From the Record:
In the overheated housing market of five years ago, buyers often felt they had to accept homes in woeful condition. But these days, most look at “as-is” properties and say, “No thanks.”
“I try to stay away from things that need a lot of work,” said Michael Lisa of Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., who is searching for a home in northern Bergen County, N.J.
“Buyers will tolerate nothing,” said Maria Rini, a Re/Max agent in Oradell, N.J. A recent Coldwell banker survey found that 87 percent of first-time buyers said a move-in-ready home is important to them.
“This is absolutely the story of this market. It seems buyers will pay a premium, engage in a bidding war and even overpay just to avoid buying a ‘project’ house,” said Beth Freed of Terrie O’Connor Realtors in Ridgewood, N.J.
As a result, real estate agents strongly advise sellers to fix up their homes for quicker and more profitable sales.
For example, when Kate Conover recently listed a Franklin Lakes, N.J., colonial, she encouraged the seller to replace the roof and driveway, repair ceilings, rip up carpets and paint interiors.
Paying contractors to do the work cost almost $40,000, but Conover estimated it added well over $100,000 to the asking price.
“There is no question homes that have been spruced up for the market sell quicker,” said Conover, a Re/Max agent in Saddle River, N.J.
But she recommended against major renovations — such as replacing the kitchen and baths — in the Franklin Lakes home. Most agents agree with that philosophy, saying sellers shouldn’t risk spending more than they’ll get back in the sale price. That’s especially true with major kitchen and bath renovations because they’re so much a matter of taste.
“No matter what you do, it may not be the buyer’s choice anyway,” said Antoinette Gangi, a Re/Max agent in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
On the other hand, agents say that major maintenance and safety issues — such as underground oil tanks and leaky roofs — must be dealt with before the home goes on the market, because buyers are unwilling to take them on.
This, in turn, can offer an opportunity for buyers who are willing to give up the search for HGTV-ready homes and look at properties that need “some love,” in the words of Tom Mikalouskas, a Re/Max agent in Montvale, N.J.
“I tell my buyers to look for the best bones or the best bang for your buck,” he said. “Basically, if you are able to get the worst home in a great neighborhood, you can only improve on your investment. You simply have to focus on potential in a down market like this.”
“Buyers who can look beyond the cosmetic issues usually can find treasures in this market,” Falco agreed.