Monday, November 14, 2011 / by Justin Hoffmann
It seems easy.
Look at a house from the street, and you either like it or you don't.
Walk through a house or condominium in 30 minutes or less, and you either love it or hate it.
Pretty presumptuous. Without specific construction knowledge and an eye for interior design—and in less time than typically spent picking out new clothes—buyers decide where to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars which they usually have to borrow. After one brief viewing, do you know that particular house, townhome, condominium unit, or recreational property well enough to know "This is it"?
The odd thing is that buyers know they can be tricked.
There are enough makeover television shows, websites, and publications making millions doing just that. The "before" picture is a dump. The "after" picture is stunning. Usually, it's just paint, nicer furniture, and talented interior design that makes the difference that buyers pay for.
Smells are a big turn off, yet buyers know that if smell-cancelling products had been sprayed around, the place would smell sweet, but they still pass on a chance for a sweet price.
Bad decorating or sloppy housekeeping generates "I couldn't live here" reactions. Yet, buyers are not moving in with the seller, furnishings and decor intact. Viewing a property means imagining your own furniture and decor in place of what's there now. Won't be long before a program or app will allow buyers to do exactly that with each potential buy. Until then, forget whether you'd want to live with the sellers, and concentrate on placing your personal stamp on the property to test its home-worthiness.
Logically, TV's demonstrated cosmetically-induced increase in real estate value should have buyers searching for money-saving "before" real estate. Instead, an industry has been carved off the real estate profession—staging—to superficially transform the saddest "before" real estate into a stunning "after." Buyers now willingly pay more (that's really borrow more) to view and buy an "after."
Real estate professionals are always ready to help buyers see genuine value in a "fixer upper," which often just need new paint and an up-dated look. Their training and experience has taught real estate professionals to first appraise properties by location and quality of construction. Then they add on or subtract the elusive amount that represents market appeal, or the lack of it, to arrive at market value.
While interest rates remain low, buyers continue to search for their "dream home." As interest rates rise and economies tighten, the drive for a "real buy" may overtake the bedazzled-style of buying. The uncertainty of investment markets will also place the emphasis on buying substance which will steadily appreciate in value over time.
If you decide to search out a great "real buy," there are a few of PJ's Smarten UP tips to keep in mind:
Virtual tours can reveal traffic flow problems and unappealing features, but they should not be a deciding "no view" factor if the location is ideal and the price affordable.
Curb appeal may get you in, but a property's bad street face should not keep you out when the location is great. If fewer people see the inside, competition will be lower. The property may be on the market longer, so the property owners more flexible. If curb appeal is lacking, when you're the owner you'll make money by adding value to the exterior.
Major structural issues like sagging beams and "in the way" bearing walls will cost money, so arrange professional estimates to back up an offer that reflects the costs ahead.
Plumbing and electrical work are a another expense. Knob and tube wiring may not be insurable, so be sure home inspectors know their job and are thorough. Too many times, electrical service has been doctored to look as if knob and tube has been removed, but it was merely patched with new wiring in visible places.
Particularly in southern Ontario, termites are increasingly a problem. Not discussed openly, there are specific areas of Toronto and other communities where termites flourish and they aren't going away. The key is protecting your property by treating the soil regularly. Is a great location worth that to you?
Do not look at furnishings or colour choices, especially great ones. Problems can be hiding under cosmetics. Anything newly-done should be examined closely. Watch makeover shows to see "what" will hide "what."
Viewing potential real estate is just as complex as every part of buying. Whether or not you love the real estate's street face, give it a good going over if the location and price are right for you. It's not what you see but what you know about real estate that make it and you valuable.
by PJ Wade