The Pretty Factor

Pretty is Expensive. Pretty can be Cheap.

Not paying too much for a house can be difficult in our current market. Home Sweet RVA would like to reveal a few items to think about when buying that could help save money and make you even happier about your new home purchase.

Jim and Suzy started looking for a house at the beginning of spring. They found the perfect neighborhood for them. Two houses came on the market at almost the exact same time. Both had almost identical footprints and yards. One was beautifully staged, painted, and the yard was expertly manicured. The other house had 70’s wallpaper in the dining room, an unkept yard, and outdated lighting. Both houses had updated electrical and HVAC units along with stunning kitchens.

Jim and Suzy, like most buyers, fixated on the pretty house and not the potential of the second house. They competed against 4 other offers on the first, beautiful house and got it. Jim and Suzy were so happy with their purchase for the first few months, until they met the much smarter buyers that bought the ugly duckling down the street. The new neighbors, for a few thousand dollars, had turned the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan that was on par with Jim and Suzy’s home. One couple spent 35,000 dollars less than the other one. Can you guess who is happy now?

In the last year or so I have found a rather interesting phenomenon in the housing market.

Being pretty goes a long way

There is a very special bond that a person creates when they walk into a new house and come to the conclusion that it is their home. The “this is MY house” moment can be an amazing moment in the buying experience. This can turn a timid buyer into a no holds barred buyer willing to waive inspections and offer way above the asking price to make sure they get their home.

If a buyer can imagine having a cup of coffee on an early morning before the kids wake up for school, cuddling up next to the fire reading a book on the first cold night of the fall, or planting the garden in early spring, they will be sold on a house. This intangible feeling of being home instantly upon walking into a house for the first time is one of the most powerful feelings to see in our industry to see.

This feeling is an awesome thing to happen when you are the only buyer, but that doesn’t happen in today’s market. If the house is priced correctly and shows well, that is, when the pretty factor comes into play – Good Luck. People start to lose their minds. Offers 10, 20, and 30 thousand dollars over asking price, no inspections, closing whenever the seller wants or free rent back periods, are seen when you have this absolutely beautiful, perfectly staged house.

All over the fact that it is a really pretty house.

If we took a snapshot of a neighborhood on what is for sale you will see a very interesting trend. People really do judge a book by its cover. The ugly duck is picked up last. So if you are looking for a new property to buy, picking the prettiest house on MLS there are a few things to think about:

  1. The general public has absolutely no imagination and just can’t see past wall colors, bad furniture, poor lighting fixtures, and tacky brass faucets.

  2. This group will not schedule a showing of a property if the pictures are of poor quality, the layout doesn’t make sense, or, God forbid, the dining room has 70’s gold wallpaper.

  3. The people who aren’t looking at everything in a specific neighborhood and focusing on the ones with the prettiest photos are the ones that pay a premium every time for their house.

  4. People focus on the superficial pretty aspects and not on the systems that cost a lot of money to fix or maintain. At least 50 or so houses are over bid every spring because they are pretty, even though the roof is almost shot, and the HVAC system is on its last leg.

Don’t pay for Pretty, at least not at first.

Use this to your advantage. If you are the only buyer, and don’t have to compete with other buyers, you can set the terms. Interior painting, new faucets and removing wallpaper are cheap. Adding new mirrors and light fixtures can be fun and inexpensive. So take advantage of your inner designer and go wild. Use the money to make the house pretty the way you want it rather than pay a premium because you didn’t have the imagination to envision what could be in a house.

Using a few hundred dollars to buy supplies, you can add thousands of dollars of perceived value to a house. Anything from the drywall to the interior can easily be accomplished with a few Youtube “How To” videos and some patience. Taking a few weekends during the move-in process to put your personal touch on the house creates an amazing bond and sense of accomplishment in completing projects at the house.

Even if you are not handy (and don’t worry, most people wouldn’t change a ceiling fan if their life depended on it), the cost of hiring a handyman to do the majority of the work will still put you out ahead of having to spend top dollar on the already finished pretty house down the street.

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