With all the DIY home shows, flip it shows and real estate reality shows its easy to get caught up to the glitz and glam of remodeled kitchens, laminate floors, beautifully renovated baths, the patio with the built in fire pit, etc…..
If it is sparkly, shiny and new it is easy to let that eye candy catch your attention and pull your attention away from the basics.
Lets face it, I have never had a buyer walk away from viewing a home raving about the new roof and 5 feet of ice and water shield… but maybe they should.
Is it a Pig With Lipstick?
What has prompted me to write this article is I recently had a buyer that was sucked in by the eye candy of a home that came on the market as a flip. The house was bought by an investor who sunk a bunch of money into renovating it. At first glance the house looked pretty good. New kitchen, renovated baths, new flooring thru much of the house, central air installed, new deck, etc…
Upon closer look, the work was inferior.
The interior paint job did not cover, it was filled with dirt and grit, the paint was sagging. The floors left huge gaps around heating registers and baseboards. The siding had uncaulked trim with inconsistent gaps of almost a half an inch where the siding met the window and corner boards. The deck posts were undersized and the there was no flashing where the deck met the house. The investor installed ac but as I walked thru the house there was 2 returns on 3 floors of HVAC’ed living space….
…. all the interior trim was replaced. The baseboard window trim and door trim were butted together in the middle of a section (which you don’t do!) and on top of it was poorly executed. If you looked at the side of the trim no one bothered to paint the sides, it was just raw wood. And the list goes on and on and on…
The home also carried the price tag of a similar new construction home. Over half the work needed to be redone to be made even acceptable. All that money spent on materials and the labor that went into it was in vain.
This home was really a big old pig with a little bit of shiny gloss lipstick. But it also leaves in question what work was improperly done that we can’t see?
The sparkly new kitchen and the glossy hardwood floors certainly caught my buyer’s attention. At the end of the day, as the list piled up of things that needed to be redone they walked away.
It is Easy to Get Enamored with the Eye Candy
As a buyer it very easy to get sucked into the shiny new kitchen and baths or glossy new floors.
The problem is it is easy to see a renovated kitchen or new laminate floors or brand new hardwoods. But it is not so easy to see what matters, like a new properly installed and vented roof, a brand new electrical panel or a $10,000 french drainage system in the basement.
While it easy to see yourself utilizing the brand new kitchen with state of the art appliances, an older kitchen, while not the most beautiful can provide you with many years of service before renovating.
But a roof in failure you can’t ignore. Once it starts leaking it needs to be fixed immediately or you get costly water damage throughout the house.
Or a furnace that fails leaves you with no hot water and heat and if it is winter you will end up with frozen pipes.
Or an electric panel with corroded main bus and breakers can be a serious fire hazard!
These repairs can’t wait.
See If There is Substance When You Look Past the Bling
Now very few houses are absolutely perfect. In most cases buying a resale home is like buying a used car. There may be small dings and small repairs that need to be repaired.
While I am not saying you shouldn’t buy home with beautiful baths and kitchens, take the time to look past the bling and make sure there is some substance behind the bling.
Make Sure All Systems Are In Proper Working Order
Yeah that new kitchen is nice. But are you going to blow circuits when the toaster and the microwave are on at the same time?
Make sure all the major systems… plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical are safe in proper working condition and serviceable. Again you can live with an older outdated kitchen until you have time and money to renovate, but you can’t live with out any one of the major systems running properly.
Makes Sure The Structures Are Sound
I once showed an Old Victorian. It was beautiful with a lot of period detail and it had a beautiful kitchen. For me it was stunning. Two staircase one of them curved beautiful leaded glass, the wood work was to die for….
But unfortunately in the dead of winter the gas bill could run upwards of $1800 dollars (for one month). Yep, not a lick of insulation in the walls and all old windows. Now wouldn’t that be a surprise for most people getting that first $1800 gas bill.
Are the underlying bones of the house good? Roof, foundation, insulation, framing, windows, doors etc….
A new kitchen built over a crumbling foundation or sills and framing being eaten by termites is not going to hold its bling-appeal for long when your looking at costly repairs to keep from losing it all.
Avoid Ongoing Water Penetration
Nothing is worse for a home than water. It causes mold and mildew and can eventually rot everything it touches. It can attract carpenter ants that end up destroying the underlying wood structure. Unwanted water will attack your home and cause health issues.
