December 20

What Not To Fix When Selling A House


Understanding what not to fix when when selling a house is as crucial as knowing what to fix.

This guide is dedicated to unraveling the often-overlooked strategy of selective improvement, which can be pivotal in facilitating a swift and profitable sale.

Having been an active Tampa, FL real estate since 2015, I've seen many sellers equate a flawless home with a sale-ready home. 

This is not always true.

Sometimes, less is more.

When it comes to selling your home, particularly in Tampa, it's essential to showcase your home's potential rather than an unrealistic image of perfection.

Your home's unique character are part of its charm and can attract the right buyer.

Over-renovating may deplete your funds and also strip your home of its individuality...something that potential buyers may be seeking.

This article will explore the nuances of making smart decisions about what not to fix in your home before putting it up for sale.

I'll also share some interesting statistics that highlight the importance of targeted improvements over extensive renovations.

Armed with a well-considered "do-not-fix" list, you'll understand how to strike the perfect balance between making necessary repairs and avoiding unnecessary ones, optimizing your return on investment.

Why You Shouldn't Fix Everything Before Selling Your Home

There's a delicate balance between making a home appealing and overdoing it with renovations.

The key is to present a canvas that potential buyers can envision themselves personalizing.

Here's why you should consider holding back on fixing everything:


1. The Emotional Appeal of Potential

When buyers walk into a home, they're not just looking at the physical space – they're imagining their future in it.

A home that's too polished may leave little room for them to dream and plan.

By showcasing a home that's well-maintained but not overly perfected, you're providing a stage for their imagination.

2. Financial Implications

Extensive renovations can be costly and may not always offer a return on investment.

Certain upgrades might appeal to your taste but not to the general market, making them less profitable in the long run.

It's crucial to differentiate between repairs that will genuinely increase your home’s value and those that are merely cosmetic.

3. Time Constraints

Renovations can be time-consuming.

In a fast-paced market, spending months on remodeling could mean missing out on prime selling opportunities.

Sometimes, selling a home 'as is' can be more advantageous, especially if the market is hot and inventory is low.

4. Targeting the Right Buyers

Not all buyers are looking for a turnkey home.

Some are excited by the prospect of making their own upgrades and customizations.

By not fixing everything, you open up your home to a broader audience, including those who are looking for a project or a more affordable entry into a desirable neighborhood.

Interesting Statistics on Upgrades, Repairs, and Renovations

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies forecasts that homeowner improvements and renovations will escalate to $485 billion in 2023, marking a $13 billion increase from 2022.

This highlights the growing trend in home remodeling, with some projects offering a higher return on investment (ROI) than others.

Understanding which remodeling endeavors yield the best ROI is critical for homeowners contemplating selling their properties.

The 2022 Remodeling Report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) provides valuable insights, including a chart detailing expected returns for various interior remodeling projects.


Source: 2022 Remodeling Impact (National Association of REALTORS®, 2022)

The next chart you see is research from Today's Homeowner, ranking the 10 remodeling projects with the highest cost recovered.

What Not to Fix When Selling a House (Do-Not-Fix List)

When preparing to sell your house, it's crucial to prioritize which repairs and upgrades to undertake.

Not every fix is necessary or beneficial in terms of return on investment.

Here's a general guideline for a "do-not-fix" list:

Do-Not-Fix List

1. Cosmetic Flaws

When selling a home, addressing cosmetic flaws like minor scratches, small dents, or slight paint chipping might seem essential, but these are often not deal-breakers for potential buyers.

These blemishes, typically resulting from everyday wear and tear, are generally expected in lived-in homes.

Fixing every minor cosmetic issue can be costly and time-consuming without significantly increasing the home's value or appeal.

Buyers often plan to personalize the space to their taste, making such minor imperfections less of a concern.

Therefore, investing time and resources in correcting every small cosmetic flaw isn't usually necessary for a successful sale.

2. Aging Windows

Replacing aging windows before selling your home isn't always necessary.

While new windows can enhance energy efficiency and aesthetic appeal, they are a significant investment.

In many cases, the cost of installing new windows may not be fully recovered in the sale price.

Buyers often look at the overall condition and potential of a home, rather than focusing on specifics like window age.

Unless the windows are severely damaged or dysfunctional, they typically don't deter buyers and can be left as is, saving you substantial expense and effort.

