What Not to Fix When Selling a House in 2024: Prioritize Repairs Wisely

What Not to Fix When Selling a House in 2024: Prioritize Repairs Wisely
Real Estate

16 minutes of reading

Jul 16, 2024

Selling a house involves making a lot of decisions, and one of the most important is deciding what repairs to make. Not all fixes are worth your time and money, and some might not even help with the sale.
A cozy living room with a crackling fireplace, sunlight streaming in through large windows, and a well-maintained hardwood floor

Knowing what not to fix can save us both time and unnecessary expenses. Certain issues are better left for the new owners to handle, and focusing on quick, impactful improvements can make a big difference.

1) Cracks in Driveway

When selling a house, we often wonder if we should fix every little thing. Cracks in the driveway are one of those things we can usually leave alone.

These cracks are quite common and rarely a deal-breaker for buyers. Minor cracks don’t affect the overall function of the driveway.

Our priority should be on more critical issues. Buyers understand that driveways, like any other part of the home, will have normal wear and tear.

Repairing driveway cracks can be time-consuming and costly. If the cracks are merely aesthetic, we can leave them as they are without worrying too much.

In competitive markets, all homes might need to look their best. But even then, minor driveway cracks often go unnoticed by buyers. As long as the driveway is safe to use, we can focus our efforts elsewhere.

For more insight, see the advice on not fixing driveway and walkway cracks. Let’s save our resources for bigger projects that add more value to our home.

2) Old Appliances

A cluttered kitchen with outdated appliances, chipped countertops, and worn cabinets

When selling a house, we might think replacing old appliances is necessary. This isn’t always the case. Potential buyers often expect to bring their own appliances or plan to upgrade later.

An old oven or refrigerator can work just fine for showings. As long as they are clean and in working condition, we don’t need to replace them.

Consider the cost of new appliances versus the added value to the sale. Often, our investment in new appliances won’t return a high enough boost in the sale price to justify the expense.

In some cases, matching appliances can create a consistent look. If we have one appliance that stands out because it is significantly older or mismatched, replacing just that one might be beneficial. Otherwise, it’s usually better to leave them as they are.

For more details, check out advice from HomeLight on appliances when selling a house and tips on selling with broken appliances. We should focus on what’s best for our specific situation.

3) Outdated Lighting Fixtures

The outdated lighting fixtures hang from the ceiling, casting a dim and uninviting glow in the room. They are a clear indication of what not to fix when selling a house

When selling a house, outdated lighting fixtures can be a sticking point.

It’s tempting to think that replacing all the light fixtures will add value. Investopedia suggests it’s not necessary to invest in high-end lighting fixtures.

Simple fixes, like replacing broken bulbs, are usually enough.

We should focus on areas where lighting is functional but dated. For example, removing old track lighting or heavy chandeliers can make a space feel more modern.

Keep in mind the overall aesthetic. HomeLight advises that the house doesn’t need to be in showroom condition. Basic updates are often enough to improve the home’s appeal.

By addressing only the most glaring issues, we save time and money. Small changes here can make a big difference without extensive work.

4) Unfinished Basements

When selling a house, we don’t need to worry about finishing the basement. Many buyers see an unfinished basement as a blank canvas. They may prefer to design and complete it according to their tastes and needs.

An unfinished basement provides flexibility. It can be used for storage, a workshop, or even as a home gym. Buyers may appreciate the potential rather than a finished space they might not like.

Finishing a basement can be costly and time-consuming. It might not significantly increase the home’s value compared to the investment. Keeping the basement as-is can save time and money during the selling process.

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Additionally, upgrading HVAC systems or adding climate control to a basement can be expensive. Unfinished basements already have increased maintenance needs. Proper heating and cooling can help, but it’s not always necessary to invest in these upgrades before selling.

For more insights, check out HomeLight’s tips or Bob Vila’s advice. These resources provide practical guidance on what not to fix when preparing to sell a house.

5) Worn-out Carpeting

Faded, frayed carpeting in dimly lit room, showing signs of wear and tear

When selling a house, we should carefully consider the state of our carpeting. If the carpet is old, stained, or frayed, potential buyers might get a negative impression.

Carpet in high-traffic areas tends to wear out quickly. If it’s visibly worn down, it can make the entire house seem less appealing.

Bad odors or mildew in the carpet can be an immediate turnoff. If cleaning doesn’t remove these issues, replacing the carpet is a good option.

