If you’ve been looking for a new home in Utah’s current market, you know pickings are slim. Most buyers know what a few gallons of paint can do. But if you’re willing to take on a couple of additional projects, you can turn that ugly duckling house into an affordable dream. Here’s a few ugly features that aren’t too tough to take on.
Something underfoot. Floors. Buyers and sellers frequently have different tastes in what’s under their feet. If the seller replaces the carpet before the home is listed, expect a portion of the cost to be factored into the price (listings that say “all new carpet” are going to cost you more). You’re also unlikely to get top-of-the-line carpet if the seller replaces it simply to list. If you’re not scared of living temporarily with threadbare, stained carpet, request a drop in price in the form of a flooring allowance when you make your initial offer. You may also give the entire room a lift by replacing skinny baseboards with the clean lines of the more modern 5” style. Baseboards are easy to replace and cost around $1.50-$3.00 per foot at home improvement stores.
Fireplace blues. A fireplace is a focal point. But an old-school fireplace with brass trim, mauve tile, ugly rock, or beige brick is an eyesore to just about everyone. Few sellers update the fireplace before putting the home on the market. If they do, they’ve probably updated the entire house as well and are asking a justifiably premium price. But a fireplace eyesore can be easily fixed after move-in with paint (1 gallon: $35), new mantle ($150 and up), or even new tile (DIY for ~ $100, depending on the tile chosen and how much you’re replacing). Be sure to determine if your choice of materials is rated for high heat before starting.
Chained in. A fenced-in backyard is a huge plus even when the fence is not quite your style. Chain link is and looks cheap, but it’s also easily covered. Plants, just as fast-growing bamboo, grape vines, or Virginia Creeper look great year-round. If you need complete cover ASAP, look at privacy netting in decorative patterns (around $2.50 per linear foot). You may also find someone who’s looking to unload scrap fencing or barn wood at a very low price—both make great, rustic fencing options that can be strapped to an existing chain link fence for an all-new look.
Old-school appliances. Regardless of what the listing states, retro doesn’t apply to avocado green appliances or cream-colored dishwashers with fake wood grain trim. But here’s the deal: if those appliances are still in the home you buy, you can bet they’re workhorses, just not pretty. If a seller spends the cash to update the appliances just to sell the house, you probably won’t get top of the line or even the appliances that you may want—and you’ll pay a premium. There are numerous ways to solve unattractive-but-working appliances, however. Search yard sale sites (like KSL Classifieds or local Facebook groups) for people who are remodeling. When people purchase brand new homes they often opt not to keep the builder-selected appliances. Keep your eyes peeled for individuals selling all new appliances—or even entire kitchens!
Dismal driveway. No one ever bought a home because of the driveway… but a cracked one in desperate need of repair drastically reduces curb appeal and brings the listing price of the home down. As a buyer, you’ll benefit from the lower price and you don’t even need to do the driveway repair work yourself. A professional will break up and haul away the old driveway and pour a new driveway all for a couple grand (depending on square footage).
Remember, those nice-looking renovated homes will not only cost you more, but chances are you’d choose different appliances, carpet or flooring for yourself. Buy the house that’s located where you want to live and that has the views and schools you want, then take the time to make the needed updates and repairs as you can afford them.