I'm back...but now selling Grandpa's house

kpfeifSeptember 1, 2008

I poked around here a few years back when I was selling my home. It's two years later and I'm in the home we built - we love it.

My 93 year-old grandfather passed away a few weeks back, and my dad and I are starting to talk about what we should and should not do to his home before selling it. My father is very particular and can't let "good enough" be. For instance, when I sold my house, he made absolutely sure every nail pop was fixed. He did this while he and my mom were babysittng the kids. The guy is awesome, but his engineer side cannot be supressed. EVERYTHING MUST BE PERFECT.

My grandfather's house is definitely no perfect. He built it in 1951 - a small 3 bedroom, 1 bath ranch with detached 2 car garage. Paneling. Galley kitchen. Questionable electrical. TERRIBLE carpet (hey! Perfect hardwood underneath). Windows? Ok. Roof? New. Cupboards? Green. Kitchen flooring - carpet over linoleum. Heat is oil.

Lots of problems. My father already is talking about ripping out ALL of the paneling and drywalling. I've convinced him to NOT refinish the hardwood - it looks great just as it is.

So, where to start? A friend is a realtor and I could get her to walk though, but I'd then feel a bit weird about it if we went with another realtor.

The market is soft around here (no shocking), but this would be one of the least - if the THE least - expensive homes in this school district, one of the top districts in the state and well-ranked in the nation. Taxes are pretty low, and the location is beatiful - right across the street from a very large park.

So, I guess I'd like to ask you all where a good resource is - besides a realtor - as what to do and what not to do. Here's my short list:

1. Repair any plaster problems.

2. Paint the paneling...something light.

3. Paint everything else.

4. Strip and paint the cabinets.

5. Pull out the carpet.

Ok, that's it. Anybody?

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Hmm...hard to say without seeing it.

I'd definitely pull the carpet and paint everything. As for anything else, I would want to see pics first before suggesting you put the time (and money) into fixes that may not be worth the effort.

Sorry to hear about your grandpa. :(

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 9:44AM
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I agree with revamp. Your dad sounds like a very ambitious guy, but what he is proposing is expensive and in this market, may not garner the return in selling the home.

Without seeing photos, I would paint the entire house to freshen it up, pull up all the old carpet to showcase the hardwood floors and possibly replace the lino in the kitchen if it's tattered from being under carpet.

I would also strip and refinish the kitchen cabinets. Green 1950's cabinets can and will reduce the amount you are offered on the home. White, freshly painted cabinets with new hardware will make a HUGE difference and be worth the expenditure.

I would only do something to the electrical if it is a safety issue. The buyer will most likely have an inspection and if any issues are discovered, then there can be some negotiation. No reason to spend a bunch of money on an expensive fix if it's not needed.

This home sounds like a DIY'ers dream. If left as it is, you will be limiting yourself to a small buyer pool. By doing a few costmetic upgrades, you open it up significantly.

Sorry about Grandpa. I still miss my Pop, think about him frequently with a grin and he's been gone 34 years.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 10:15AM
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I'm so sorry for your loss.
I agree with your list, but pics would really help.
The kitchen flooring needs to be addressed and if the Lino is bad, you may want to consider peel and stick. (There are now some high quality, nice looking options out there - not like the old cruddy stuff.)
There are simple things that really freshen up a house;
Kitchen and bathroom hardware, new or at least clean and matching light switches and plug plates, fresh coat of varnish or paint on baseboards, clean all light fixtures, (replace only if needed), put fresh mulch in the flower beds and make sure the yard is very tidy.
As you know, the fresh paint will go a long way (especially since it sounds like Dad is into the prep.)

The very, very most important thing that you can easily do is to make sure it is absolutely pristinely clean.
I don't care if the house looks like you just experienced a 50 year time warp - clean the heck out of it.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 1:23PM
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Thanks for the great info. I stopped by there this morning and took some photographs. I'll post them this evening.

Thanks for the kind words - he was 93 and lived a long healthy life. His mind was sharp and he got what he wished - he never went to a "home." It was a full-time job for my parents to allow this, but we were able to do it. Barely.

I'll post the photos later tonight. Be warned - the place is a bit ugly.

His words when we suggested changing the carpet..."that's for the next guy." Well, we're the next "guy."

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 2:36PM
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kp - I'm so glad your grandpa was still mentally sharp until the day he died. My dad suffers from Alzheimer's and it's very difficult to see him decline.

Looking forward to the photos.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 6:48PM
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Your list sounds very similar to what we just did w/ an elderly relative's home. We sold very quickly. I think that we were in a "sweet spot" - a fixer upper that needed a lot of updating and was priced accordingly. We sold for around 350K. The house would have been worth about 475K if it were completely updated, but it had 3 bathrooms and a kitchen straight out of 1967. Many people price houses that need a lot of updating too high - those sit on the market. A good fixer-upper for a good price is a pretty hot commodity in my experience.

One other thing - we took out about half the furniture which made the rooms look huge. Once all the furniture was out the rooms looked a lot smaller. Interesting optical illusion.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 1:08PM
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    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 10:24AM
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It is a fixer-upper~~~ What if you pulled up that carpet and took some oak stain and went over those floors?...sometimes agents suggest doing this on oak cabinets that are scratched. Take down the window coverings so the light will come in better....give it a good cleaning and than see how it looks....you might be pleasantly surprised......Good Luck!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 10:41AM
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Clickable link below

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 10:42AM
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I agree with removing the window coverings - they definitely don't add anything.
The tile in the bathroom looks like it is in good shape.
I'd paint the vanity and mirror white and consider removing the wallpaper.
If someone buys it to live in a fix up, having a less objectionable bathroom will go a long way.
Around here it would be marketed as a "Mid Century Modern" and that would actually be a draw.
Best of luck to you!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 11:05AM
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It is definitely a fixer upper. I would strip all the wallpaper and give it a fresh coat of neutral paint.