Sometimes, deep cleaning can extend the life of slightly worn carpets. Professional cleaning can remove most stains and refresh the appearance.

Replacing outdated or damaged carpets can help our house look more inviting. It’s one of the first things buyers notice when entering a room.

We don’t need to spend a fortune on high-end carpeting. Even budget-friendly options can make a big difference if they are clean and neutral. This small investment can lead to better offers from potential buyers.

For more information, you can check these tips on what not to fix when selling a house and should you replace carpet before selling your house.

6) Cosmetic Kitchen Flaws

A cluttered kitchen with outdated appliances and chipped countertops. Stained cabinets and peeling paint on the walls

When selling a house, we don’t need to stress over minor cosmetic kitchen flaws. Small chips in paint or worn cabinet handles are not deal-breakers for most buyers. These issues are often seen as normal wear and tear.

We should focus on presenting a clean and well-maintained kitchen. Simple cleaning and organizing can make a big difference. There’s no need to spend money on a major kitchen overhaul.

A potential buyer will likely want to make their own changes. Letting them handle cosmetic updates can make the space feel more personal to them. Often, buyers prefer to choose their preferred styles and colors.

Avoid spending unnecessarily on minor fixes. Replacing a few broken tiles or fixing scratches in countertops isn’t essential. These cosmetic flaws are usually overlooked if the kitchen is clean and functional.

Instead, our efforts should be on making sure everything is tidy and smells fresh. This approach allows us to save time and money while putting our house on the market. For more specifics on what not to fix, you can refer to this guide.

7) Minor Bathroom Issues

We don’t need to worry about fixing small bathroom issues when selling a house. These minor problems are not deal-breakers for most buyers.

Cosmetic issues like slightly cracked tiles or outdated faucets can be left as they are. Many buyers prefer to update the bathroom according to their own taste.

Dripping faucets or minor leaks can also be ignored. These problems are usually easy for the new owners to fix themselves.

Don’t stress about worn-out grout or slightly stained sinks. These minor issues don’t significantly impact the overall look of the bathroom.

If the bathroom still functions well despite these small issues, we can focus our resources on more significant improvements elsewhere in the house.

8) Garage Floor Stains

When selling a house, garage floor stains may seem like a big concern. It’s common for garages to accumulate oil stains from cars and other fluids. While these stains can look unattractive, they don’t necessarily need to be fixed before selling.

If the stains are minor, potential buyers might overlook them. They may understand that garages are used for cars and expect some wear and tear. We can focus our efforts and budget on more visible areas of the home that will make a bigger impact.

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For large or very noticeable stains, a simple cleaning can help. Using products made for removing oil and grease can make the floor look better without needing a full replacement or repair.

Painting or sealing the floor could be an option if we want to invest a bit more, but this may not increase the selling price enough to justify the cost. We need to weigh the benefits before deciding.

For additional guidance, you can look at what not to fix when selling a house.

9) Old HVAC Systems

When considering what not to fix, we must evaluate the state of our HVAC system. An old HVAC system can be a downside for potential buyers. Buyers often view an outdated system as a significant future expense.

If the HVAC system is around 10 years old or more, we may need an upgrade anyway. A new system can make our home more energy-efficient and appealing. Replacing it can spark increased interest and potentially higher offers from buyers.

However, if the system is functional and clean, we might only need a tune-up. Hiring an HVAC technician to assess the system’s condition can give us a clear idea of what needs attention. Regular maintenance can help ensure the system is in good working order.

Making a decision on whether to replace or tune up the system depends on its age, condition, and our budget. For more detailed advice, check the comprehensive guide on repairing HVAC systems before selling. If we decide on a replacement, it could make the selling process smoother and attract more serious buyers.

10) Minor Landscaping

When selling a house, it’s tempting to go for a big landscaping overhaul. Large projects often cost a lot of money and time.

We should focus on keeping the yard clean and simple. Mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, and removing weeds can make a big difference without much effort.

Avoid planting new trees or adding complex flower beds. Many buyers see them as extra work and maintenance. A well-kept but simple garden appeals to more people.

If we have garden decorations, it’s best to keep them minimal. Too many ornaments can make the yard look cluttered.

A fresh layer of mulch in garden beds can improve the look of the yard with little expense. Plus, it helps the existing plants stay healthy.

