As you prepare to list your home, chances are you’ve begun looking at every flaw as something you need to address before the property can sell. That might be true if your home has major problems such as mold or a broken refrigerator, but plenty of imperfections don’t need to be fixed to make a sale.
“The truth of the matter is, determining whether or not an imperfection is major or minor is not necessarily cut and dry,” says agent Jeremy Kamm of Coldwell Banker Warburg. “To categorize a flaw as major or minor, we first need to establish the overall condition of the home.”
Learn from experts how to distinguish between major problems and minor flaws and which ones you can ignore.
Don’t Ignore Major Problems
As you walk through your home or go over it with a real estate agent, keep an eye out for big problems you might need to address.
Cynthia Wiley of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Paracle advises her clients to have a pre-inspection done to get a clear picture of the major and minor repairs the home might need.
A pre-inspection report can alert you to problems you might not learn about until a buyer notes them in a counteroffer.
“You can spend a few hundred dollars now and see the items that need to be addressed, or wait to see the buyer’s inspection report later and spend thousands because they now have a punch list of items in disrepair and demand a reduced price for a lengthy list of itemized repairs,” Wiley says.
So, what constitutes a major problem? Wiley says anything related to health or safety falls into this category. “The health and safety issues, such as roof repairs, any water leaks, and HVAC cleaning and maintenance, are serious and costly items to replace and definitely worth addressing before listing,” she says.
Why Minor Problems Matter
Agent Karen Kostiw of Coldwell Banker Warburg says there is no such thing as a minor problem when selling a home. That’s because it’s impossible to know what a given buyer will consider insignificant. Instead, she recommends homeowners play it safe by addressing any and all problems within their budget.
“There is no minor imperfection that can be overlooked at all,” she says. “Any item, no matter how small, will be ammunition for the buyer to offer a low price or ask for a credit during closing for the issue.”
Kostiw points out that paying to fix these problems won’t always translate to a higher sales price, but there’s still a benefit. “Generally, over-fixing minor issues does improve the home’s marketability and draws in buyers, but it doesn’t improve the sales price,” she says.
A home that looks as if it’s been cared for will ultimately perform on the market better than a home whose minor imperfections have been ignored.
You might be able to get away with not fixing minor problems, depending on the market.
“There are some markets where if a home is not in good condition and requires improvement, the buyer pool for that home will discount the price for the property,” Kostiw says. “In another market, where there is no inventory, the demand is greater, and very few improvements will be needed to sell the home quickly and at a potentially higher price.”
The Case for Fixing Small Problems
Don’t ignore a problem just because it’s minor. Addressing small issues can be super helpful when listing your home.
“In general, people are averse to doing home renovation work, and prefer turnkey properties,” Kamm says. “When you address the minor things, the buyer can look at the property as a blank canvas, whereas if you don’t, it may present in disarray or as if it has not been properly taken care of.”
In addition to creating the image of a blank canvas, Kamm points out that fixing the smaller projects is easier on your wallet.
“Addressing minor items is a way to create a good impression while also being some of the least expensive items to fix,” he says.
5 Problems You Can Ignore
If major problems are related to health and safety, they should be fixed, advises Barry Zimmerman, real estate agent, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Florida 1st. Minor problems are more cosmetic in nature.
Here are some of the problems you don’t have to fix before listing.
1. Creaky Floors
They might not sound pleasant, but creaky floors don’t necessarily indicate a huge problem.
“Creaky floors, stairs, and doors can be easily overlooked if the general bones of the home are solid and intact,” Kamm says. “If every pre-war building property listing was looked at carefully, most of them would have creaky floors—and those of us who live in pre-wars have learned to live with quirks like creaky floors.”
2. Small Holes or Imperfections in Walls
When you live in a home for a while, the walls get dinged up. The paint might be chipped or scratched, and there might be small holes where photos and art hung, plus larger holes where televisions were mounted.
“Most buyers are not aware of this minor issue because, at the time of the showing, the screws or hardware are hidden by the artwork or pictures,” Zimmerman says. For that reason, it’s not necessary to patch every single hole or repaint.
However, if your home is being shown without decorations, Zimmerman said it could be worth patching things up. Otherwise, “Even if the seller doesn’t do that, an experienced painter is going to include that work as part of his or her estimate,” says Zimmerman.
3. Stained Carpeting
“Most buyers today don’t want the old carpet,” Zimmerman says. “Most will want to replace with new carpeting, hardwood or tile.” For that reason, replacing the carpet isn’t necessary.
“I wouldn’t recommend to a seller to put new carpeting down, because if the buyer doesn’t want carpeting, then the seller has wasted their money,” Zimmerman adds.
You can still make sure your home looks presentable in photos and at a showing. “A quick solution to the seller is to have the carpets cleaned before they start showings,” Zimmerman says. “ This way, hopefully overall the carpet is presentable.”
4. Cracked Asphalt or Concrete
Cracks are a normal part of wear and tear when it comes to asphalt and concrete, which settles over time. Depending on where it’s located, you can overlook this unsightly feature.
“Garage spaces are typically the least beautiful part of the home as they are, so unless the garage is falling apart or in need of major repair, then some cracks and or dents in the concrete flooring that are not compromising the structural integrity are easy to overlook,” Kamm says.
Broker Ellen Sykes of Coldwell Banker Warburg agrees. “Small cracks in driveway asphalt are OK if there are not a lot of them,” she says.
If there’s a large crack you’re worried about, have someone take a look before listing. “A deep surface crack in the garage floor should be attended to—it could signal a water or settling problem,” Sykes adds.
5. Broken Screens
Zimmerman says screens are easy to replace, and because they come up on inspection reports, they could be something you fix to avoid any problems with potential buyers. Is it totally necessary? Probably not.
“A broken or cracked screen can be the easiest to forgo because unless someone pulls the screen, it may go unnoticed entirely,” Kamm says. “If the screen is propped up and is preventing bugs from coming and going, then fixing this is not going to take away from the beauty of the home.”
Even if they do notice it, broken screens are rarely a dealbreaker. “Simply replacing a screen is not a big deal, so a buyer may overlook it,” Kamm adds. “If the entire screen door is missing, and you need to construct an outdoor screen and mechanism from scratch, then this could be a big deal.”
Check out the rest of the list at Better Homes & Gardens.