Homeowners get used to imperfections in the house - a dripping faucet, carpet that bunches up in spots, a loose doorknob, bent screens, a broken tile.
You may plan to take care of the problems, but you lack time or money or motivation. Eventually, your awareness fades; you can walk through a familiar room and no longer notice anything wrong.If you plan to put your house on the market in the next few months, you need to look around with a critical eye and the energy to tackle repairs. Buyers come in with a fresh view and see everything that's wrong. Most of them don't want to move into a house that needs work. Moving is stressful enough without that.
Take care of the little, nagging problems first. Go outside and look at the house from the street. If you're not a gardener, the trees and bushes may be overgrown. Trim them back or hire someone to do it. Check the gutters for leaves and replace any downspouts that are cracked or broken.
Look at the roof. If the flashing is worn away, have it replaced.
Make sure that the front door is attractive and that the knob or handle works well. A coat of paint or a small repair here will pay off. Buyers who have a negative view coming into the house won't stay long.
Inside, consider whether you need new weatherstripping and caulking around windows and doors. Get the windows into good shape; replace any screens that have holes or are bent.
It might help to have an outsider go over the house with you to point out what needs fixing. Real estate agents generally have a good idea of what bothers buyers, so if you have a friend in the business, ask her advice.
Once you take care of the little things, you need to decide whether to tackle more expensive problems.
The American Society of Home Inspectors says a survey of its members showed these are the most frequently found major drawbacks:
- Water in the basement, usually because of improper grading and drainage around the house.
- Problems with the electrical system - insufficient electricity for a house, amateur and sometimes dangerous wiring connections, or a need for more overload protection.
- Roof damage.
- Mechanical problems in the heating and air-conditioning system.
If you know you have a problem in one or more of these areas, it's a good idea to get it fixed even though the cost may be high.
Most buyers today put a safeguard in their purchase offers, making the offer contingent on a satisfactory home inspection. When major problems are uncovered, they're likely to withdraw the offer entirely - or to reduce their money offer by more than it would cost you to have the repair done.
If you know your house has a major problem and you successfully hide it, buyers may sue you later.
You can hire a home inspector before you put your house on the market to get a thorough understanding of what needs to be fixed, but inspections are expensive - $150 to $300 - so you might not want to pay for one unless you suspect a problem.
Once you decide to have a major repair done, make sure you don't get stung. The competence and honesty of repairmen varies widely. Unless you have good firsthand experience with a firm, get a recommendation before you hire.
Check with the Better Business Bureau, local consumer groups, friends, home builders, real estate agents - anyone you can think of. Electrical power companies in some cities keep lists of good repairmen.
All this work will pay off when you sell your house. Keep the bottom line in mind - it's a great motivator.