Most People Have Horrible Taste: An Ugly Case Study

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Why is it that almost every distressed property requires a great deal of “undoing?” Is it because so many people have bad taste?  Perhaps.  I think in a lot of cases it seems like bad taste, but in reality it’s simply the fact that the property is outdated.

I don’t know about your market, but we sure seem to buy a lot of properties with really bad wallpaper, carpet, counters, fixtures, etc.  In many cases, the property simply hadn’t been updated since it was built, but in other cases, you’ve got owners that really thought “Pepto Bismol Pink” looked good in the dining room.

Lucikly, most of these cosmetic items are easily fixed or replaced. But what do you do when the previous homeowner took it a step further and decided to finish out the garage or build that water heater closet off the back of the house (yes, the picture is from a house I just purchased)?  We are constantly finding ourselves in a position where the decision has to be made whether or not to keep the previous homeowner’s handywork.

I suppose there really isn’t a straight forward answer to this question as there are varying severities when it comes to inheriting somebody else’s home project.  However, in many cases, the decision is based upon your plan for the property.

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Case Study

For example, I purchased a property about a year ago where the previous homeowner had turned one of the garage bays into a finished room.  However, true to form for many do-it-yourself foreclosees, the previous owner left the garage door in place and built a wall about a foot inside the door. Even better was the fact that he left the garage door rails in place …. sticking right through the middle of his sheetrock. You get the picture.

Where most investors would automatically spend the dollars to tear all of this down and start over,  I knew I was going to rent the property and decided to leave it up until my plans changed.  As anticipated, it didn’t stop the property from renting and it didn’t cost me a dime in the meantime. Fast forward to this month, my tenant has just moved out and I’ve decided to retail the property. Knowing that a potential homeowner would be turned off by the not-so-fine craftsmanship of the previous homeowner,  I decided it made sense to spend the money to put the garage back together.

Related: What Is The Best Interior Paint for Landlords and House Flippers? (Hint… It’s Not What You Think)

In addition to this, I felt like retailing this property also warranted a few other updates and upgrades.  In addition to fixing the garage, I replaced the carpet, updated the backsplash, updated bathroom counters, mirrors, fixtures, etc.  It wasn’t a drastic amount of changes, but it will make a huge difference to a potential buyer.

The point being that a retail buyer expects a property to be up to date and tastefully put together.  A renter doesn’t necessarily expect this to be the case in all aspects of a property. It’s important for an investor to choose wisely where and how to spend money “undoing” the mess inherited from the previous homeowner.  Who knows, you may decide polka dot wallpaper doesn’t look so bad when you discover your tenant base doesn’t care one way or the other.

About Author

Ken Corsini

Ken Corsini G+ is the host of the Deal Farm Podcast (on iTunes) and has 10 years of full-time real estate investing experience. His company, Georgia Residential Partners buys and sells an average of 100 deals per year and has helped hundreds of investors around the country make great investments in the Atlanta market. Ken has a business degree from the University of Georgia and a Master Degree in Building Construction from Georgia Tech. He currently resides in Woodstock, Georgia with his wife and 3 children.


  1. Left the rails intact? Are you kidding me? My father-in-law converted a giant, two-bay garage into a game room, but he had the skills to do it. He ripped out the doors, insulated all the walls, and installed nice surround sound, etc. The only relic is the slight incline of the floor, something I hadn’t noticed for a couple years.

    But decision on waiting until you KNEW you needed to fix it and instead getting the cash flow started.

  2. Thanks Greg – Yeah, I really wish I could have found the pictures of the rails sticking through the sheetrock. Interestingly, I actually bought 2 properties last year with the rails sticking through sheetrock in an attempt to finish a garage.

    But you are right – there is a right and a wrong way to finish a garage. (although, most of the time I think it hurts the resale)

  3. I’ll say that anyone who has been in the real estate business for a few years is more in tuned with what is good or bad taste when it comes to homes. With our jobs, we tour several hundreds of homes each year. We see the ones that sell and also the ones that have sat on the market for a year. We hear candid feedback from buyers and other agents. In other words, we get it. And I don’t mean this in a snobby way – it’s just that our success or failure has partly come from this need to discern what is sellable and what is not.

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