Thankful for Bad Listing Photos and a Chain-Smoking Seller

Four years ago I helped my buyers Megan and Christian purchase a home off NE Alberta. At the time they bought that house, it was a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom with an unfinished basement and attic, with the only way to access the attic through a pull down ladder from a hatch in the hallway. Over the last four years they have converted their basement into a lovely apartment and finished their attic with a master suite and added a spiral staircase for access. Christian has a construction and carpentry background and did most of the work. Being perpetual project taker-onners, they decided they were ready to purchase a second property to have as a rental, and since they excel at and enjoy sweat equity, ideally they wanted to purchase a home that had an unfinished basement that was suitable for turning into an ADU.

We looked at a couple of duds, and then Megan sent me a listing to a house in close-in SE that had been on the market for 3 months. While the price was unbeatable at $350k, the house was on a busy street, but it’s in a residential section so on a scale of 1-10 of busy street living with 1 being great and 10 being awful, this one is about a 3. From the photos, the house looked dingy, cluttered and in need of a lot of updates and deferred maintenance issues that needed addressing. Given the price and location, despite some misgivings, we went to go see it with pretty low expectations. Upon just opening the front door of the home, we were greeted with a waft of longtime smokers house odors. A good lot of buyers would have turned around and walked out the door at that point. Being seasoned home remodelers, the smell didn’t dissuade Christian and Megan. Washing the walls with TSP, removing carpet and drapes and then repainting should rid the house of the smokers smell. After all, nearly every old house had a smoker given how prevalent smoking used to be. We stepped all the way into the house and lo and behold the house was a pristine mid-century with original woodwork, an ideal layout, beautiful hardwood floors, a formal dining room and original kitchen cabinets that just needed a good scrub down. The walls were dingy from nicotine and the smoky smell permeated everything but underneath all that was a gem. We made our way to the basement and discovered a beautiful basement. Built in 1955, the foundation was built like a tank and the basement ceilings were close to 8′ tall- perfect for finishing. For toppers, the house was in great condition and the roof was brand spanking new.

I have a lot of buyers looking for that perfect mid-century with the fireplace, hardwood floors, and simple layout, and  after seeing it in person, it was hard to believe that no one had snatched it up in three months. After grooving with the house, we collectively decided that the biggest issues with the house were poor listing photos which most likely put off most buyers who would have been interested and the smokers smell for those who actually made it to the house to see in person. After sleeping on it, Megan and Christian decided to go for it. They wrote an offer, had it accepted, sailed through inspections and after the seller secures his next housing situation, Megan and Christian can begin the process of turning the basement into an apartment. After spending a month falling more in love with the house, they’ve decided that they will probably rent out their home in Alberta and then move into this house for at least a year so they can finish the basement apartment without disturbing tenants. And who knows, maybe after spending a year in the house maybe they’ll decide they like living in SE and stay put.

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