House-Hunting For Buried Treasure: Uncovering the Hidden Value in a Home

By Andrew Mitchell | Buying Real Estate

I’ve written before to advise home sellers about some of the key things they can do to improve the marketability of their properties. However, awareness of these same principles can also help the sharp-eyed homebuyer to land a great place at a bargain price. The crucial thing, always, is to remember what’s important in a home, and what isn’t. Some of the apparent “problems” with a property may actually be very easy to fix.

Here are some of the ways you can find a great deal by disregarding some of the relatively minor problems with a home.

Some of the relatively minor updates needed for home may have led the seller to undervalue his or her home – often after the poor presentation in question has undermined a number of showings. Appearances are important, but they can also be deceiving. By stretching your imagination in the right direction, you might very easily spot a diamond in the rough.

Neglect Can be Only Skin Deep

Flaking walls, dirty floors and cloudy windows are immediate turnoffs for homebuyers, but often the problems with these crucial items are far from chronic. When you find a place in your price range that offers many of the qualities you are looking for, don’t allow yourself to be swayed unduly by the current owners’ lack of attention to the finer things in life.

Walls can be repainted – you almost certainly would want to repaint them anyway! Outmoded wallpaper can be covered over. Windows and floors can be scrubbed to a shine. An ugly, stained, or pet-hair infested carpet can be easily removed – and replaced with a beautiful new carpet or rug of your choosing.

The important thing to remember is this: your new home does not have to look the way you want it to before you buy it, it just has to offer the right canvas for your homemaking artistry.

Likewise, a home’s exterior appearance can be improved without breaking the bank. Lackluster, chipping paint can receive a glorious new coat. Unkempt grass and unruly bushes can be tamed. Ugly or ridiculous lawn ornaments will be leaving with their owners, to create an eyesore in some other neighbourhood. Even a dull or unimaginative landscape design can be transformed for a reasonable price. You can do wonders with a few perennial bulbs and a bit of effort, if there’s a good spot for a flower bed. The important thing to remember is this: your new home does not have to look the way you want it to before you buy it, it just has to offer the right canvas for your homemaking artistry.

Don’t Fixate on the Fixtures

Again, if everything else about the house seems right and the price is on your radar – don’t let a rusty faucet, broken doorknob or awkward chandelier stand in the way of a great purchase. Of course, it’s nice to find satisfactory fixtures already in place, but the cost of replacing them is negligible in the grand scheme of things – and besides, buying new ones will only help to personalize your home.

The same can be said of the kitchen in general. Everyone knows exactly what they want their ideal kitchen to look like, and no one, outside of the 1970s, has any place for chipped linoleum or olive green appliances in that dream. However, presumably, you’ll be bringing your own appliances with you – or buying brand new ones to suit your taste – and that linoleum can also be replaced without much hassle.

Space Might Not Be the Final Frontier

Even a minor variation from your desired floor plan need not necessarily put the house out of the running. Don’t let the current owners’ way of using the space interfere with your imaginative enterprise. Just because they’ve turned a perfectly good child’s bedroom into a junk depot doesn’t mean you’d have to carry on the dubious legacy.

If there doesn’t seem to be enough closet space in the master bedroom, perhaps building a new open concept closet right onto the wall would do the trick. This might wind up costing you a lot less than holding out for a house that already has that massive walk-in closet you always wanted.

Or perhaps you might discover that they’ve converted a much-needed second car garage into a storage room that you would never use. That garage can probably be converted back to its original state for much less than you think. Of course, if the house really isn’t big enough for your family’s needs, that’s another matter entirely, but sometimes the layout can fool you, especially when the seller hasn’t done anything to help you to visualize the possibilities.

However, astute homebuyers can turn that ugly presentation to their advantage by making an imaginative leap that will leave them sitting pretty, when it comes time to calculate the mortgage.

If you are on the market for a new home and want to ensure that you get the best value for your money, the services of a real estate broker can make all the difference. I invite you to contact me for a no-obligation consultation.

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An earlier version of this article I wrote appeared in the Montreal Times newspaper. 

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About the Author

I'm Andrew Mitchell, Chartered Real Estate Broker and Owner of Vistacor Realty Group. I help buyers, sellers and investors in the West Island, Montreal and Vaudreuil-Soulanges areas buy and sell homes. My goal is to provide you with useful, straight-forward insights and relevant real estate market updates. Contact me with any questions. Follow me on twitter here.