I guess the first question to ask is: does it matter whether a property has been specifically renovated to sell?
In my experience, more often than not the answer is yes. Especially given the popularity of amateur renovation shows on TV and the amount of people signing up for courses teaching them how to renovate to make a quick buck. Maximum impact with minimum spend is their mantra! And that, combined with a general lack of experience and technical knowhow, is why we need to be wary of properties that have been renovated to sell.
A property that has been renovated by a qualified builder is generally (but not always, I hasten to add) more likely to have been done to a higher standard than one that has had a face-lift courtesy of a “flipper”. But tradies sometimes lack the ability to tap into current trends and style a property accordingly. Conversely, many would-be property developers are pretty good at picking finishes and colours that are on-trend. They aim to woo plenty of buyers who are not inclined to renovate themselves and won’t be able to see beyond the plantation shutters and groovy light fittings.
The test of a good renovation is how it looks after 5 or 10 years. I often refer to a property that has been renovated to sell as being “tarted up”. If the job is not of a decent standard, it will start to look tired and shabby very soon after you move in. The finishes simply won’t stand the test of time and the cracks won’t take long to appear in more sense than one.
It’s the shortcuts you need to be on the lookout for. The areas that have had cosmetic upgrade to achieve a look without making a significant improvement to the property. Such as when the tiles in a bathroom are painted rather than replaced. Looks effective now but the waterproofing may be compromised and the paint often chips easily.
I recently heard a great saying from a buyer when he asked me if I thought a recently renovated house was well done or whether it was “lipstick on a pig”. Sums it up, really. That is precisely what to be wary of.
Now I am not saying steer clear of recently renovated properties. I propose caution and a critical eye. Following are some of the telltale signs of a property that may well look better than it actually is. And this list is by no means complete!
1. Tired old aluminium windows disguised with plantation shutters. It is so much cheaper to dress a window than it is to replace it!
2. Floating floors laid over existing flooring. Much more straightforward than replacing with new floorboards. I have seen examples where the floor level is raised and where there is a staircase the bottom step has an abnormally short riser, which can create a hazard. And then there is the issue of whether they have laid new floors over a hatch giving access to the subfloor. Access under the house is essential if you want to ensure termites aren’t munching away down there.
3. Unresolved floorplans with quirky flaws. For instance, internal access from the garage through a walk-in wardrobe! Maybe an extreme example, but it illustrates how oddities are not rectified in a “tart up” as they would be in a proper renovation.
4. In the quest to keep the budget down, practical considerations are often overlooked, like ensuring that storage is adequate and complete (such as having hanging space, shelves and drawers in wardrobes – not just the budget option of a few rails).
5. Bathroom renovations where there are new PC items (WC, basin), shower screen and tapware but the old shallow 1970s bathtub has been resurfaced and the tiles have been painted. Leaving the plumbing unchanged is a major cost saving, which might be fine if the layout was good in the first place.
When we buy a property that has been renovated to sell we make sure that the bones of the house or apartment are good and that we are not paying a premium for brand new (because though it may look that way, it isn’t). And that none of the facelift has created an ongoing maintenance problem. If you know exactly what you are buying and pay accordingly, these “tart ups” can sometimes be good buying. Because despite all the hype, it’s not that easy to make money from “flipping” property.
DISCLAIMER: Good Deeds buyers tips are intended to be of a general nature. Please contact us for advice that is specific to your individual circumstances. You may also need to get advice from other professionals such as an accountant, mortgage broker, financial planner or solicitor.