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What Not to Fix When Selling a House

Last updated 03/08/2024 by

Sarah Loughry

Edited by

Fact checked by

When you’re getting ready to sell your home, don’t worry about making your windows “energy efficient,” fixing minor electrical issues, or repairing walkway cracks. However, you’ll have to fix any major structural issues, sewer problems, and furnace blockages a home inspector comes across. To truly maximize your home’s value, you may also want to spruce up your landscaping and update any old kitchen appliances as well.
For a first-time home seller, it can be very difficult to know what you must fix and what not to fix when selling a house. But with a little information, you can get a great head start in the real estate market.
It’s tempting to go overboard and take care of every little chip and nick in the plaster. Before you do that, keep in mind that some repairs contribute a lot of value to a home’s sale and some things don’t really matter to buyers at all. There are, of course, things that you will have to fix to bring the house up to code, both little issues and major repairs. After that, everything is a subjective part of the transaction.
Keep reading to learn what not to fix when selling a house, what you should fix, and what you absolutely have to repair when preparing your home for the real estate market.

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How will you know what things to fix?

Every house will be subject to an inspection and an appraisal by a mortgage loan company in a traditional sale. And every inspector will find defects, so be prepared for them. It can be intimidating to have a list of seventy issues handed to you and told they must be mitigated before the potential buyer will move forward.
The first rule: Don’t sweat it! Selling a house is a contract negotiation between you and the buyers, and what you do and don’t need to repair on that list is between you and the seller.
Must FixShould FixDon’t Fix
Furnace issues, particularly venting Grout and caulk issues in bathrooms and kitchens Windows that are old or not energy efficient
Sewer line bellies and cracks Slow drains and loose faucets Minor electrical issues such as reverse-wired sockets and extra light switches.
Asbestos that can be airborne Appliance updates that are cost-beneficial for sale Code upgrades that are unnecessary due to grandfather laws. Speak to your real estate agent.
Dangerous electrical wiring issues Dated lighting fixtures and paint updates that enhance natural light and open space Walkway and concrete cracks that are not hindrances or liabilities
Foundation sinking and cracking Landscaping that enhances curb appeal Projects and upgrades that you are unable to finish before putting the property on the market
Rot from leaking plumbing Projects with cost/benefit advantages such as new countertops or refinished floors. Speak to your real estate agent.
Safety code issues, such as smoke detectors and egress windows.

What you must fix when selling a house

Sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with a developer, they will buy your house as-is and you don’t need to do any repairs. The inspection is just a formality. However, most of the time you’re dealing with individual buyers, and they’ll want some of those things taken care of.
There are certain things that will make your house downright unsellable, and real estate agents might have a hard time attracting customers. We’re not talking about cosmetic changes; these are major problems all buyers will require you to repair or include in the final price.

Furnace issues

If you had a furnace installed and it’s improperly ventilated, nobody will want to buy your house. That’s because every time your furnace turns on, it will flood the room with carbon monoxide.
Unfortunately, this fix will cost you several thousand dollars, but there’s no way around it. There are a lot of inspectors who will end the inspection and leave the property if they discover a furnace ventilation issue (especially in winter if it needs to be running when they’re inside).

Sewer mains

Another major issue you can expect to pay for ahead of time is a problem with the main sewer pipe or the main line. Every inspection will include a video scope of the sewer line, which will examine the connection to the city system. Here’s where several problems can occur.
Houses built in previous decades often used clay sewer pipes, which are susceptible to cracking. If the inspection finds a broken main line, the buyer will demand that it be fixed or be taken off the asking price. That could cost you upwards of $10,000.
Fortunately, that’s a very uncommon problem. Sometimes the pipe has just settled and created what’s known as a “belly.” Water runs downhill, and all mainlines are sloped down towards the city line to ensure proper drainage. A belly occurs when a portion of the pipe sags and creates a spot where water and sewage can pool.
These spots often get clogged and cause backups, and in the worst cases they drop down so low that water can’t drain at all. If an inspector discovers that, you’ll get some bad news that may cost you several thousand dollars.

Other issues

Other major fixes you’ll probably have to make if they are discovered during an inspection are:
  • Roof damage
  • Rot from leaking plumbing fixtures
  • Bad electrical wiring
  • Foundation issues, such as cracking or sinking
  • Issues surrounding modern safety codes, like egress windows in a basement with a bedroom and smoke detectors
They can be very expensive and time-consuming, but cheer up! This is just part of owning a house and building equity, and you’ll likely ask for the same repairs when you’re the buyer.

