"I'm glad I'm working from home today," my beautiful niece emailed, "I've got a GINORMOUS zit!" (Remember those?)
Sadly, I do. In fact, there's something inherently wrong with having to suffer through both acne and grey hair at the same time, but there you have it. Here's where masks come in handy. Aside from undoubtedly keeping us safer during the pandemic, the great "cover-up" wasn't entirely ALL bad. Double chins, age spots, and the occasional pimple all but disappeared, hidden by a swatch of multi-colored fabric.
However, when it comes to covering up the flaws in a house, there are those repairs that make good sense (and cents), and those that border on gross dishonesty and negligence. When it comes to selling real estate, it's important to be clear about the distinction between the two.
Yes, home sellers should paint a house, but if there are water stains on the ceiling, those require further investigation prior to doing so; ditto for worn carpeting. Dirty and stained wall-to-wall should absolutely be replaced, but if once lifted, we find mold underneath, there's a reason why, and simply replacing the carpet isn't going to resolve the issue. Even once mitigated, it's the Seller's duty to DISCLOSE what was there before!
Additionally, rooms that are presented as habitable living space ought (in my humble opinion), actually be habitable. Thus, an area rug, a couch, and a coffee table artfully arranged in an unheated basement room, or a garage, isn't exactly appropriate (or truthful). An Agent can present these spaces as living opportunities if they so choose, but they walk an extremely fine line when doing so.
Nor should we slap lipstick on a pig. Some properties (and some Sellers) are better off selling as "fixers," wherein everything is disclosed, and the Buyer is well-informed prior to making an offer. Unless you're Tom Hanks, "The Money Pit" is no one's idea of fun.
"Can't we just cover up X, Y, or Z? (No, we cannot.)
Look, it's important to your bottom line to present a house in its very best light which is why most good Agents strongly recommend painting, floor refinishing, staging, gardening, etc. In fact, many of us go the extra mile by replacing old countertops, and dated light fixtures as well . . . These are cosmetic improvements that are designed to create an emotional hook. That's entirely fair and expected. And while the listing agreement doesn't says that it's the Realtor's job to oversee such tweaks, top-selling Agents understand such improvements often come with the territory. (COMPASS Concierge.)
However, it's not our job to hide, obfuscate, lie, miscommunicate, or cover-up material issues affecting a house. BTW, "material issues" are those items that might change a Buyer's mind about purchasing the home. They include things like past flooding, a death on the premises, previous repairs, but also barking dogs or noisy neighbors! If there's something you are hiding, it's absolutely going to come out. Better that it do so BEFORE you hand over the keys.
With the clear understanding that NO home is perfect, and all of them have a few blemishes, let's understand the difference between the GINORMOUS zit, and what amounts to skin cancer. One is going away with a little Clearasil, while the other is going to require invasive procedures at best, and perhaps some deep- tissue surgery. Whatever it is, I wouldn't count on covering it up with a band-aid (or a mask).
As the Buyer, you'd expect no less.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.