A lot of people have an unrealistic view of what the home buying process looks like – particularly if it’s their first time buying a home, or they have a past experience in which everything went swimmingly.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that homes on the market come in perfect condition. This sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud, but the truth is that many buyers expect pristine homes with brand new features throughout. (Hint: Unless you’re building your own house, you aren’t going to find an immaculate property.)
The reality is that every home on the market needs some work. The key is to know how much work is needed and be honest about what you’re willing to take on.
“Whether a house really needs work is based on personal opinion,” real estate expert Elizabeth Weintraub writes. “Not everybody agrees on the condition of a home. Sometimes sellers will ask if they should fix up a home or sell it as is, and while certain repairs will bring more money, some types of improvements are better left as an option for the buyer.”
As a buyer, you’re obviously looking to buy a house that you can live in. However, don’t be turned off when things aren’t perfect. While you probably shouldn’t mess with foundation issues, roof problems, old HVAC systems, and other major problems, cosmetic issues are easy to fix – and will save you a bunch of money.
Knowing that every property has problems and issues is the first step. Once you’ve come to this realization, you need to do your best to understand the difference between serious and cosmetic. The former require you to take on great risk and expense. The latter can be fixed quickly and inexpensively.
If you find a house with some of the following cosmetic issues, don’t let it hold you back from putting in an offer. You might lower your price to account for them, but they shouldn’t disqualify you from making an offer. Take a look:
1. Furniture and Décor
Some people have trouble seeing beyond what’s in front of them and picturing a property for what it is. If you’re one of these people, you’re turned off when you see a house with bad furniture and décor. Your brain tells you, “There’s no way I could live here.” But remember that furniture and décor are temporary.
When seeing a house, force yourself to envision it for what it is – walls, floors, rooms, and architectural features. Anything that’s going with the seller isn’t of concern to you.
2. Wall Color
Upon walking into a house, one of the first things you’re going to notice are the walls. They’re in you immediate field of vision and command a large percentage of your view. If you don’t like the colors, it’s easy to be turned off. But you must remember that walls can easily be painted. In fact, walls are about the easiest cosmetic issue to fix. All you have to do is pick out a new color, grab a few supplies, and have a paint party.
Flooring is another cosmetic issue that will command your attention, but is easy to fix. For example, old, ratty carpet can be torn up and replaced by a professional at very little cost. If you don’t like the color of the current hardwoods, you can always sand them down and re-stain them a different shade. Try not to get worked up over flooring that doesn’t fit your tastes or needs.
When it comes to making a kitchen your own, countertops are where you get the biggest bang for your buck. Practically speaking, countertops are easy to replace. Financially speaking, it really depends on how much square footage there is and what sort of material you’re looking for. Installing quartz in a large kitchen can cost thousands, but basic laminate or granite can be done for much less. Make sure you have an understanding of the costs associated with this job.
When coupled with countertops, a fresh cabinet remodel can really change the look of your kitchen. Thankfully, you don’t always have to rip out and replace cabinets. In order to achieve the style you’re looking for, it may be as simple as a fresh coat of paint.
Unless it’s explicitly stated that the seller will be taking kitchen appliances with them, it’s generally assumed that they will be included with the sale of the home. If the appliances are new and functional, this is good. But don’t fret if they’re not exactly what you want. You can always sell them and buy something new. Big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s run sales throughout the year where you can save big on things like stainless steel refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers.
7. Popcorn Ceilings
In decades past, popcorn ceilings were all the rage. Today, they do little more than scream “dated.” While you probably won’t want to deal with them on your own – simply because of the mess and time – it’s fairly easy to hire someone to come in and sand them down. If you’re looking at a home and the only issue is the popcorn ceilings, don’t be dismayed. Buy the house and perform the easy fix.
It’s amazing how many people love a house, but get discouraged when they see the yard. While landscaping does take time and money to fix, this isn’t something that should prevent you from buying a property.
There are certain issues that can be really problematic – such as overgrown tree roots extending to the home’s foundation – but most landscaping problems are merely cosmetic. With a little money, time, and sweat, you can have the yard looking better.
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