What not to fix when selling a house

All too often you hear advice saying that you should fix all of the faults in your house before selling it. Surely this is the best way of generating interest to maximise your final selling price?

Perhaps if money is no issue you may want to go ahead and carry out all repairs. But for a lot of homeowners finding the money to make costly repairs before selling is simply not an option.

The bottom line is that you should think carefully about carrying out any repairs before selling your house. This is because not all repairs are absolutely essential or will detract from prospective buyers viewing and offering on your property. Instead, we recommend you follow one simple rule. That is to only undertake repairs that will increase your potential sale price beyond what the same work cost.

The aims of our guide

In our latest guide, we look through the types of repairs and improvements sellers typically make in their homes before selling. We start with cosmetic improvements and then move onto more serious items looking at when it makes sense to fix things and when it doesn’t.

Finally, we look at how you could avoid having to carry out repairs and simply sell your house ‘as is’.

What Not to fix when selling a house

First, let’s take a look at the 15 items within a house that you may consider not essential.

1. Minor cosmetic imperfections

  • Small paint chips or scuffs that are easily fixable by the new homeowner.
  • Minor scratches on hardwood floors or countertops.

2. Older kitchen appliances

  • If your appliances are functional but outdated, buyers may prefer to replace them with newer models based on their preferences.

3. Non-critical plumbing leaks

  • Minor leaks that don’t cause significant damage and can be easily fixed by the new owner.

4. Worn carpeting

  • If your carpets are worn but not extensively damaged, some buyers may prefer to choose their own flooring.

5. Aging roof with limited issues

  • If your roof has a few years left in it and doesn’t have major leaks, buyers may factor the cost of future replacement into their offer.

6. Overly customized features

  • Unique features or renovations that might appeal to a specific taste but could be costly to change.

7. Outdated kitchen cabinets

  • If your kitchen cabinets are in good condition, but their style is outdated, it may be best to leave these alone. Buyers often prefer to remodel the kitchen themselves.

8. Landscaping overhaul

  • Extensive landscaping changes may not provide a significant return on investment unless your garden is a major detractor.

9. Single-glazed windows

  • While energy-efficent upgrades are desirable, replacing all of your windows may not be cost-effective unless there are major issues.

10. Dated bathroom fixtures

  • If your bathroom fixtures are functional, minor updates like new taps and accessories might suffice.

11. Missing or outdated features

  • Features like a lack of garage or an outdated fireplace may not warrant costly improvements.

12. Lack of Smart Home features

  • While smart home features are desirable by some, the abscence of these may not be a deal-breaker for many buyers.

13. Outdated lighting fixtures

  • Unless the fixtures are in poor condition, minor updates may suffice, as buyers often personalilse lighting.

14. Cosmetic landscaping issues

  • Minor issues like uneven lawns or small garden problems that don’t significantly affect the property’s overall appeal.

15. Outdated electrical systems

  • If the electrical systemis functional and meets safety standards, a complete upgrade may not be necessary.


What about major works?

If an issue is likely to show up on the survey, a major renovation or repair can be worthwhile.

Examples where this is the case include plumbing or gas problems, a leaking roof, rising damp, or an insect infestation. Buyers find these issues extremely off-putting and solving them before going on the market can be critical to ensuring an easy sale. You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.


What you
Should fix before selling a house

There are some items that cannot be ignored when selling a house. These are the things that will really stand out in any reasonable survey carried out by a mortgage lender on behalf of a buyer. They can also help add value to your home before selling.

Do I need to conduct structural work before selling?

Instead of wondering what not to fix when selling a house, the most important things homeowners look to repair when selling are major structural issues.

These are serious faults which could affect the integrity of the property, and include problems like:

  • Roofing issues (slipped, missing or broken tiles)
  • Structural cracks
  • Subsidence (property sinking)
  • Heave (property lifting)
  • And bowing (bulging in/out) walls.

Problems like this are often covered by a building insurance policy. If this is the case for you, you should make use of your policy and complete the repairs. You should make sure you do this before marketing your home, as a building site is not attractive to potential buyers.

Since you must disclose any known structural issues in the standard conveyancing document T6 Property Information Form, and they will be picked up by any surveyor worth their salt, repairing these is often a necessity.

If your issue is not covered by an insurance policy, your decision on whether to make repairs becomes more complicated. In such instances, it can often be more economical to reduce your selling price to account for the issue instead. This will save you the hassle of serious building work, and can even work out in your favour financially, especially if attempted repairs reveal further hidden issues. Not to mention the amount of time you will save too meaning you can put your house up for sale quicker.

Remember, if you don’t misrepresent its state, selling a house in poor condition is not illegal. By disclosing a structural issue and accepting a lower price, you can pass on the hassle of any major repairs to your buyer.

