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Let me apologize ahead of time for what’s about to come spilling out of my brain and onto this page – it’s a rant – it doesn’t happen very often, as I’ve used my blog mainly for the purposes of educating my readers on the real estate market climate, procedures, the process, etc… but today’s topic is a rant – no disguising it! (Perhaps by the time I get to the end something good will come of it!)
So when a you (assuming you’re a buyer) are out looking at homes, the purpose is to find a home in which you’d like to live – correct? Not a home you’d live in ONLY IF IT WERE PERFECT, right? But a home you can see yourself settling into over the coming months and years – building a life, perhaps getting married, perhaps having children, perhaps having parties, perhaps downsizing; maybe it’s your first home and it’s exciting to have a place to call your very own – you can paint the walls Burgundy and the ceiling gold if you want (Hail to the Redskins!). But it’s a place you can envision calling home – including all of the trips to Home Depot or Lowes or your local hardware store that accompany home ownership.
Hopefully if you see a home you like, you will spend some time in it prior to writing an offer – looking around, looking at the kitchen (appliances, cabinets, etc…) looking at the windows, the utilities, bathrooms, exterior, etc… Sometimes you walk into a house and get a gut feel that it’s really not in good condition and it makes you wonder what’s lurking beneath the surface – and sometimes you walk into a home and feel (I said FEEL – nothing scientific about it) that it’s “move-in ready.” So what if the windows are old – you can see that; and the dishwasher is older and might have to be replaced; you might see some dings on the walls or a scratch on the floor. BUT YOU CAN SEE IT…
Then comes your home inspection – the purpose of a home inspection is to uncover property condition issues that you can’t see and to determine if there are any major deficiencies – so is it a big surprise that if you see old windows that the home inspector will too? Sure – is it appropriate to ask for a credit to fix or replace those old windows? NO – hopefully you wrote the contract knowing that you’d have to replace the windows!!!!! Now, if the inspector uncovers a leak or some wiring issues; an appliance that doesn’t work properly, a cracked foundation, etc… these are issues that need to be dealt with. Now I’m not saying you should unconditionally accept whatever flaws are uncovered in your soon-to-be new-to-you home but there are aspects of home maintenance that are just to be expected.
I received a home inspection report today on a listing of mine where the buyer has basically asked for everything but the kitchen sink (oh wait, the kitchen sink is included too). Perhaps the buyer feels this puts them in the best negotiating position – to ask for everything and then accept whatever the seller is willing to do? Or perhaps they are looking for a perfect (80 year old) home. (NO SUCH THING) Or maybe someone told them to be tough – who knows – all it did was irritate my seller. So what now? Where is the balance between having some things repaired and seeking perfection? Honestly buyers, it leaves a seller feeling that they will never be able to make you happy in this process. So…
The lessons in my opinion to be learned here are:
1) when you buy a house, you are assuming a responsibility to maintain it. No house is ever perfect – even a brand new house. Some things are frankly a matter of personal preference (do you want a door stop or not – yes, a door stop was one of the items on the report I received today)
2) as a buyer, when you receive an inspection report littered with little items, focus on the larger items. Focus on the things you were unaware of or if left un-tended to could pose a longer term problem.
3) is the item you’re asking for an “upgrade” or a repair? Let’s be clear, at least in Virginia, many items simply need be in normal working order – not upgraded or improved (hmmm, does labeling your electrical box impede the normal working order of the breakers? didn’t think so…)
4) consider asking for a credit. This way you can fix things the way YOU want them fixed – to your standards and on YOUR schedule. If you can agree on a number, often this can be the best route to make everyone happy.
Just remember, it’s an inspection of something imperfect. If you treat it as such and have realistic expectations, then it can be a smooth and perfectly reasonable part of the transaction…
Rant over – thanks for listening!
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When I begin working with a buyer we usually, sooner or later, end up with a wish list of sorts. Of course everyone would like to be able to buy their dream home, but I’ve seen it at almost every price range, that most buyers feel if they could just stretch EVER SO SLIGHTLY more they could get exactly what they want! It’s whether I’m showing $200,000 condos or $1.8M homes – there’s just that one little stretch that could get X. Whatever it is – it’s sort of interesting.
So where do you draw the line? What do you look past? And what would you see that should cause you to keep on looking?
The easiest (and sometimes hardest) thing to look past is DIRT – yes I said DIRT. Sometimes a house just needs to be cleaned – REALLY cleaned – windows, carpets, baseboards, exterior trim, etc… it may be gross, but really try to imagine it sparkling.
Next – PAINT – Paint is probably the least expensive way to make a big change – can’t stand those pea green walls? What about mocha? or cranberry? EASY – so imagine it in the color scheme you like. Then head out to the paint store to explore the options!
What about an outdated kitchen? Well, first you need to really evaluate what’s outdated… is it everything from the aqua blue stove to the metal cabinets? Then you might be looking at a complete re-do – but have you ever strolled the aisles of Ikea? They have some really nice looking options, especially for small spaces, that are actually affordable. In order of expense (for most) are: Cabinets, Appliances, Countertops, Flooring, miscellaneous (hardware, light fixtures, faucet)… If you can live with the cabinets, perhaps consider buying a new appliance, new flooring and lighting – then see what’s left.
OK, So you understand where I’m headed with this – there are a lot of things you can do to change the home – even removing trees, old overgrown bushes, power washing a deck or even the house, etc… but what are some things that should cause you pause…
First let me say that there are very few problems that cannot be fixed – however it has to be decided how much you want to bite off. If there are issues with the structural integrity of the property – you must decide the severity and often it’s a matter of taking on the unknown – I’d consider passing.
Here’s a biggy – busy road – does it back or front somehow to a busy road? And how busy is it? Is it a cut through? Or a main thoroughfare? Or even a freeway? Do you enjoy having your windows open? Do you have small children or pets that you would worry about? The reality is that a busy road is generally not someone’s first choice for location – however, every house will sell, every house will have a buyer – just a matter of a price hit.
Then there’s the site – how is the property situated on the lot? There are some things you can do with retaining walls, decking, etc… but if you want a flat level lot and the home you love is on a steep incline? Can’t really be changed. Things to think about.
I think the bottom line is that you need to give a house a chance – homes aren’t perfect, but as a buyer, you need to evaluate the deficiencies and determine what can be done – then, if you are able to get comfortable with them – carry on!