I have been in homes that have had some nice updates and renovations… but the house stinks. All you can smell is the mildew and mold from the basement. The smell permeates the house.
As a matter of fact I am reminded of a condo complex that a buyer called on today.
The condos are cheap but are in a good community. The price on them is almost too good to be true. Many have been renovated so that they can be quite appealing for the money. But the units reek of mildew. The complex is built on a hill and the basements are dirt floors and are a crawl spaces. All I can think of is the movie A River Runs Thru It!
I am not talking about the occasional puddle in the basement or the roof that might have an ice dam every 10 years or so. I am talking about homes that have re-occuring water penetration problems year in and year out. Whether it is a poor roof design that cause water penetration from ice dams every year or the basement that is constantly damp from ground water.
Does the Home Have A Pedigree
I talked about a “renovated” home earlier in this article. The work was clearly not done by a professional, nor were any permits pulled where necessary.
But invoices on performed work, material and installation warranties and building permits help show the work has been done to code and to some level of a workmanship like manner. It gives the home a pedigree.
There is nothing worse than showing up to a home where the listing agent has called out new laminate flooring throughout the first floor. Only to arrive to find transitions missing, huge gaps between the planks and soft spots where the sub floor was not installed properly, or buckled in spots because they did not leave the proper edge gaps.
Weekend warriors love laminate floors because they think they can do it themselves. Yet so few install them properly.
Look past the initial glitz and glam and make sure that the workmanship and materials were quality and the underlying structure is sound to begin with.. Paying full retail for a half assed job now will lead to paying more money down the road when an inferior job or product fails far earlier than you thought.
How to Avoid Buying the Pig with Lipstick
First when you are viewing the homes, look past the cosmetics of a home. Look at that overall condition of the systems, structure and finally the safety of the home. Visually are there any major repairs or updates that need to be done to the home now or in the intermediate future.
Seriously when was the last time your friend told you they called the handyman in the middle of the night, for an emergency repair, because they could no longer stand the color of their master bath vanity for one more moment!
But on the other hand, we just had a huge deep freeze in New England and I know of four people that needed emergency visits from the furnace guy! And it certainly caused some concerns over the pipes freezing and causing more damage to the home. Furthermore one of my friends in another state bought a home and has had constant problems with pipes freezing and bursting. A good home inspector should have caught that.
Secondly, your buyer’s agent should be experienced in viewing homes. They can help you identify the different areas of the home that maybe deficient or alternately that appear to be in great shape. It is also a buyer’s agent job to help remove the emotion and excitement to help you as a buyer make good decisions.
Third, if available carefully review the Sellers Statement of Property Condition. The sellers statement of property condition gives the seller the opportunity to discuss the systems and structures of the home while they have owned it. There can be some revealing information about past problems with the home.
Lastly, your last line of defense is your home inspection. Take it seriously. This is not time to price shop or use Groupon. Get the best home inspector you can find. Show up and stay focused on the home inspection. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and understand the scope of an issue, especially if it is a major or costly issue that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions about the home you are thinking of purchasing. There is a lot of money at stake and now question or concern you have should go unanswered.
The cosmetics of a home are certainly far more visible and tangible than the overall quality of the systems and structures of a home. On top of it we are bombarded with buzzwords like granite and stainless appliances from social media, home reality shows. It is easy to get overly focused on the eye candy and ignore more important areas of the home.
Now I am certainly not saying cosmetics are not important when buying a home. They are, and they should be considered in the overall decision to buy. But don’t make your decision to buy a home soley on the fact that it has some eye candy. Make sure the home has some substance behind it.
Other Home Buying Resources:
- Bill Gassett How to Tell If You Need a New Roof
- Kyle Hiscock Top Reasons to Have Your Home Inspected Before Buying
- Joe Manuasa Why Home Buyers Should Expect an Updated Property Disclosure
- Kevin Vitali What to Do When Your Home Inspection is Less Than Desirable
- Paul Sian Top Issues Found in a Home Inspection
- Maria Mastrolonardo How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Money Pit
Is the House You Are Buying Just A Pig with Lipstick? is provided by Kevin Vitali a Massachusetts REALTOR. If you would like to sell your home or buy a new home give me a call at 978-360-0422 and let’s get the process started.
Real Estate Services in the following areas: Northeast Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and Metrowest. Including the following communities and the surrounding area- Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Groveland, Haverhill, Lowell, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Wilmington, Westford