What Not to Fix When Selling a House: 10 Ways to Save Money

What Not to Fix When Selling a House: 10 Ways to Save Money

Selling a house involves prioritizing repairs to maximize profit. This guide explains which repairs to skip and how to present your home appealing to buyers.

Marcio VasconcelosMarcio Vasconcelos

Published on May 18, 2024

Selling a house involves numerous decisions, one of which is determining what to repair and what to leave as is. 

It's tempting to think that a perfect home will attract faster sales and higher offers, but not every repair contributes effectively to achieving those goals.

Prioritizing which repairs to skip, based on cost-effectiveness and return on investment, is crucial for sellers who wish to maximize their profit without unnecessary expenditures.

With that in mind, we’ve created a comprehensive guide on what repairs to avoid and how to still make your home appealing to potential buyers. Let’s dive in:

What to Consider Before Making Repairs

Before diving into any repair work, consider the following factors:

Market Conditions

In a buyer's market, competition is high, and buyers expect more incentives and repairs. Minor issues could be a dealbreaker, so fixing essential repairs becomes critical. Conversely, in a Seller's Market, properties move quickly, and buyers are willing to overlook minor issues due to high demand.

Target Buyer

First-time buyers often seek move-in-ready homes and are more sensitive to repair costs. Investors or flippers look for homes that require minimal investment but still provide strong resale potential. Meanwhile, families may prioritize structural integrity and functionality over aesthetics.

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Evaluate your budget for repairs and upgrades. Focus on high-impact, low-cost improvements that deliver a solid return on investment.

Comparable Sales

Research similar properties in your area to see what features they offer and how much they sold for. This can be done by creating a CMA (Comparative Marketing Analysis) – a report designed for this specific use.

Time Frame

If you need to sell quickly, avoid time-consuming projects that could delay the sale. Prioritizing essential repairs that offer a significant impact in a short amount of time is crucial.

Why You Shouldn't Fix Everything

Fixing everything can be overly expensive and unnecessary. Here’s why you should be selective:

Diminishing Returns:
Many high-cost repairs do not offer a return proportionate to their expense. Focus on changes that increase visual appeal and functionality without extensive costs.

Buyer Plans:
Buyers often look forward to making personal changes to a new home. Over-customizing or upgrading can lead to investments that won't pay off.

Simplifying Negotiations:
Leaving some less critical repairs can provide leverage during sale negotiations. Buyers might appreciate the opportunity to make their own improvements in exchange for a price reduction.

Time Constraints:
Major repairs can extend the time your house is on the market. If you need to sell quickly, avoid time-consuming renovations that could delay your timeline.

Market Expectations:
Some repairs may not align with market expectations, particularly in lower-priced markets. Buyers in these segments often prioritize affordability over perfection.

Personal Bias:
Homeowners often have emotional attachments to certain features or styles, leading to over-investment in upgrades that may not appeal to all buyers. Be objective and prioritize what most buyers will find valuable.

What Not to Fix When Selling a House

Image: Canva

Now that you understand why it's not profitable to fix everything when selling a house, it's time to delve into the specific repairs that can affect your home's selling profitability. Here are 10 things you should reconsider fixing before listing your house:

1. Cosmetic Flaws

Cosmetic flaws, such as cracked tiles, scratched hardwood floors, and outdated finishes, can detract from your home's appearance but usually don't require a complete makeover. Here’s how to handle these flaws:

Reason Not to Fix: 
Minor imperfections like small cracks or scuffs are expected in most homes and usually don't affect the sale price significantly. Major renovations, such as replacing countertops, may not provide a good return on investment.

Tips to Improve Appearance:

  • Easy Fixes: Apply fresh caulk to cracks, re-grout tiles, touch up drywall, and repaint the walls to make the house look clean and well-maintained.
  • Avoid Overdoing It: Don't replace all countertops or flooring unless they're in very poor condition.

2. Aging Appliances

Outdated appliances can appear less attractive to buyers, but they’re not always dealbreakers.

Reason Not to Fix:
Replacing kitchen or laundry appliances can be expensive, and buyers may prefer choosing their own new appliances.

Tips to Refresh the Look:

  • Clean appliances thoroughly inside and out.
  • Replace broken knobs or handles.
  • Polish stainless steel appliances for a shiny, clean appearance.

3. Partial Flooring Replacements

Replacing entire carpets or hardwood floors can be expensive. Buyers may want to choose their own flooring materials.

Reason Not to Fix:
Flooring choices are personal, and buyers may prefer to install their desired material.

Tips to Refresh the Look:

  • Professionally steam clean existing carpets.
  • Place stylish area rugs over worn spots.
  • Polish hardwood floors and replace a few boards if necessary.

4. Old Windows:

Full window replacements are rarely necessary unless windows are broken or inoperable.

Reason Not to Fix:
Replacing windows is expensive and may not yield a high ROI (Return Over Investment). Instead, consider cosmetic fixes.

