Let’s Talk About Ugly Kitchens

Let’s Talk About Ugly Kitchens

Last week I helped buyer-clients make an offer on a three level garage townhouse in Bristow with their dream kitchen. Granite in tones of white with gray veins, white cabinets with soft close doors and drawers and stainless steel appliances. What’s not to love, right? The problem with this townhouse is that it was under priced by at LEAST twenty-thousand dollars. My guess is the townhouse will sell for thirty or thirty-five thousand more than list price.

My buyers, and probably a lot of others, fell into the trap this gorgeous kitchen laid out with its unbelievably low list price. It was too good to be true. The dream kitchen is often where many first time buyers get heartbroken, or have unreasonable expectations in creating. There is no more lowballing an ugly kitchen.

As I write this post, we are in the second month of 2021 and the Bristow/Gainesville real estate market is growing ever more difficult for buyers. Now, even in the first time buyer price ranges, which are becoming rapidly unaffordable, buyers in multiple offer scenarios are going in with ZERO contingencies. No financing contingency. No appraisal contingency. And no inspection contingency. What’s a buyer to do?

This is where ugly kitchens come in. See the kitchen pictured above. My home seller got some crappy low offers because this kitchen “needed” to be replaced. Mind you, everything in the kitchen worked just fine and it was priced well below the cost of renovating it. Over the course of a week, one buyer saw that this kitchen was priced for what it was and snapped it up with a full price offer.

Ugly kitchens work just fine. And just because you buy a home with an ugly kitchen doesn’t mean it has to be renovated or updated right away. We are living in unprecedented times. Saving money should be top of everyone’s priority list. You never know when you may need to go a few months without a paycheck. It kills me to hear first time buyers talk of what “needs” to be done in prioritizing cosmetic updates at a time when a home with a basic, ugly kitchen is becoming unaffordable.

Remember when you bought your first car? You didn’t wait to buy a car because you wanted a Porsche or a Ferrari. And new drivers right now aren’t turning up their noses at cars that aren’t Teslas….or at least I sure hope they aren’t. A car, no matter how outdated, represented freedom.

Our society, thanks to any number of home improvement “reality” shows has become focused on the latest and greatest trends in kitchens and bathrooms. Home owners, or soon to be home owners are left to feel they are nothing without these updates. What happened to just loving a home because it was your very first one?

The kitchen in the first property I purchased still is ingrained in my memory. It had white laminate counter tops, was a galley configuration, had no microwave but had a small refrigerator and a dishwasher that I had to roll out and hook up to the faucet. Talk about outdated! And that was outdated in 1996!!! I still miss that kitchen. Why? It was my very first kitchen in my very property that I OWNED. It was luxury to me because it had a gas range. And when I updated it, I put in a new refrigerator and a space saver CD player under the basic white cabinets. There was no granite. No tile back splash. And forget stainless steel appliances.

The price ranges in Bristow/Gainesville are rising so rapidly that dream kitchens are becoming out of reach. Don’t let that deter you from buying an ugly kitchen. Cook a few meals in it, in your very own home, and you may feel differently about it. You shouldn’t have to spend every penny of your savings to keep up with the reality TV trends. Maybe you can do an inexpensive renovation with a can of paint on the cabinets. An ugly kitchen that is yours is still better than a dream kitchen in a rental.

Careful Not to Overplay Your Hand

Careful Not to Overplay Your Hand

The market you WANT to house hunt and negotiate in may be vastly different than the market in which you are ACTUALLY shopping. Case in point is our 2020 Northern Virginia real estate market. With so little on the market, and still plenty of buyer demand, the advantage in negotiations goes to the seller. It’s a matter of supply and demand.

That does not mean that buyers can’t find a seller who has pie in the sky dreams expressed in an overly optimistic list price. Any reasonably priced home in a seller’s market will sell. If a home isn’t selling, it is likely overpriced. Buyers may be desperate, but they aren’t stupid. Those sellers, however, are extremely rare and very hard to reason with. Generally, the majority of unreasonable demands is coming from buyers who wish the market were different.

Consider the multiple calls and text messages I got on a listing recently from agents with interested buyers. Their buyers are investors. They have a desire to be shopping in a different market. That means every little outdated feature will be highlighted with far flung, exaggerated statements like, “the kitchen is a gut job” or “that bathroom tile is so old it needs replacement.” It’s exhausting to have conversation after conversation with these agents and try to get them to understand two things:

  1. The home is priced for the condition it is in. If if it were updated, it would be priced higher.
  2. Using phrases like “gut job” and stating the “need” for things to be replaced because they are not the current trend is buying into the buyer’s false thinking that the market conditions will be different because they want to update a home.

While an investor may want to overplay their hand and end up without the one townhouse that will come up in their price range in the next two months, that’s their decision. However, there will be a buyer, two or maybe three that will know all too well the market conditions and therefore understand that kitchen and bathroom updates are going to be minimal and well worth it for their future equity and enjoyment. You don’t take away for items not updated if they were already factored into a lower list price.

If you want a home in a seller’s market, hopefully you have hired a buyer’s agent that can accurately run market comps and show you why things are priced they way they are and help you focus on what is most important you. Using bully tactics in an attempt to change market conditions because you are upset you can’t find a better home at a lower price is not a great strategy.

For the record, if you want to know what a true “gut job” would be, consider a home with mold and cabinets falling apart. Outdated is a far cry from a hazard that MUST be addressed. I’ve got pictures saved on my phone of gut jobs to share with buyers who need some perspective.

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