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Home Repairs and Touch-ups

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    Ever been to an open house where the first thing you notice is a torn window screen or a wobbly porch railing?  What about squeaky doors, dripping faucets, and lights that don't come on when you flick the switch?

    Along with top-to-bottom cleaning, the most important and cost-effective thing you can do to ready a home for the market is to make all the minor repairs you've been putting off for years. Sure you've learned to live with the balky front door lock: "Just insert the key, jiggle left slightly, then right, then twist left again." But when the first thing a would-be buyer notices is that her real estate agent has a tough time unlocking the door, your home has already lost luster.

    Undertaking major projects like adding another bathroom or remodeling the kitchen may or may not be a smart move for sellers. But making the necessary repairs to bring the house into perfect working condition is mandatory. If buyers see that the seller didn't care enough about the little things, it's easy to conclude that the seller also has a lackadaisical approach to more important maintenance, such as roof and foundation repair. No one wants to buy a home that looks like it might need immediate — and expensive — repairs.

    Real Life Example

    Who: A potential buyer
    The quote: "I didn't like considering places requiring immediate steps before we could move in and about which we thought, ‘How could they have lived with that without fixing it?' One house in particular comes to mind that had the absolute worst old olive green shag carpet. Even if they had pulled it up and put in a very cheap, clean, and neutral carpet it would have shown much better."

    Besides making every single obvious repair, sellers should make easy touch-ups that will add value to their home. Paint the front door. Get rid of the dingy wallpaper in the study. Repaint the interior off-white. (White makes rooms look spacious and new.) If your mailbox and front gate aren't perfect, replace them. Curb appeal is important and if the front of your house isn't inviting, some would-be buyers won't bother to stop.

    Water stains anywhere in a house are red flags to buyers. Find water stains. Make the repairs. Repaint or whatever it takes to make the stains disappear. You must be honest about the fact that you've had water damage anywhere in the house (see Tell All: Disclosures for the Seller). But if the topic comes up tell the would-be buyers exactly what you did to fix the problem and have receipts from repair companies or contractors on hand as evidence.

    If your roof really and truly is a mess and beyond repair, you're going to have to replace it. It will cost from $5,000 to $15,000, more or less, depending on where you live and how big the house is. But replacing a roof is the kind of messy, irritating repair work that no one wants to undertake just after moving into a new home. A new roof — if you really need one — is one sure way to send the message that your home is worth the asking price.

     By Diane Tuman

    Next article: House Repair Checklist

    Previous article: Clean It Up Before Selling

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    • Last edited October 12 2012
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