A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

A House Is Not A Motel

I am taking the title of this post from a song by the group Love. I really thought that this would be a great title, and I have been waiting to use it. Arthur Lee was inspired to write the song when he was unable to go to his own kitchen one morning for breakfast. Too many people were sleeping on the floor between his bedroom and kitchen. A trend which I noticed among some college students (or those who have just graduated) is to buy a home to live in during their student years. This is not a bad investment, considering that home prices do trend upwards over time. However, when it comes time to sell, these properties can have some issues.

Home staging becomes a priority for these sellers. No matter how mature or knowledgeable these young adults are, these homes find a way of becoming the center of social life for their friends. Furnishings are general whatever is cheapest. The garden is the last on the list of things around the house that is tended. Although the house may see some abuse, I have never seen a house inhabited by students that is so run down that it is unlivable.

If I was a student (or group of students) who purchased a home, I would set aside an account for future repairs or home staging. You will not need a lot of money, but you should have a few thousand dollars in the account. Here is a list of the typical items that I see which need to be taken care of in these homes:

Painting- walls are easily damaged, and a fresh coat of paint is a simple chore. Just remember to prepare the walls properly by taping areas that should not be painted. Fill holes with a spackling compound. Clean off any mess. You may need to use a primer, but a couple of coats of some type of white paint is your best bet.

Flooring- carpets generally take a lot of abuse with heavy traffic. If the carpet does not look too damaged, have a professional carpet cleaning company come in. You could rent a machine, but a firm may do a better job. Consider replacing the carpet if there is any damage. Purchase a basic beige carpet from a home improvement center. Installing a carpet is hard work, so plan on hiring someone.

Appliances- most students do not care what type of appliance is in the house, and I see these units as being neglected. A good cleaning may take care of this problem. You may find repair parts at a hardware store. You could plan for a slightly lower price to compensate for unacceptable appliances. If you buy new units, shop around for the cheapest new units or refurbished units. New appliances can eat into your budget quickly, so finding a way to make the existing appliances look good is your best option.

Furnishings-concrete blocks and wood planks make great shelving for a college student, but they will turn off potential buyers. If you are not living in the house, I think leaving it devoid of furniture is a good option. If you are moving to another location in the same city, consider upgrading your furniture for the new home and using it to make your property look good for the buyer. If you are living in the house, try making sofas and chairs look better with slip covers. Paint damaged tables and chairs to make them into new pieces (I like faux finishing tables for a new look). If this is not possible, you may find places in the town which sell used hotel furniture for little money. Hotels regularly update their look, so this furniture is in pretty good shape. Some home stagers rent furnishings, but I would not go to a rent to own store, since this can hurt your credit score.

Lastly, tell your friends that they cannot crash at your pad (I wonder if that is still the terminology). The place needs to stay clean for the sale.

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