3. Minor Electrical Issues

Addressing minor electrical issues...and I do STRESS loose outlet plugs, or outdated but functional fixtures is often unnecessary when selling your home.

So long as these issues don't pose safety concerns and can be easily rectified by the new homeowner, you're good.

If you hire a home inspector, usually their reports will note electrical issues that may neet to be addressed.

4. Minor HVAC Concerns

For minor HVAC concerns, like small inefficiencies or older units that still function properly, it's generally not necessary to undertake costly repairs or replacements when selling your home.

These minor issues are unlikely to significantly affect the sale price or deter potential buyers, who may prefer to handle such updates themselves. 

Again, the home inspector will visually inspect the functionality of your AC.

Among the slew of items they check, one is air temperature differentials (the temperature of the air going into the unit vs. the temperature of the air coming out), for example.

Addressing only major HVAC issues, if any, can be a more practical approach, ensuring the system is functional without incurring unnecessary expenses.

5. Minor Plumbing Issues

Addressing minor plumbing issues, such as a slow drain or a slightly dripping faucet, is often not necessary before selling your house.

These small issues are typically not deal breakers for buyers and are relatively inexpensive and straightforward to fix.

For example, for one closing where I represented the sellers, the buyers asked to repair a slow draining bathroom sink.

All it took to repair it was a $6.98 FlexiSnake Drain Weasel from Home Depot. 

Focusing on major plumbing problems, if any, is more crucial, as they can significantly impact the home's functionality and appeal. 

6. Driveway or Walkway Cracks

Do not fix minor driveway cracks

Minor cracks in driveways or walkways generally don't need to be fixed before selling a house.

These are common and usually don't significantly impact the overall appearance or functionality of the property.

Small, superficial cracks, for instance, are often considered normal wear and tear.  

However, large cracks or uneven surfaces that could be safety hazards should be addressed.

7. Grandfathered-In Building Code Issues

Grandfathered-in building code issues refer to older aspects of a home that were compliant with the building codes at the time of construction but do not meet current standards.

In most cases, these don't need to be updated before selling a house.

So, what are some examples of building codes that can be grandfathered-in?

Roofs, doors, windows and landscaping. 

Yes, landscaping. Here's a 2022 article on one woman's legal battle over hedges.

Unless these issues pose a safety risk or are specifically highlighted in a home inspection, they can usually be left alone, saving sellers time and money.

8. Partial Upgrades In Kitchen, Bedrooms or Bathrooms

You may have been asked this question before - what sells homes?

The answer: kitchens and bathrooms.

One big mistake I've seen in "updated" or "renovated" homes is mismatching.

It's the inconsistencies in style and design.

The danger in partial upgrades in key areas like bedrooms, bathrooms, or kitchens can result in style & design inconsistencies, potentially detracting buyers from the overall appeal of the house. 

These spaces are focal points for potential buyers, and half-completed upgrades or mismatched renovations can give an impression of unfinished work or poor maintenance.

It's often more beneficial to leave these areas as they are, allowing new homeowners to implement their own complete renovations according to their taste and needs.

9. Removable Items

For removable items like non-permanent decor or furniture, it's generally advisable not to invest in updating or replacing them before selling your house.

These items are personal to your style and may not appeal to potential buyers.

Additionally, buyers often prefer to envision the space with their own belongings.

Keeping the decor neutral and minimal can help showcase the home's features more effectively, allowing buyers to focus on the space itself rather than the furnishings.

10. Old Appliances


Replacing old but functional appliances before selling a house is often unnecessary.

Ask yourself:

  • Are the appliances mismatched?
  • Are they worn out?
  • Not energy efficient?
  • Do you have missing appliances?

If you answered yes to any of them, then at that point, I would consider looking at getting like-new appliances.

Don't break the bank.

While new appliances can be appealing, they may not significantly increase the home's value or align with the buyer's preferences.  

Keeping existing appliances, provided they are in good working condition, can be a practical decision.

You want to avoid the substantial expense of upgrades that may not offer a return on investment and a shorter days on market.

11. Carpet or Flooring

When deciding whether to replace old carpets, consider cost-effective alternatives like professional cleaning.

