What Not to Fix When Selling a House
Before you go ahead and replace that kitchen countertop, check out our list of unnecessary home improvements when selling your home.
By Emily Southey | 9 minute read
Thinking of selling your house but aren’t sure where to start? Most real estate professionals emphasize the importance of preparing a home for sale. From decluttering and staging to hiring a realtor and marketing your home, there are many components to selling a house. Another recommended way of preparing your home for sale is to fix things that need fixing. But not all repairs are necessary (or worth it). In this article, we dive into some of the non-safety-related fixes that might be best left as is.
Fixing Up Your Home Versus Selling Your Home As Is
As a seller, it’s up to you to decide which updates, improvements, or repairs to make to your home prior to selling. Although selling it as is might be the most convenient option, doing so could mean losing out on money, especially if some small fixes could significantly boost your listing price. Conversely, fixing every minor and major repair that comes up usually isn’t cost-effective and will result in you losing out on money in the home sale. Therefore, finding a perfect balance between fixing up your home and selling it as is is key. Before we outline a list of what not to fix when selling a house, we’re going to break down a few factors to consider when deciding between listing your home in its current state or fixing it up.
Factors to consider when preparing your home for sale
As mentioned, some sellers sink too much money into fixing up their properties or spend on unnecessary repairs. In contrast, some sellers refuse to make repairs of any kind and lose out on potential income. Before deciding whether to fix anything in your home prior to selling (and what specifically you want to fix), we suggest thinking about the following factors.
- Comparable homes: If you’re working with a realtor, ask them to conduct a comparative market analysis to help you analyze the other homes for sale in your neighbourhood. Try to find out what condition the homes are being sold in. Are they in a similar condition to yours or do they have newer renovations or updates? If the homes near you are newer or in better condition than yours, making repairs might be a good strategy if you want to compete.
- Return on investment (ROI): Not all repairs are created equal. While some can instantly boost the value of your home, others may be unnoticeable, resulting in little to no return on investment. Before starting any repairs or renovations, think carefully about which ones are worthwhile. There are generally two categories of fixes: cosmetic and safety-related. While the latter might be necessary to sell your home, the former usually isn’t and can significantly vary in price. To determine which updates are likely to garner a good ROI, you may want to get a professional opinion from a contractor or realtor.
- Real estate market conditions: In a seller’s market, homes are more likely to receive multiple offers and sell fast. Therefore, since demand outpaces supply in this type of market, sellers can usually get away with making minimal repairs. Unless there are major, safety-related repairs needed, buyers will still be likely to make an offer on the home. However, in a buyer’s market, buyers can afford to be a bit pickier, which is when making repairs might be necessary if you want to sell your home for top dollar. Again, consulting with a realtor can help you better understand the current market conditions and make an informed decision about which repairs to make.
“Repairing or replacing windows can be costly, and most of the time, it’s simply not worth it. For example, common problems like broken seals are mostly cosmetic but can cost hundreds of dollars to fix per window.”
The Pros and Cons of Fixing a Home Before Selling
There are both pros and cons to fixing up a home before selling. To help you determine which option is right for you, we outline both below.
Generally speaking, the pros of updating your home before listing it are as follows:
- Fixing up your house can increase the value of your home, which in turn, can translate to a buyer offering a higher purchase price (some experts claim that updating a home before selling can increase the sale price by as much as tens of thousands of dollars);
- Mortgage lenders may be more likely to approve a mortgage loan if the home is in good condition, which increases the pool of available buyers; and
- A house that has been fixed up before selling may be more attractive to buyers, which increases the odds of multiple offers and a higher purchase price.
Meanwhile, the cons of updating your home before selling include:
- There is no guaranteed ROI, meaning you could spend a lot of money on repairs and not make any of this money back in the home sale;
- Depending on the extent of the repair, they can be a lengthy process (for example, major repairs can take weeks or even months to complete); and
- As the seller, you will likely have to front the costs of all these repairs, meaning you need to have the necessary capital.
Six Repairs Not to Do When Selling a House
Without further ado, let’s move on to a list of what repairs to avoid when selling a house. The updates below are generally not worth the hassle or cost, which means it’s best to skip them altogether when selling a property.
Repairing or replacing windows can be costly, and most of the time, it’s simply not worth it. For example, common problems like broken seals are mostly cosmetic but can cost hundreds of dollars to fix per window. Similarly, old or broken window accessories like blinds are also not generally worth replacing. Ultimately, a buyer is unlikely to decide against making an offer because they didn’t like the blinds or think the windows are too old. Instead, spend some time cleaning them so they are as bright and sparkling as possible.
