In the market for a house? You probably have a list of all the things you want — a big backyard, a farmhouse sink, hardwood floors — but ironically, that list might actually cause you to overlook your dream home.
"When people are house shopping, they have a picture of what the house needs to look like, but if everything doesn't line up with that picture, it can cause them to walk away from a gem of a home," says Michael Corbett, real estate expert for Trulia and author of Before You Buy!: The Homebuyer's Handbook for Today's Market.
Of course there are real deal breakers when house hunting — like mold, a cracked foundation, or unmanageable traffic on a busy street. "But on the other side, there are some things that house hunters have to challenge themselves to ignore," says Corbett, "because a house with some questionable décor may actually be a diamond in the rough."
So step away from your dream-home checklist, take this list of nine things everyone should ignore … and you may just find the perfect house for you.
1. An "older" home
"A lot of first-time home buyers really think newer is always better," says Corbett. "But that's not necessarily the case." Some homes built decades ago have stood the test of time because they were built with solid, quality materials and have a classic style, while some newer homes are affordable simply because they were built cheaply and quickly. Older homes also typically have more charm, character, and livable space. "Sure, it's probably going to need some TLC and you may have some weekend projects," he says. "But the upside is that it leaves you more room to negotiate on the price."
2. Weird paint colors
It's understandable that walking into a home where every wall is purple would be a turnoff, but try to look past bad color choices, says Corbett. "Focus on the structure of the room, the placement of the windows, etc.," he says. "Paint is an incredibly easy and cheap fix in a home. For a couple hundred dollars you can transform a room — and a house."
3. Your grandmother's wallpaper
"A floral explosion and a 1990s throwback in a room is no big deal," says Corbett. "although it might hurt your eyes upon first glance." Wallpaper is easily removed or covered over — and, as mentioned above, a coat of new paint is about the easiest home improvement you can make. Once you change your walls, the room will have a whole new vibe. And, then again, you never know: Wallpaper is also making a comeback.
4. That yellow refrigerator
Of course you want a Sub-Zero fridge and a Viking six-burner gas range — who doesn't? But if the house has a yellow fridge from the '60s, that shouldn't be a deal breaker, says Corbett. "The kitchen is the heart of the home, and often the appliances aren't going to live up to your dreams," he says. "As long as you have room in your budget or a timeline to replace the existing appliances, try and look past it." Also, keep in mind that cabinets, pulls, and sinks/faucets can be replaced easily and cheaply — and can instantly upgrade any kitchen.
5. Nasty flooring
When you move into a new abode, you'll want to replace the old carpet and get a clean "sweep" — and it's affordable to do so. "There are so many great new fibers and fabrics out there now, so you have lots of great cost-effective choices that have great durability," says Corbett. "If you want to go the hardwood route, there are an array of synthetic alternatives that mimic the look of real wood but at a fraction of the cost."
6. Funky smells
Does the house smell like an ashtray/kitty litter box/landfill? With the exception of a serious mold problem, an odd smell is likely nothing a deep cleaning can't fix, say Corbett. "Plug your nose and focus on the home's bones and potential when you give it your own touch," he says. When it's yours, you can aerate it, rip out the carpet and drapes, and throw some fresh paint on the walls — it will be as good as new.
7. No curb appeal
"I actually love a house with no curb appeal," says Corbett. "It's one of the easiest fixes, but so many people are put off by it, you're more likely to get a great deal on a house without it." If you're not saying "wow" when you first drive up, just close your eyes and envision a different colored front door and some new landscaping.
8. Popcorn ceilings
Yes, they're so 1980s, but they're also an easy fix. "A ceiling specialist can come in and scrape it off in a matter of days," says Corbett. "Just make sure you have it done before you move in — it is a messy job. Whatever you do, don't try to tackle this one yourself."
9. Lack of privacy
"People freak out when they walk into a home and see the neighbors, or look out windows and look right into the dining room of the house next door," says Corbett. "But landscaping can fix any privacy issue." Put up a hedge and you're done. It's an instant fix — and hedges make great neighbors.
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