up to counter level and it's ready to go," says owner Shelley Berent of her food processor, housed in one of the hidden compartments.
In addition, there is a smaller kitchen closer to the backyard -- which has an in-ground pool, and is steps to a private beach -- with a fridge and freezer, double oven and dishwasher (the house has three dishwashers in all). Also out back is a stone-accented outdoor cooking area with a gas grill, charcoal grill and a cooler, along with storage space.
There are plenty of other entertaining features, including a billiards room on the first floor with granite floors and a fireplace with a hand-carved wood mantel. Off the foyer is an indoor fish pond, complete with a small wooden footbridge that crosses over it.
It is listed with Mary Lynch of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty (631-689-6980).
SELLER TIP When redesigning her kitchen, Berent made sure it was functional as well as beautiful. "It made sense for my family when I did this because I love to cook and I love to entertain," she says.
GLEN COVE $649,000
Three bedrooms, two bathrooms
What this six-room Victorian lacks in space it makes up for in sunlight and 1920s charm, mixed with modern sophistication. The meticulously maintained home has gleaming hardwood floors and custom moldings throughout, a big bay window in front and a set of French doors leading to a downstairs sitting area.
The centerpiece is the open kitchen. Sellers Tiziana and Jonathan Morton pulled out the dark wood upper cabinets and found a carpenter to create open shelving. They then painted the lower cabinets white and added brushed nickel hardware throughout the house.
Out back is a renovated chicken coop, which the Mortons used as an exercise room, but which could also serve as a home office or artist's studio. The front yard is lushly landscaped, with lilacs and hydrangeas peeking through the windows, and high hedges that keep the property private.
The home is listed with Vivian Parisi and Iris Eplan, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty (516-759-6822).
SELLER TIP The house gets great exposure to sunlight, and the Mortons took advantage of that by using light-colored paint. "The bottom floor was a lot of dark wood so we lightened that up," Tiziana Morton says. "It's a very light and airy house."
WADING RIVER $799,900
Five bedrooms, four bathrooms
When contractor John Zoumas built this home for his family 13 years ago, he made sure to include all of the high-end features home buyers have come to expect, including custom crown molding and cabinets, granite countertops and radiant heating on the first floor. At the time, Zoumas built high-quality homes, but they didn't have the same array of fine details.
"Now that the market's softened a little, these days people are looking for the crown moldings, the custom cabinets, nice doors," Zoumas says.
The house, on 3.5 private acres at the top of a hill with views of Wading River, should appeal to car enthusiasts -- there's a three-car attached garage and a heated, four-car detached garage.
The home is listed with Mildred Thomas of Landmark Realty of Long Island (631-929-3600).
SELLER TIP Zoumas didn't leave out any details. There's cable TV and speakers in every room, and a Surround Sound system on the first floor.
MILLER PLACE $649,000
Four bedrooms, four full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms
With vaulted ceilings, a dressing room and gas fireplace, the expansive master suite in this remodeled home is nearly as large as the original 1,400- square-foot ranch that once occupied the property.
Owner Joe Martirano spared no expense when creating this Postmodern home, with an open floor plan and an eye-catching loft area that overlooks the living room and dining area below. Along with the requisite granite kitchen countertops, there are cherrywood floors and detailed moldings and railings on the balcony and staircase.
The four bedrooms all have full bathrooms, and there is a home theater with plush leather recliners that Martirano says can be left if a buyer is interested. The backyard is luxurious, with a deck that towers over the heated in-ground pool and spa with a small waterfall. There's also an outdoor shower and cooking area with a grill and refrigerator.
"I've had a lot of people say this would be worth a million-and-a-half dollars if it was in Nassau County," he says.
The home is listed with Richard Ledoux of Coach Realtors (631-928-5484).
SELLER TIP Martirano, a real estate developer, encourages homeowners to get creative when designing spaces. Instead of putting expensive wall units in the family and billiards room, he built columns with small grooves where he slipped in glass shelves.
BLUE POINT $559,000
Three bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms
This three-story Colonial by the water blends history and function -- and also stayed high and dry during superstorm Sandy. Sellers Nicole and Robert Waldbauer have renovated the 1920 house in phases since moving in 11 years ago. They stripped the house of its whitewashed aluminum siding and put up vinyl siding with a faux weathered look in a striking blue-green color. Along with upgrading the heating, hot water and electrical systems, they fully renovated the kitchen and bathrooms. Outside, they expanded the deck around the indoor pool, and Robert Waldbauer built a rustic wood bar to occupy a bit of empty space by the back doors.
All the shades of paint inside the house are Benjamin Moore Historical Colors, and the couple kept the original glass doorknobs. "Whenever we renovated, we wanted to make it new and functional, but we wanted to keep the charm of the house," Nicole Waldbauer says.
It is listed with Mary Miskell Nacewicz of Coach Realtors (631-567-8500).
SELLER TIP Waldbauer recommends being specific with contractors about renovation expectations. In coming up with designs for the kitchen, the Waldbauers' contractor kept putting the sink in an area facing the wall. Waldbauer then saw a magazine spread with a shelving unit built into the kitchen counters, and the sink ended up going into a section inspired by that design, giving Nicole a view of the backyard when she's rinsing dishes.