Outside, the condo doesn't look bad.

Inside, it was another story. It definitely looked
drab, cheap, outdated! 

Cast of characters

I paint houses for a living. My husband and I have bought and sold investment properties. We recently moved to the North Carolina coast after selling our home in the North Carolina mountains.

Today a local Realtor friend called to ask if we wanted to look at a nearby property. Technically, we are not in the market for an investment property, but she knows that we have flipped a couple of problem houses, so she thought of us.

A good Realtor is inventive like that. In this blog, I’ll be discussing what makes a good realtor. Finding one is a major step on the path between deciding to sell and leaving the closing table with money. But I won’t ignore readers who are F.S.B.O.        

We went immediately to her office. When you’re working with Ms. Speedy, things happen fast. I call her Ms. Speedy because she is. Quick thinking and quick-acting. 

The property in question

The property is a vacant waterfront condo that’s been on the market for two years. Ms. Speedy told us that for the first year the house smelled so bad real estate agents would not even enter the place to show it.  Finally, the owner was convinced to spend some money to replace carpeting and vinyl. That got rid of the doggy smell. But agents still aren’t bringing buyers.

The question we are now asking ourselves is, can some serious cosmetics and some simple staging turn an ordinary two-bedroom, two-bath condo into money. Its amenities are the deeded boat slip just steps away from the back door, a water view, a great neighborhood, reasonable homeowner association fees, close-by shopping, restaurants and other services, and no exterior maintenance.   

One great thing about Ms. Speedy is that she has been a real estate investor herself and she knows what it takes to fix and sell a house for a profit.  We tossed around ideas about what needed to be done to make the property attractive to buyers.  It’s a long list, so we went home to mull it over. 

Questions we need answers to

At home, my husband, aka Mr. Lucky, and I speculated about all the what-ifs. We looked at the photos I took and asked ourselves what it would take to make the kitchen look more upscale. 
  • What could we do with the baths to upgrade them on a shoestring? 
  • Is there room for improvement of the deck?
  • What about that popcorn ceiling and the drywall tape that’s coming loose around the ceiling edges?
  • The fogged-up patio doors?
  • The outdated lighting fixtures?
  • The puny landscaping?
  • The wallpaper?!
We spent the rest of the day penciling in prices on sheet after sheet of lined notebook paper.  Asking price. Selling price. Fix-up costs. Realtor’s commission. Carrying costs. Profit. It’s the fix-up total that holds the key to whether it’s doable. 

We called a friend, I’ll call him Mr. Carpenter because he is one, and more than that, and asked if he would come and help us ballpark fix-up costs. We’re meeting him tomorrow.