Home buying: Look at the house, not the stuff

A friend of mine lives in a house she hates. She and her husband bought it about a year ago. They rushed into the decision, feeling that they absolutely had to have a house to live in and their wedding was coming soon. They had a strict budget and were having a hard time finding a house in a decent neighborhood that fit the bill.

Until they found the one they're living in now. The house they loathe. What do they hate it? The walls are damaged and a horrible color. The flooring needs to be replaced. It needs a new roof. It's an ugly color on the outside. The list goes on, as you can imagine.

If they hate the house so much, why did they buy it in the first place? They fell into a trap that many home stagers hope you'll fall into: Focusing on the things in the house rather than the house itself. You see, staged homes often sell faster and for more money because the buyers see how nice the things look in the house and they probably don't notice some of the flaws.
The seller of my friend's house didn't have it staged. He lived there and just happened to have nice things of his own. My friend recalls the awesome plasma television on the wall. She doesn't have a plasma, but it sure looked nice and made the room seem cooler. Now there's just a huge hole in the wall with wires hanging out. The seller had great furniture that covered up the filthy carpets.

You get the picture... my friend and her husband made a huge home-buying mistake. They forgot to look past the "stuff" in it to see what they were really buying. And of course, they now regret purchasing this home but are stuck there for at least a few years due to their financial situation. Don't make the same mistake they did.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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