Business & Real Estate

Why do I need to fix up my house to sell?

I get asked this question all the time: Why do I need to fix up my house to sell? The answer is that you don’t have to.

You could walk out the door and sell your house just as it is now without lifting a finger. That is the easiest thing to do. The problem is, even in this seller’s market, the buyers will base their offer price on what they see when they first walk in the door. If they see weeds in the yard, threadbare carpets and faded paint around where you removed your paintings, they will typically offer a lower price than they would had they seen a sparkling clean, freshly painted and staged house.


Q: My house will probably get torn down by the new buyer, so why should I spend any money fixing up something that is just going to be demolished?

A: The permitting and contractor selection process can take one to two years, sometimes longer. A buyer might want to rent out your house – or live there – while they are preparing their remodeling plans.


Q: How do I know what I should do to prepare my house for sale?

A: Rely on your real estate agent to advise you. He or she will explain the sorts of things that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. You also should look at open houses in your price range and see what they look like. Pretend that you are a buyer and look with a critical eye. Which house would you want to buy?


Q: What sorts of projects should I consider?

A: Usually cosmetic fixes have the highest return. Typically, you don’t need to do anything structural like taking down walls or adding a bathroom, as you never know what a buyer will want. 

Specifically, painting is usually No. 1. Full interior is most common and sometimes just painting the exterior trim will do the trick. Replacing old or dirty carpets or dated linoleum is high on the list. Staging shows buyers what their house might look like. For the exterior, simply giving everything a big “haircut” – trimming trees and bushes blocking windows, adding a fresh layer of mulch – goes a long way toward increasing your curb appeal.

Q: How much will it cost?

A:  Of course, that all depends on what you do, but usually it totals in the $20,000-$50,000 range. That’s a lot of money, but it’s worth it. I find that simple cosmetic fixes will return two, three or even four times the cost. If you can’t at least double your investment, it might not be worth it.


Q: Who pays for it?

A: The seller. Talk to your agent, though, as there are sometimes programs that will allow you to borrow the money for fix-up that will be repaid when you sell your house. Remember, too, that typically monies you expend to prepare your house for sale will reduce potential capital gains taxes. Be sure to consult with your tax professional first.


Q: That all seems like a lot of time, effort and money. Is it really worth it?

A: In general, yes, but your agent will advise you on your house. His or her job is to get you the highest possible net price.


Owen Halliday is a realtor who manages the Sereno Group office in downtown Los Altos. Text or call him with questions, comments, potential column topics or to request a valuation of your house at 492-0062 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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