Think you have some repairs to get done before you sell your house? You might be right!

Houses are complicated — made up of innumerable mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components that can unexpectedly break at any moment. Tack on regular deterioriation and home maintenance challenges, and the need for home repairs can morph into an anxiety-inducing nightmare. From making major home renovations to attempting to fix smaller cosmetic issues, updating a property before selling can become a stressful undertaking with a variety of construction costs and necessary knowledge to get the job done. Don’t fret! With a little guidance, making home repairs can become the simplest step in the selling process.

Major vs. Minor Repairs

Every homeowner can attest to the apparent aging of a property, from appliances becoming obsolete to certain home fixtures needing an update or replacement to meet modern standards. Unless a homeowner doubles as an experienced contractor with unlimited resources, some projects will require outside expertise. Before tackling any home improvement endeavor, great or small, it’s essential to differentiate between major and minor repairs.

Major and minor repairs differ in cost and the expertise needed to successfully fix them. While cosmetic and superficial issues may be easily funded out of pocket, structural repairs and system replacements come with varying costs, including labor fees, materials, tools, permits, and inspections. They also typically need professional assistance to complete due to complexity.

According to Home Advisor, the everyday homeowner can spend anywhere from $800 to $35,000 on home repairs, while the average reported cost for a repair is over $10,000. This estimate doesn’t include complete home overhauls or remodels; homeowners can spend a whopping $10,000 out-of-pocket on fixing unexpected repairs that may pop up. To better estimate a specific home repair cost, homeowners must identify which category a repair belongs to.

Homeowners may need to make numerous major repairs before selling, but the most common include roof replacement or repair, water damage, electrical wiring issues, severe plumbing and sewer line problems, and foundation concerns. Fixing these issues DIY-style can be dangerous for the seller and may require permits or licenses to complete. Hiring a professional is prudent in these instances. Though reputable electricians, plumbers, and general contractors are expensive, selling a home without making the necessary repairs beforehand can be detrimental at closing.

Minor home repairs are easier to identify and often require little materials and labor cost. Examples include cosmetic changes, such as repainting a room or cleaning up the home’s exterior, while others are related to maintenance upkeep. Caulking windows and unclogging pipes are considered minor repairs that can be easily made before selling. When done correctly, these small updates and renovations can easily be covered with a rainy day fund and at the homeowner’s discretion.

Estimating Repair Costs and Hiring Contractors

It doesn’t matter if you’re flipping a home for a profit or want to sell your personal property without going under, making repairs is an important step in the selling process. The home’s appearance is a key factor when attracting potential buyers; maximizing curb appeal while securing the home’s structural integrity will determine what buyers are willing to pay for a property. While making repairs is generally a good thing to most buyers, it’s not always the most profitable solution for sellers.

To determine the cost effectiveness of a home repair, sellers must first estimate the repair cost. The simplest way to do this is by becoming familiar with the average cost of materials. Spending a weekend at local home improvement stores and comparing the prices of materials needed for a repair is one possibility. With a standard materials price point, homeowners are better equipped to compile a realistic cost list to make each repair individually.

For major repairs, this method is less than ideal because homeowners may not fully grasp what is needed to successfully complete a project. Thankfully, hiring a local contractor will assist in making more accurate estimates. It’s vital to have a general understanding of the materials involved and compare the costs of labor when shopping around for a reputable contractor.

After identifying the type of repair needed, home sellers must determine which contractor to hire. Whether they’re a general handyman or specialty contractor, they should be able to provide solid references, evidence of being licensed/bonded/insured, and maybe even an established reputation with the Better Business Bureau. Doing extensive research is the difference between repairs that sell homes and shoddy jobs that eat away at profits. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers several sound suggestions to further assist in selecting the ideal contractor.

When To Make Repairs, When To Move On

Prospective buyers love move-in ready homes. They typically don’t want to buy a property that requires renovations before unloading the U-Haul. But what’s most appealing to a buyer can be detrimental to a seller’s wallet. When deciding whether to make repairs before selling, it’s beneficial to follow the general rule of thumb: repairs should only be made before selling if it’s cost effective, simple, and stress-free for the homeowner.

Stress-free, nominal fixes and updates are easily worth it when deciding to make repairs before selling. Hiring professionals to deep clean the interior, landscapers to spruce up the premises, and local teens to paint a few bedrooms can make all the difference when a home goes on the market. Buyers love seeing that a home is well-maintained before sending over a purchase agreement. Making sure every component that’s easy to fix is in optimal condition before an open house will secure a surprising amount of second showings.

If it’s not profitable to make repairs before selling, homeowners may opt to sell their property as-is. This means listing your home lower than market value to accommodate the cost of future repairs for buyers. These sales often attract rehabbers and other investors, happily willing to take over home repair costs for the potential profit at resell. For sellers going this route, be wary of scammers and illegitimate buyers wanting to submit low-ball offers; they can tie up your home in contracts with no intention of purchasing.