The top house issues that put off prospective buyers
From horrible, outdated carpets to grimy, garish hot tubs and terrible toilets, agents list the turn-offs that keep homes on the markets.
CONCRETE eagles on the gateposts, plastic cherubs piddling into a fountain, a front garden covered in tarmac, pebble-dash coating, a grimy hot tub, aluminium doors and windows, rag-rolled walls, laminate floors, sticky lino, bricked-up fireplaces, wallpaper borders, a bathroom with a smelly carpet and an avocado suite.
Would any of those be enough to put you right off buying a house? Research has suggested that buyers can be irrationally turned off by idiosyncratic, tacky or dated decorative features – even ones that can be easily corrected.
The UK-based property finding website Need aproperty.com recently surveyed 2,000 potential purchasers to discover their top 10 turn-offs. Top of the list was woodchip wallpaper. Anyone who's ever moved into a house with this stuff on the walls will complain readily and at length about the effort that is involved in removing it. But no one could call it an expensive fix.
In second place was mirrored ceilings, though this probably has more to do with the house-hunters' tender sensibilities than anything else.
Along the same lines was the third-place item – nude portraits (of the owners, presumably).
These were followed by avocado bathroom suites, taxidermy (though stuffed animals will rarely be included in a contents sale), paint effects (a legacy of that mercifully brief craze for sponging and stencilling), and strip lighting.
Number eight was Artex ceilings – a truly expensive feature to remove, as Artex contained asbestos until at least the mid-1980s. It should be safe to leave it there, but if you want rid of it, you will have to call in a hazardous waste specialist.
Last on the list was hot tubs – the aspirational feature du jour of the Celtic Tiger era. However, this has less to do with a sudden about-turn on the matter of hot tubs generally, than with a distaste for the idea of using somebody else's hot tub specifically.
And not without good reason. One Dublin estate agent ended up giving evidence at Dublin City Coroner's Court because he invited a home-buyer to take a closer look at the hot tub in a property in Dalkey in 2003. The man contracted legionnaires' disease from the stagnant water and died.
In the survey, men's preferences were different from those of women, and suspiciously in line with old-fashioned gender stereotypes, women like walk-in wardrobes and men like double garages. And three-fifths of people admitted to judging others by their taste in décor.
Is it reasonable to assume we Irish are pretty similar to the Brits in our turn-offs? We asked experts. Karen Mulvaney of the Buyers' Agent, who views hundreds of properties on behalf of clients, has a few additions to make to the top ten list.
"Porn posters in the teenagers' bedrooms – that's another one. And I've seen several properties with wallpaper on the ceilings. It's the most bizarre thing. And that godawful colour that people used for years – terracotta. Everybody went from magnolia to this. Terracotta walls with paint effects were everywhere."
Callum Bain, senior surveyor with Colliers International, also cites other examples. "Leylandii [the fast-growing evergreens often planted for quick shelter and privacy] are a complete pain. Floral wallpaper of the 1970s vintage and heavily patterned carpets don't help either."
Bain agrees about nude portraits – "they can sometimes lead to startling conversations," – and added another, similar phenomenon: "Fluffy dice by the bed, especially when attached to handcuffs."
As a buyer's agent, Mulvaney doesn't allow her clients to be discouraged by lamentable décor, however. "Décor does put people off. I will often have clients who can't see past it, so it's brilliant to have me beside them going, 'Don't be ridiculous, it's just wallpaper, you can take it off'.
"The way I see it is, those sorts of decorative features, like bathroom suites, are going to come out anyway. The bathroom is a bit like the mattress. You're not going to keep the mattress somebody has slept in, so you're not going to use the toilet they've been sitting on either."
Mulvaney is careful to distinguish, though, bet- ween minor decorative features that can be easily replaced and serious matters that will require a serious budget. Among those is Artex ceilings inside, or brick cladding on the outside walls.
"I bought a house years ago, an investment property for myself, with brick cladding. It was the ugliest thing you have ever seen. The beauty of it for me as an investor was it kept the price down because nobody else wanted it. When I went to resell it I did look into getting it removed and it was hugely expensive. Something like that would definitely turn people off.
"Similarly, I've come across houses where they've concreted over not just the front garden but the back as well. It can be fixed, but it's going to be expensive."
Similarly, in Bain's experience, the most common turn-off for buyers is the ill-judged restoration of a period property, which can be costly to fix.
"Instead of putting in a plaincornice that would have been traditional in an Irish country farmhouse from the 18th or 19th Century, they put in a modern floral one. And bad fireplaces that are not in keeping with house. It's something buyers can get rid of but it does affect the value. Also 1960s aluminium windows are a no-no."
Bain and Mulvaney were in agreement on the subject of pools. They may appear to be the very paradigm of modern luxury, but it seems most home-buyers really don't want them.
"I have a beautiful house for sale with a swimming pool, and the couple looking at it said the first thing they would do is fill in the pool," says Mulvaney.
Bain believes the same is true of hot tubs. "They are like Agas. Everybody likes an Aga because it's the 'thing to have' but, like an Aga, you need to own a Rolls-Royce to run the thing. Hot tubs are phenomenally expensive and in this country they're a waste."
But at any rate, it seems décor is often the least of the problems that face potential purchasers when viewing houses. Buyers, by all accounts, are more likely to be put off by dirt, mysterious odours, and intractable occupants than anything else.
"There are situations where one of the vendors, if it's a divorcing couple for example, definitely doesn't want to sell so you'll find an unflushed toilet – always a delight," says Mulvaney.
"Another story I was told by an estate agent was that he was given the keys to a house where the guy's relative had died. He went to measure up and take pictures and found the corpse was still there. The estate agent had been given access before the funeral director. How greedy do you have to be to stick the house on the market before you remove the dead relative?"