Should You Fix Up Your Home or Sell It As Is?

Illustration depicting several things to consider before fixing up a home to sell

Emilie Dunphy / The Balance

Trying to decide whether to sell your house as is or invest in repairs? Your choice will likely depend on a number of factors, including the condition of your house and the state of the housing market.

Before you put your home on the market, learn which home improvements can boost the value of your home and improve the odds of a quick sale—and which may turn out to be a waste of time and money.

Factors to Consider 

Many sellers put way too much money into fixing up their homes before listing them for sale. They repair flaws that a buyer might never notice or just won't pay extra for. Before you decide to make improvements, consider:

What Is the State of the Real Estate Market?

In a hot real estate market, homes may sell in days, garnering multiple offers and even bidding wars. In a seller's market, you can usually get away with fewer fix-ups before selling.

However, a home that needs repairs will still deliver a lower price in any market. Buyers might not even bother to look at a home that needs work in slow markets. Your agent has their thumb on the market pulse, so ask for advice.

What's the Condition of Competing Homes for Sale?

A competitive market analysis (CMA) offers an overview of recently sold homes in your area. Your agent should be able to provide you with a CMA, which will help you get a sense of whether your home offers more (or less) than similarly situated homes.

What's the Likelihood of a Return on Your Investment?

Some repairs and home improvements are more likely to pay off than others. For example, even a minor kitchen remodel can add over $18,000 to the value of your home, while replacing the garage door can boost resale value by over $3,000.

Talk to your agent before making any repairs to weigh the pros and cons with your particular home and your personal situation. 

Selling a House 'As Is'

There are some situation when it makes more sense to sell the house as is. Let's say the property in question needs a lot of work. It has holes in the walls all the way to the exterior and urine-soaked wood floors. Much of the electrical system doesn't work and the bathroom tub has fallen through the joists. All the faucets leak. 

This is not a home that can be easily or economically fixed. A coat of paint won't help. In this case, you might want to just price the house low enough to attract multiple offers. You can probably anticipate that only contractors and flippers will make offers.

Do Homebuyers Want Fixer-Uppers?

Some homebuyers say they want to buy fixer-upper homes but they're generally looking for those that require only light cosmetic repairs. Buyers who gravitate toward fixer-uppers are those who either don't qualify to buy a more expensive home or want to make a profit by fixing up the home themselves.

Most "fixer" buyers are willing to do simple repairs such as paint the walls, put in new carpeting, or replace light fixtures. They don't want to rebuild a foundation or move walls.

Fixer-upper buyers will discount the price of the home to allow for the repairs, then discount it a bit more for the inconvenience. Say a home would be worth $100,000 if it had a new roof. A new roof might be expected to cost $10,000. However, a buyer will most likely not offer $90,000 for this home. They could buy an identical home with a new roof for $100,000 and save the hassle.

A buyer for this type of home might offer $75,000 or even less. The seller would be smarter to pay for a new roof and sell the home for $100,000 in this scenario. 

And keep in mind that many buyers will not buy a home that needs a new roof. They worry the work involved will cost more than what they anticipate. Perhaps replacing the roof would involve tearing off the sheathing and repairing rafters, which could add to the cost.

Most buyers want a home that's in move-in condition. You can limit the number of buyers who might be attracted to your home by not making repairs.

Before Fixing Up Your Home

Smart sellers will weigh the cost of the proposed improvements against the home's market value after the repairs or upgrades are completed. Such an improvement might not be warranted if an upgrade won't provide a good return on the investment. Before you decide to lift the roof and install skylights in the master suite, realize that kitchens and baths carry the highest return.

Other improvements with a high ROI include:

  • Replacing siding with fiber-cement or vinyl
  • Replacing windows
  • Adding a deck
  • Swapping in a steel front door

You might also want to take an afternoon to tour other homes in the neighborhood of sale with your agent. Note the condition and amenities in these homes.

Compare homes in the neighborhood to yours. If most of them have upgraded kitchens, you should concentrate on fixing the kitchen. These homes are your competition. 

This doesn't mean you have to buy designer appliances and tear out the cabinets, but a minor kitchen remodel might be a good investment. Sometimes simply painting oak cabinets a darker color and installing updated hardware can give your kitchen an all-new look.

Fixing Up Your Home  

Make a list of everything that's defective, broken, or worn out. Buyers might wonder what else in the home has been neglected if they spot problems or malfunctioning systems as they tour your home. 

Minimum improvements to consider making before selling your home include patching holes and cracks in the walls and ceilings, and fixing broken appliances and HVAC systems. Repair leaky faucets.

Replace broken window glass and repair the roof if necessary. Change any dated light fixtures or ceiling fans. Fix code violations—any serious buyer will have the home inspected

Replace worn or stained carpeting. Repaint dark or marred walls with neutral paint—not white. Replace old drapes and window coverings. 

Keep in mind that empty homes don't show as well as furnished rooms, but battered furniture can detract from your home's appeal. Consider upgrading your furniture if it's in bad shape. You can always take it with you when you go. 

The Bottom Line

Before you decide to sell your home as is, learn as much as you can about the housing market and other homes for sale in your area. Then, consider which home repairs are most likely to give you the highest return on your investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does Selling a House 'As Is' Mean?

When a seller lists a house for sale “as is,” typically it means that they will make no repairs to the property before the sale or offer any credits to the homebuyer to make improvements after the transaction is complete.