NEW YORK (MainStreet) – As homeowners, many of us learn to live with out-of-date wallpaper, “tired” kitchen cabinets or balky appliances. These and other flaws sit on the to-do list until money, spare time and inclination are just right, and then we fix them and wonder why we didn’t do it sooner.
But as homebuyers, many of us, save a few diehard do-it-yourselfers, turn into perfectionists. After all, who wants to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a home that needs work right away?
But that attitude can be self-defeating, causing buyers to pass up good homes over trivial issues, says HSH Associates, the mortgage-data firm. Many “dated” features found in older homes are easy to upgrade.
Even a newly constructed home that comes with a warranty may need more landscaping or a different paint scheme. Issues that easy to deal with should not discourage the buyer but often do.
“If you’ve ever toured homes for sale, or watched hard-to-please homebuyers on HGTV’s ‘House Hunters,’ you know there are always kitchen cabinets that are outdated, pink walls to be repainted or bathroom wallpaper that looks like it is 100 years old,” HSH says.
Notice that HSH is not talking about major flaws, like a kitchen or bath that needs a complete redo or a home that must have an addition to suit your family. The problem is the minor things that catch the eye and deprive you of that warm feeling in the chest that every house hunter hopes to feel.
HSH lists eight examples: Unappealing paint, outdated wallpaper, tired kitchen cabinets, unfashionable wall-to-wall mirrors, drab window treatments, broken air conditioners or furnaces, missing closet doors and discolored bathroom grout.
All can be fixed fairly easily by homeowners themselves, or inexpensively by pros. Even the tired kitchen cabinets can be quickly upgraded with refacing rather than replacement.
In fact, these minor flaws can be turned to the buyer’s advantage. Because it’s a buyer’s market, many buyers are especially picky, inflating concerns over small defects, and sometimes keeping homes than have them on the market longer. The savvy buyer can therefore use the flaws to negotiate a lower price, HSH advises.
So what are they key issues to consider in a home purchase? Price and value are obviously paramount. The price must be something you can afford even if you suffer a setback, like one spouse losing a job. And the price must be in line with those of comparable homes nearby, else you could lose money if you have to sell sooner than planned.
Some flaws are very costly to remedy. Homes with these should be purchased only after consulting contractors, so the price can be adjusted correctly.
That would include a home needing a new roof or driveway, one with water or termite damage, or one truly in need of an addition or complete kitchen or bath redo.
But if the neighborhood is good, the commute to work is easy, the schools are sound and the local economy healthy enough to shore up home values, a little dirty grout or tacky wallpaper should not be allowed to blind you to the real value underneath.