How to find your ‘diamond in the dust’

The mess and clutter which will quickly drive most potential buyers from a show home could just be hiding a real housing gem.
So says Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, who notes that despite the advice of estate agents, many homes still go on show when they are really not at their best.
“This is most likely to occur in a forced sale, where the owner has died suddenly, for example, or where a family has had to relocate really quickly - or most often nowadays where the owner has fallen into arrears on his or her home loan repayments and is a distressed seller.
“And while it is true that an untidy or grimy home can indicate a long-term lack of essential maintenance and hefty repair bills for the new owner, astute buyers with an eye for a bargain know that this is not always the case. They will thus always take a second look to see what a lifetime collection of furniture and memorabilia, piles of paperwork, dark carpets and dingy curtains might be hiding.”
The following, he says, are the main indicators that they might just have found a diamond in the rough:  
* Good ‘bones’ or basic structure. The properties to avoid are those with bad cracks, serious roof leaks and rising damp. And if you find a home you like, it’s really worth getting it professionally inspected before you make an offer.
* Well-proportioned rooms and a good floor plan. Forget any furniture, curtains, carpets and paint colours that are not to your taste and use your tape-measure to discover the real dimensions of the rooms.
* Good infrastructure. Your home inspector should also check the electrical system, plumbing and any gas installations and make sure the seller can produce up-to-date safety compliance certificates for these. In some areas, you will also need a borer-beetle certificate.
“If all these three elements are in place and the home is in a good location, the shrewd buyer will be quick to react, especially if the asking price is already below current market value for the area.”
Alternatively, Kotzé says, prospective buyers can logically argue that it will take a lot of work to get the home into the same pristine condition as comparable properties on show elsewhere in the area, and make a lower offer based on the cost of the materials and labour that will be needed.
“Either way, the buyers in such circumstances will often be able to acquire more home than they expected to get for their money – and uncover a gem that will compensate them well for keeping an open mind about a property that was less than perfect, and for their willingness to renew its shine.”

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