What not to fix when selling your home: The do's and don'ts

Not all home fixes are worth making before you list your house. Explore the do's and don't of selling a property in our comprehensive guide.

Anna Baluch
November 13, 2023

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When embarking on the home sale journey, the impulse to address every imperfection and upgrade your property to the fullest can be strong.

In the already long list of tasks needed to sell your home, you might have included several renovations on your to-do list. While some upgrades pay off, others won't impact the value as much as you’d hope. To help you avoid costly mistakes or delaying the sale, here's a list of dos and don'ts when selling a house.

Why you shouldn’t fix everything before selling

Not all home repairs and improvements will offer a return on the time and money you invest in them. If you don't take the time to compare the capital you're putting into a home with what you're getting back, you'll likely lose money when it comes time to sell.

What not to fix when selling a house

As a general rule of thumb, you should focus on big-picture items that can make a difference in the safety and function of your home. For example, energy-efficient and smart homes are attractive to today’s prospective buyers.

In addition to understanding what’s in demand, you’ll want to make note of the cost compared to how it translates when it comes time to sell. In terms of ROI, here’s an overview of what you can put on the back burner when preparing to fix and list your home.

Normal wear and tear

Even with attentive upkeep, normal wear and tear is bound to happen.

Walking through your property, you'll likely notice tiny defects, like small dents in the wall from door handles and scuffed floors. These blemishes can cost hundreds to correct but won't change the value by much. Fortunately, cosmetic imperfections are not red flags to most potential buyers.  

If you're already painting or have some extra time, disguising a minor imperfection with some touch-up paint is cost-effective. Opt to refinish your floor if you have minor scratches or scuffs on your floor — there's no need to replace it altogether.

Kitchens that don’t need renovating

While it’s true that the kitchen is the heart of the home, an over-the-top kitchen reno isn’t necessary — especially if you can’t afford to cover the costs. It can run you anywhere between $15,000 to $50,000 or even more, and you may only recoup half the cost. Skip the full-blown renovation and update a few key features that impact your kitchen’s look and functionality — or opt for budget-friendly ideas. You might want to install a new faucet, replace outdated hardware, or refresh cabinet doors.

In addition, there’s no need to update your appliances, especially if you’re hoping for a high ROI. A new, high-end fridge and dishwasher won’t do much to increase the selling price. As long as your appliances work and are in decent shape, it’s best to clean them off.


Adequate bathrooms

When it comes to bathrooms, home buyers are usually on the lookout for a clean, functional bathroom they can personalize to meet their needs. That’s why it’s not worth investing in luxury bathroom upgrades or excessive bathroom remodels if you don’t have to. In fact, the average renovation is $10,987, while the average ROI on an upscale bathroom remodel is only 56.2%. Luxury renos can cost a homeowner anywhere up to $80,000. The bottom line on bathroom remodeling is that it’ll likely put you in the red.

If you determine a fixture is an eyesore or not working, opt for reasonably priced alternatives that can cater to a wide variety of buyers. As you prepare your bathrooms for showing, remember that less is more.

Expensive landscape overhauls

Your backyard is an extension of your home. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to overhaul it with these expensive features. Some examples of costly renovations with little ROI are:

Instead, there are plenty of low-budget backyard remodeling projects that can improve lighting, space, and functionality to make it more attractive. To give your landscaping a refresh that buyers will appreciate without breaking the bank, rake all leaves, pressure wash your siding and driveway, prune trees and bushes, store away tools, hoses, and ladders, and add a fresh layer of mulch. It’s also a good idea to add colorful plants that can draw in buyers and help your yard look more inviting. If you’re working with a smaller space, consider vertical gardening and compact furniture to showcase the yard's potential.

Insignificant structural repairs

The reality is most homes have minor cosmetic cracks, such as cracks in the driveway. These damages won’t make or break a buyer’s decision to make an offer on your home. Major structural issues, like chimney cracks, splintering floors, a sagging roof, and uneven gaps in windows and doors, are what buyers are genuinely concerned about.  

If left unattended, significant issues can turn into costly emergency repairs — a red flag for buyers. Additionally, these types of issues pose safety issues that you should never neglect. If you’re unsure of whether a structural flaw is a hazard and requires a fix, be sure to consult an appraisal or professional.

What you should focus on when selling a house

As you get your home market ready, put your time, energy, and money into the following:

Necessary maintenance and repairs

There are some maintenance tasks and repairs that aren't an option. They're a necessity for a safe, functional space. While upgrades can increase your home value, repairs can keep it from depreciating.

Common types of necessary home maintenance include checking and keeping up-to-date on your electrical system, pipes, foundation, and HVAC system. It may also be worthwhile to invest in a roof if yours is long past its prime. According to The National Association of Realtors, 41% of buyers want to avoid renovations and issues with plumbing or electricity.

Home staging

Staging refers to dressing up your home to make it more appealing to buyers, and it's an important part of preparing a house for sale. It can help them envision their life in the space and encourage them to make an offer. A successful staged home starts with a deep clean and declutter. Once your home is tidy, it's a good idea to remove all family photos and keepsakes to depersonalize the space.

You'll also want to walk through your home to determine what needs refreshing. Maybe your dining room could use a fresh coat of paint. Or perhaps your kitchen could appear more welcoming with a vase of fresh flowers. If you don't have the time to stage your home or would like guidance, consider a professional home stager.

Curb appeal

Curb appeal is the way your home looks from the street or curb. It would be best to try and make your home look polished and well-maintained. Since you never get a second chance to make a first impression, curb appeal is particularly important during the selling process.

To boost your curb appeal, paint the exterior and doors, add exterior light fixtures, refresh your landscaping, and upgrade the mailbox. Also, if you have a deck or patio, it's never a bad idea to stage furniture, such as a few rocking chairs and potted plants.


Final thoughts

As a home seller, there are a number of costs you might not be able to avoid, such as real estate commission fees, closing costs, and moving costs. Therefore, it’s a good idea to put a cap on the ones you can control. Since your home’s value is a mix of market conditions, comparable homes, and various other factors, the home renovations you invest in should be worth the time and money you spend.  

If you need funds to manage costly repairs or support your renovation to-do list, a Home Equity Investment (HEI) from Point is worth exploring. You can tap into your equity for a lump sum today, for a share of your home’s future appreciation — which can be repaid when you sell. There are no monthly payments, income requirements, or need for perfect credit.

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