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Why Do I Need to Make Home Improvements Before Selling?

My real estate team meets with hundreds of potential sellers every year. Most of them seem to understand the importance of making repairs and improvements to the home before putting it on the market, but we also speak with quite a few of them that just want to sell their home “as is” and not make any changes. They either don’t want to spend more money on the home or it’s simply the hassle of having to do the work. Either way, these homeowners don’t seem to realize the cost of not doing the work. Let me give you some examples.

Earlier this week I spoke on the phone with a gentleman that was thinking about selling, but it appeared to me that he was looking for a real estate agent that wouldn’t make him fix things throughout the home. Many sellers like him still believe they shouldn’t have to do those things or not nearly to the level of what their agent is suggesting. After all, a buyer is going to come in and do what they want anyway. To some degree, I understand their thinking, but after having worked with hundreds of buyers over the last 15 years, I can assure you that buyers have absolutely no imagination whatsoever!

This gentleman knew his carpet was old but didn’t want to replace it because in his words, “I don’t know if the buyers will like what I choose.” I explained to him that it’s my job to know what carpet to choose and I also have experienced flooring vendors that will help him with that. I assured him we would never let him make the wrong decision. He also claimed he doesn’t have time to make repairs, so I offered to have my handyman call him. My handyman can come over to the house and give him an estimate for doing all the repairs he doesn’t have time to do himself. I promised him it will be done right and it probably won’t cost as much as he thinks.

As it turns out, there really wasn’t that much to be done to the home. I think he just thought we were going to ask him to install new granite counters, new stainless appliances, and spend thousands of dollars in updates. That is never our intent, but we did want to show him how spending less than $1,500 with the handyman and around $4,000 in carpet, could potentially get him another $10,000 on the sales price.

Let me explain it this way. The very next day I was showing a home for one of my busy agents. As I opened the front door for the buyers, they walked into the home and told me they were very excited to see this home and that it looked very nice in the photos. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, the home was certainly not in perfect shape and these first-time home buyers started adding the costs up pretty quickly in their head.

Even though we felt it was a good price, the baseboards and walls were scratched and dinged up. It was immediately obvious the seller hadn’t bothered to repaint any of these areas so the buyers quickly started thinking they would have to repaint large sections of the home. Sure, painting is easy and anyone can do it, but when buyers walk into a home and see that right inside the front door, it immediately sets the tone for a bad first impression.

Next, they noticed the carpet was pretty worn and would have to be replaced soon. They turned to ask me, “How much do you think it would cost to replace this carpet?” Let me assure you, when a buyer starts asking questions like that, it’s never a good thing. As we continued to walk through the home, the strikes against this home started adding up. The deck needed repairs and restained, some of the ceiling fans didn’t seem to be working, and the furnace and A/C were 25 years old. These buyers looked at me and said, “Well this is disappointing. We really didn’t want to spend $250,000 and then have to replace carpet, an HVAC, and make repairs. I guess we’ll just wait for another home.”

As we walked out the door, I was thinking to myself, “If that seller would have spent around $6,000 on his home, I could have listed it $10,000 higher and got a bidding war going on it. That’s what we do for our sellers and that is why our sellers average only 10 days on the market with over 60% of our homes selling in the first 48 hours with multiple offers.

Failing to properly prepare your home for sale may communicate the message that your home isn’t maintained and is in need of a lot of repairs. It makes the buyer wonder what else may be seriously wrong that they can’t see. I had buyers say that out loud to me while we were standing inside the home.

Believe it or not, the average home in the greater Kansas City area still sits on the market for 60 days. I know it may seem like every home is selling in 48 hours, but that’s just not true. Even in this very strong seller’s market we are in today, I see many homes sit on the market for 60, 90, 120 days and they all have the same common theme. They’re outdated and need repairs, so the buyers are not interested. Even worse, when they do find the right buyer, the offer comes in much lower than what the seller was hoping for. The buyers typically figure their offer price on what I like to call their “hassle factor.” The seller didn’t want to make these updates and repairs, but ironically, the buyers don’t want to mess with it either, so they double or even triple their estimated cost of repairs and updates. I’ve seen it happen many, many times.

Bottom line, it pays to do repairs and minor updates to your home before going on the market. You’ll be on the market for less than 48 hours and have buyers fighting over your home. Best of all, you’ll see multiple offers coming in $5,000 to $10,000 over your asking price. Buyers today are willing to pay a premium for a completely move-in-ready home.

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