Do you have to declare any problems with your house when selling?

In a word – yes. Home sellers marketing a property are legally obligated to reveal anything they know which might impact a buyer’s willingness to buy it. If you fail to disclose anything which might have prevented the buyer from purchasing the property, they can take you to court later for damages.

In addition, when selling a house, most buyers expect a T6 property information form, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and, in most circumstances, an EICR.

When filling in your T6 property information form, you must disclose any known issues with your property, and to get an EICR or EPC your property must be inspected by a qualified electrician or energy assessor, who will complete this to the best of their ability.

In addition, the vast majority of buyers will have an independent survey conducted before making their final offer. If this catches a serious issue you have not disclosed, it could paint you in a bad light, and dramatically reduce the chances of them buying your property for the price you are asking for.

How can I create curb appeal?

While, for the most part, you shouldn’t go over the top in repairs to sell a house, there is one area which is an exception to this.

The public-facing exterior of your house needs to look great. This is the first part of the house any potential buyer will see. Their first impression, known in the industry as its ‘curb appeal’, is critical when selling your property according to UK magazine, House Beautiful.

You should ensure your front garden is tidy, with a mowed lawn and shrubs and hedges under control. Clear away any children’s toys, lawnmowers, bikes, or projects, and pressure wash concrete and brick surfaces like paths, patios, and driveways to ensure they look their best.

It is also critical that your roof and front-facing windows look like they are in acceptable condition. You should replace any missing tiles and patch up any cracks or rot in your window frames and trim, making sure to give them a lick of paint.

A few hours of work on improving the kerb appeal of your property can pay off dramatically. A damaged window frame or piece of trimming is one of the first problems a viewer is most likely to notice, and it could immediately colour their impression of your entire property. While replacing a whole wooden window is rarely worthwhile, it is amazing what a skilled professional can achieve with filler and paint.

Finally, you should repaint your front door. A bright nicely painted front door sticks in the mind and can improve the overall aesthetics of practically any property.

How to sell your house ‘as is’

Sometimes, when a house is in truly terrible condition, it can be worth not doing anything to it at all.

If serious, expensive work would be required to bring your property up to modern standards, you can sometimes make a greater gain by simply selling your house quickly ‘as is’. While redeveloping property has proved very profitable in the past, this was in a very different housing market, and now it can make a lot more sense to sell a house as a project or ‘doer upper’.

While the number of professionals redeveloping tired properties has dropped, many individuals and families are still looking for houses they can fix up. By selling a property at a specialist estate agent or auction house aiming for this kind of buyer, you can cash in on a buyer’s desire to make their mark on a property.

Finally, some tired properties are in such desirable locations that some potential buyers will simply pay more for a plot and planning permission than for the home itself. When this is the case, comparatively high prices can still be achieved, as the majority of buyers interested will be thinking of building their dream home.

Conclusion

Figuring out what not to fix when selling a house can be a lot of hard work.

Thankfully, taking a lighter hand with repairs can often be a more practical approach, and surprisingly lead to you making a quicker sale.

While critical electrical, heating, and plumbing work should be carried out before a property goes on the market, if items in a house mostly work, these should be mostly left as is. Structural issues should either be dealt with using building insurance or disclosed, with the price reduced to account for these.

Minor repairs and aesthetic touch-ups are important, but not as critical as you may think. Expensive home-staging can be a rip-off, with the clinical nature of staged houses being off-putting for some buyers.

Major refurbishments, like installing new kitchens and bathrooms, are often unnecessary. Buyers, often like making these decisions themselves choosing their own fittings and décor to suit.

While most repairs and refurbishment are less important than you would expect, curb appeal, or your house’s first impression is still vital. By ensuring the front of your house and garden is neat, with well painted, clean windows and trim, mowed lawns, and no missing tiles on the roof, you can colour the rest of the viewing positively.

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Frequently asked questions

Here we list the most common questions we are asked. Simply click on a question for the answer.

Yes… but our advice would be – don’t go overboard.

A lick of paint and a tidy-up can go a long way, while money spent on expensive aesthetic improvements is almost certainly not going to be recovered.

For example, installing a new floor, carpet or kitchen surface is almost guaranteed to cost you more than you get back, and any major new item is likely to look out of place alongside other, less recently renovated, parts of your house. That is of course unless you can do this in a way that ensures new items sit side by side without them sticking out.

In a similar vein, some sellers sometimes spend thousands of pounds on professional staging. This could involve going so far as to swap out all the furniture and change the entire colour scheme. But this is not suitable for all houses or all markets. Indeed, some buyers can pick up on over-staging, and it can leave them feeling like your property is not a real home.