To fix or not to fix, that is the question every homeowner has when it’s time to sell their home. Investors also want to know what renovations and upgrades are worth their while if they plan to buy and hold real estate.
You want to offer a property that has excellent curb appeal, but at the same time, it’s wise to temper your funds and use time efficiently. By making strategic, high-impact home improvements and ignoring what won’t increase your return on investment, you can maximize your house’s marketability.
Your real estate agent can give you tailored advice on what to fix to boost your home’s value while staying within market expectations. For example, you don’t want to over-improve for potential buyers of starter homes, while you also don’t want to offer something lackluster to high-end home buyers.
The Goal: To Show Well, with Integrity.
The truth is that no prospective buyer notices ~everything~ when they walk through your home during a showing. Therefore, invest in the high-impact home repairs that will make your house show well. Avoid over-improving your home compared to its competitors, because that’s not only exhausting, but it also won’t increase your sale price.
We’re not saying you should hide major defects either — the buyer’s home inspector and appraiser will find the ones that matter, so do your homework with the home renovations that matter. Big things inspectors catch are old roofs that often make financing fail, or the age of an HVAC system. It pays to take care of these big items so that you don’t have to keep pressing the reset button after a buyer walks away after a home inspection.
Be on Par with or Better Than the Competition
To sell your home at maximum profit, you must understand how a real estate professional would price and market your home. The goal is to make your home look as good or better than its competition. To see where your house stands, check comparable homes on a site like Zillow to see what’s for sale in your home’s price bracket.
- Is yours in a starter home price range? Then perhaps a fresh coat of paint in neutral colors and one major repair to catch the eye of a buyer, like a new roof. Buyers in a high-interest rate market are not looking for fixer-uppers, so they will feel more confident about making an offer on a home that won’t need a new roof in 20 years.
- Is your home a move-up or a luxury home? Then you need to make sure that it’s overall move-in ready with no defects in major areas like its electrical system, roof, HVAC, windows, and flooring. Outdated appliances in the kitchen or worn-out elements in the bathrooms will be less forgivable compared to a cheaper home. Know your buyers and what they want for the price, and you’ll ace the higher-end home selling process.
Avoid Trendy or Niche Things
Trends fade. Using classic, evergreen paint colors, fixtures, and materials will make it much easier for your local real estate agent to make your home appealing to buyers. Flashy neon light strips in the bathroom got to go, the same with that hot pink paint that you think is great. Tacky items will reduce your selling price since the buyer will be fixin’ to replace it.
Here are the things to ignore unless your buyer really has their heart set on them: our official do-not-fix list!
What Not to Fix when Selling Your Home
1. Driveway Cracks
Any hairline cracks in pavement or asphalt are normal wear over time and aren’t a big concern, and frankly not noticeable at first glance. These are also easily fixed with seal coating or some Quickrete or sealcoating, so buyers aren’t too concerned about this during a home sale, and neither should you.
2. Functional Appliances
If your appliances are working properly and look good, you can leave them be. If a buyer is truly intent on getting brand new appliances, they can ask the home seller for it after the inspection. However, if the home inspector deems these units functional, then sellers can feel free to say no to replacing them.
- Note: In a higher price bracket, it is advised to replace very old appliances before even listing.
3. Minor Cosmetic Defects in Flooring
The occasional crack in a tile isn’t a deal breaker for many, and if you just leave it be, chances are the buyer won’t think they are a big deal either. For example, a defect like a couple of scratches in hardwood floors doesn’t typically jump out as a bad first impression. However, missing grout or missing entire floor panels does matter.
4. Outdated Faucets
Sure, you may have the faucet that resembles the Ice Age squirrel, but it works. Functional items that may have cosmetic flaws are tolerable, especially when they are easy DIY projects. Chances are, the buyer will replace any new faucet you install anyway, so leave any functional faucets alone since these items are a matter of taste that homeowners often change.
- Note: In a high-end price bracket, you may just want to update the faucet to something nice and neutral before showings to make a better impression.
5. Functional Windows
Realtors often advise homeowners against replacing windows that are in standard condition. They don’t have to be new or perfect, and they can even still be builder-grade. As long as they don’t have cracks or impacts from projectiles, then your windows should not be an issue. The cost to replace them is typically not worth what you’ll recoup from the sale either.
- Note: In luxury price brackets, window age does come into play. Even so, it’s better to leave them alone to save time. Conversely, the buyer may negotiate a price reduction or repair credit in the sales contract.
6. Retro Elements
If you own an older home, there will naturally be some vintage design elements dispersed around the home. Whether it’s a Formica countertop, a very 90’s golden light fixture, or that iconic jazz solo cup pattern on the walls, there could be someone who wants to keep them around.
Since one person’s eyesore can be someone else’s nostalgia, don’t waste your time or money replacing these elements unless you’re in a buyer’s market or in an expensive price range. Your realtor will be an excellent advisor on what can stay or go after looking at your competition.
7. A Dud Outlet
If you have one dud outlet in the house, then this minor electrical issue won’t make the next homeowner’s life miserable. However, it can cost you a lot of money to hire an electrician to resolve the issue. Unless the plug is somewhere important, like prime TV power source location, then a fluke like this can probably slide.
- P.s. The same goes for light switch covers. These are cheap and easy to replace, and highly subjective to the owner’s taste. It’s best not to even touch these since they will likely be replaced.
8. Cabinet Knobs
Knobs are convenient for opening cabinets, but if your home never came with any and you’ve lived for years without them, there is no need to start a huge knob installment project. Knobs can add up in cost, and don’t have any impact on the home inspection report. Plus, the buyer may just get their own kitchen remodel and install their own knobs in the future.
9. Older Light Fixtures
If your light fixtures work, then don’t worry about them. Improving these doesn’t add much to the value of your home. Just clean them and make sure they have all their light bulbs, and they should pass initial scrutiny. In fact, the right buyer might even find them charming.
- Note: If for some reason the buyer absolutely abhors your light fixtures, and it’s the thing making them hesitate, give them a credit to replace it after they move in.
10. Unfinished Attics or Basements
Finishing a basement or attic does help a home sell, but its significant cost and commitment can make it a project that is too expensive and stressful to take on before selling. Plus, you may not have enough time to update your home’s records to include the new total living square footage, so it might not help raise your asking price.
On the other hand, something like water damage needs to be addressed in spaces like these to make sure it passes the home inspection. Unfortunately, this is a health issue that you should resolve.
What NOT to Fix When Selling Your House
What should you fix, and what not to fix when selling your home? Making strategic fixes can maximize your listing price and minimize your rehab budget. An experienced real estate agent from Marketplace Homes can give you custom home makeover advice that would make your home marketable for its price bracket.
Different markets involve various levels of buyer expectation. Whether you need updated landscaping, a new HVAC system, or just need neutral paint colors, it all depends on your home’s unique character. If you need to sell your home or prepare an investment property for a new resident, contact us today!
Alicia Persson is the real estate content writer for Marketplace Homes. She has several years of experience working in real estate teams that specialized in investments and property management. Before she joined MH, she was a freelance writer for 7 years, providing real estate and home living content for boutique digital marketing agencies.
She is a proud University of Virginia master’s graduate and enjoyed her undergraduate years at the University of Mary Washington. When she is not writing, she plays keytar and does female lead vocals in a local 90’s band or spends time with her amazing family.