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What you should fix when selling a house

There are a hundred things — some on an inspection report and some not — that can make your house much more attractive in the real estate market. Fortunately, they also don’t cost thousands of dollars to mitigate.
Little investments in minor repairs can make the difference between a sale and a pass with many potential buyers. In many cases, these small improvements increase the perceived value of your property well beyond what you put in.


This is the easy one. If it would bother you in a hotel you paid $500 for, it’s going to really bother someone paying $500,000. For instance, bleach that mildewed grout around bathroom appliances. It’s a cheap investment and it’s the difference between squeaky clean and creepy green. The same thing goes for putting on fresh caulk. It’s a minor issue, but it makes an important first impression on buyers.
Also, buyers expect normal wear, but tightening up dripping and loose faucets and unclogging slow drains is free and instills a lot of confidence during a walkthrough. If potential buyers turn on a wiggly faucet and the sink starts backing up, they’ll start to wonder what else could be wrong. A little extra effort goes a long way without adding any extra cost.

Pro Tip

Don’t try to do the grout and caulk yourself. You probably have multiple jobs that can be done all at once, and a professional can do it ten times faster with a better end result.

Kitchen issues

People will spend a lot of time in a kitchen, so it goes without saying that it’s usually one of the dirtiest places in the house. A kitchen doesn’t need to be a work of modern art, but something as simple as replacing an old, dilapidated stove or other major appliances can make a huge difference to how the space feels.
While brand new appliances are important, remember that nobody wants to cook in a space that’s dimly lit and hard to work in no matter how flashy the appliances are. Try updating the light fixtures and replacing dark surfaces with trendy colors that enhance the natural light. Though these changes sound small, they can make a huge impression when a potential buyer walks in. The same goes for those dreary cabinets: A fresh coat of paint can make a world of difference to prospective buyers.


It might cost a bit of money, but replacing those old, dry flowers with bright new ones can take your little home from no-groom to showroom. Maybe you hate yard work, but every real estate agent will tell you that curb appeal matters. Nothing kills a deal like staring at a month’s worth of yard rehab before anyone even talks about a number.

Pro Tip

There are several online websites where you can upload a picture of your yard and then mix and match it with digital trees, shrubs, and other landscaping features. Play around before you start digging.

General big-picture issues

These are the more discretionary tasks that might be worth doing, and your real estate agent can give you excellent advice. This includes replacing countertops and refinishing old hardwood floors may cost you a thousand dollars, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the value of your home.
$1,200 to make those dry planks around the doors look like new could translate to multiple offers and an extra $10,000 in your pocket. That could pay your agent’s 3% commission right there!

How to finance home repairs

Depending on the issues discovered, you may have to shell out a few thousand dollars to get your home ready to sell. Unfortunately, not everyone has this much money easily available. If you need some assistance paying for these repairs, you may want to consider the options below.

Home equity loan

A home equity loan is a loan that you take out against your home’s equity. Since this loan is secured by your home, you may qualify for interest rates as low as 3%.
Most home equity loan lenders allow you to borrow 80% to 85% of your home equity, which you’ll receive as a lump sum. You can then use these funds to pay for major repairs or any last-minute remodeling.

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Home equity line of credit

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is similar to a home equity loan in that both draw from your home’s equity. However, a HELOC is a revolving line of credit, similar to a credit card, that you can draw against throughout your draw period (usually 10 years).
A HELOC is a great financing source for anyone working on several projects at once, or who isn’t sure about the final project cost. Since you can continue to borrow from the HELOC (provided you make your payments on time), you can pay for repairs or accidents that appear down the road.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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Personal loans

If you don’t have much equity in your home, you can still take out a personal loan. While unsecured personal loans will have higher interest rates than the options above, you can still get the money you need at a decent rate.
Depending on your credit score and payment history, you may apply for better loan terms. To compare your options, consider the personal loan lenders below.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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What should you not fix before selling your house?

These are the minor issues that most buyers don’t mind fixing up themselves. They neither add nor detract from the value of your house, and can quickly suck up hours of your time when you’re already going crazy trying to get it ready to sell.


