Don't let these 6 home décor flaws ruin your house hunt
Looking to buy a house? The search can feel incredibly daunting, especially when you start digging for all the imperfections before offering. Unless you're buying or building a brand new place, you'll probably need to contend with a few turn-offs. Here's what to ignore, how to fix common cosmetic issues, and when you might be able to negotiate. (See also: Avoid These HGTV House Hunter Mistakes)
1. Paint Color
You've probably seen it on those house hunting shows. A young couple walks into an outdated house, and the first thing they say is: "Oh, I cannot deal with this paint color!" The same goes with wallpaper. These home features really aren't features at all. They're as easy to change as your lipstick or tie.
Though it can be hard, try looking beyond the personal design choices of the current homeowners when it comes to paint colors (curtains, furnishings, etc.) and view the home as a clean slate. The good news? You can buy a can of paint at your local hardware store for around $30 and spend a few hours on a weekend customizing the look to suit your tastes.
My first home had a puke-green carpet from the 1960s all throughout the main level. It even stretched into the kitchen. The second floor, on the other hand, had gorgeous oak hardwoods. So, before we offered, I made sure to ask the agent if those same hardwoods might be underneath the carpet. Her answer? Yup! Not only that, but these hardwoods had been protected for much of the life of the property under that ugly rug.
Flooring choices can sometimes be as easy to change as paint color — with a little more elbow grease. Of course, you'll want to investigate any issues like creaking or potential stains. Otherwise, find a good DIY video and get going. You typically start in a corner of the room and go from there. After you've rolled up the carpet and padding, remove the strip around the perimeter of the room and any staples that might still be in the floor.
3. Outdated Look
Sometimes you walk into a property and it just feels, well, dated. Usually it has something to do with the light fixtures or maybe the faucets and other hardware in the home. Try to take a count of the things you don't like and head to your local home improvement store to price out replacements. Then make your plan of attack according to your budget.
In my current home, all the ceiling fans (and there were many!) were brassy and loose. Over the course of a year, we went room by room and changed out the fixtures to our liking. In the bedrooms, we did plain white ceiling fans. In others, like the dining room, we chose a nice hanging light to add interest. Once you get the hang of the basic electricity involved, it's quite easy to do yourself — and it makes a huge difference in the look and feel of the home as a whole.
4. Kitchen Cabinets
If you're anything like me, the kitchen is the first room you want to see when touring a home. Some kitchens can be downright frightening, especially if they are full of old, dark cabinets. Before you cross that listing off, examine those cabinets carefully. If they are in good condition, you might consider giving them an inexpensive facelift that could dramatically improve the home.
When we moved into our current digs, the kitchen was a dark den of sorts. But it contained many cabinets in good condition. Instead of gutting and replacing everything for looks (which didn't fit into the budget), I spent just $100 on paint supplies to give the cabinets a clean coat of white. The result brightened up the space considerably and only took me a weekend to complete.
5. Roofing Issues
Does the roof look like it's seen better days? You should know the age from your listing sheet. Even if you don't find out the roof is in bad repair until your inspection, this issue is one that might give you some room for negotiation. Or not. It's definitely an area you don't want to totally ignore when signing on the line. A new roof, according to Angie's List, can set you back anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000.
Though the age of a roof itself might not give you much power, if it shows obvious signs of neglect — press the issue. You might be able to get all or part of the replacement paid for by your seller or a lower purchase price overall. And make sure you get good clarification from your inspector on if the roof needs total replacement or a simple repair. Replacing a few damaged shingles may cost as little as a hundred dollars if you can find a good handyman.
6. Old Windows
It can be a bummer to fall in love with a house that has old windows. Of course, sometimes they're still functioning just fine. Other times, you might find cracked panes, ones that won't open or close, or worse. According to Angie's List, vinyl replacement windows cost between $450 and $600 each. Feeling overwhelmed when you multiply? Consider this: Wood windows should last a good 30 years. If the home's windows are still in their prime — repair of a few is much less costly than replacement of all.
Definitely try to negotiate the repairs into your contract. Have your inspector go around and make an itemized list of the ones that aren't working well and then get a quote for a local shop for either replacements or repairs to present to your seller. If you have home improvement skills, you can also try fixing some of the common issues yourself. For example, if the window won't open, try to find the root cause. From there, tighten any loose screws, lubricate the hinges, and check the operator for any signs of disrepair.
What home "issues" don't register as issues for you?
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