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9 things that can devalue your property

By Abhishek Mande
October 12, 2009 15:08 IST
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At a time when real estate prices are on the rise, these red flags can be a hindrance.

1. Your main door

Although the main door isn't inside your house, it pretty much gives the first impression of what lies beyond. Surely, you don't need to be Einstein to figure out the importance of having a well-maintained main door.

Interior designer Arbasys Ashley says that cleaning doors -- unless they have a zillion stickers of the gods of the world on it -- is the simplest thing to do. "If it's a wooden door, wipe it regularly with a dry cloth. Laminate or PU coated doors can be wiped with semi-wet cloth. That'll help the design looking fresh," he says.

It is also important to ensure that you put a thought in designing your main door because first impressions are the ones that last the longest.

2. Clutter when the prospective buyer comes to visit

Even a large house tends to look smaller when cluttered. It's one thing if you like living that way. But chances are that the person coming to buy it does not look at things the way you do.

So if you're hoping to sell your house, the first thing you must do is to clear the clutter. Throw away the things you don't require. Stack away the stuff you won't be needing anytime soon and keep only your bare essentials out. Anyway you're selling the house so why keep things for the last moment?

If you are one of those who like things to be in place right from day one, Arbasys suggests you mark out the requirements of storage carefully with your architect.

"It ensures that there is definite storage space for everything and all the clutter is well hidden. Avoid clutter even in respect to artefacts. If you cannot display a certain piece, don't!  Keep thing to the basic minimum and understated; it makes the place look classy. A home in order makes a large impact to a prospective buyer," he says.

3. Unclean kitchens

Surprising as it may sound, kitchen is the one room that requires the maximum attention in terms of designing. It is also the only 'room' in the house that has a water connection. So trust us when we say maintaining a kitchen can be quite a task. Leaking sinks and walls smeared with your last cooking experiment should be fixed immediately.

Owners who give out homes on rent have often had to deal with unclean and terribly maintained kitchens. When you rent out that extra home of yours make sure you give it to the right persons rather than simply looking at the money that will come as rent.

Unclean kitchens are huge red flags. It's where the lady of the house spends a lot of time. And if you fail to impress the lady there are little chances the man will go ahead with the deal.

4. Children's graffiti over the walls

Unless you're planning to be a DINK (Double Income No Kids) couple, we'd suggest you take real good care of your walls. Sure kids can be sweet. Heck they are very adorable. But boy don't you hate them when they spoil the wall you spent 20k on?

Not only does kids graffiti look shabby when you're hosting a party, it does not score any brownie points when someone comes over to buy your house.

There are two ways of ensuring the safety of your walls -- one is trying to discipline the children and giving them just one wall to display their artistic talents. The other is to take Arbasys' advice and simply cladding a wall with a wipe board so they can fun doing their graffiti and you can wipe it clean when someone drops over.

5. Unclean loos

This one's another major red flag. It shows lack of hygiene but more importantly it is such an assault on your visual senses it's not funny.

Rashmi Deshpande recounts an incident that put her off so much she refused to see another flat in the same building. "I am quite a stickler for cleanliness. And I'm particularly keen on keeping my loo and kitchen area dry. The kitchen had not put me off so much as much as the loo did. There was a good amount of leakage and to say the pot was unclean would be an understatement," she says.

Broker Rekha Mehta, a real estate consultant in Thane says that many owners who rent out their flats to single men face this issue. "Bachelors take little efforts to keep the house clean. Kitchen and loos are the worst maintained in most bachelor pads. That's one of the primary reasons why people avoid renting out their houses to single men."

While we do agree with most of what Mehta says, we think it'd be somewhat unfair to label all single men as messy, unclean people. It would help though, if you do a background check on your prospective tenant before you let him/her live there.

Talk to their previous landlords/ladies and ask them how they were to deal with. That way you know your house will be in safe hands and chances are you won't be sweating over the poorly maintained loo and kitchen while selling it off.

6. The satsang in your neighbour's house

Being religious is okay. But what happens when your neighbour's bhajans become a nuisance? There is no way you can ask them to shut up without raising a controversy in the building. It is pertinent that you bring it to their notice and if they don't relent, the society. CA Cardoz, a secretary of a housing society says that they have a blanket ban on late night music -- religious or otherwise. "We have quite a few senior citizens in the building. So no one is allowed to play loud music beyond a certain time."

7. The building's stairwell

The house may be out of the world. But if the approach to it is less than flattering, chances are that the buyer may chicken out, especially if he is Marc Billimoria a sales manager at a prominent bank.

After looking at the flat, Marc takes the stairs. According to him the stairwell is always a good yardstick to measuring how well maintained a society is. "There have been times when I have loved the house and the view from it but the stairwell is cluttered with garbage bags, beer bottles, unused pieces of furniture and what not. It puts me off because it showed that the callousness of the society members," he says.

Marc agrees that it might be a small thing and young professionals like him rarely spend much time in the house any way. "But the callousness can and usually does extend beyond the stairwell to fixing leakage problems or water shortage issues," he says.

8. The documents not in order

It's one thing if you lose your mark sheet and a completely different story if you cannot find your property papers. Paying stamp duty and registration fees is not an option; it's a rule.

Ensure you've got these two things out of the way when you've bought a property. Vikas Sakpal who recently sold his house in Andheri learnt it the hard way. "We have purchased this place many years ago and were told that it was okay if we paid a part of the stamp duty. We ended up paying a couple of lakh rupees as fine and other charges. That was a huge dent in my pocket," he recollects.

In case of a resale property, insist on seeing the originals of what is called 'chain documents' (papers of ALL the past owners) before making any token payment. Also ensure that the share certificate of the society is in the name of the buyer and no one else.

9. YOU!

It's important that you carry yourself appropriately while approaching the prospective buyer. Rekha Mehta says that she's seen quite a few deals falling through because the owner decided to be a pain.

She says, "One of my clients had liked a house so much, he had given in to almost every demand that the owner was making. The negotiations were in an advanced stage and the buyer was carrying considerable money as a token amount.

But the owner walked in to my office, shabbily dressed, unshaven and listed out a new set of demands. The buyer flinched at first but gave in because he wanted the house desperately. In fact he was even willing to pay more than what was agreed upon earlier.

The final nail in the coffin was when he told the buyer he couldn't move out for the next six months!"

You might think of it as a silly old saying but honesty is indeed the best policy. It is important to be transparent at all times. Also when a buyer approaches you, ensure you're well dressed and carry yourself in an appropriate manner. Think of it as a job interview where the impression you make on the opposite person is crucial. You don't need to lay all your cards on the table. But basic information must be given out to avoid any complications.

Reader invite:

Share your bittersweet house hunting experiences and tell us the things that have put you off while buying a house. Write to with the subject line 'Things that devalue a house' and we'll publish the most interesting ones right here!

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Abhishek Mande