To Fix, or Not to Fix - Prepping Your Home for Sale

A quick fix or a money pit?

So you are thinking of selling your home? One of the most common dilemmas a seller will face involves the question of “fixing up” certain things that are wrong with their home, in order to make it more appealing to a buyer. While markets vary across the country, some variables remain constant from coast to coast. Here are just a few:

Look through the buyer’s eyes…

Walk outside of your home and take a deep breath. Then walk up to the front door and ring the doorbell. While you are waiting on your porch for 30-60 seconds, look around. This is what a buyer will be doing while their Realtor is opening the keybox. Notice anything? Paint chips, loose railings, cracks in a window pane? As you enter the home, walk from room to room doing exactly the same thing. Make a list of everything you notice. Too many small items can add up to a big problem. If the home looks like you haven’t been taking care of it for years, the buyer will think that other things are also uncared for…like the furnace, plumbing and other big-ticket items. This is the first impression that the buyer will have as they approach your property. Make it a good one.

Are you keeping up with the Jones?

What does your neighborhood look like? Be honest with yourself. Are the neighboring lawns trimmed and landscaped, with all the bells and whistles that money can buy? Is yours? When you look at other homes for sale in your area, do most of them have updated kitchens and bathrooms, with all the latest faucet and handle accessories? Does your home have those features? Comparing your home to the others for sale in your area, in an honest fashion, can give you a very clear sense of where you stand when it comes to pricing and time on the market. Do your research now, so you can save time and money later. Your Realtor will have most of this information ready for you, so be sure to ask them for it.

Know your timetable…

Are you being transferred? Are you in a hurry to get the kids in school before the year starts? Is there something causing you to be in a time crunch? This could mean that you need a fast sale. This is the time to measure the costs of the repairs, the time it will take to complete those repairs, and the asking price within the local market. If your home is in better condition than the rest, and you have a little flexibility on price, those minor repairs may be just a nuisance. However, if the market is tough and tight and you have a price that you must get for your home, the minor repairs you are looking at could be the differentiating factor for a buyer on the fence. This is a complicated formula at times, and these things should be discussed between you and your Realtor fully before deciding on pricing and repairs. Just remember to be honest with your timetable right from the start.

If you must fix it, can you save some $$$ ?

While you are doing your soul searching about what needs to be done, you may realize that your

honest evaluation is telling you that you simply haven’t brought certain areas of your home up to date. This happens every day, so don’t despair. However, this also doesn’t mean you have to crack open the piggy bank and throw it out the window. Does your lawn lack the landscaping prowess that the neighbors have on display? What can you do inexpensively? How about a good thatching and raking to bring out the natural color of the grass? You could edge your garden areas with a flat spade and a lot of effort, and line them with stones from around the yard, or buy some inexpensive mulch to fill in the unattractive ground areas in between your plants. Any area of your home can be spruced up without being replaced, and save a lot of money. Be creative, look around the neighborhood for ideas, and ask your Realtor for some recommendations.

Forget all of that and sell AS-IS…

Unfortunately, many sellers choose this option without fully understanding the consequences of their actions. The overwhelming feeling is that you have lived with the house in this condition and you have been just fine. It isn’t a new house, so the buyer will just have to deal with it. You feel like you can lower the price of the house by a couple of hundred dollars and they should be happy to get a deal like that.

Wrong. Sorry. That’s not how it works.

Go back to number one and put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. To them, this IS a new home. To them, this is their opportunity to own this home for themselves, and live there every day, with their children and their dog, and host their family on Thanksgiving. They want their dream…not your reality. A buyer will always consider a repair to MORE costly than it really is, because they are the ones who will have to repair it. Their time, their labor, and their money will all enter into the discounted offer that they deliver to you. Most of all, they will feel like they are settling for less than what they were dreaming of, and they will want financial compensation for that compromise. Small repairs that can be taken care of in an inexpensive fashion can prevent all of this from happening.

Do some honest evaluating of your home and your area. Look for creative, inexpensive repair solutions whenever possible. Most of all, talk with your Realtor about all of the above. Your Realtor has done this a few times. Listen to their advice and your chances for a smooth transaction are very good.