I just did a quick search for Tampa carpet cleaning and found this offer:

Tampa, FL | 3 Rooms $69, 4 Rooms $99 | Best Carpet Cleaning

Removing old carpets and installing new flooring can be expensive.

Plus, there's a possibility that future buyers might replace it anyway, particularly if the carpet has irreparable damage or odors. 

Weigh the options between cleaning and replacing based on your budget.

Sometimes, a thorough clean can refresh carpets sufficiently, making it a more practical choice over costly replacements.

12. Home Technology

“A decade ago, it was quite thrilling to be able to use your phone to control music on wireless speakers,” he said, “but today, the sheer volume of tasks for which a phone or screen is now the primary interface has increased to the point that, for some, it has become a steady and continuous intrusion on quality time with family, with friends or alone.” - Mission Global

I pulled that quote from Mission Global's article.

They continue...

“The majority of smart tech in homes are personal devices, so they don’t necessarily stay with the home when you move.”

In other words, when considering updates in home technology for selling a house, focus on basic, functional tech rather than advanced upgrades. 

Buyers have diverse tech preferences, and not everyone values high-end smart home features.

Addressing fundamental technological needs, like reliable internet connectivity or basic home security, like doorbells with built-in cameras, can be more universally appealing. 

Ultimately, tech upgrades are best saved for homes which are truly lacking in modern fixtures and systems.

13. Trendy Updates

When undertaking any renovation projects, it is important not to get too trendy with upgrades.

For example, if buyers see too much of a wild color palate or overly modern fixtures in the home, they may be deterred. 

The most desirable choice when doing upgrades, such as painting a room or choosing lighting fixtures, is to opt for classic options that are neutral and go well with existing decor.

Neutral colors like white, beige, and light gray are often used when painting as they blend into the background and create a clean look.

When deciding on hardware replacements for cabinets, doors handles, and faucets, it's best to choose classic options already available within the home.

This allows potential buyers to customize their own space once they have purchased the property without having to replace more expensive items themselves.

Simplicity is key. Classic designs are timeless.

Don’t let an overabundance of trendy feature affect buyers' judgment!

How To Decide What You Should Not Fix When Selling Your House

When it comes to selling a home, homeowners should focus on making the right investments in upgrades or repairs that will add value and attract buyers.

Here's how I would approach this...

Step 1: Consulting with a Real Estate Agent

Consulting With A Real Estate Agent

I know what you're thinking..."of course he's gonna suggest to talk with an agent."

Here me out for a sec...

Experienced agents can help you understand which improvements will make your home more appealing to potential buyers.

Furthermore, a seasoned real estate agent can also offer a viewpoint on the potential return on investment for different repairs and upgrades.

This can help you avoid spending too much on renovations that won't increase your homes value. 

As real estate agents, we also have an understanding of buyer psychology...which can be critical in determining what aspects of your home to highlight or downplay.

Moreover, agents often have networks of trusted professionals, such as contractors, stagers, and photographers, whose services can be invaluable in preparing your home for sale.

This comprehensive approach can lead to a smoother selling experience that is both profitable and less stressful.

Step 2: Consider hiring a home inspector

I preface this by saying that hiring a home inspector is a double-edged sword.

Hiring a home inspector prior to listing your home, can (and probably will) uncover hidden problems that could derail a sale or lead to lower offers.

So, you now have the opportunity to proactively repair or replace any issues shown up on the inspection report.

On the other hand, getting a pre-listing home inspection done may not play to your favor.

In Florida, sellers are obligated to disclose all facts known that materially and adversely affect the value of their home...which are not readily observable by a buyer. 

In short, this means that any issues uncovered during a home inspection, previously unknown to the seller, must now be disclosed to potential buyers.

Step 3: Prioritize repairs and upgrades for maximum ROI

When it comes to selling your home, one of the most important investments you can make is prioritizing repairs and upgrades.

By taking the time to determine what areas need the most attention, you can increase your return on investment (ROI).

This could be as simple as removing excess items or giving a much needed update to an outdated kitchen.

Doing this kind of renovation will not only add appeal to potential buyers but also increase value when the time comes to list your property.

In contrast, failing to prioritize repairs and upgrades can be detrimental in terms of selling costs as well as reducing an overall ROI.

Selling a house ‘as-is’ is usually a big mistake if you're looking for maximum return from your property.

