An agent I know listed a charming little home, in a beautiful location. The house had seen numerous upgrades in recent years including new windows, heating system and a host of cosmetic upgrades. The kitchen and bathrooms were renovated, hardwood floors refinished, it had been painted not long ago and the house is generally neat as a pin. The exterior has that dollhouse appeal and just looking at it from the street; you knew it was going to attract offers, most likely right away. It did. Now, I think that a one and one-half storey home with just 1,030 square feet of living space on its two upper levels, priced at $239,900 is pushing the top end of the market, regardless of its condition, but the buyers poured in to see this hot new listing and almost everyone who viewed it thought they’d like to live there. It attracted multiple offers. An offer was accepted and later firmed up at $260,010. Wowza!
You can probably appreciate how much fun this kind of situation is for a home seller. You have a number of buyers drooling over your home, knocking themselves out to try to beat the next ones offer. How delightful. However, it’s not so much fun for the buyers, is it? Been there? Yuck!
If you’re having trouble finding a house and you’re tired of participating in these kinds of bidding wars, perhaps it’s time to set your sites a little lower, to see ugliness as the beautiful thing that it is, or at least can be. Homes that have been neglected still attract very little attention. Buyers view them with indifference at best and total disdain at worst. They tend to linger on the market and fail to attract offers. Why is that? Most buyers are really unable to visualize and imagine what an ugly house could become. The truth is, there’s really only one thing that can’t be fixed if it’s bad, and that’s the location. Poor floor plans, ugly decors, and even structural defects can all be addressed, at a price.
The same home which I discussed above may have lingered on the market at $165,000 if the seller had not been so diligent in keeping the place up. A couple of weeks into the listing period, a savvy buyer could likely have bought it for $160,000 leaving them with $100,000 in potential renovation room. The buyer would have actually had as much leverage as the seller in this negotiation because in all likelihood they would be the only interested party. In all likelihood, an awesome renovation on a house of this size would be far less than the difference which was saved by buying a home that was not attracting much interest. Most mortgage lenders will allow you to work these kinds of renovations into the mortgage amount provided that the “as improved” value of the property doesn’t exceed the total purchase price and the renovation cost. So, you get to pick the new kitchen, the bathroom, the paint and flooring colours. It sounds like a winning move to me.
Try it! Have your agent show you some of the ugly stuff. Look at some properties that have been on the market for a week or two. Start by using location and size as the primary criteria and really think about how some of those dogs could look with a little bit of attention. Have fun! I’d love to hear how your agent responds the first time you say, “We really have our sights set a little lower than this. Have you got anything ugly that you could show us?”
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