2. Minor HVAC, electrical, or plumbing issues
HVAC, electrical, and plumbing issues are among the most expensive for homeowners. Even making minor updates can be costly. There is also a common misconception that sellers need to bring these elements of their home “up to code” before selling. However, this isn’t true. As a general rule of thumb, if your HVAC systems are all working as they should be, even if they are on the older side, it’s best to leave them alone. Keep in mind that all latent defects must be disclosed to prospective buyers in the Seller’s Disclosure Notice, so if you have any major electrical, plumbing, or HVAC issues, you will need to make them known. But minor ones are best left alone in most circumstances.
Flooring is another update that usually doesn’t pay off when selling a home. This is because tastes change fast, so installing a new carpet or brand-new flooring likely won’t impact the value of your home much. Many buyers choose to change flooring after moving in, and it’s impossible to predict what type of flooring a buyer will prefer. The only instance in which updating the floors might be necessary is if there are many stains or strong odours (for example, from pets or cigarette smoke) that would deter a buyer from making an offer. Similarly, outdated, cosmetic floor coverings, like patterned tiles, are usually also not worth changing. Even if the buyer doesn’t love them, they are relatively easy to tear up and replace, and that can be done once the buyer has taken possession.
4. Partial updates to bathrooms or kitchens
Bathrooms and kitchens are typically the two most expensive rooms in the house to update. Even if you decided to complete a partial renovation rather than a full one, it can still end up taking ample time and costing you a lot of money. Worse, partial upgrades tend to add little to no value to a home. It’s only full updates that have the potential to make an impact. For this reason, most sellers are better off avoiding updates to the kitchen and bathrooms altogether. If you can’t afford a complete remodel, your best bet is to leave them as is. Instead, focus on cleaning and decluttering as much as possible.
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5. Old appliances
Everyone likes state-of-the-art appliances, but not having them is rarely a dealbreaker. In fact, in a seller’s market, as long as the appliances still work, their age and condition aren’t likely to matter. Since common household appliances like dishwashers, laundry machines, and ovens are so expensive, they’re generally not worth fixing before selling. The only situation in which updating your old appliances might be worthwhile is if your property has sat on the market for some time and you’ve received repeated feedback about the old appliances.
6. Major updates that won’t be finished in time
One final type of fix to avoid when selling a house is any major update that won’t be completed prior to when you want to list your home. Unless you are willing to push back the list date, do not start any major projects. Major renovations almost always take longer than you think, and the last thing you want is a prospective buyer to be touring your work-in-progress home. A half-finished home is harder to market than an old or outdated one left as is.
Questions to Ask When Deciding Whether or Not to Fix Something Before Selling Your House
While we’ve provided a general list of what not to fix when selling a house above, you will likely find yourself wondering about other repairs not listed. To help you decide whether any fix is worthwhile or not, we recommend asking yourself the following questions beforehand:
- Will this deter a buyer from making an offer on my home?
- Will this cost me more to fix than I’ll get back in the home sale?
- Is the end product likely to be something a buyer would change after moving in?
- Will this cause my house to sell for less than other comparable homes in the area?
- Will this cause my house to sit on the market longer than it should (costing me more money in the long run)?
Frequently Asked Questions
If a house is sold “as is” do any fixes need to be done at all on a house before selling?
No, selling a home as is means that the buyer must be prepared to purchase the property in its current condition. In such a situation, the seller is not required to make any repairs, updates, or improvements, even safety-related ones.
Do you have to list cosmetic-related problems in a house prior to selling?
Generally speaking, the seller should be prepared to disclose all damage to the home that they are aware of. This could be anything from defects and hazards to water damage, pest infestations, or a leaky basement. Failure to disclose pertinent information about physical damage that requires repairs could give the buyer grounds to file a lawsuit against the seller.
What questions should I ask my realtor prior to fixing a house to prepare for sale?
What you want to find out from a realtor before fixing a house up for sale is which updates are worth doing. So asking questions like “What fixes do you recommend?” and “What updates will result in the largest ROI?” are crucial. You may also want to ask questions about the market and comparable homes in your area, like “What is the condition of the other homes for sale in my neighbourhood?” and “Is it a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?” If the goal is to determine whether repairs are necessary and if so, the ones that will boost your home’s property value the most, asking the aforementioned questions can help you achieve it.