The presence of major repair issues can make buyers more reluctant to proceed, as they may anticipate additional costs after purchase.

Consequently, this apprehension often leads to lower offers from potential buyers, as they factor in the expense and effort of addressing these issues.

So, allocating additional resources to essential improvements before selling your home can enhance your return on investment.

This approach often results in more favorable selling conditions and higher financial returns in the final sale negotiations.

Step 4: Determine If The Improvements Hold Value

Determine If The Improvements Hold Value

When considering any type of home renovation, it's important to think about the financial benefits that come with it.

After all, investing in home improvements should bring a solid return on investment.

One of the best ways to determine which updates can maximize value is to look at trends in comparable properties near you.

A real estate agent can be essential when researching which upgrades bring the highest return and increases your home’s market value and potential resale price.

Some projects are more likely to pay off than others, such as increasing energy efficiency via new lighting or making minor cosmetic renovations like updating kitchen cabinetry and bathrooms fixtures.

These types of improvements tend to hold their value for a long time and make your home more attractive to buyers.

On the other hand, expensive home additions or swimming pools may not be worth the cost if they don’t add enough value to the resale price of your property.

It’s key that homeowners research carefully before spending money to ensure they will get maximum value from their investments.

Consider Whether The Buyer Would Make These Changes

When it comes to selling your home, it's important to consider what potential buyers may want to change in order to personalize their space.

While you may have specific improvements or updates in mind, a buyer may not appreciate the same look and feel as you do...and that’s okay!

By considering the changes a buyer might make, you can focus on more strategic upgrades that will bring more bang for its buck.

For example, opting for fresh paint in neutral tones rather than specific shades of colors may be seen as an upgrade but will also provide flexibility for the next occupants.

Instead of spending large amounts of money on cosmetic updates that someone else won't likely appreciate, put those funds towards making more strategic renovations that add value instead.

This way you'll protect both your wallet and chances of finding an interested buyer.

Don't Fall for Trendy Updates with Limited Value

When remodeling a home to improve its market value, it is important to stay away from trendy additions that offer limited return on the investment.

Trends come and go, so investing in something that will be outdated soon could end up reducing the home's resale value instead of increasing it.

Instead, opt for timeless and neutral designs that have a broader appeal and will hold their value over the years.

For example, painting walls using neutral colors like greys and beiges rather than bright hues makes them easier to decorate without dramatic changes.

It also makes them attractive to potential buyers who don't want to commit to an entire room redesign before moving in.

FAQs on what not to fix when selling a house

FAQs On What Not To Fix When Selling A House

1. When selling a house is it better to have it empty?

This depends on several factors. 

An empty house allows potential buyers to imagine their own belongings in the space, which can be beneficial.

However, a tastefully staged home can also enhance the appeal by demonstrating how spaces can be used, making the house feel more inviting and livable.

In many cases, staging a home can lead to a faster sale and potentially higher offers, as it helps buyers visualize the property as a home.

If the house is empty, ensuring it is clean and well-maintained is crucial, as any flaws will be more noticeable.

Ultimately, the decision should be based on the specific market (is it a strong buyer's market? is competition fierce?), the property's condition, and what is most likely to appeal to potential buyers in your area.

2. Should I stage my home?

If, as a homeowner, you are looking to really maximize the amount of money for your home, then I do recommend you, at the very least, soft stage your home.

Simply put, soft staging is a cost-effective alternative to traditional home staging.

You'll typically use decor, artwork, and sometimes existing furniture to enhance a home's appeal.

It's ideal for budget-conscious sellers, offering a warmer, more inviting appearance without the need for full furnishing.

A well-staged home often appears more inviting and can help potential buyers visualize themselves living in the space.

It highlights the home's best features, minimizes its flaws, and can make the space look larger and more appealing.

Now, fully staging your home does require an investment, either in hiring a professional stager or in purchasing or renting decor and furniture, it often pays off.

Here are some home staging stats according to Homelight:

  • 67% of top agents say that home staging helps a seller fetch more money for their house at resale.
  • Over 50% say that staging increases a home’s value from anywhere between 1%-10%.
  • Another 25% believe that staging doesn’t increase a property’s sale price, but helps attract buyers to the home and secure an offer. The more buyers you have bidding on your house, the more leverage you have as a seller.
  • 92% of top agents find home staging to be beneficial toward selling the property in general.

