It is said that if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig. Well that may be true, but with the right lipstick that pig may fetch a better price at auction.

The same goes for ugly houses. Most real estate agents dread the day they get an ugly listing. Fortunately most homes sold these days are not a 99 on the yuck-o-meter. The trick, however, is going about convincing a client, who may be completely immune to style and good taste, to make some fast updates before the house goes on the market. Or you could have a client who may not want to put in the work or cash either because he’s an investor and wants a quick flip opportunity or he’s an executor of an estate and simply wants to get the house sold.

Either way, there are some low-hanging fruit when it comes to taking some of the stink off that hot mess. Here are some of our suggestions we hope will be of help:

Ugly house but…

You can always do a little bit of work in the yard to turn that eyesore into an diamond in the rough. Without much money and some sweat and dirty fingernails, your client can add some beauty to offset the ugly. Flowers, fresh mulch, a little TLC for the grass and – voila – you have curbside appeal where before it was curbside repel.

Honesty is the best policy

Most real estate agents talk in glowing terms when describing their latest listings. And for good reason — you want your client’s home to stand-out, right? Ugly houses are a different matter altogether. You can’t write your way to beauty and romance with this kind of house. So it’s far better to be honest, be transparent and avoid the extra flattering terms. You don’t want a home buyer prospect to show up expecting a castle only to see a moat.

It’s an ugly duckling, for now…

Just like the famous children’s story “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen, you can always sell the future potential beauty of a home even though for now it looks like a dumpster fire. If the home has ‘good bones’ and can be brought back to its original beauty then that’s a selling point to emphasize. Stress the upside, the potential for remodeling and transforming the current ugliness into a desirable home for a young family.

Spic and span

One way to put a little luster on an ugly house is to make sure your client cleans it as much as possible. While you may not be able to completely clean out a mold problem or change out worn and torn carpets you can still make sure the kitchen and bathrooms shine, the carpet loses the years of dirt and the rooms are tidy. Just because the outside is atrocious doesn’t mean the inside has to be, right? Since many ugly house owners are less inclined to obsess over cleanliness, you might suggest hiring a cleaning crew, or getting a team of friends to come help the hapless homeowner. Just let the client know that a few hundred dollars up front could net a thousand more dollars in the final sale.

Let the light shine!

Nothing makes a home look more cave-like and fit for trolls and not toddlers than keeping the light out. Tear down the 25 year-old curtains, peel away the sun-blocking foil and ditch the taped up cardboard. It’s time to let the healing powers of sunlight enter the dungeon. Having enough light will let prospective home buyers better assess the potential for rehabilitation and maybe even begin dreaming of their family enjoying a life in the home.

Less is better

A trick to any successful home showing is to declutter as much as possible. Ugly homes may have more to declutter than most if they have been occupied by hoarders or collectors. If it’s an actual hoarder then you may have a harder time getting through on this point. Still, you have to make the case that reducing the amount of furniture, bric-a-brac, family memorabilia is the only way to ensure you get the house sold as quickly as possible and at this highest price possible.

Speaking of price…

At the end of the day, you can sell any house as long as it’s priced right. The challenge, however, will be convincing your client that because the house is not belle of the ball he will have to offer it much lower than market price. The truth is never easy to give, especially if your client has a huge blind spot when it comes to how ugly the house really is. It’s not uncommon for a house to get priced above what the market will allow only for it to sit unvisited for months. Some clients never wake up, but many will and then they will be much more inclined to take your advice.

Real estate flippers

There are some real estate investors who specialize in helping move distressed properties by doing a quick upgrade to address a home’s most glaring faults. If your client’s ugly house is not getting any visits let alone offers then it may be time to appeal to the real estate flippers in your community. Either that or seek out a local real estate investor club to see if there are any takers.

Do you have any tried-and-true tips on how to sell an ugly house? If so, please leave us a comment below or give us a shout on Facebook or Twitter.


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