If you find that every well-presented house on the market in your neighbourhood is out of your price range, or attracting too much competition, it might be time to look for an ugly duckling.

“But we have been” I hear you cry. “Even the renovator’s delights are hard to get.”

But I don’t speak of the kind of properties that need a new floor or a lick of paint.

In some of the nation’s cooler markets, ramshackle properties provide enough of a visual deterrent to sell for a discount.

These are the parts of Australia where it is hard to offload even a relatively nice home; the necks of the woods where home stylists can still make half a crust giving your home a handy makeover, de-cluttering everything and turning the right lights on during inspection time.

It is OK if you are buying in those places; you still have a modicum of power.

No, I am talking about some of the hotter markets, where people don’t even bother taking out the garbage for open houses, because they know that if there is a shortage of supply and they have a decent block, in a neighbourhood with no recent murders, buyers will line up…even if it’s just to knock down their place and start afresh.

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In these markets, the situation for buyers is desperate.

Buying a property is like vying with 100 others for a single stool in a game of musical chairs and, when the music stops, bidding far more than it should be worth to secure it.

So when I speak about ugly ducklings, I am talking about the next level down from the renovator’s delight…the ‘damaged goods’.

Vandalised homes, hoarders’ houses and similar properties can still provide that deterrent that sees big money slashed from an asking price.

As long as there are no major structural or pest problems in place, a well-planned and budgeted renovation can pay for itself in added value.

One example is fire damage.

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Nothing says ‘too hard basket’ like a home that looks burnt out, but sometimes, new gyprock and a paint job can make the home as good as new.

This is especially handy for investors, who can flip and sell for a quick profit.

You might find that a month, two months or maybe more is all it takes to make a year or two’s salary in equity or re-sale value.

Do, however, ensure you get the proper building and pest inspections done, or you might find that nasty surprises come out of the walls at the rate the termites are going into them.

Tim McIntyre is the senior real estate reporter for the Daily Telegraph and News.com.au. Over the past decade, he has attained widespread knowledge of Australia’s many unique property markets and is an authority on all things buying, selling and investing. His commentary appears every Saturday in the Daily Telegraph Real Estate lift out, as well as online at news.com.au

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