What to Fix Before Selling a Home in St. Louis

contractors fixing a home in St. Louis

Even when a home is well-maintained, there is always a list of things to do before putting it on the market. Most houses need a good cleaning and de-cluttering. Some might need major repairs.

Homeowners are understandably reluctant to spend a bunch of time and money on things they won’t get to enjoy after the sale. Keep in mind that, in most cases, fixing more things can mean higher offers and a shorter time on the market. We’ve put together a guide to prioritize the to-do list and make sure it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

What’s More Important—Time or Money?

Determining what to fix and what to leave alone depends partly on the homeowner’s hopes for the sale. There is a big difference between a repair and an upgrade. Are you hoping to sell the home fast? You should repair what’s broken. Or do you want to get top-dollar for it, even if that means waiting? You may want to invest in some upgrades.

If a speedy sale is the goal, a seller might opt for selling the home as-is. In St. Louis and across the country, home investment companies and individuals looking to flip a house will be happy to buy a home that hasn’t been touched. There’s a price to pay, though. These buyers are looking for a bargain and will typically offer only 60% to 70% of what the home is actually worth.

Sellers who hope to get the highest possible offer will not only need to fix the basics but may need to do some upgrades too. The expense of improvements must be weighed against the potential increase in market value that the changes bring. In some cases it’s worth it...in others, it’s not.

Fixes That Shouldn’t Be Ignored

There are sometimes problems with a house that even a bargain hunter can’t ignore. But even if they are willing to look the other way, the house may not pass inspection. Home inspectors in St. Louis and surrounding areas are known to have strict standards. When it comes to safety or local code violations, make the repairs. The house may never sell without them.

Faulty Wiring. Electrical issues can be dangerous, as well as something that will prevent a home from passing inspection. It is best to have a licensed electrician fix problems. In St. Louis, many old homes still have knob and tube wiring. While this isn’t really a safety hazard, potential buyers and some insurance companies may see it that way. It’s also an old-fashioned method that has trouble supporting our modern-day electronics. Having K&T wiring updated is worth fixing before selling a home in St. Louis.

Leaky Roof. Not only will a damaged roof allow water to get into a house, it’s can be an eyesore too. Most buyers will want it fixed before they agree to buy the home. A whole new roof might be called for. At the very least, damaged roof tiles should be replaced and holes fixed. A new roof can be expensive, but if the damage was caused by a storm, insurance will often cover most of the cost.

Plumbing. Damaged, leaky pipes and fixtures can cause some serious problems. Water damage, moldy drywall, and rotting wood are just a few of them. Replacing plumbing fixtures that are not in good working order is a good idea. Also, like knob and tube wiring, older homes may have lead pipes. Lead poisoning can occur when lead seeps from the pipes. Having the pipes switched to something safer like copper or PVC allows will work in the seller’s favor.

Wet Basement. St. Louis homebuyers love the extra space that a basement provides. Homes with basements are the norm in the area. Unfortunately, thanks to our changeable weather, so are dank, musty basements that leak every time it rains or the snow melts. Sealing minor cracks can go a long way in making the basement more desirable to buyers. There may be more serious problems with drainage or the foundation. Those can be expensive to fix, so the homeowner might opt to simply disclose the issue and lower the asking price.

HVAC and Hot Water Heater. If a buyer will not live in the house but plans to rehab it as an investment instead, these things may not be very important to them. If, on the other hand, this will be the buyer’s home, they will expect the hot water heater, air conditioner, and furnace to work. Being able to offer brand-new replacements is a definite selling point. At the very least, broken systems should be fixed.

Critters. Eliminating household pests should be given top priority. Bugs, beehives, and wasps nests do not give home shoppers a warm welcome. Termites can cause major structural issues that can prevent a home from passing inspection. In St. Louis, it’s not uncommon for bigger creatures to find refuge inside from the heat or cold in our region. Mice can wreak havoc on attics, basements, insulation and HVAC systems. Before putting the house on the market, deal with any uninvited “guests.”

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors. All homes should have working smoke and CO detectors. This is an easy and inexpensive thing to fix before selling a home. In fact, many local fire departments will give them out for free.

Nice, But Maybe Not Necessary

Some things aren’t absolutely necessary to fix, but they can make a difference in how potential buyers see the home. The good news is that many of these are inexpensive but can make a big impact.

The Little Stuff. When you live in a house for a while, it’s normal to ignore little flaws. We become accustomed to dealing with them. The problem is, potential buyers will notice them, even if we don’t anymore. The door that won’t close, the loose cabinet hinge, the wallpaper that’s peeling, that spot where the dog chewed the doorframe. The fixes are simple and usually inexpensive. The repairs may not be obvious, but those pesky little problems won’t distract buyers from all the good things the house has to offer.

Appliances. There are two choices when it comes to appliances. First, they can be left as-is. This allows the new owner to choose exactly what they want. If they are broken, they should at least be repaired so they work. No one wants to move into a house with a broken fridge. The other option is to replace them. This can be tricky though, as home shoppers can be particular about kitchen trends. Inexpensive replacements can turn-off some buyers, as they may feel they’ll need to switch them out for something better anyway. Likewise, high-end appliances (and don’t forget that stainless steel is highly sought-after) are expensive, and still may not be “just right” for picky buyers.

Keeping Out Heat and Cold. In St. Louis, we see weather extremes from 100 degree summer days to cold, windy snowstorms. Things like insulation, thermal-pane windows, and tight sealing exterior doors will all help keep the elements outside. Being able to point out these kinds of improvements and the expected savings on utilities can help sell a house.

Cosmetic Repairs. Many things that will make a house look better are fairly simple and inexpensive. A fresh coat of paint is always a good idea. Flooring doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced unless it is damaged. Fix broken tiles and clean soiled carpet. Some people love carpet, others hate it, so spending money on new flooring might not be worth it for the seller. Curb appeal is important too. A house may not need all new landscaping, but cutting down the dead elm tree or fixing the handrails on the stairs can make a big difference.

Are Upgrades Worth It?

If a seller is hoping for a great offer, they may consider some upgrades. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most common rooms to get makeovers. Especially in older homes, it may seem that an outdated kitchen or bathroom will work against selling the house. While this may be true, the seller needs to make sure the time and money they spend will raise the value of the home enough to make it worth it.

In most cases, new owners want to put their own personal stamp on the space. Spending tens of thousands of dollars to redo the kitchen, only to have buyers dislike the color of the cabinets, the countertop materials, or the flooring choices, will be extremely frustrating. Instead, a seller can fix what’s broken, tout the room as a “blank slate”, and reduce the price accordingly.

And remember, if the home is a sought-after “vintage” style, those old features may actually work in the seller’s favor. Sadly, some homeowners think they are making their old homes more desirable by covering up or modernizing aspects that gave it its one-of-a-kind charm in the first place.

Discuss What to Fix With Your Real Estate Agent

Deciding what to fix before selling a home in St. Louis means finding the balance between your budgeted time and money and the value the repairs will bring.

When in doubt, talk to your real estate agent for advice about what you must do, should do, and could do to help sell your home. The agents at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties have years of experience in what will give you the best value for your time and money.

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