Got A Fixer-Upper? Better to Fix It Up Before Selling

No more scuffed wood paneling, peeling paint, and worn carpets. This season educated buyers are spurning the fixer-upper for turn-key houses where they can simply drop their bags and start their new lives.

For years, houses that needed a little TLC were in demand for buyers who didn’t mind taking on do-it-yourself projects in the hope of flipping the house and turning a nice profit.

But now, buyers want their homes in move-in condition. It used to be location, location, location, but noticeably, especially in the past year, if the house is not in near-perfect condition, it could be on the best street but nobody wants to touch it.

One of the main reasons for this is that Millennials – the largest group of buyers these days – are working overtime on their careers and families and are spoiled by reality TV shows in which homes are spiffed and sparkling in a half-hour. They prefer their “gem” of a home already polished, not in the rough.

Sprucing up your home for sale need not be an expensive undertaking. Sometimes it can cost between a few hundred dollars for light staging to a few thousand for heavier repairs. But that investment will almost certainly translate to a much higher sale price. Using classic fixtures and furnishings from mid-range sources such as Home Depot generally makes more sense than buying at high-end stores, where most items are custom-made and would appeal to more specific tastes anyway.

Doing the work up front can add hundreds of thousands of dollars on a sale price and can save months, or even years on the market. If you pay $50 to $100,000 to replace the bathrooms or kitchen – the two key areas that will help sway a buyer – the successful sale price might go up as much as $300,00 or $400,000.

For example, former Rye residents Abbie and John Morrison spent $18,000 on home improvements to their Soundview Avenue property before selling it to move to northern California. That extra effort – repainting, refreshing bathroom tile, replacing carpeting and fixtures and some other work – enabled them to boost the asking price to $1,399,000, about $200,000 beyond what they otherwise might have listed their house. It sold for an even $1.4 million within a week.

It’s really all about making your house look like a model home so someone can imagine living there. Careful cosmetic improvements send a signal to buyers that the home is well maintained down to its foundation. If the house looks shabby or a little dated, the buyer often fears that there are deeper problems waiting to surprise them. A good Realtor should have a list of trusted home repair experts and a relationship with a professional stager, all of whom can help make your place look its best.

The good news is that after two to four weeks fixing up a home, it can often sell in 10 days, or even less. A fixer-upper, or one that looks like it needs a lot of work might linger on the market a year or two. The truth is that about one in a hundred buyers is looking for a home that needs work, and then it really has to be at a bargain price. And even those who think it’s a good idea to take on the projects themselves generally do it only once. After that, they say, ‘I’m never doing that again.”

Fiona Dogan is a Licensed Realtor® in the Rye office of Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty. She is a Westchester Five Star Real Estate Agent, Platinum Award winner, and an Accredited Buyer Representative. For more information, please contact Fiona Dogan at: or visit her website at

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