What Not To Fix When Selling A House?

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

Selling your house can be stressful depending on the market, especially if you need your home to sell quickly. In hopes of a speedy sale, many homeowners start checking off a long list of repairs and updates. But there are some things you shouldn’t fix when selling a house.

When selling, you can avoid fixing normal wear-and-tear issues, cosmetic flaws, minor electrical or plumbing problems, and partial upgrades. Major kitchen and bath renovations can cost you more money than you’ll get back in the sale. And many buyers will likely end up doing things to their own taste anyway. Make sure to weigh the cost of the repair against your potential return on investment.

It makes sense to assume a house in excellent condition will sell faster, but that doesn’t mean you need to fix everything. You could spend too much on these fixes, eating into your ROI. Overall, you could lose money on the deal for doing things that likely won’t make a big difference.

But how do you know what to fix and what not to fix?

What Makes A Home Unsellable?

The primary things that make a house unsellable are factors that are not easily changed or can’t be changed at all. For example, the location, low ceilings, significant structural damages or issues, and a challenging floor plan could be deal breakers for many buyers. However, minor repairs and necessary updates won’t likely affect your home’s saleability if it checks many other boxes for house hunters.

It’s essential to keep these unsellable factors in mind when deciding what to repair and what not to fix when selling your house. Often, you might assume everything needs to be perfect about your home to seal the deal.

But concentrating on these minor issues steals your focus away from things that are more important for selling your home. If you’re unsure what you should fix and what’s better left untouched, here’s some food for thought.

8 Things You Don’t Need To Fix When Selling A House

Before you break out the hammers and paint and start spending money on costly renovations, read this list. It’s all about getting the best return on your investment. Therefore, you want to spend as little as necessary on your house to sell it quickly and for top dollar.

Sure, some adjustments and repairs might help your home sell faster, but at what cost? If it costs you an arm and a leg, and your home will sell anyway, it’s not worth it. Here are some of the most common things you don’t need to fix when selling a house.

1. Don’t Worry About Cosmetic Updates

You can leave most cosmetic issues alone if there’s no underlying damage or problems. Don’t rush to replace outdated fixtures, faucets, etc., which all work just fine. Many buyers will update and put their personal stamp on the home anyway once they buy.

Changing your cabinets and countertops or retiling your bathroom just to sell your home can backfire. It might end up pricing you out of your market area.

Do This Instead

Now, this doesn’t mean a fresh coat of paint and a few touch-ups won’t help. Staging your home for sale can significantly improve its saleability. According to the Real Estate Staging Association🄬 (RESA🄬) 2021 Seller’s Market Survey, staged homes sold faster by 9 days.

However, it’s a balancing act with cost versus ROI. So, limit your updates to things you can easily do for minimal cost.

A minor kitchen or bath remodel can improve your home’s ROI and help it sell, but keep your costs low. Painting is one example of an affordable task that gives your home an instant facelift.

You can even paint outdated tile, countertops, and cabinets. (Note: Make sure you use the correct paint for each project. You’ll find specific paint for tile, another for countertops, etc.)

2. Cracks In The Driveway

It’s common to find cracks in driveways, walkways, and sidewalks. You don’t need to worry about fixing these before you sell.

In fact, most buyers expect a few cracks in these places. Repaving your driveway simply to sell your home is overkill.

Do This Instead

Ignoring minor walkway and driveway cracks doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about your home’s curb appeal. Curb appeal is a huge factor in selling a home because it gives buyers their first impression of your house. Therefore, make sure the lawn is freshly cut and the garden is neat and tidy.

Your driveway and front yard should be free of debris, toys, garbage cans, etc. There are several ways to boost your home’s curb appeal for little cost. Add a pop of color by painting the front door, place a few potted plants on your porch, and paint worn-out shutters.

Also, make sure your home’s exterior lighting is on point. If buyers come by to see how your home looks at night, a dark exterior can be a red flag. A well-lit home provides a sense of security and looks better too.

3. You Don’t Need To Fix Minor Plumbing Or Electrical Problems

You can ignore certain small plumbing and electrical quirks. A loose outlet or dead light switch (it doesn’t go to anything) or an older water heater (that’s still working) can remain as-is. Most of the time, the home inspection report won’t mention these things or perhaps just a quick note about tightening sockets, etc.

Many buyers purchasing a home that isn’t brand-new construction will expect things like this. If they seem to be focusing on little issues, it might actually signal they’re seriously interested in making the purchase.

If there are any major issues with your electrical or plumbing that pose safety hazards, you do need to address these. Or, at the very least, be prepared to lower your sale price after the home inspection. This is a way to offset the cost of repairs for the buyer, so they still move ahead with the deal.

Do This Instead

An easy and affordable way to give your home a mini update is to replace outdated, cracked outlet covers and switch plates. Neutral, bright white is best.

Polish plumbing fixtures and clean them, so they don’t show any signs of limescale and other yucky build-up.

4. Don’t Buy Brand-New Appliances

Okay, so outdated appliances can certainly be a turn-off to buyers. After purchasing a new home, the last thing buyers probably want to do is shell out a few thousand on new appliances.

But, you’re wasting your money buying brand-new, top-of-the-line units. You just want something that won’t make buyers cringe.

