The Chicago Real Estate Minute
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As a seller, should you fix things up or just leave them as they are?

5 minute read

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.

man painting doorway grey color
Image by Laura Shaw from Pixabay

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

Tools for do it yourself projects
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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

  • Appliances
  • Mechanicals (furnace, air con­di­tion­ing, water heater)
  • Windows
  • Roof

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)

Final Word

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.

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