Photo: Reprinted with permission from Cecilia Paredes
There is no perfect house. No matter how hard you look or how many homes your real estate agent shows you, getting everything you want when buying a home — and getting it in perfect condition — is impossible.Even new homes will have a feature or two you may not like and will want to change.
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or watched hard-to-please homebuyers on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” you know there are always kitchen cabinets that are outdated, pink walls to be repainted or bathroom wallpaper that looks like it is 100 years old.
After shopping around for the lowest mortgage rates, you don’t want to walk away from a house you like because it needs a few minor repairs, real estate experts say. The repair’s price should be factored into what you’re paying for the home, and mortgage lenders can help you pull money out of a home sale. For example, sellers may contribute to the repair bills, and some mortgages, like an FHA 203(k) loan, factor repair costs into the overall loan amount.
Sep Niakan, a real estate broker in Miami, says he’s had clients walk away from homes because they can’t see past minor flaws.
“Many buyers want to see an end product. They don’t have a vision for what it could be with just a couple of tweaks,” Niakan says.
Buyers: 8 flaws to ignore
So before you decide to cross a house off your list, here eight minor home flaws that shouldn’t deter you from buying a home:
No. 1: Unappealing paint. This is one of the easiest and cheapest fixes, especially if you do it yourself. Don’t let someone’s poor taste in paint colours convince you not to buy. Most buyers who Niakan has worked with would rather pay a premium for a house that doesn’t need fixes than take the time and money to do the repairs themselves. That’s true even when the changes will cost less than a “perfect” house, he says. Even buyers of premium homes that don’t need many changes still alter the home after they move in, Niakan says, and painting is often the first change.
“It’s very, very rare for a buyer to buy a house and not personalise it in some way,” he says.
No. 2: Outdated wallpaper. Grandma may have liked the red velvet wallpaper, but maybe you don’t. It will take work to remove old wallpaper, but it’s easy to do cheaply.
No. 3: Tired kitchen cabinets. Cabinet refacing can be done inexpensively and make your old cabinets look new.
No. 4: Unfashionable wall-to-wall mirrors. They might have been hip in the 1970s or 80s, but now they are eyesores that can be removed and replaced with paint.
No. 5: Drab window treatments. They may be one of the first things you notice when you walk into a house. You can either offer them to the old owners, or easily throw them out and buy whatever you want to replace them.
No. 6: Broken air conditioners or furnaces. While it’s a major expense to buy a new one, some fixes are inexpensive. A pump for a boiler, for example, may cost a mere $250, so having to fix one shouldn’t necessarily stop you from buying an otherwise good home, says Jerry Grodesky, a real estate agent just outside Chicago.
“It is a perception that people have and they start hyperventilating about the most minor, inconsequential things,” Grodesky says.
No. 7: A lack of closet doors. “I’ve seen buyers walk away from a house because the closet doors are missing,” Grodesky says. “And I’m like, ‘Do you realise how minimal a fix that is?'”
No. 8: Bathroom grout discoloring. Buyers who see this may mistake it as the sign of a moldy house. While mildew can lead to problems, have the home inspector check if it’s something that can be fixed with a little scrubbing.
It’s a buyer’s market out there, but homebuyers are still more cautious than they were before the recession, Grodesky says. That said, you shouldn’t be so tentative that you let a few minor repairs prevent you from buying the house you want. Negotiating the fixes into the price of the home will make the repairs easier to swallow, although today’s low home prices and rock-bottom mortgage rates should be enough incentive, he says.
“If you’re getting a deal, then you can be a little more forgiving in what you see in the house,” he says.
About the author: Aaron Crowe is a freelance writer in San Francisco. He has worked as a writer and editor for websites and newspapers, most recently covering personal finance for WalletPop.com. He has also written for Bankrate, AARP and was one of the initial writers at AOL Housing, covering the housing and rental markets. You can follow Aaron on Twitter at @aaroncrowe or on his website, www.AaronCrowe.net.