Determining quality when buying or selling
Originally appeared in Bay Area News Group publications on June 17, 2016
“You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.” — William S. Burroughs
At a time when real estate prices are at an all-time high, understanding quality is essential. Despite this, homes which lack important benefits and features are sold for recording-breaking amounts every day.
Although home buyers have individual preferences, real estate professionals view certain attributes as adding value and, conversely, specific deficits as diminishing value. There is a long list of variables, some more relevant than others. These need to be recognized by sellers in pricing the property and by buyers in deciding how much to offer.
Location, location, location
You have heard this a million times, but what makes some one location so much more desirable than others? This is key for you to know, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area.
In this part of the East Bay, highest on almost all buyers’ lists are three “S’s” – safety, schools and shops. Their priority depends on the buyers’ ages, whether they are single or purchasing as a couple and whether they have children.
Regardless, a majority of local buyers prefer to live within walking distance to shops, which adds a premium to the price. Those who work some distance from home generally look for easy access to public transportation.
I mention this repeatedly in articles because too many buyers underestimate this element and too few real estate licensees stress its significance. Homes are bought every day where the buyer is unaware of the necessity to spend tens, and, not infrequently, hundreds of thousands of dollars to return the property to its proper condition.
If you don’t like it, they won’t like it
What is a negative feature to you will probably be an undesirable one to others. The greater the number of negatives, the more difficult the sale and lower the selling price. Some buyers are not conscious of the impact of these deficiencies, or may ignore them, including major repairs, thinking they will “fix them later.” The unexpected expense of doing so, or the lack of time, may intervene. When it is their turn to sell, the drawbacks still exist.
Size. Homes under 1000 sq. ft., particularly those with only one bedroom, are less in demand, although in this market anything goes. Very small houses are much harder to sell when things slow down.
Nonfunctional floor plan. This could encompass anything from a “railroad car” type layout to one where you must go through the kitchen to get to the master bedroom. Also included could be a customized job suited specifically for one person. I have seen many examples: the rumpus room converted to a bowling alley (done 25 years ago), the garage made into a family room, bedroom or shop, front sleeping rooms that lack privacy. Unorthodox floor plans and specialized rooms have limited appeal.
Ill-advised renovations. Replacing wood sash windows with aluminum in a traditional-style house, and covering hardwood flooring with linoleum or tile fit into this category. They detract from the charm and character of the home. Years ago, I talked my buyers out of a charming, 1920s home that had an incongruous, contemporary addition. They are glad I did.
Unattractive/poorly maintained properties nearby. Even in the best neighborhoods, surrounding properties, for better or worse, can have an impact on yours.
Too many steps. Level-in is considered a plus; too many steps are a detriment. The exact number is subjective. You may find the house magnetic and disregard its 40 steps up, but the reality of making that trek could change your thinking over time.
Outside living. Many homes have small or unusable outside spaces. A deck is sufficient for some people. Most buyers, however, want a backyard, preferably level, where they can relax, provide a play area for their children, or garden.
Privacy. We all like our own space. Properties surrounded by other buildings that impede their privacy are less popular.
Proximity to a… Being across from or adjacent to a school or most public parks is not considered a plus. If it is Golden Gate Park, that may be a different story. The concern here is noise, traffic and safety. This is also true for homes on busy, main streets.
Earthquake areas. Properties located in Special Studies Zones may be subject to certain building and insurance restrictions. Some buyers will not even look at homes in these areas.
No garage. In speedy markets, some buyers rationalize that a garage is not important, but most buyers want one for its convenience, safety and storage capability.
If you don’t like it, you can fix it
Some houses don’t show well, but, with imagination and good taste, you can improve the look and increase value.
Unattractive exterior. Maybe it needs a new or different paint job. Removing the old-fashioned metal awnings will help. What about installing moldings, or adding a new railing? Sometimes it doesn’t take much to improve street appeal.
Dark interior. Adding or changing windows not only provides more light, but can also improve both interior and exterior appearance. Well-placed skylights can do wonders for a dark house. Increasing light significantly enhances the living experience and adds to value. Bright and sunny sells; dark doesn’t.
Lack of charm. It is amazing how some people with the right combination of abilities can transform an unappealing, bland property into one that is cozy and inviting.
Landscaping. An attractive front and backyard are pleasing. This can often be done inexpensively.
Those who appreciate quality diminish their risk of paying too much. Markets change; quality remains constant.