What Not to Fix When Selling a House: Avoid These 10 Renovations

By Amy Beardsley

Posted on October 27th, 2022

What Experts Recommend | What Not to Fix When Selling a House | Which Repairs Are Worth It?

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Not all renovations are worthwhile when preparing to sell a house. Before you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on repairs, find a solid real estate agent who can tell you where your home stands compared to other houses in your neighborhood.

If your home is already above the competition, you might not need to do any repairs to sell quickly. And if your home does need help, an agent can guide you to projects that will attract buyers.

If you're looking for an agent who can help you understand which repairs and upgrades really matter, our friends at Clever Real Estate can help. Clever offers a free service that matches you with top real estate agents from major brokerage firms like Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and more — at no cost to you.

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Get Advice from a Local Agent on What Matters in Your Market

During the home selling process, consult a local real estate agent. They know the market conditions in your area and what local buyers are looking for.

Talking with a local realtor will give you an idea of which repairs are necessary to get your house in line with your competition. A broken A/C system might not be a big deal in Maine. But in Phoenix? It could be a deal breaker.

After you get an offer from a prospective buyer, your agent can also help you negotiate any requests the buyer makes after receiving the home inspector's report.

What Not to Fix When Selling a House

Appliances | Cosmetic Preferences | Normal Wear and Tear | Outdated Fixtures | Removable Items | Minor Electrical Issues | Driveway or Walkway Cracks | Paint | Grandfathered-In Code Standards | Partial Room Upgrades

1. Old Appliances

You rarely need to upgrade appliances before listing a house. Fewer than one out of four people rate new appliances as the most important part of remodeling.

If your appliances are severely worn, barely functioning, broken, or missing, consider replacing them with used appliances. If you’re set on upgrading your appliances with brand new items, don’t get top-of-the-line models. A standard version can add a lot of value to the appearance of your home without draining your bank account.

2. Cosmetic Preferences

Cosmetic preferences like the color of countertops or cabinets can vary significantly from person to person. What might be an attractive update to you could be a turnoff to prospective buyers.

As long as these features are functional and clean, it’s not worth the time and money it would take to update them — and the new homeowner might change them anyway.

Check with your realtor before making cosmetic changes. They might suggest you skip cosmetic updates and focus on big-ticket problems instead, such as fixing the furnace, foundation damage, and leaks.

3. Normal Wear and Tear

Unless you’re selling a home that’s brand new, buyers expect normal wear and tear such as:

  • Worn or faded carpet
  • Scuff marks on hardwood or linoleum flooring
  • Sun-faded curtains and blinds
  • Dirty or loose grout around tile

You don’t need an extreme makeover to sell your home. Instead, you might focus on projects like painting and landscaping to appeal to buyers. These are quick, affordable options that can make a big impact on your home’s value.

4. Outdated Fixtures, Faucets, and Cabinet Hardware

Styles change. Your fixtures, faucets, and cabinet hardware may have been trendy a few years ago and are now a bit outdated, but they don’t require sprucing up before listing your house.

Some buyers prefer to add their own flair to the house by picking their own fixtures and hardware. Rather than swapping them out, focus on making sure cabinet doors and drawers open and close smoothly and faucets run leak-free.

5. Removable Items

If you’re wondering what to replace in your house before listing on the market, cross removable items like curtains, rods, or valances off your list. These items can get faded and worn, and replacing them can cost a lot of money. Homeowners spend an average of $819 to install window treatments, according to HomeAdvisor.

If the worn or outdated items are really detracting from the feel of the room, just remove them rather than replacing them.

If you just need a helping hand, TaskRabbit is a good resource for finding local taskers who can help with almost any home project.

6. Minor Electrical Issues

When it comes to electrical issues, there’s a big difference between major and minor problems.

You’ll likely need to address hazards like exposed wires, ungrounded outlets, or an outdated electrical service panel before listing your house. But loose outlet plugs, a light switch that goes to nothing, and other minor issues can usually be left alone.

7. Driveway or Walkway Cracks

Curb appeal can give you a big bang for your buck, but buyers understand that there might be hairline cracks in the driveway and sidewalk. These are such a common occurrence for most homes that few buyers will consider them a deal breaker.