I agree about the window coverings... remove them and put in either blinds or neutral toppers.

Pull up all the carpet to expose the hardwoods.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 1:32PM
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I agree with gardenspice, that in the right market the original mid century features could be an asset. Check out lottaliving and other MCM enthusiast sites to see what that market considers to be assets.

That said, I would replace most of the light fixtures and remove the wallpaper.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 1:56PM
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I'm sorry to hear about your grandfather.

I think I have some fixtures like the flurescent round ones in the kitchen. If you can buy new covers, they are really good lights. I'd do like others said, take up the carpet & expose those wood floors and replace the vinyl in the kitchen. Then paint so it looks fresh & clean. But I wouldn't paint the panelling. I think painted panelling is a bigger turnoff than wood color, but it could be because the panelling in our house was painted so badly.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 11:12PM
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Another vote for not painting the panelling, especially the original light-colored stuff.

I wouldn't paint the kitchen cabinets, either. It's hard to tell from the photograph, but do they have a dark wood grain effect on the doors? If so, that's a groovy original detail buyers like me would cherish.

I even like some of those wallpapered accent walls, but they'd need to be in perfect condition.

The hardwood floors look great. Removing the carpet and buffing might be all they need.

Tread lightly (and cheaply) and try not to rip out any original fixtures or materials. You've got a pristine mid-century gem, and some buyers think that's worth preserving.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 11:52AM
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Well, he's already at it. My father is a bit of a nut, and even though a realtor friend who toured the house the other day told him not to do certain things, he already has.

He pulled off the dark paneling. The good news is that it was easy to do and he's a great plaster guy. For him painting it would have been harder than fixing it. Oh well.

He wants to paint the cabinets, so we'll see how that goes. I told him to keep them in place and just polish up the hardware. It's nice stuff, really, and my realtor friend said people like that stuff (again, the mid-century thing, which I had never heard of).

He's a hard guy to stop, my dad. After we had an accepted offer on our house, he kept insisting that I fix the nail pops. Two days before closing he was still insisting. He and my mom watched the kids one night - I came home to a house that had the nail pops fixes. Ugh.

I do have a little note regarding THIS wall. The right side would match the left side, had that silly TV framing not been done. We're knocking out that framing, taking the mirrors out of each side, and making each side of the fireplace mirror each other.

I should mention that this house is about 5 minutes away from my dad's and my houses. Working on it is easy, but we still do want to get rid of it. It's just keeping my dad - the biggest perfectionist I know - from going nuts.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 9:23AM
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Is your dad going to pull up the carpet to expose the hardwood? It's probably a good idea to remove the paneling if he's able to do it himself inexpensively.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 3:04PM
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Sorry about your grandfather. Was he your father's father? Maybe this is a way for him to deal with his grief. I did something similar when my mother died.

Let him do what he wants.
Good luck,

    Bookmark   September 24, 2008 at 12:36AM
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Thanks for the kind notes. Yes, he was my dad's dad.

It's been a few weeks and this is what he's done...

- the dark paneling has been completely pulled off. Walls have been repaired, primed, textured. Awaiting 2 coats of paint.

- carpeting in master pulled up. Crappy wardrobe pulled out. Sliding closet doors installed.

- Porch masonry repaired.

- Rust on gutter removed. Gutters primed and painted, along with fascia.

- Weeds behind garage pulled. Graded and seeded.

- Bushes cut back. Weed-b-gone application.

- Garage entry door repaired, painted, etc.

- New window well covers installed.

...and he continues....BUT here's the interesting part.

The neighbor behind his house approached him about the house. Her sister is moving back into the area and is interested in living that close to her family. The neighbors to a hundred or so photos and she's putting in an offer this week. We're getting an appraisal from an attorney's friend (who's an appraiser) so we know what's up.

If she does buy it, she will buy it as-is, and he can stop working.

He does, however, continue to work on it.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2008 at 12:31PM
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Oh I hope this will work out for you all.....sometimes things have a way of working themselves out in a miraculous way....Good Luck.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2008 at 7:41PM
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sorry to hear about your grandpa.
but, fwiw, i would love to get my hands on a house like that,and with a decent budget i'd have a blast fixing it up. i love the tile in the bathroom,the hardwood floors and it's great that it has a fireplace. my first house was similar,i remember the pea green cabinets and orange and yellow floors and wallpaper like it was yesterday!

seriously,though,,can we borrow your dad after the house sells? i so need a guy like that around here for a month or two!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2008 at 8:47PM
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I was over at my dad's this evening, and the neihbor's sister called - she faxed an offer to our attorney this evening. We have no idea what it is yet.

Our attorney (a family friend) dropped by with the appraisal - it came in at $190,000, which we think is high. We haven't had a chance to see the actual appraisal yet, so we have no idea what comps were pulled.

Meanwhile we have a "number" that, if it's over we'll take - fast. I hope things work out, as my dad is busting is butt trying to fix the thing up.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 11:28PM
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You are killing us! SO... Was the offer good?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 5:02PM
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My dad, who is the estate's personal representitive, is out of town. I called the attorney yesterday - she offered $140,000. It appraised at $190,000.

No, we don't expect $190,000. We haven't taken the big hit in prices around here, as values didn't skyrocket around here like they did in other places. Also, what increase the house did have was quite small.

We would take, say, $170,000 or so. This would be FSBO, so we'd do alright. She made the offer without ever being in the house, let alone knowing value.

We shared the appraisal with her, so we'll see what happens.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 9:34PM
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