Yes, make them shiny and sparkly. No, do not replace them before you sell. Putting in new windows can cost a lot of money, and older windows almost always match the age and feel of the house. Those single-pane windows with a few paint chips might not be the best on the market, but the buyer knew they were walking into a house built in 1950.
“Energy efficient” is a perk, not a code requirement unless the property is a new build, so don’t worry about it. Most buyers won’t walk away from the property over some windows unless they present a risk of water damage.

Minor electrical issues

Don’t worry if you’ve got a reverse-wired electrical socket or other minor electrical issues that don’t do anything. Hardly any buyers will care, and you didn’t either for the last 10 years. It could be a hassle to just get an electrician out to inspect the issue.
That being said, make sure this small problem isn’t part of a larger electrical issue. While a single socket won’t cost you a sale, a major problem with your appliances or fuse box could lead to fewer offers. If you need to hire someone for the bigger problems, you can always ask them to fix the socket then.

Pro Tip

If you don’t know what you’re doing, do not go poking into your electrical outlets with a screwdriver. Exposed wires can be deadly, and if you think the price of a home repair is expensive, take a look at your last medical bills. You can’t sell a house without your health.

Unnecessary building code upgrades

There are plenty of things on an older property that were up to code when they were built but wouldn’t pass an inspection today. However, most of the time these things are covered by grandfather laws and don’t need to be updated before the sale.
For instance, many older homes have asbestos siding. It sounds bad, but it’s not a hazard, doesn’t affect curb appeal, and the inspector and the buyer’s real estate agent will tell them the same thing. In the meantime, it will cost you tens of thousands of dollars to replace. Don’t bother.

Walkway cracks

When it comes to what not to fix when selling a house, rest assured that you can leave walkway cracks as they are. After all, every piece of concrete has a crack somewhere. The new owners won’t care as long as they aren’t tripping over it at the open house.

What about the projects you can’t finish?

We’ve all heard new buyers say they want a “fixer-upper” and they’ll do the work themselves. What happens? They spend the next 10 years living in a half-finished house until they finally bite the bullet and spend the money to have it professionally done when it’s time to sell.
In general, never start a job you can’t finish when you’re selling your home. If you don’t redo an old kitchen and put a fresh coat of paint on your bedroom walls it may affect your final price, but at least it’s not a work in progress.
Buyers can decide for themselves what they want to do or not do, but the last thing they want along with a sizable mortgage is to be saddled with a big paint job. Partial room upgrades or remodels will eat up your time and money, stress you out, and may cause buyers to walk out.

Remember: It’s about value

Selling a home is very stressful and can require a lot of work up-front to make it showroom-ready. But it’s important to remember that value is an equation. All that really matters is whether an issue costs more than it will add to your sale price, and how it will affect the willingness of a buyer to place a bid.
Don’t let it overwhelm you, as a good real estate agent can walk you through the conversation with ease. Any issues that arise during the negotiation process with a buyer can be handled if everyone is committed to making the deal happen.


What makes a house unsellable for potential buyers?

Major structural and safety issues tend to make a home unsellable. These include foundation problems, improperly installed or damaged furnaces, a roof replacement, and asbestos issues that are fundamental health hazards to inhabitants, and are costly mistakes to repair.

What is the most common reason a home fails to sell?

If your home is not selling, it’s most likely because your asking price is too high. Speak to your real estate agent about lowering the price if this is a concern.

Is it better to fix up a house before selling?

Almost all houses benefit from basic improvements and cleaning before the sale. Your real estate agent can help you manage costs, save money, and raise your asking price.

What is the best month to sell a house?

By the numbers, March is the best time to sell quickly, and July is the best month to maximize your value in the market.

How can I maximize my home value?

There are plenty of small repairs that attract buyers to your listing. This includes a fresh coat of paint on bedroom walls (usually a light neutral color) as well as any minor appliance problems you can fix yourself. You can also update your appliances, clean up your landscaping, and ensure your home is as close to “move-in ready” as possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Though you’ll want to fix up your house before selling, you shouldn’t fix every little issue.
  • Before selling your home, an inspector will tour the property and provide a list of repairs needed.
  • You must fix structural issues, a blocked furnace, poor electrical work, and sewer problems before attempting to sell.
  • While not always necessary, you’ll want to clean your house (especially the bathroom and kitchen) and update any extremely outdated appliances. Tidying up your landscaping can also maximize your home’s value.
  • You don’t have to worry about fixing windows (unless there’s smashed glass) or minor electrical issues before selling.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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