To fix or not to fix

By Michael Breen

If you’re one of those homeowners who’s been moaning about how hard it is to sell your house, your bargaining power – you remember that concept, right? – hasn’t been completely devastated just because a flood of new foreclosures is expected to hit the market.

In fact, while studies have shown that your own property value could take up to another four percent hit if you’re within a quarter mile of a foreclosure, the thing to remember is that most buyers today are only interested in homes that are “move-in-ready,” so if yours isn’t, there’s your problem.

“Buyers generally look at ‘as-is’ properties that need work and say ‘I’ll pass,’” says Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby’s in Montclair, N.J. “That’s why I tell clients it’s worth making certain strategic fixes if they’re looking for quicker and more profitable sales.”

So, which “fixes” are worth it, and which aren’t?

Worth it: Addressing major maintenance and safety issues. Would you buy a house with faulty electrical wiring? Enough said.

Not worth it: Major bath renovations. “Whatever you do might not suit the buyer,” says O’Neill, “and meanwhile, you’d have spent as much as tens of thousands of dollars.” Stick to things like repairing cracked shower doors, and save your visions of a modern-day spa for your own new abode.

Worth it: Ripping up old carpeting. Whether you replace it with new carpets or refinish the underlying wood floor is less important than getting rid of an eyesore.

Not worth it: Major kitchen renovations. Same “taste” issue as above.

Worth it: Anything that enhances “curb appeal.” If the first thing prospective buyers notice, even before exiting their cars, is that your roof looks like it’s been whipped by a tornado, for example, chances are you’ve already lost the sale. “It’s a huge turn-off,” says O’Neill, “and makes buyers predisposed to find even more things they don’t like.” So if your roof needs replacing, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (the largest roofing manufacturer in North America), which have the look of luxury shingles but at very affordable prices (visit GAF.com).

Not worth it: Anything that screams “clutter.” The less of “you” there is, the more likely prospective buyers are to imagine happily living there.

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