Every Seller Asks Which Home Flaws to Fix When Listing, and RE/MAX Brokers Offer Advice

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Assessing the flaws of a home and then deciding which to fix is a vital step in a successful sale. RE/MAX brokers offer advice on what sellers should prioritize on their fix-up list.

Opinions vary on which types of problems are the most important to address, but three categories that rank near the top of most brokers’ lists are flaws related to mechanical systems, safety and curb appeal.

With few exceptions, homeowners preparing to sell must confront the reality that their home has a few flaws, and some homes have many more than others. The perennial question, notes Jack Kreider, executive vice president of RE/MAX Northern Illinois, is which flaws to fix and which, if any, to let go?

“Flaws come in every form imaginable. Some result from normal wear and tear, such as worn or soiled carpeting. Others develop as a home ages,” Kreider explained. “Doors don’t close properly because of settling, mechanical systems show signs of fatigue or porch railings have deteriorated from weather exposure. And of course, there are those things that just happen, like the bedroom your teenager painted black and purple and then put stars on the ceiling that glow in the dark.”

Assessing the flaws of a home and then deciding which to fix is a vital step in a successful sale, according to Keith Hancock of RE/MAX Villager in Glenview, Ill.

“On my first visit, I go through the home with a fine-toothed comb and talk to the owners in detail about what is not working, what problems exist and what they have done to improve the property,” said Hancock. “I write it all down, and then let them know what I think needs to be addressed before we list the property.”

When it comes to recommending what to fix and what to let go, brokers take a range of factors into account, but in the end, it all comes down to numbers, according to Jaime Ashley Campos of RE/MAX Loyalty in Chicago.

“My approach is to look at the potential sale price of the home in its current condition and its price if its flaws are fixed. Then I also consider what sellers hope to get for the home, how quickly they want to sell and the budget they have for fixing things up. Once I have a handle on those factors, I list the things I feel must get done. If there is money left in the budget after that, I’ll turn to the smaller concerns, fixes that will help sell the home but won’t make a big difference.”

Opinions vary on which types of problems are the most important to address, but three categories that rank near the top of most brokers’ lists are flaws related to mechanical systems, safety and curb appeal.

Safety and structural issues should be the first to get attention, contends Janet Mayer of RE/MAX Action in Lisle, Ill.

“Things like bad floor boards, holes in the wall or roof damage should be repaired if possible,” she said.

Campos urges her sellers to fix any mechanical or structural issues because “a bad roof or a leaky water heater tend to scare off buyers.”

If a home has a serious mechanical or structural issue that the seller can’t afford to fix, Don Budzyn of RE/MAX Hometown Properties in Channahon, Ill., advises obtaining several estimates from reliable contractors so that potential buyers will have a realistic picture of what they’d have to spend to fix the problem.

“When you can’t deal with all the flaws in a home before selling, the key is to price the property accordingly because buyers who don’t plan to tear the place down will almost always have a home inspection, and the inspector is going to identify the problems,” Budzyn said.

As for problems that deserve priority on a seller’s fix-up list, tackle those that can help make a good first impression, advises Hancock.

“You want the home to look appealing, fresh and well maintained, so obvious cosmetic issues should be addressed, whether that means, paint, carpeting or flooring, and don’t ignore odors from either smoking or from pets. Buyers today aren’t as tolerant of odors as they were 20 years ago,” he said.

Whichever issues homeowners decide to fix, they should allow time to get the work done.

“In most cases, the longer sellers have lived in their home, the more time needed to get it ready,” explained Mayer. “I have current sellers who’ve been in their home for 20 years and needed nearly four months to get it ready. Another couple I represented recently had been in their home just a few years, and they were ready in two weeks.”

RE/MAX agents consistently rank among the most productive in the industry. In 2016, RE/MAX Northern Illinois agents averaged 18 transaction sides. RE/MAX has been the leader in the northern Illinois real estate market since 1989 and is continually growing. The RE/MAX Northern Illinois network, with headquarters in Elgin, Ill., consists of more than 2,250 sales associates and 105 independently owned and operated RE/MAX offices that provide a full range of residential and commercial brokerage services. Its mobile real estate app, available for download at http://www.illinoisproperty.com, provides comprehensive information about residential and commercial property for sale in the region. The northern Illinois network is part of RE/MAX, a global real estate organization with 110,000+ sales associates in 100+ nations.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: RE/MAX® is a registered trademark. Please spell in all caps. Thank you. This release is posted at blog.illinoisproperty.com.                 .

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Chris Calomino
RE/MAX Northern Illinois
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