We can also consider power washing walkways and driveways. Clean paths can make the whole yard feel more inviting.

For more info, you can read about why major landscaping renovations may not be worth it when selling a home. Simple landscaping can be more effective and cost-efficient.

Understanding the Market’s Perspective

A house with minor imperfections, like chipped paint and a slightly overgrown garden, surrounded by eager buyers

When selling a house, it is essential to consider what buyers value most and how renovations impact your home’s appeal. Focusing on strategic repairs can make your property more attractive without unnecessary expenses.

Prioritizing Buyer Preferences

We need to understand what potential buyers are looking for in a home. Buyers often prioritize functional aspects over cosmetic flaws. For example, addressing significant issues like a leaky roof or plumbing problems can be more impactful than simply updating paint colors.

Minor electrical issues, such as a wobbly socket, usually do not deter buyers. Instead, they seek homes that are safe and functional. Energy-efficient updates are also appealing, as they can reduce utility bills by up to 30%. Highlighting these features can make the home more attractive.

Minimal vs. Extensive Renovations

Determining whether to make minimal repairs or invest in extensive renovations depends on the condition and value of the property. Simple fixes like patching up walls or refreshing landscaping can give a fresh look without significant costs. These smaller projects can lead to a better first impression.

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Conversely, avoid spending large amounts on major upgrades that do not guarantee a return on investment. For instance, replacing all appliances might not yield a proportional increase in the sale price. We should aim for improvements that provide the best return, avoiding unnecessary expenses that do not add substantial value.

Preserving Historical Integrity

A vintage house with original fixtures and architectural details. Faded wallpaper, antique light fixtures, and ornate moldings

When selling a historic home, preserving its historical integrity is vital. It can help maintain its charm and appeal to potential buyers who value authenticity and historical significance.

Value of Original Features

Preserving original features of a historic home can significantly boost its appeal. Elements like hardwood floors, ornate moldings, and vintage fixtures add character and tell a story about the home’s past.

Buyers often seek out these unique qualities, appreciating the craftsmanship and history. Removing or altering original features can diminish the home’s value and appeal. It’s best to leave these elements intact and, if needed, perform careful restorations rather than replacements.

For instance, preserving original woodwork or restoring period-appropriate hardware can enhance the home’s allure. Staying true to the home’s time period, while ensuring any updates or repairs are sympathetic to its history, is key to retaining its value and charm.

Balancing Charm and Modernity

While it’s important to preserve historical features, we must also ensure the home is comfortable and functional for today’s buyers. This balance can be achieved by integrating modern amenities without compromising the historical aspect.

For example, updating the kitchen or bathrooms with modern appliances while maintaining their historical aesthetics can make the home more attractive. We can also incorporate energy-efficient solutions that blend seamlessly with the home’s style.

Staging plays a crucial role here. Using modern furniture and decor can highlight the historic features while keeping the home inviting and uncluttered. Integrating modern elements subtly can appeal to buyers who want both charm and convenience without sacrificing the home’s historical integrity.

Frequently Asked Questions

When selling a house, it’s crucial to know which repairs to prioritize and which ones to skip. This will help you maximize your return and make the selling process smoother.

Should I repair my home before putting it on the market or sell it as is?

We often get asked if it’s better to repair a home before listing it. Generally, minor repairs can help attract buyers, but major renovations might not be necessary. Many buyers are willing to handle some fixes themselves.

What are common repairs that homeowners should prioritize before selling?

Homeowners should focus on fixing cracks in the driveway, updating outdated lighting fixtures, and replacing worn-out carpeting. These changes can improve the home’s appeal without a huge investment.

Are there specific updates that do not significantly enhance a house’s resale value?

Yes, there are. Old appliances and unfinished basements often don’t add much value. These updates can be costly, and buyers might prefer to choose their own.

What might cause a property to linger on the market without a sale?

Properties may stay on the market due to overpriced listings or visible issues like outdated lighting fixtures and old appliances. It’s important to price the home competitively and address any glaring problems.

Which signs indicate that a house is likely to be sold quickly?

A house that’s well-maintained, priced correctly, and in a desirable location usually sells fast. Buyers look for clean, updated homes with minimal repairs needed.

When is it more beneficial to sell a house without making any repairs?

If the market is hot or if repairing the house isn’t financially feasible, selling it as is might be beneficial. Buyers might overlook minor issues due to high demand.


Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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