Just as your real estate agent turns the knob on the door of a house you think may finally be “the one,” she mumbles, under her breath, “The seller has done some (cough) improvements.”
Cue the scary organ music here. All of today’s popular home and garden TV shows have everyone convinced they harbor latent DIY skills, and they’re ready to tackle even the toughest home improvement jobs. Like everything else in life, some of us have a knack for carpentry, painting, masonry and the like, and some of us really should pick up a phone and hire a professional.
Each Home Improvement Tells a Story
It’s all there, in the details. Look closely, not at the paint, but the paint job. Sloppy, drippy haphazard painting gives you a clue into the attitude of the seller. If he cared so little about getting paint on the walls, what other aspects of the home have been equally treated so cavalierly? The same holds true when viewing any piece of DIY craftsmanship. Attention to the slightest detail is evidence that someone cared about the home, down the tiniest of its corners.
Green Home Improvements
Interest in "going green" continues to grow, so you may find green home improvements as you view homes. Some of these improvements are minor features, such as replacing showerheads and faucets with new models that have better water conservation properties. However, other green improvements can be extensive, such as installing solar panels. Generally speaking, the larger and more complicated a green home improvement project, the more important it is to make certain everything was done right. If you don’t have the expertise to evaluate these improvements, bring in someone who does.
Using Home Improvements in Price Negotiations
It may well be that the seller’s home improvements need to be removed, either because they weren’t performed up to code, there were no permits taken out for the project, poor workmanship or because the improvements are downright dangerous. While a chartreuse carpet in the master bedroom isn’t really a negotiating chip, more serious items, such as dangerous wiring connections, most definitely are.
Be aware, however, that sellers may be very proud of their home improvements and home maintenance, even if all evidence suggests otherwise. This is where your real estate agent earns his commission check and, if you’ve chosen an agent wisely, set him free to work his negotiating magic on the seller.
Your part in the process is to go into the negotiations with as little emotion as possible. Never allow yourself to fall in love with a home, no matter how almost-perfectly it fits your criteria. Be prepared to walk away from the deal if the sellers are unwilling to either remove or repair improvements to the home, or lower the price to compensate for them. Remember, there will always be other houses out there that are equally as appealing and in more of a move-in condition.