Once you decide to sell your house, your to-do list starts expanding—rapidly. While you naturally want to make your home as appealing as possible to potential buyers, you also need to make sure you aren't filling your plate with unnecessary tasks. If you've found yourself wondering if you really need to fix this or that, keep reading!
What to Fix:
Major issues with the home's systems and structure
Fixing major problems with your home's systems (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc.) or structure (foundation, roof, etc.) is at the top of the list for a reason. They can cause a lot of secondary damage, severely impact the value of your home, and can even be dangerous. Depending on how your contract and contingencies shake out, addressing a major issue may be unavoidable. However, you should always consult with your agent to figure out if it's worth fixing something huge or if it's better to sell your house "as-is" for a lower price.
Outdated or broken safety features
One of the first things that a home inspector will look for are functional, up-to-date smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. In rooms that have a water source, GFCI outlets and receptacles are also a must. Make sure you're aware of your state and local laws regarding up-to-code safety features or ask your agent.
Low-cost cosmetic updates
Cosmetic updates are one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to spruce up your home. This includes smaller projects like a fresh coat of paint, updating some of the lighting fixtures, or replacing cabinetry hardware. However, you shouldn't replace an outdated trend with a current trend; for example, painting your 2010s mint bathroom a trendy 2020s periwinkle. Instead, opt for changes that are neutral or classic so that potential buyers can easily imagine the home decorated to their personal taste.
Low-cost exterior updates
Curb appeal is your home's first impression, so don't neglect it! Much like interior cosmetic updates, you don't need to overthink or overdo this. Make sure that the exterior of your home is clean and fresh-looking. Rent a power washer to clean up siding and concrete, touch up the exterior paint, and replace anything that's clearly broken, like fencing and gutters. If you have the budget, light landscaping, like adding sod or flowers, can also go a long way.
Items that are obviously broken
It's time to pull out that longstanding to-do list! These fixes are probably items that you've been meaning to get around to but just haven't, like a loose kitchen faucet or a disconnected hinge on a bathroom cabinet. If it's a minor annoyance that you've just been living with, put the effort in to fix it now.
What NOT to Fix:
Usually, there's no reason to do a major overhaul on any room in your house. First, a total kitchen redo or a complete bathroom gut probably won't recoup the entire cost of construction. Second, you always run the risk of not being able to complete a total renovation, which will hurt the overall value of your home instead of helping it. And third, you're already busy preparing to sell your home and move to a new one. There's no reason to add the stress of a construction project.
Normal wear and tear
There's a difference between doing some cosmetic updates and breaking your back trying to cover up all evidence of your house having been lived in. For example, let's say you have some tilework in the bathroom. Replacing broken or missing tiles might be worth your time. Replacing tile that's just a little scuffed probably isn't. Buyers know that your house has been lived in, so remember to prioritize your project list.
Minor electrical issues
As we discussed above, some problems with your home's electrical system may certainly need to be addressed. But not every issue is a deal breaker. While a slightly askew outlet or a switch that does nothing might be a bit annoying, it's not the end of the world. Pay attention to what comes up in the home inspection and prioritize accordingly.
The phrase "brand-new appliances" might look really good on your home's Zillow page, but buying the latest stove and refrigerator isn't a necessary investment. Most buyers aren't expecting brand-new appliances, and some of them may want to choose their own anyway. If your current appliances are truly eyesores, consider buying a gently-used replacement instead of splurging on the latest thing.
Replacing older flooring might seem like an easy cosmetic update, but it's labor-intensive and can easily bust your budget. Unless your flooring is undeniably trashed, it's probably not worth the cost and effort to totally replace it. Instead, opt for getting carpets cleaned, and hardwood flooring refinished to buff out any scratches or dings. Your floors will look a thousand times better for a fraction of the cost and effort.
While the items on this list are a good starting point, it's also important to remember that there's an exception to every rule. The circumstances surrounding the sale of your home will almost certainly have an impact on what needs to be done and what can be left for the new owners to handle. Always consult with your agent before jumping headfirst into any renovation project—they'll know exactly what you need to prioritize.
The Masiello Group is a second-generation family company that has been a trailblazer in New England real estate since 1966. With now more than 35 offices throughout northern New England, we're the largest residential real estate firm north of Boston to offer a complete suite of home services, including buying, selling, mortgage, title, insurance, relocation, and more.
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