Tips to Refresh the Look:

  • Clean windows thoroughly inside and out.
  • Repaint window frames to give them a refreshed appearance.
  • Replace broken panes or repair damaged screens.

5. Outdated Bathrooms

Full bathroom renovations rarely recoup their cost. Instead of remodeling, make minor cosmetic improvements.

Reason Not to Fix:
Buyers may have their own preferences for bathroom upgrades, and extensive remodeling can be costly.

Tips to Refresh the Look:

  • Re-grout tiles and replace old caulk.
  • Install new faucets, showerheads, and cabinet hardware.
  • Add decorative elements like fresh towels and potted plants.

6. Complete Landscaping Makeovers

A full landscaping renovation can be time-consuming and costly. Focus on enhancing curb appeal instead.

Reason Not to Fix:
Landscaping expenses are rarely recouped in full. Instead, prioritize simple maintenance.

Tips for Improving Curb Appeal:

  • Mow the lawn and trim bushes.
  • Add inexpensive potted plants or mulch around flower beds.
  • Power wash walkways and driveways for a clean look.

7. Roof Repairs:

Unless there are active leaks, cleaning the roof and gutters can be enough. Full replacements are rarely recouped in home sale prices.

Reason Not to Fix:
Major roof repairs can be expensive and may not yield a good return.

Tips to Enhance Appearance:

  • Repair visible damaged shingles or tiles.
  • Clean gutters to remove debris and leaves.
  • Power wash the roof to remove moss or algae.

8. Intricate Customizations

Avoid overly personalized decor or custom artwork. Neutral decorations appeal to a broader audience.

Reason Not to Fix:
Bold design choices can be off-putting to buyers.

Tips to Neutralize Customizations:

  • Repaint brightly colored walls in neutral tones like beige or gray.
  • Remove excessive decorations and store personal collections.
  • Stage rooms with simple, stylish furniture.

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9. Extensive Electrical Rewiring

Address only exposed wiring or safety hazards. Cosmetic updates to electrical fixtures and faceplates can enhance appeal without extensive rewiring.

Reason Not to Fix:
Full rewiring can be expensive, and buyers might not expect it unless there are visible safety issues.

Tips for Minor Electrical Updates:

  • Replace old faceplates with modern ones.
  • Upgrade lighting fixtures for a contemporary look.
  • Ensure all bulbs are functioning and provide ample lighting.

10. HVAC Upgrades:

Unless the system is non-functional, routine servicing and filter changes can be enough for older systems.

Reason Not to Fix:
HVAC replacements are expensive, and older systems may still function efficiently.

Tips for HVAC Maintenance:

  • Replace filters to improve air quality.
  • Clean vents and ductwork for better airflow.
  • Schedule professional servicing to ensure the system operates efficiently.

11. Garage Renovations

Garages are typically used for storage or parking and don't need to be aesthetically pleasing to attract buyers.

Reason Not to Fix:
Renovating a garage into a finished space is costly and may not appeal to every buyer.

Tips to Organize the Garage:

  • Clean and declutter the space, and remove any hazardous materials.
  • Install inexpensive shelving for a neat and organized appearance.
  • Ensure the garage door is functional and well-maintained.

12. Basement Finishing

An unfinished basement can appear unattractive but is often a blank slate for buyers.

Reason Not to Fix:
Finishing a basement is costly and time-consuming. Buyers often prefer customizing the space themselves.

Tips to Improve Basement Appeal:

  • Declutter the space and ensure it’s well-lit.
  • Add storage shelves and organize any tools or equipment.
  • Seal any small cracks and apply waterproof paint to prevent moisture buildup.

How to Present Your Home in a Better Way Without Over-Investing

Improving your home’s presentation doesn’t require significant investment. Here are effective strategies:

Enhance Curb Appeal

A tidy exterior with clean walkways and a manicured lawn can make a powerful first impression. Repaint or replace the front door for a fresh look.

Stage the Home

Remove clutter and depersonalize spaces. Well-placed furniture and neutral decor help buyers envision themselves in the home.

Improve Lighting

Bright homes are more inviting. Open curtains, clean windows, and add lighting fixtures where needed to brighten up the space.

Create a Welcoming Atmosphere

A clean, fresh-smelling home is welcoming. Consider light scents like vanilla or citrus to create a pleasant ambiance during showings.

Pre-Inspection Report

Provide a pre-inspection report to demonstrate transparency and reduce buyer concerns.

Key Takeaways

By understanding what not to fix when selling a house, you can save time and money while still presenting your home in the best possible light.

  • Prioritize Repairs: Focus on repairs that provide high impact and avoid unnecessary upgrades.
  • Budget Wisely: Allocate your budget to areas that will make a noticeable difference without over-investing.
  • Staging Matters: A well-staged home can make up for minor flaws and create a lasting impression.
  • Buyer's Perspective: Put yourself in the buyer's shoes and emphasize the home's strengths.

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