House-hunting is a curious blend of two-parts excitement mixed with one-part terror. Unearthing a property that ticks many of the boxes on your ‘Most Wanted’ list is euphoric. But there’s also that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach that you may have missed or under-estimated something important. And is it going to come back and haunt you?
Let’s face it, no-one finds a house that’s 100% perfect. This is possibly one of the largest purchases you will make so before you start looking you must be clear on what real estate attributes are vital to you and what others are things you can simply live with.
House hunting can be a minefield of surprises and challenges to look past the superficial problems and see a home for its true potential … a home that you could put your own stamp on. TV renovation shows make it look easy but in reality, it’s not. Some sellers choose to remodel and ‘stage’ their homes prior to putting them on the market, but the vast majority of vendors choose to sell their beloved home “as-is”.
As you walk through a home for sale, here are 8 things you should ignore in order to avoid passing up what could well be the perfect home for you.
An “Older” Home
Old isn’t always synonymous with bad. Some homes built decades and even hundreds of years ago have stood the test of time because they were built with solid, quality materials that would be cost-prohibitive today. Frequently the craftsmanship is also at a level not commonly found in newer homes. The assumption that new is nicer is not always correct. Some newer homes are affordable because they were built cheaply. There are many simple and inexpensive fixes for dated homes, and the plus side of an older home is charm and character you can’t find in a brand new build. There are many “time warp” homes on the market that are actually incredible gems in need of a little polishing.
Décor choices can be a deal breaker for many who find any colour other than their personal favourite a huge distraction and deterrent. Ignore the existing paint choices and focus on the structure of the room, the placement of the windows, and other more permanent features. Don’t reject a great home with excellent structure in a perfect location simply because you don’t like the shade of pink in the dining room. Paint is an incredibly easy and cheap fix in a home and something that can be changed in just a couple hours.
Wallpaper that was hailed as “wild and wacky” in 1960 is likely to be dismissed as ghastly and dated in 2016. Like paint, wallpaper is easily replaced or covered over. So no matter how decor-challenged the walls seem to look, it’s an easy fix. Rest assured you won’t be destined to sleep surrounded by embossed roses for long – the relaxing, neutral colours of your dreams can replace that dated wallpaper before you move in.
Should you find a home you love that also comes with a perfect kitchen and appliances, you’ve won the jackpot! The kitchen is the heart of the home and more often than not, you will look at the kitchen and be less than impressed.
Major turn offs include old and daggy appliances, mismatching benchtops, dated cupboards, splashbacks and awful colour schemes. Look beyond the superficial and check if the foundations are sound, such as plumbing, storage space and pantry. Leave a little room in your budget to replace appliances and the rest can be modified to suit your style.
Don’t walk away from a great house because the floor is a bore or a mess. Not every house for sale features glossy, polished floorboards throughout, marble tiles in the bathroom or cream wool Berber carpet in the bedrooms. Flooring options are more and more diverse these days and there are now so many low-cost options that look exactly like their higher-priced counterparts, replacing old and dated floor coverings is not hard.
There’s nothing more off putting than walking into a potential new home and being blasted back by something rotten. That hideous smell is generally not a permanent fixture. Except for a serious mould problem, there’s little that a deep cleaning can’t fix.
Once the home is free from the fetid mattresses, carpets, drapes or what-have-you, and thoroughly cleaned, the scent will fade. I know. We inspected (and subsequently bought) a small house on acreage that had seven German Shepherd dogs living inside with their doting owners. Being novices at real estate ‘tricks’, we didn’t realise the significance of all the windows being flung open every time we visited. After my husband and I purchased the property, we happened to visit when the vendor’s moving van was loading up possessions to relocate to the new property. The removalist actually said to us “This is the filthiest house I have ever seen”. He then directed us to a point of interest. The carpet was a dull olive green throughout the house, except, as he pointed to, in one spot where it was more of an apple green colour. That spot was in exactly the same shape as the vacuum cleaner. You guessed it, the vacuum cleaner was stored there when the carpet was apple green and it had never been moved in all the years since! “Good luck,” said the removalist as the truck drove away. Needless to say we ripped up all the carpet and painted the walls – and the putrid smell never returned. We also had a gem of a house that suited our needs perfectly after we gave it our own personal touch.
If you’re not saying “wow” when you first drive up, that’s ok. It may be that the reward awaits inside. You may have to envision a different coloured front door and some new landscaping, and presto—it might just turn into your dream home. While curb appeal is undoubtedly important, don’t be put off by the exterior of a home, if the interior and overall structure is perfect. Look at the front of the property from the street. Imagine your own touches here and there. With minor and inexpensive changes like landscaping, a new mailbox, house numbers and front door lockset you can kick that curb appeal up a notch.
If the house feels too exposed and lacks privacy from next door—there are ways to fix that. Remember “hedges make great neighbors” and there are many smart solutions as to how to remedy the issue.
Everyone loves a blank canvas they can decorate with their own personal style. Unfortunately, such homes are few and far between and usually at the top of the price point. As a buyer it takes some pretty tough mental muscle to envision the house empty or with your own items throughout. If you can effectively disregard the previous owner’s décor and concentrate on what features are truly important to you, buying with your head instead of your heart is a productive start to happy home ownership.