What NOT to Fix When Selling a House in San Diego

What not to fix when selling a house (do-not-fix list)

According to our 2022 Buyer and Seller Insights Report, 23% of buyers purchased a home that was in worse condition than they expected to buy at the start of their search. That’s not a panacea for neglecting all repairs, but it’s wise to heed the advice of your local agent in determining what fixes your buyer pool will want and which ones they’re agreeable to compromise on if you don’t do them.

Some typical repairs you can usually skip include:

1. Cosmetic flaws

Many cosmetic issues are typically easy to fix: painting and landscaping, for example. Quick, affordable fixes that make a big impact may be worth doing to present a fresh, clean “face” to buyers, although they’re not on the priority list unless they detract from your home’s appearance.

However, some cosmetic flaws may be a little more involved, such as replacing old countertops in the kitchen or bath. Other issues may fall somewhere in between, such as a few cracked tiles, outdated finishes, or minor scratches in hardwood floors.

If you have the home improvement skills to complete some of these projects, you may want to do them, depending on how much time and money will be needed. If you’re not exactly a handyman, however, you could risk causing further damage or spending more money than a project is worth.

Your home doesn’t need a complete make-over in order to sell. “Normal wear-and-tear is to be expected,” Bean points out, “so there’s no need to address most [cosmetic issues] unless there’s a serious, underlying problem.”

2. Minor electrical issues

Some electrical issues require major repair because they’re safety hazards. If your home has old wiring, exposed wires, an outdated electrical service panel, dangling light fixtures, standard circuit breakers, or ungrounded outlets, you’ll have to address these problems before listing your home for sale.

But innocuous electrical issues – loose outlet plugs, dead outlets, or a light switch that goes to nothing – may not need to be addressed.

3. Driveway or walkway cracks

HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights For New Year 2022 survey reveals that buyers will pay 7% more for a house with great curb appeal.

Normally, curb appeal includes features like freshly mowed grass, mulched flower beds, tidily trimmed shrubs, a fresh coat of exterior paint, a couple of cozy chairs on the front porch, and a nice mat by the front door.

Few buyers are so nitpicky to let a few driveway or sidewalk cracks wreck a sale. In fact, Bean says, “Hairline cracks are very common here in San Antonio because we have a lot of soil movement, so a driveway or walkway crack isn’t going to scare a buyer off unless it’s huge enough to be a potential hazard.”

4. Grandfathered-in building code issues

Building codes evolve over time. Therefore, a house built in 1980 likely won’t meet all the current building codes. That doesn’t mean you need to bring everything up to current standards in order to sell your home. If the home was legally constructed in compliance with the building codes of the day, it is typically considered “grandfathered-in” and does not have to meet current codes.

Nevertheless, a home inspection will note these aberrances.  By law, home inspectors have to address all of the building code items in their inspection reports. But the sellers don’t have to update the house to current standards because the home is grandfathered-in. The buyer can upgrade the house to current standards if they choose; however, many agents would advise against it.

Building code violations are common. Even if yours isn’t grandfathered-in, you still may not need to correct it in order to sell.

5. Partial room upgrades

If you don’t have the time or budget to finish an upgrade or remodel, it’s probably better not to start it because it’s difficult for buyers to visualize the completed effect if you’ve left work undone. Besides, replacing only one cabinet or a couple fixtures will only point out how badly the rest of the room needs renovating.

A partial remodel never looks good. For example, she says it makes no sense to put in a new vanity, but keep the 1980s linoleum floor. When you do a partial room upgrade, you’re not adding value. It may look as if you’re trying to hide something rather than just updating it. So, you either need to do the whole room or just leave it be.

6. Removable items

Sometimes, it’s easier simply to remove worn or dated items rather than replace or update them. It can also save money. For example, according to HomeAdvisor, window treatments cost an average of $799.

Some sellers want to take removable items with them, but it’s not always possible, even if those window treatments fit in your new home. “In Texas … sellers were free to take the curtain rods and valances, but now they are considered a part of the house,” Bean indicates.

However, if they’re not in good condition, if they’re dated, or they make the room too dark, instead of leaving them behind, just take them down before listing the home – and don’t replace them. It’s the ultimate and quick, inexpensive prep!

7. Old appliances

If appliances are mismatched, more than 10 years old, not energy efficient, severely worn, barely functioning, broken, or missing, it can hurt your home sale. Replacing them with brand new appliances can add value to your home, but that’s not your only option.

Seek to show potential, not perfection

Don’t be tempted to fix everything you think is wrong with your house; you’ll either lose money or price it out of competition in the market. When you prepare your house for sale, remember that your goal is to show its potential, not to polish it to perfection.

Skip cosmetic fixes and minor issues. Don’t touch any code issues that have been grandfathered in. And be sure to consult your real estate agent about what kind of repairs the market demands before you spend your time and money on fixing anything.

An experienced real estate agent can help you craft your own fix and do-not-fix lists so you get the most out of your home sale. If you don’t have an agent, please contact me to help.