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Fix These Deal Breakers Before Listing Your Home

Hanna Kielar May 16, 2023

You may have heard the adage, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” This certainly applies when it comes to listing your home. More specifically, home repairs to make before listing. If you’re planning to sell your house by owner, here are some of the best renovations to do before selling.

What Needs To Be Fixed Before Selling A House?

As you consider what to fix in your house first, concentrate on those projects that will immediately make a good first impression. Here are some important upgrades and home repairs to make before listing.

Fix Things That Are Broken

Clean, upgraded master bathroom. Renovations you should do before you sell your own home.

If a potential buyer flips a switch and a light doesn’t come on, it plants the seed of doubt in their mind, and they’ll be thinking, “What other maintenance has been overlooked?” That’s why first on your list should be anything that is truly “broken,” says LindaShaughnessy with Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty in Chicago. This list of important repairs to make before selling a house should include:

  • Lights that don’t turn on
  • Windows with broken seals or torn screens
  • Windows that don’t open
  • Doors that stick
  • A nonfunctioning front doorbell
  • Leaky faucets

Conduct General Maintenance

Of course, you should clean the home floor to ceiling, but you also want to make sure that you have taken care of maintenance items that can increase that wariness in a buyer’s mind. Shaughnessy suggests you undertake the following so buyers don’t worry you’re selling a house that needs repairs:

  • Paint any water stains from a previous (repaired) leak
  • Re-caulk where needed in kitchen and bathrooms
  • Clean vent ducts from clothes dryer to exterior
  • Label circuit panels
  • Service your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system
  • Cover or eliminate exposed wiring
  • Repair nail holes and minor dings in the wall
  • Paint baseboards with a fresh coat

Prioritize The Bathrooms And Kitchen

Most buyers consider these the most important rooms in the house, so they deserve the most attention when considering the best renovations to do before selling. One of the easiest fixes to consider is swapping out tired fixtures for new ones. The good news is that this change is relatively inexpensive and a task most homeowners can accomplish themselves with a set of hand tools.

Also check that the cabinets are free of water damage and open and close smoothly, without loose hinges or stuck tracks on drawers. A fresh coat of paint can be an easy way to transform them. Finally, dirty tile can be a deal breaker; a little elbow grease and some new grout can do the trick.

What Are The Best Things To Do To Sell Your House?

The front of your house is often overlooked, but you should definitely take care of the “curb appeal” of the home, says Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP. “This is the first impression a buyer receives when they drive up to look at the house,” she says. It’s important to note that they havea choice: They can go inside or drive off and not even give the listing a second thought, so you want the front of your house to be so enticing that they can’t wait to see what’s inside. Here are some cheap fixes to sell a house by improving the exterior:

  • Power wash the front of the house
  • Mow, rake and otherwise tidy the landscaping
  • Plant fresh flowers, whether in your beds or in pots
  • Paint the front door
  • Add mulch to existing beds

Then make sure that the interior of your home shines. That can include refinishing floors, updating counters and replacing worn curtains or drapes. You also should consider “staging” the home so that it shows to its best effect. While you are probably taking your furnishings with you, it’s still smart to give them a refresh with new pillows or throws and other pops of color that make your rooms stand out.

A top way to make a home feel new and fresh is by painting, says Gray-Plaisted. “Choose neutral colors that open up spaces and makes them feel light and bright. Buyers can better see themselves living in a home that has neutral paint colors, rather than specific colors that suit the previous owner’s taste.”

Should I Sell My House As Is Or Fix It Up?

This is an age-old question: If you have old, worn carpet, for example, should you replace it? The issue is that you might then want to add that expense onto the sales price to recoup your investment, and yet the new buyer might not find it to be a benefit. Perhaps they intend to tear out all the carpet and restore the wood floors, and then you’ve just spent time and money on something that isn’t of value to the new buyer.

However, there’s another way to look at the question of selling a home that needs repairs, related to the current low interest rates that buyers are enjoying, says Shaughnessy. She finds that buyers would rather pay up for a renovated home and finance the upgrades in their mortgage. “If they pay less for a fixer-upper, they have to pay for the improvements out-of-pocket or finance the renovation separately at a higher rate,” she notes.

While you can take cosmetic repairs on a case-by-case basis, if the problems are far more extensive, such as a leaky roof or a crumbling foundation, you’re better off doing those repairs yourself. Buyers will be hesitant to jump in and deal with the “hassle factor” of doing major work, and it also leaves them potentially wondering what other costs they might incur if further problems are exposed.

“Big repair items scare buyers and if they decide to make an offer, the inspection will generally change their minds,” warns Bridgette Freeman, managing broker at PalmerHouse Properties Juwai Realty in Stockbridge, Georgia.“Fix the inevitable or be prepared for a distressed offer price.”

Should I Remodel Before Selling?

A renovated home will have a shorter market time and, overall, will result in a smoother transaction with more enthusiastic buyers, says Shaughnessy. “Sellers are in a much stronger position whenselling a mint-condition home,” she says.

While she finds that cosmetic changes are highly recommended, she also suggests that sellers consider upgrading aged mechanical systems and appliances. “Buyers will appreciate not having to face these replacement costs in a few years, and, with current rates, they can afford to pay more today for that peace of mind,” she says. In addition, appliances are an important part of people’s desire to entertain and host in the kitchen, so shiny new ones can make an excellent impression.

While you might be debating whether to make fixes to your house, remember that the goal is to sell it for top dollar, and selling a house that needs repairs might take longer and result in a lower sales price. Easy, cheap fixes can help you finalize that sale much faster.