Anyone who’s started house-hunting can relate to this problem:
You’re browsing the online housing marketplace or touring properties with your real estate agent and you see it: The perfect house… almost. It’s the right shape, the right size, has all the right rooms and the floor plan is to die for. Maybe you love the neighborhood, fall in love with the landscaping, or can easily imagine yourself falling in love with the kitchen. There are just a few teeny tiny little things you wish you could change. There might even be an equally strong thing you hate about the house like an awful burnt orange paint job on the interior walls or plumbing fixtures that look like they came straight out of the 1800s. And not in the good way.
When this happens, don’t get discouraged. If what you dislike about the house is superficial, you can easily make the changes you want for a fraction of the price you might pay for a home that was staged in a more appealing manner. This is your chance to get the house of your dreams, likely with far less competition because there are aspects of the house that are not picture-perfect during its sale. When deciding whether or not to ‘forgive’ a house for its minor flaws, it’s important to know what can be easily changed and what can’t. Here is a guide to all the things you can easily adapt to your own personal style within a week or less of becoming a proud new homeowner.
Interior Paint Colors
Interior paint color has made or broken house sales more times than any real estate professional could possibly count. It can change your entire impression of a home and, sometimes, the previous homeowner had a taste in colors that you find completely atrocious. You may hate the color of one oddly painted room, one bizarre living room accent wall, or the entire home. You may even notice, upon close inspection, that the entire house was just plain badly painted with uneven strokes and splashes all over the baseboards and outlet covers.
The good news is that it is incredibly simple to improve the interior paint of a home, even with bad quality painting underneath. A careful DIY homeowner can save a lot of money following a few online painting guides or you can spend a fraction of the home cost on professional painters to complete the fresh new experience with your dream home.
Plumbing Fixtures – Faucets and Knobs
The faucets, knobs, and shower heads in a home may look and feel permanent, but they are in fact much easier to change than most first time homeowners realize. This is why home improvement stores are stacked to the rafters with shiny displays of new plumbing fixtures and once you own the home, you have complete power to make the change. However, because it doesn’t occur to most people that plumbing is changeable, it is often the one feature that most “dates” an older home.
Plumbing fixtures and knobs are typically attached only with screw threading and plumber’s tape or caulk so all you’ll need to do is find fixtures with the same size attachments and replace them with some care or the help of a plumbing-capable friend.
Light fixtures are slightly more complicated to change but as you have probably realized by now, anything this side of the drywall is surprisingly modifiable. For house-hunters that love a home but hate, say, the dining room chandelier or the lights in the master bathroom, these can also be changed by unscrewing and unwiring the old fixture and installing something you like better. You can even improve a bad lighting situation where there is too much or too little light in a given room.
You can go with the popular DIY fixture trend or choose something ideal out of a catalog to complete how you’ve always imagined your dream house. Just be careful when working with any wiring or electrical fixtures.
Door Handles and Hardware
Most people barely take note of the design of their doorknobs, hinges or bolts. These are aspects of a home that fade into the background with everyday use. Except, of course, when they don’t. If you have a strong objection to the door hardware in a home, most likely this is because it doesn’t work particularly well or fit comfortably in your hand. Though it’s possible you have an objection for aesthetic reasons if your plan for interior decor clashes with the style.
Fortunately, changing door hardware is even easier than painting an interior wall or replacing your faucets. Almost anyone with a screwdriver and an instruction manual can do it and new interior doorknobs usually cost very little.
How the kitchen is designed can make a huge difference on your impression of a house. However, if your biggest objection to a home is that the cabinets aren’t the right style, most people don’t realize that cabinet doors can come right off.
After removing the cabinet doors, you work with open shelves, repaint the doors to something you like better, replace the knobs to complete your style, or even replace the doors entirely. Frosted glass cabinet doors are a growing trend and many new homeowners are realizing that it’s easy to completely reinvent how a kitchen looks simply by addressing this simple and easy to change detail.
Stains on Walls and Floors
Sometimes a home is on the market because the seller doesn’t want to deal with it anymore. In these cases, less care is taken to stage and there may even be visible damage like stains on the walls, floors, cabinets, or other semi-permanent feature of the house. However, if your ‘dream house’ alarm went off the moment you stepped through the door, it can be worth a little bleach and elbow grease to bring the home back up to its true potential.
Stains can be unsightly and discouraging, but by no means a deal-breaker. Between bleach, fresh paint, steam cleaning, and possibly replacing a carpet or two you have all the power to remove surface problems. That said, make sure to get an inspection to ensure that the stain is not a sign of deep mold problems underneath.
Many homes go on the market after the previous owner has done some personalization and DIY home improvement projects on the property. One of the most common additions is built-in shelves built into a wall or closet. Should you tour a home that’s great except that you dislike the lingering signs of low-skill improvements like built-in shelves or other late additions, there is a very high possibility that these features can be easily removed.
Shelves are usually just screwed into the wall, not a permanent addition, and can be just as easily unscrewed. While this will likely require you to repaint the area where the shelves or other removed features used to be, you absolutely can undo many DIY improvements to a house that you’d rather see in its natural state.
Landscaping is one of the most important aspects for a seller in creating curb appeal, but the style chosen by a seller may not actually work for you and your ideal lifestyle. Whether the landscaping is too busy, too plain, or contains flowers you’re terribly allergic to, almost all plants are temporary decoration. Consider nothing in the yard permanent except the grade of the land and the trees themselves.
Beyond that, you could completely dig up the yard, lay new flower beds, or design a private zen garden all to yourself. Landscaping takes some effort to change but it is all entirely surface-level and therefore relatively simple to rip up and redesign.
Light Switch and Outlet Covers
Novelty light switch and outlet covers are a trend that has come and gone several times in the residential housing industry and not everyone’s tastes align on what makes an elegant or fun cover plate. Whether you see plain wall plates and want them fancy or see novelty wall plates and want them plain, once again all you need is a screwdriver and a correctly sized replacement plate to make the change.
In many cases, your objection is likely to be that the last painter got lazy and simply painted over or dripped onto the switch and outlet covers instead of removing them to do it correctly. If so, you can simply repaint the covers entirely or replace them at your leisure to bring back a more professionally finished appearance to each room.
Carpet and Tile
Flooring is, admittedly, a big deal when it comes to buying a home. Not only does the quality of carpets and hard floors in a house matter, but it’s all too easy for a home to be perfect except for one little detail: the previous owners had a terrible taste in flooring design. From garish tiles to dreadful shag carpets, it can be pretty challenging to see past this kind of flaw in a house. But it could be worth it.
Reinstalling the floor may not be the easiest renovation to do on your first home, but it is possible and many people have even done so successfully DIY rather than hiring a contractor. It’s worth considering that if you adore a home but not its floors that floors can be changed, but the beautiful “bones” of a house are forever.
Mailbox and House Numbers
Finally, the most exterior aspects of a home that almost every homeowner eventually chooses to customize are the mailbox and house numbers. While your neighborhood may paint the house numbers on your curb, you have the power to personalize any home you choose to be your first by replacing the mailbox and hanging shiny new house numbers wherever you see fit. In fact, novelty mailboxes and house numbers are often a fun way to celebrate your very first home by showing your personality to your entire new neighborhood.
While this list can’t come with you and point out every detail about the homes you tour that could be touched up or improved in a single DIY weekend, we hope our list has given you a better idea of your true options when house hunting. Don’t overlook a gem for details that are easy to update. It could be your best chance to get the house of your dreams on an amazing budget. For more great house hunting tips for first time home buyers, contact me today!