The age-old question: should work be done before listing the home, or just kept as it is. The answer is, it depends …
The “We’ll just leave it as is because the new owner can do what they want” approach
Easily identifiable deficiencies such as stained carpeting, worn floors or visible paint scuffs — fixing these things does not add value, but not doing so will seriously affect the presentation and therefore the eventual selling price. Buyers see imperfections and just assume there are more that they can’t see. Every buyer is subconsciously looking for things to put on the “I liked it, but …” list.
While it may be true that a buyer may decide to make changes, that doesn’t mean they want to. Usually, a seller is just trying to avoid spending the time, money, effort and inconvenience of taking care of these very noticeable shortcomings — and a buyer knows it. Even in a screaming seller’s market, buyers don’t expect to see anything imperfect and will have a negative response.
If there’s one thing I can say is a constant in real estate, it’s this: Sellers will always underestimate what all is involved in doing a project, and buyers will always overestimate the same. And why didn’t the seller tackle it when they lived there prior to planning to sell it? You guessed it — because they didn’t want to deal with it either. How do you think potential buyers (who likely have several choices in homes) will view it?
ROI on improvement projects
If you are wondering whether to undertake a project or not, use this as a guide
- Anytime you have the space to add a bedroom (which admittedly is rare) do it, as the added value more than covers the cost of the work
- Minor bathroom remodels tend to have a slightly positive return given the smaller cost and the bang for the buck they can deliver
- For single family homes, minor landscaping upgrades (especially if done DIY) are worth it
- Generally, any substantial projects (kitchen overhaul, master bathroom upgrades) do not have a full return on what you’ll spend. In these cases, I do suggest doing them if you get the chance to enjoy them before selling, but not if just doing them to sell immediately thereafter
Potential costs that do nothing for increasing value
If you’re planning on selling, hopefully none of these are items that need to be replaced as you will bear the full cost of them, but not see any bump in value
- Mechanicals (furnace, air conditioning, water heater)
Other things to consider
Although not occurring with every home on the market, there are some things that should always be tended to before going on the market
- Murphy bed: Sure it may have helped create many uses of a bedroom, but its lack of maneuverability or widespread appeal make it more of a hindrance than a plus
- Your Star Wars collection: You’ve worked hard on it, and want to show it off, I get it. That’s all well and good, but if your prized collection takes up a bedroom, it should be shown as a bedroom
- Polarizing political photos/materials: Regardless of your politics, you don’t want to potentially alienate a perfectly good buyer whose views differ from yours, so remove them
- That multi-purpose room that can’t be easily defined: You want people to walk in and immediately understand what each space can be used for, and have it represented in that light even if you didn’t use it that way. (Hint: this is no longer about you, it’s about what the potential buyer would most likely use it for)
Price the home appropriate to its current condition, not what it could be. Look at your home objectively, and create the widest overall appeal as your expectation for your home. Yes it’s a pain and yes it’ll take longer — but a quicker sale for more money with fewer hassles and moving on with your life are on the other side of the process. Remember, It’s about getting the most out of your home.