Do This Instead

Look for mid-range appliances that look good and work well, and won’t break the bank. You can even consider used appliances or scratch-and-dent models.

Some of these appliances have dings or imperfections you won’t even see once they’re installed. (For example, a small dent on the side of the oven that is hidden between kitchen cabinets.)

5. Don’t Stress About New Building Codes

The International Residential Code (IRC) sets various stipulations and guidelines for dwellings to ensure safe living conditions. Many states follow the IRC, and some also follow the International Building Code (IBC). But, depending on when your home was built, it might possess certain features that are not up to present-day codes.

However, this doesn’t mean you’re in violation and need to bring things up to code in order to sell. Instead, many things are grandfathered in based on the year the home was built. You’ll find very few homes today that are completely up-to-code, unless they are new construction.

Therefore, don’t stress about having to make major changes. New buyers will have the option to bring things up to code if they wish to do so.

Do This Instead

It is important to be aware of any issues in your home that aren’t up to code that could present major hazards or safety issues. These types of problems could raise red flags and inhibit buyers. In these cases, you might need to make repairs to ensure your home is safe.

6. There’s No Need To Replace Outdated Window Accessories

Most real estate contracts stipulate window treatments, like shades, curtain rods, and drapery, as coming with the house. If your treatments are outdated or in poor condition, don’t bother replacing them. You can waste money purchasing items that aren’t to potential future buyers’ tastes.

Do This Instead

If you have worn-out, outdated window treatments, before showing your house, remove them. No treatments will look better than old, drab ones.

Another option is to purchase some affordable, neutral sheers or curtains to help stage the space. Then, make sure to have your real estate agent stipulate that these treatments do not come with the home. You can then use them in your new place or sell them on an online platform like Facebook Marketplace.

7. Avoid Partial Upgrades

Don’t do projects halfway and leave things incomplete for buyers to finish. When buyers see your house, you don’t want them to create a mental to-do list of all the things they need to finish. If they’re doing this, they aren’t seeing the home’s potential.

For example, you have great intentions of updating the guest bathroom before you sell. You rip out the tile and old vanity. You start retiling, but you don’t have time to finish inside the shower. You bought the new vanity, but it’s not installed yet.

So, you try to sugarcoat the deal by saying things like, “partially-renovated bathroom. Have all the tile and vanity. It just needs your loving touch to make it your dream space.”

This might sound great on paper, but what it really means is this bathroom is a mess. And buyers will need to spend time and money finishing what you couldn’t to have a functional space.

Do This Instead

Make a plan for some minor updates that improve your home’s overall first impression, and complete them. Don’t start big tasks that you won’t be able to finish.

There’s nothing wrong with making a few minor changes to give your home a facelift for showings. You always want to give the best impression possible without spending too much.

So, fresh, neutral paint in all the rooms and a good deep cleaning are great places to start.

8. Don’t Sweat Minor Wear-And-Tear

Most house hunters understand that the homes they’re looking at are someone else’s houses. Unless they’re buying a new build, they get that there could be a few scratches on the counter or some wiggly doorknobs.

There could be a couple of loose tiles in the bathroom or some faded carpet in the upstairs bedroom. Don’t sweat these minor issues. It doesn’t mean you have to replace all your floors and tile.

Do This Instead

If you have some DIY skills, you can go ahead and tackle some minor wear-and-tear repairs yourself for next to nothing. For example, go around the house with a screwdriver and tighten loose knobs, switchplates, etc.

Shampoo carpets and talk with your agent about negotiating a floor allowance into the deal.

Again, whatever repairs and fixes you make, make sure they make sense within the big picture of your home sale.

If the financial outcome makes the fixes worth it, then go for it. But if overall you would lose money or it won’t make your house sell much faster, it’s probably not worth fixing.

How Do You Choose What Not To Fix When Selling A House?

Talk with a knowledgeable real estate agent about what you really need to fix before selling your house. Your agent knows your neighborhood, the market, and the typical buyer profile for your area. They can guide you regarding the fixes that make the most sense and which ones aren’t worth your time.

When you enlist the help of a real estate agent, they’ll likely even request you not do anything to your house until they see it. They don’t want to waste time and money on unnecessary changes.

Agents can advise you if the potential ROI for your neighborhood warrants certain renovations. They’ll also help remove the emotion behind many of the things you want to fix. For example, perhaps you feel awkward about showing your home because you know it’s outdated.

To Fix Or Not To Fix When Selling Your House, That Is The Question

If you’re about to sell your house, don’t fix anything until you speak to your real estate agent. Many changes you think might be necessary will actually waste money and time. A fresh facelift to boost your home’s first impression is great, but it doesn’t need to be expensive.

Plus, you might end up starting projects you can’t finish, and partial updates are a real turn-off to buyers. Nobody wants to have a big to-do list of tasks as soon as they move into their new place. Don’t bother replacing worn-out appliances and window treatments with brand-new ones.

Instead, remove old treatments and replace appliances with mid-range or used ones. Basically, you probably don’t need to fix all the things you think you do to sell your house. Instead, talk to an agent that can help you focus on the most important points, so you’re a happy seller.

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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