Lew Nonnenmocher, RE/MAX on the Coast 
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Little Known Secret: How To Find The Best Buys In Housing In Every Market. Buyers Learn How To Sniff Out Bargains!


When it comes to prospective purchasers viewing properties, there is much truth in the old saying, "One never gets a second chance at a first impression." A house that shows signs of personal neglect immediately turns off many buyers. While everyone is, of course, more attracted to a well-kept home than to a pigsty, some of the best bargains to be found in the housing market are often discovered underneath a mountain of newspapers, old clothes, and just plain ‘junk’. For the savvy buyer, a house that needs a little TLC could turn out to be the buy of a lifetime.

Just to be certain we are on the same page, a cluttered house is not necessarily a ‘handyman special’. While most fixer-uppers ARE cluttered, not all cluttered homes fall into the ‘handyman special’ category. The largest difference between them is that the former normally needs structural and cosmetic repairs, while the latter usually requires a few large trash bags and some soap and water.

The biggest error that slovenly sellers commit is in not realizing how much their sloppy habits will cost them when they go to sell their homes, and the biggest mistake naive buyers make is in thinking that careless housekeeping automatically means negligent maintenance of the major components of the home.

Some of the most conscientious and responsible homeowners in the world may also just be pigs … or pack rats! The smart buyer will see past the personal habits and living style of the inhabitants, and concentrate on the dwelling itself. That is not to say that buyers must disregard the condition and appearance of a house when making a bid. To the contrary, a house that has not had a good cleaning, or seen a patch of empty floor space, since Bush was president is a good candidate for a lowball offer. Buyers can logically argue that they have a great deal of work ahead of them to make the place habitable. They can, legitimately, point to a "cream-puff" comparable home and deduct not only the cost of the actual work to be done, but also the value of the labor they will have to expend. This "sweat equity" is usually calculated at a rate far in excess of the actual cost of getting the work done.

It is not unusual for a cluttered home to bring thousands of dollars less in a sale price than does a house in move-in condition. Most buyers steer clear of properties that need a little work. Clutter gives buyers a reason to pause. If a buyer needs fast possession, he may think: "How are they (the sellers) ever going to be out of here in two months?" Or, a buyer may wonder, "Maybe there isn’t enough room for my stuff," since clutter makes rooms and closets look smaller.

To make certain you properly assess the merits of every home you see, here are two tips that may help you see past the clutter, and give you a glimpse at a true diamond in the rough!

    The Tape Measure Is Mightier Than The Eyeball. Do not rely upon your eyesight to judge dimensions. Get accurate measurements. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that a room you believed to be small was, in actuality, much larger than it appeared to be, simply because it was loaded to the gills. By the way, taking accurate measurements is a good way to avoid being disappointed on the other end of the scale. Sometimes smaller rooms are artfully decorated to give the appearance of being larger. This is especially true in model homes, where the 3rd or 4th bedroom may be more diminutive than it appears.

    Happiness Is A Home Inspection Firm. Having all the systems and components of the property checked out by a professional home inspector means you don’t have to wonder if this is simply a cluttered house, or a true fixer-upper. Concentrate on the features of the home, and leave the technical stuff to the experts!

When all is said and done, keeping an open mind about houses that are less than perfect may ultimately buy you a lot more home for a lot less money.

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