[photopress:kit.jpg,thumb,alignright]In the last six months, two of my clients purchased homes that were real bargains in a hot market. That was earlier in the year of course, when the market was stronger than it is now in the last quarter.
To me a bargain is a house where I can be confident that if the new owner calls me to sell the place in a short period of time, I can resell it at a higher price, regardless of market conditions.
I find that my definition of bargain is not a one size fits all definition. Often when someone tells me they got a real bargain on a house, I have to zip my lip (no easy feat for me). Their definition of a bargain is something that sold for way less than other homes in the neighborhood, you know, the bargain that will always be a bargain, both when they buy it AND when they sell it. That’s not a bargain to me, that’s the bottom of the barrel choice that will always be cheaper in any market, and will go down the furthest in a tough market and up the smallest percentage in a good market.
While everyone wants a real bargain and everyone wants some assurances that if the bubble bursts they won’t lose money, I find that most people will not buy a true bargain. Wanting anything you buy to go up in value always and indefinitely, is not realistic. Often agents and flippers end up with the houses with the most profit potential, because people who are buying homes to live in them take a pass on the best values. That’s what makes them bargains, most people won’t buy them.
Take a good hard look at the photo above. Now that’s a real bargain! I look at that and foam at the mouth. A 72 hour do it yourself (mostly) makeover would improve the price overnight!…well, over two nights to be more accurate. A weekend project. Let’s remake just what we can see in that photo together. Let’s make this a real “how to” demonstration.
There are three things there that I would need to hire someone to do. By quickly defining which things I need someone to come and do, and scheduling that work before I begin, they can be finished by the time I am finished the do it yourself part. It needs new flooring (whether it is in good shape or not…it has to go!) It needs a six panel white door over on the right there and it needs a new light fixture. I can’t lay a floor or hang a door or switch out a light fixture. Maybe I could do that last one, but I prefer that owners not touch wiring if they don’t really know how to do that well.
1) The first job is simply going out to buy the new floor, purchase it at the installed price and schedule a date and time for the install. In this place the floor is so busy and awful, just a new one piece floor or lowest cost more neutral alternative is sufficent. The change in appearance will be dramtic at a low cost. Instant increase in potential sale price of home.
2) YOU go out and buy a light fixture and six panel door. This is where people make their biggest mistake. They hire a handyman at the lowest possible price, and then pay him to go to the store! $25.00 an hour is a great price to get someone to change out a light fixture or hang a door. But it is too high a price to pay someone to get stuck in traffic on the way to Home Depot, Lowes or Fred Mayer, or all three looking for just the right light fixture. Buy the two items and anything needed to install them, like new hinges and door knob, and have them ready and waiting for the handyman you hire for the switchout of the two items.
3) Now for your part, which you can do while you are waiting for the floor install appointment and while the handyman is doing his two jobs. Always work with the handyman, doing other things. He’ll be more productive if you are taking down that wall paper while he is changing out the light fixture and hanging the door. Just is…don’t ask why 🙂
Your part is to wet down that wall paper really well with wall paper stripping solution BEFORE you start peeling it, so you don’t damage the drywall. A lot of people start gouging with scrapers and ripping dry strips that pull at the drywall, without wetting it down well. Stripping rule is the same as hanging rule. Wet three strips well, one at a time. When you are done the third, go back to the first and take it off, wet the fourth then go back to the second, etc… (My next door neighbor when I was a kid was Mr. Vitale…the wallpaper hanger.) If you are lucky, that is “strippable paper” and the wall behind it was painted several times with semi gloss or “sized” before the paper was hung, and the wall will be ready to paint when you are done. Wash off all of that glue before you start painting! You don’t want a muddy paint job because some of the paint is mixed with old wallpaper glue.
Now let’s look hard at that photo one more time. Doorway on left has no wood, just wall paper, so we’re done with that. Back door is already white, but with a thin dark wood trim like the baseboard. OK, let’s paint the back door trim only (not door), the base trim around the room and the door trim around the brown door on the right. What color? The same color as the back door and new interior six panel door, which is white. The new light fixture is hung and it’s tight to the ceiling now, so you don’t HAVE TO put your table exactly under it like you do with a hanging light.
[photopress:new.jpg,thumb,alignright]You have now transformed the 80s look into a “bright, light and airy” updated and clean look…all in 72 hours! And if you call me and say, we want to move, I can sell the house for more than you just paid for it.
Don’t walk away from the house that looks like the photo at the top. You’ll pay at least $10,000 more for a house where the owner put in 72 hours worth of work and a few quick work projects. Buy the true bargain. Good location. Good floorplan. Ugly floor, ugly wallpaper and dark brown trim.
Buy the really good, well maintained, but really UGLY house. It’s the bargain of the marketplace in any market. Simple definition of this type of house is a “cosmetic” fixer.