Pouring new concrete is also expensive and a pain, with only a minor boost in curb appeal. So skip fixing minor cracks.

8. Paint in Some Rooms

Updating the paint in certain rooms can draw attention to the lackluster color in other areas of the home. Unless you have particularly bright colors, like a lime green bedroom, you’re probably fine not painting rooms before listing your house for sale.

If you do repaint, chances are that the new owner will just paint right over your hard work. According to the National Association of Realtors, painting the entire interior of a home gets a 10 out of 10 “Joy Score,” a metric of how happy homeowners are with the renovation. This score means that homeowners usually feel satisfied when they can pick the colors out themselves.

9. Grandfathered-In Building Code Issues

Building codes can change over time, and older homes likely won’t meet current standards. However, that doesn’t mean you need to bring everything up to the current codes to sell your home.

A home inspection report might call out building code items. But the house doesn't have to meet current building codes as long as it was built according to the codes at the time of construction.

10. Partial Room Upgrades

It’s never a good idea to start an upgrade or remodel that you can’t finish before you sell your house. Buyers can’t always visualize the completed effect of partially finished projects.

Consider the time and budget before you commit to renovations or upgrades. Adding a new vanity but keeping the vintage orange bathroom tile makes little sense and doesn’t add value to your home.

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Which Repairs Are Worth It?

Making repairs or installing upgrades is common before putting your house on the market, but fixing it up can be costly and time-consuming — and you might not get back what you put in.

Find out which repairs, renovations, and improvements will add value and help you recoup your cost. You don’t want to dump $30,000 into fixing up your place only to see a $10,000 increase in sales price.

It’s worth doing some research to discover which projects will cost the most or take the longest and whether they'll add value to your home. If not, they're probably not worth it.

Here are some renovations you can make that give the highest return on your investment:

Renovation
Est. Cost
Est. Recovered Cost
% of Value Recovered
Hardwood flooring refinishing
$3,400
$5,000
147%
Insulation upgrade
$2,500
$2,500
100%
Closet renovation
$6,000
$5,000
83%
Kitchen renovation
$80,000
$60,000
75%
Bathroom renovation
$35,000
$25,000
71%
Kitchen upgrade
$45,000
$30,000
67%
Add a bathroom
$80,000
$50,000
63%
Add new master suite
$172,500
$100,000
56%
Data from the 2022 Remodeling Impact Report from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and the National Association of Realtors.

To get an idea of what your project might cost, check out HomeAdvisor's “True Cost Guide,” a free tool that gives you real costs of over 400 types of projects.

And if you're ready to hire an expert, HomeAdvisor can connect you with top local professionals today!


Frequently Asked Questions about What Not to Fix When Selling a House

Renovations that are worth doing before you sell a home include a full kitchen remodel, full bathroom remodels, and simple landscaping. You can also increase curb appeal and make improvements to energy efficiency, like upgrading the insulation. These renovations add value to the home and impact a potential buyer’s first impression. As for what not to fix when selling a house, don't worry about updating windows, fixing normal cosmetic flaws, or repairing minor electrical, plumbing, or HVAC issues.

Before selling your house, it’s important to fix problems with the foundation, electrical system, heating and cooling systems, water heater, mold, and pests. Fix anything that might be dangerous and turn a buyer away after an inspection. Learn more about what to fix and what not to fix when you’re selling a house.

The most common reason a property fails to sell is an unrealistic asking price, not any feature of the home itself. Even in a seller’s market, you still want to work with an experienced real estate professional to accurately price your home. Learn more about getting your home ready to sell.

Typically, it’s best to fix up your home instead of selling as is. While you might save money upfront when you don’t make home repairs, that decision could cost you a higher price for your home. In some cases, potential buyers won't even consider as is homes.


If you’re unsure which projects are worth undertaking, talk with your real estate agent about getting a comparative market analysis. This report reviews comparable homes in your local real estate market to see how your house stacks up. From this report, you can get a better idea of what to fix and what to leave on the do not fix list. For example, if most comparable homes have major renovations in the kitchen or bathroom, you’ll want to renovate those areas in your home to stay competitive.

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Posted in Home Improvement, Preparing to Sell Your Home