A fresh coat of paint, the smell of banana bread baking, and a glorious mirror in the dining room can all increase a property’s appeal. But, like the banana bread, all this could just be a way to make something otherwise unpalatable seem fancy.
Almost all vendors spruce up their homes ahead of a sale, but what looks like a trick of the trade might be actually more than just a refresh.
When you’re buying a house, an inspection checklist can be a helpful companion. Keep an eye out for these common real estate agent tactics and buy your new home with your eyes open.
1. Everything’s freshly painted
A new paint job can be a cheap and easy cover-up for a whole bunch of hidden nasties like mildew, children’s artwork and even termite activity.
Be especially wary if some rooms have recently been repainted but not others, and be suspicious of paintwork that is bubbling or stained. A DIY job isn’t a problem in itself but changes in texture and discolouration can signify damp areas or other damage.
2. It smells like nana’s house
If you walk through the front door to a cavalcade of “nice” smells, be on alert. Unless the vendors are in the midst of an application for MasterChef, there’s really no need to have cakes baking during an inspection.
Buyers should also be wary if a property is filled with overpowering scents such as incense, candles or over-the-top air fresheners.
Such aromas can mask issues such as pet or tobacco smells, but they can also hide something more serious. Rising damp, mould or – heaven forbid – dodgy sewerage can all be covered by an “old book smell” candle.
3. It’s like walking into a hair salon
Mirrors aren’t just for admiring how good you look in your future home, they’re also used to create the illusion of space.
Unfortunately for vendors, the cat’s out of the bag on this classic real estate agent trick. Everyone’s seen a reno show host hang a large mirror to make a room look twice its size.
Be particularly conscious of this in older homes, where rooms tend to be small. You can beat the illusion by surveying the room with your back to the mirror.
4. It doesn’t look lived in
Many vendors hire furniture and stylists to create the best possible look when selling. Giveaways include pristine timber frames, too-clean throw cushions, generic artwork and indoor plants that are still alive.
Vendors want you to come inside and imagine your perfect new life. They want you to forget the brown velour couch you found on the nature strip and believe you’ll have a brand-new modular. The table you inherited from your mum’s upgrade will transform into a mid-century replica, Cinderella style.
Bear in mind you are buying the bricks and mortar – not the home’s contents. Try to envisage the home with your own furniture. Will it fit? How will it look? Take a measuring tape to double-check.
5. The place is totally lit
Sometimes you’ll inspect a house where every conceivable light is on, even in the middle of the day. Tiny powder room? Lights on. Garden shed? Bulbs blazing. Artificially brightening a property can be a sign that the place receives little natural sunlight.
Don’t be afraid to flick the switches to test the theory. Being left in the dark on inspection day could save you from a dingy home in the long-term.
6. Finally …
Even if you’ve inspected the paint and turned off the bread maker, you could miss something important. Don’t rely on your ability as a super sleuth to spot all the sneaky real estate agent tricks.
Arranging a pre-purchase pest and building inspection is a good way to know what you’re buying, warts and all. For a $500 investment, you’ll get the full story on what’s lurking under the surface and be able to avoid unwelcome surprises down the track.
If you’re still not sure whether you’re being duped, a ME mobile banker can help you make sense of the hall of mirrors.
This article originally appeared here