In the world of online dating, people have become used to making a quick decision to “swipe left” or “swipe right” based on a cursory glance at a potential suitor’s profile picture and a few short statements about the person’s likes or dislikes. Online home shopping is not that different.  Most potential buyers will access listings through their favorite online resource, look at a couple photos, and make a quick judgment call about whether or not they might be interested in taking a look at the home.  This can be a great way to get familiar with available options, and I encourage my clients to look at houses online.  But, I also urge clients to be careful not to dismiss a home too quickly! The internet can be a great resource in the home search, but sometimes we need to remember to look beyond the photos.

First, do not be deceived by unflattering listing photos.  While many Realtors hire professional photographers who have the equipment to properly showcase the interior rooms in a home, some do not.  Houses that have not been professionally photographed may appear to have smaller rooms or less light than they actually do in “real life.”  When you view a home online that clearly has not been professionally photographed, be sure to look at room size, the number and size of windows, and general floorplan.  It may be that the house is just as roomy and bright as other comparable listings, but has not been photographed in a way that highlights those features.

Next, do not be distracted by wall colors or questionable furniture choices.  A bright purple dining room, or a living room filled with torn overstuffed recliners, might cause you to make a quick decision to move on from a listing.  Resist the urge!  Instead, force yourself to imagine the space painted in a neutral color with tasteful furnishings.  Remember – when you buy the house, you are not buying the furniture.  And, a can of paint can instantly transform a jarring interior palate into a tranquil sea of neutral grey.  The same goes for dirty or stained carpet.  Nobody wants to live in a house bearing the carpet stains of the prior owners.  But consider this – new carpet is not terribly expensive.  And, many homeowners know that if the carpet is not in good shape, buyers may request a “flooring allowance” in their offer to create some free cash to replace the carpet before moving in.

Finally, consider the location before you dismiss a house.  Interior features can be changed, but the location can’t.  If you find a house that is located on the perfect lot, in the perfect neighborhood, in the perfect price range, think hard about asking your REALTOR to schedule an appointment to look inside the home to consider exactly what it might take to bring the house up to your standards.  If you are able to purchase below budget, you may have enough remaining cash to change the interior features that are most important to you.  Also, if you are purchasing new construction, the builder is often willing to consider making certain minor modifications to better suit the buyer’s taste. A little vision in the right neighborhood can really pay off! 

If you are not sure about the hidden potential of a home, ask your REALTOR! He or she can likely make recommendations based on features that are popular among buyers in your market and may also have a ballpark idea of what it may costs to make the upgrades.

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