House Hunting and LCS

Original Date: November 7th, 2011

It seems like the Hubby and I have been house shopping for a long time. This would seem a rather normal thing to do, except that the houses we choose to look at are rarely normal. There’s a couple reasons for that.

The first is our mutual sick affection for broken-down pieces of crap properties. Where other people cringe and hope they don’t lose their lunch (like the place with the pile of dressed out deer carcasses rotting about twenty feet from the house), the hubby and I look at each other and say things like, “That’d be a good place to put a garden in. Look at the nice Southern exposure (as we shoo away flies).

The other is we are both afflicted with Lutheran Cheapass Syndrome (we’ve tried to start a foundation to find a cure, but none of us want to pony up the start-up capital). This means we are obsessed with finding the next great bargain. Instead of bragging about how much we had to fork over for something, we smugly mention offhandedly how little we had to pay for a particular item.

Still that doesn’t mean we don’t have any standards. I have lost track of how many times we have looked at an “updated” property some flipper (a far worse affliction than LCS if you ask me) got their hands on before we showed up and just shook our heads at the “improvements”.

So, out of sheer venting, I would like to share some advice to anyone thinking of “updating” a property that they own in preparation to put it back on the market. If I offend you with my opinion, it’s not my fault. You have a disease. Admit your affliction and put down the nail gun.

My Advice for Flippers (you poor things)

-Knotty Pine is wrong. It’s a 1990’s solution to 1970’s paneling, and it’s still wrong. It’s not cute. It’s not “cabinny”. Its’ dark and ugly, and every potential customer is going to come in and say to themselves, “Uh oh. What are they covering up?” Nobody wants an entire room that looks like the inside of a horse stall. Learn how to sheet-rock. Continuing on the pine tangent, a stained 1×4 board nailed around a window is not trim. It tells a potential buyer that you’re too cheap to get real trim and you’re either too lazy or stupid to learn how to use a miter saw (even someone with LCS knows this is a bad idea).

-Don’t paint old trim. It doesn’t “neutralize” or “brighten it up” anything. I don’t care what the DIY shows say. People who buy old houses like the old trim. If they want to paint it, let them do it after you’ve cashed their check.

-Don’t rip out the original kitchen cabinets. Fix them. Unlike the cookie-cutter stock cabinets you’re planning on picking up at the big-box home store, someone lovingly custom-built those cabinets to fit the floor plan of your kitchen. Again, people who buy old houses like original cabinetry. If you are too incompetent to re-hang cabinet doors and put in new tracks for drawers, then hire someone for a day to do it for you. It’ll still be way cheaper than new cabinets that your buyer can look at and know exactly where you got them from.

-If you are going put in new windows, make some effort to match the style of the old ones. Don’t cheap out and get sliders when the original windows are double-hung. That’s not cost effective. That’s ugly.

-The only room you are allowed (in my opinion) to remodel from original is the bathroom. If the fixtures are oddly colored with bakelite tile glued to the wall and ugly linoleum, by all means, make some changes, but do it right. Respect the age of the house. Beige tile and oak colored wood in a house that was built before 1978 is not respectful. Do the research. Google the year your house was built and click on the “images” filter. Chances are someone with more design savvy than you already remodeled a bathroom just like yours.

-Lastly, just let me say in a nutshell: “Less is more.” Honestly, it is. Old houses are like old people. They have character. Every wrinkle relates to the experiences they went through. It’s about history. Invest in maintaining the structure. Modernize what really counts like efficient H-vac, proper insulation, updated electrical, and good gutters. Invest your sweat equity in keeping what is already there in proper working order. People who believe plastic surgery is better than aging gracefully aren’t shopping for old houses, they’re buying new. Know your target market. Gripety Gripe Gripe Gripe.

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