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As a Realtor, there are certain phrases that I find myself using time and time again. I wouldn’t call them clichés because they aren’t the type of thing you might hear from a used-car salesman (no slight intended, Mr. Used-Car Salesman). They are simply phrases that my buyers need to hear, sometimes over and over again, throughout the home buying process. Usually, one of the first things I tell buyers is that, as their Realtor, I don’t make a single decision throughout the entire process. I follow that up by reassuring them that I will guide them and advise them and share my expertise and experience with them, but that all decisions are ultimately theirs to make. This exempts me from having to take sides when one person likes the master bedroom in a house but their spouse thinks it looks like a brothel.

But the phrase I have found that buyers need to hear the most often is Buy what you cannot change. What does that even mean and why do I say it? Two words: Reality TV. In today’s world of home staging, HGTV, and shows like Fixer Upper and House Hunters, many buyers begin the home buying process expecting their experience (and their dream home) to mirror that of the “buyers” on these shows. Spoiler Alert: These reality TV shows aren’t actually real at all! Did you know that the buyers who appear on House Hunters have already purchased their home before filming the show? Mind-blowing, right?

Even armed with this knowledge, the “HGTV effect” can be hard to shake for a lot of buyers. I get it, it’s wonderful to walk into a expertly staged home where every room is painted the perfect shade of greige, with beautifully textured hardwood floors and the trendiest farm sink and granite countertops you can find on Pinterest, complete with perfect trios of succulents in matched mini planters. But you just might miss that diamond in the rough if these superficial features are your deal breakers and you won’t even consider walking through a house that doesn’t have each of these. Enter my mantra, buy the things you cannot change.

So what are these “things you cannot change” and why do I keep saying it?

The first, and I would argue the most important thing you cannot change is the home’s location. The home’s location will ultimately impact not only how much you enjoy living there, but also the future value of the home when it’s time for you to sell. Factors like the desirability and stability of the neighborhood and school district are major elements of the home’s location that affect value. Even property and school taxes are a function of the home’s location within a specific municipality. Consider the lot size for the home, and drive around the neighborhood and surrounding area. Also keep in mind with how the location will mesh with your lifestyle. If you’re an avid gardener, you might want to avoid houses with little to no land. On the other hand, if you can’t envision yourself doing yard work (or paying someone to do it), a home with ample acreage might be out of your wheelhouse. You have no idea how many times I’ve had buyers say longingly, “If only we could move THIS house to THAT lot!”

The second thing that can be very difficult to change is the size and general layout of a house. Think number of bedrooms and bathrooms and where the rooms are located relative to one another. Shows like Fixer Upper and Property Brothers make it look like a walk in the park to knock down walls and completely revamp the floorplan of a house or even add a bathroom or an addition. However, municipal requirements, code requirements, permits, historical regulations, as well as unforeseen obstacles and repairs can be a nightmare unless you have extensive experience doing major renovations, not to mention the financial impact of making renovations. My advice? Try not to walk through a home thinking about all of the walls you’d like to knock down or bathrooms you’d like to add.

So the converse of buy what you cannot change would probably be overlook what you can change. I’ll be the first to admit that some things can be difficult to overlook: let’s say, flocked wallpaper, shag carpet, formica countertops, or garish paint colors. You’ll probably also get to see homes that are messy, slightly smelly, or decorated completely in crushed velvet- hey, I’m sure there’s at least one out there like that. But all of those hurdles are relatively easy to overcome with patience, time, and a budget. And if you can see the potential in one of these diamonds in the rough, you can score a home with great bones in the perfect location and then craft it into an absolute Pinterest-worthy dream home, one room at a time. You’ll be happier with your investment in the long term, and your home will be more likely to appreciate in value.

Stay tuned for some exclusive looks at what a few of my buyers have done with their own diamonds in the rough!

Your Neighborhood Realtor,

Do you have questions I didn’t cover? Reach out and I’ll be happy to offer advice any time.

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