Remember, the goal is to showcase the potential of your home, not your personal style.

Ultimately, whether you decide to stage your home should depend on factors like your budget, the condition of your home, and the norms in your local real estate market.

Your real estate agent can provide tailored advice based on your specific situation.

3. Should you sell your house 'as-is' or fix it?

Deciding whether to sell your house in its 'as-is' condition or invest in repairs before listing it for sale depends on several factors.

What's your goal?

Opting to sell without making any repairs can be a less burdensome process.

This option might be appealing if you're looking for a quick sale or don't have enough funds to cover repairs.

However, potential buyers will generally take into account the cost of repairs and come back with a low-ball offer.

On the other hand, proactively addressing significant issues can increase your home's value and attract a wider pool of buyers, potentially leading to a higher sale price.

4. What is the most common reason a home fails to sell?

The most common reason a home fails to sell is often related to pricing.

Homes priced too high for their market, condition, or location can deter potential buyers.

There are other factors, of course, that may deter buyers from making a deal.

This includes factors like:

  • Poor condition
  • Inadequate staging
  • Lack of marketing exposure
  • Location challenges
  • Functionally challenged
  • Competition, like new construction

5. How can you increase the value of your house before selling it?

A question like this deserves its own article.

There are many, many options to consider to increase the value of your home before selling.

Honestly, it depends on what you're willing to invest. Remember, you'll also want to consider ROI and your timeline.

For brevity's sake, here are some home value increasing options to think of:

  • Add square footage, like a bedroom or bathroom
  • Update your kitchen and bathrooms, primary bathroom in particular
  • Replace/upgrade your HVAC, plumbing, electrical, windows
  • Install a new roof
  • Paint interior and/or exterior
  • Improve landscaping and overall curb appeal
  • Clean and declutter
  • Enhance lighting

Implementing some of these ideas can help increase the value of your home...and may even make for a faster sale.

Again, you'll want to consider time, money, and ROI. 

Definitely talk to a professional before you do.

6. Should I sell my home for cash?

Some sellers simply don't have the time, or money, to wait before selling their home.

They have some sort of emergency factor that allows them to consider such an option.

Cash sales often involve fewer contingencies and can close faster than conventional transactions.

However, it's important to note that cash offers are typically lower than market value.

So it's important to weigh the speed and convenience against the potential for a higher sale price through the traditional market.

7. Do I have to make repairs if I'm selling my house as-is?

The short answer is no.

When selling your house 'as-is,' the seller is not obligated to make repairs. 

This term indicates that the property will be sold in its current condition, and buyers are informed they should expect no further improvements or fixes from the seller.

According to Florida law, the seller disclose "all known facts that materially affect the value of the Property being sold and that are not readily observable or known by the Buyer."

8. When is a house not worth fixing?

Knowing when to throw in the towel depends on various factors.

This includes:

  • the extent of necessary repairs
  • the expenses involved in renovations compared to the potential rise in property value 
  • current conditions of the local real estate market. 

Generally, if the costs for repairs and renovations surpass the potential increase in the house's value, it might not be practical to fix up the property.

In such cases, selling the property 'as-is' or to an investor might be a more practical option. 

Moreover, if there are structural issues with the house or if it is situated in an undesirable location, it might be more sensible to explore alternative options.

9. What should I remove from my house before selling it?

One of the suggestions I give to homeowners when meeting with them to sell their home is to depersonalize and declutter.

You'll want to remove personal items like family photos and memorabilia to help potential buyers envision themselves in the space.

Declutter to create a clean, spacious feel, and remove any bulky or excess furniture.

It's also wise to remove valuables and sensitive documents for security reasons.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, when selling your home, understanding what not to fix is as important as knowing what to repair.

Smart choices in home preparation, focusing on key improvements, and consulting with real estate professionals can make a significant difference.

Remember, not every repair adds value, and prioritizing what enhances appeal while avoiding unnecessary expenses is crucial.

This strategic approach will guide you in successfully navigating the sale of your home, ensuring both attractiveness to buyers and a favorable return on investment.

Ready to have a conversation about the possibility of selling your home?

I can be reached via email or by phone at 813-602-5160. I've been helping people move in and out of Tampa Bay since 2015.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact me.


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