What Not to Fix When Selling a House

You're getting ready to sell your home, so you'll need it to be in the best condition possible, right? You may be surprised to learn that the answer to this question is "Not exactly." While there are certain things you'll be required to fix and other things that you should fix, there are also some repairs that you can let go of.

Whether you're moving to Austin or another city, it's a matter of figuring out the right balance between spending money and the expectations of buyers. If you've put your house on the market and you're struggling to attract interest, you can always go back and revisit whether some of the fixes you passed over need over a look, but to start with, you should be fairly conservative about how much money you pour into a house just to put it on the market.

Get Local Advice

The first thing to keep in mind is that real estate markets vary enormously across the country, so expectations in one area may be very different from those in another. If you're trying to sell a piece of real estate in Austin Texas, for example, what sellers are doing in Orlando, Spokane or even Dallas may not apply. A good idea is to talk to a local real estate agent from RE/MAX or another company about what should and shouldn't be fixed or upgraded so that you don't waste money on something that isn't going to have much effect on your house sale or that most sellers aren't bothering with.

Selling a house in poor condition is not always easy, but a good agent will know the lay of the land and what your best strategy should be. Keep their advice in mind as you review the other items on the list below. While you may feel tempted to impress people who are coming to look at your house, at its core, your question should be whether the changes you make are going to affect the price that your house sells for. A professional can shed some light on the average cost to fix up a house to sell in your area.

Old Appliances

Yes, you can spend a lot of money refitting your kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances, but there are a few drawbacks to this approach. First, you may not recoup the money that you spend on the sale--it might not make much of a difference to the price you get. Second, buyers may have their own wish list when it comes to kitchen appliances, and if they've sworn off refrigerators with ice machines forever or prefer a gas range to a new electric one, your careful purchases might go to waste. If your appliances are near the end of their life, don't work at all, are really badly dated or are otherwise in poor condition, rather than buying new, consider replacing them with good used products. And if you still want to buy new, go with economical choices rather than top-of-the line. Do pay attention to feedback, and if it does turn out that potential buyers are getting turned off because of the state of your kitchen, you can always change strategies and replace them.

Understanding Building Codes

This is another area where you may need expert local advice, but in short, if your house was built prior to the building codes in place at the time of its construction, it has probably been grandfathered in to be exempt from more updated codes. Home inspectors will note these "violations," but most likely, you are not required to make the changes. Be sure that you understand the law, your obligations and local standards when it comes to this. Real estate in Austin Texas will have different requirements than a house in Chicago, Boston or elsewhere.

Room Upgrades

If you're determined to remodel a room in the run-up to the sale, make sure you can get the entire thing done or don't bother. Partially-finished rooms can actually have a more negative effect on your ability to sell than one that is outdated. At best, it can simply look "off" to potential buyers, and at worst, it can look as though you're trying to hide something. You're not going to distract anyone from that terrible 70s tile in the bathroom by putting in a new sink. It could even highlight the room's less appealing aspects by contrast. It can also give a sense of desperation to the sale, as though you tried to upgrade, ran out of money and are now anxious to get rid of the house altogether. Buyers often have their own ideas about how they'd like to fix a place up, so you can rest assured that they're already mentally ripping out that ugly carpet that you're worried about.

Floor Coverings

Speaking of carpet, this is another fix you may want to skip. Savvy buyers know they can remove unappealing linoleum or other unattractive flooring. Unlike a partial room upgrade, however, if you have the time and skills and you enjoy home repairs, you may want to consider doing some work, such as repairing cracked tiles. The one exception to this is attending to hardwood floors, one of the few upgrades that is actually likely to give you a return on your investment. As far as everything else goes, if time and money are at a premium--and they are just about anywhere, whether you're moving in Austin or someplace else--focus your energy on the exterior and entryway to the house, where first impressions can make a much bigger difference.

Things Out of Your Control

Is your neighborhood less than salubrious? Are you on an unusually busy road, or do you have a yard that's smaller than most of the other lots? Don't make the mistake of trying to pour a lot of money into renovations to make up for these shortcomings. In the end, these things are out of your control, and buyers are going to factor that into their offers and decision regardless of whether you've just dropped tens of thousands of dollars giving the kitchen an overhaul.

Minor Issues

There are a whole host of minor issues that probably don't need addressing, but many of them are on a continuum that can shade into bigger problems. For example, you probably don't need to do anything about an unconnected light switch, but you will need to fix any major electrical issues. Curb appeal is important, but it's unlikely your house will get rejected on the grounds that there's a crack in the driveway. Again, this is an area where getting a read on the local market will help. A lot of people these days who have wondered "is Austin a good place to live?" have flooded that city, but in less popular areas, buyers may be more exacting in what they want to see.

Moving in Austin or anywhere else in the country can be stressful, and trying to sell a house on top of that adds more stress. Because of that and in order to get the maximum profit from your house sale, be choosy about what you fix and what you leave as-is.

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