Fix It or Not? What to Ask When Prepping Your Home for Sale
Learn how to decide whether a repair is worth making before you put your house on the market
When you make the decision to sell your home, it can be tricky to know which changes would make your home sell more quickly or boost the sale price — and which would just be a waste of your time and resources. Each home (and each homeowner) is different; that’s why we’ve come up with 8 key questions to ask yourself before making any changes to prep your home for sale.
These first three questions will help you take the temperature of the real estate market in your area and assess the competition.
1. How hot or cold is the market in your area?
Are homes being snapped up after the first open house, or are they languishing on the market for months? Are homes being sold at or near the asking price, or for much lower? Are open houses bustling with people, or is attendance sparse? Get a feel for the market in your area by talking with your real estate agent
and checking local listings. If it’s a seller’s market, you may be able to get away with doing fewer repairs and modifications before selling, and still have good results — in a buyer’s market, expect to do more work to make a positive impression on buyers.
2. How fast are you looking to sell? If you need to sell your home immediately — say, because you have already committed to buying another home or need to move because of work — it is in your best interest to do everything in your power to ensure a quick sale at the highest price possible. If you have more flexibility, and you feel uncomfortable making too many pricey changes to your home before selling, it may make more sense to focus on cleaning, decluttering and making small cosmetic changes (like painting) — particularly if the market is hot and favors the seller. If you aren’t getting the offers you would like, you can always decide to spring for a few bigger changes later and relist your home.
3. What is the condition of comparable homes on the market? It can be quite helpful to know a little about the homes that buyers in your area are looking at. Examine photos of homes for sale in your area or even attend a few open houses, and make a mental note of how the other homes compare to yours. Are the kitchens updated? Are the floors in good shape? If all of the other homes you see have a certain feature (for instance, an updated kitchen) that yours lacks, consider making that a priority. You don’t need to make your home exactly like all the other homes on the market; just make sure there isn’t a single factor that could give your home a disadvantage.
To Fix or Not to Fix: Deciding Which Repairs Are Worth Tackling
The next five questions will help you assess whether or not to make a specific repair or change before selling your home.
4. Does the faulty item give the impression the property has not been well cared for? Leaky faucets, cracked tiles, an overgrown lawn, broken appliances or anything else that doesn’t work as it should can immediately turn off buyers. At an open house, people often zip through quite quickly, and if they notice one or two things that send up red flags, they may not give your home another chance.
5. Can you find a less expensive fix? Let’s say you scoped out the comparable homes on the market in your neighborhood, and they all have updated kitchens, but yours hasn’t been touched since the ’80s. Rather than spend big on a full kitchen remodel, why not give your kitchen a less costly refresh? For instance, you could paint the cabinets, swap out cabinet hardware, change the light fixtures and upgrade the appliances to something current and functional but not top-of-the-line. You will put some money into it but not nearly as much as with a full remodel — well worth it if it gets your home in the running in a competitive market.
6. How much will you realistically need to lower the price if you don’t fix it? If you have a lot of costly repairs to tackle to get your home ready to sell, you may be considering selling it as is. But keep in mind that buyers looking for a fixer-upper will also be looking to discount the selling price for the repairs plus the hassle. In other words, you won’t be able to simply estimate how much the repairs will cost and deduct that from the selling price; you’ll need to deduct even more to make it worth the buyer’s time and effort. Discuss this with your Realtor and look into other fixer-uppers for sale in your area to come up with an appropriate selling price.
7. Is it one of the first things potential buyers will see? First impressions are key, and that is never truer than in the real estate business! If you have a repair you are unsure about tackling, use this as a litmus test: Is it something the buyer will see as he or she approaches your house and walks through the front door? If so, fix it.
8. Could it be a deal breaker? Some home repairs, like a new roof, are just so major that they will scare off all but the most determined buyers. If the market in your area is hot (see No. 1) and you have ample time (see No. 2), there’s no harm in trying to sell without making the big repair, as long as you are willing to price it accordingly (see No. 6). If it’s a buyer’s market but you don’t have time to make the repair before listing, you could offer to pay for it as part of the sales agreement — otherwise it’s probably best to make the change first and then put your home on the market.
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