How to Buy a Home Below Current Real Estate Value

Want to increase your chances of buying a home below current real estate values? Just look for a seller who didn’t listen to his agent.

The best real estate agents encourage their sellers to do whatever it takes to get the home in its absolute best condition before going to market. The better the home shows, the more likely the seller will get top dollar.

For various reasons, though, many sellers protest suggested fixes. They don’t want to be inconvenienced, don’t believe the fixes will matter, or don’t have the necessary money. Inevitably, this means the buyer will get a discount on the property. For instance, is there a home for sale in a good neighborhood that is priced well but isn’t selling? This is the home to investigate, because the chances are the seller didn’t listen to his agent.

Here are some tell-tale signs to look for.

* Big furniture, or a lot of furniture.

Often, a seller may have a lot of furniture in one room, which makes that room look small. Real estate agents and professional home stagers know this all too well. Stagers always suggest a small loveseat over a full-blown couch or sectional sofa, for instance. Also, in the bedrooms, king beds often take up too much space. So a stager will often push the seller to swap it out for a queen or full-sized bed.

If you visit a house that seems crowded with furniture, imagine the rooms with fewer or smaller pieces. Be aware that lots of would-be buyers won’t get past how small the rooms look. They’ll probably move on to a home that feels bigger. This could give you room to negotiate a good deal with the seller.

* Dark rooms.

There was a home in West Hartford, CT on a great block. But the interior was dark. Three large French doors in the living room led to a deck, but the doors were stained black. To make matters worse, the carpet was brown and the window coverings were big and heavy. No surprise, then, that the house sat on the market for months, even though it was priced in line with current market values. Every buyer walked in and out because the house was so dark.

After the home sat for three months on the market, a savvy buyer offered $40K below asking and ended up getting it. Before moving in, the buyer ditched the window coverings, stripped the stain on the doors and painted them white, pulled up the old carpet, and had the floors stained to a lighter oak. The buyer’s total cost: $9K, which instantly added $31,000 to his equity.

* Grandma or Bambi staring down from the walls.

Buyers are looking to see themselves—not the current owners—in a home. Too often, however, the seller hasn’t ‘de-personalized’ his home enough, if at all, despite his agent’s advice. And so potential buyers visiting the home see walls decorated with diplomas, family photos, awards, and trophies. Moose and deer heads hanging on walls are sure-fire deal killers, especially when the hunting rifle used to kill Bambi is proudly displayed, too. All of this stuff is a turn-off to most buyers, and they walk away.

Before you walk away, ask yourself a few questions. Are the bones of the house good? Does it have the floor plan you like? Are the kitchens and baths in acceptable condition? Is it in an area where you want to live? If you say ‘yes’ to all of these things, hang around a little longer. Imagine the home without the sellers’ junk. You might get a great deal.