Cosmetic fixes may equal savings when buying a home

Desirability is in the eye of the beholder.  But, I would argue, that there are some basic traits that tend to be more universally appealing than others.  

Take for example some M&M's.  Which would you rather eat?  Ten candy coated morsels from an unopened bag.  Or, 10 sticky, half candy coated, warm morsels from the palm of a two-year-old.  

I can use eggs as another example.  Even though we learned from Dr. Seuss that green eggs and ham are super delicious, I am not sure I would scramble one up if it came out of the shell green - unless, of course, I was eating with a goat on a boat.

If the pet store was selling porcupines and puppies and you had to buy one - which one would you chose?

My point is, even though someone might like slimy M&M's, rotten eggs, and prickly pets, most people would choose the alternative.

The same is true with houses.  Plenty of buyers go into their house hunting adventure looking for a fixer-upper at a lower price.  However, the end up buying the house that is already completely remodeled for a higher price.  Let me be very clear, there is NOTHING wrong with this.  These buyers choose what looks more desirable to them.  They choose the puppy because the puppy seems like a better fit than the porcupine.    

It is hard for buyers to fall in love with homes that they don't find visually appealing.  If they hate wallpaper and every room is covered in it, they are going to have a negative impression of that house.  It is human nature.  But, with inventory down, some buyers are finding themselves having a hard time finding a house looks perfect to them.  This is when some rose colored glasses may be beneficial.  There are some easy cosmetic fixes that may allow you to start seeing big savings through those lenses.  

Dirty Homes - Not every homeowner is Mr. & Mrs. Clean.  There are a lot of homes out there that are just plain dirty.  But, cleaning is one of the cheapest improvements you can make when you move in.  If you are a clean person, the house will be clean while you own it.  A dirty home may end up being a good value because other people will feel negatively toward it while it is on the market.

Bold Paint Choices - This is another fairly inexpensive change to make when you move in.  I know it is hard to imagine your pale blue walls when the ones in front of you are bright orange.  But, with a few coats of paint, you will have a completely different room.

Horrible Curb Appeal - If the drive up to the house leaves something to be desired, you should keep in mind that these too can be easy fixes.  With some garden tools and a few trips to the hardware store you can make a big dent in making the exterior look more appealing.  Your neighbors will love you too.

Cesspool or Swimming Pool?  - Swimming pools that have not been maintained can look very unappealing.  Getting them back to sparkling can range in price and you definitely want to consult a professional.  Even if you have to drain the pool and replace the pool pump, it will be an investment you won't regret on those hot, summer days.

It is important as a buyer to know when to put on your rose colored glasses and when not to.  If a dirty house is priced $10,000 dollars less than a clean one that is right down the street, it may be worth it.  Know how much work you are willing to do after closing and how much money you have in your budget to spend on improvements.  

Looking beyond the cosmetic deficiencies can pay off nicely for homeowners when they go to sell.  I know it is hard to dive into that green egg.  But, if you can't believe Sam-I-Am, who can you believe?

Deal Breakers

Of course there are things that you, as a buyer, should not compromise on.  It is your investment and some things are just too difficult or too expensive to change once you have moved in.  

Here are a few:

Lot - You cannot pick your house up and move it to another lot, so you have to like where the house is sitting.  If you are deathly afraid of alligators and moving to another state is not an option, you will probably be happier on a lot that does not have a pond behind it.  Good views have premiums, so your Do Not Settle list needs to fit in your budget.  However, you do not have to settle for a lot with a cell phone tower in the backyard.

Size Range - I write "size range" because I think it is important to keep an open mind with homes that are smaller than you may initially think you want.  A lot of times, it is the layout of a house that is important not the actual square footage. However, you should know what is going to feel too tight for your family and what is going to be too much for you to maintain.

House Flow - How does the house feel as you walk through each of the rooms?  Does the house "make sense" the way it is laid out?  You would be surprised how many times people will walk through a house and say that it just doesn't fit how they live their life.  Yes, you can take down walls and add walls, but those can be expensive

alternatives to just being patient until a house that has better flow comes on the market.

To read more of Melanie's blog post about cosmetic fixes, click on this link . You can also check out Melanie's real estate blog at .

Melanie Atkinson is a realtor with The Wood Team at Coldwell Banker .  She can be reached at

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