What Not to Fix When Selling a House: A Guide to Saving Time and Money

September 07, 2023

Selling your home is a significant undertaking that involves numerous decisions and considerations. One of the most common dilemmas that homeowners face is deciding what to repair before putting the property on the market. While making specific improvements can certainly increase the market value and appeal of your home, it’s essential to know which repairs or upgrades may not be worth the investment.

What Not to Fix When Selling a House

Cosmetic Issues

Cosmetic issues are often the most tempting to fix. After all, they’re what you and potential buyers see first. However, it’s crucial to remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the aesthetics you find appealing may not be the same for your buyer. Here’s a detailed look into why certain cosmetic issues might be better left untouched.

Fading Paint and Minor Scratches

It’s easy to assume that a fresh coat of paint will make all the difference when staging your home for sale. However, there are several reasons why this might not be a good investment:

  1. Personal Preferences: Your choice of color might not align with the potential buyer’s taste, making it a wasted effort.
  2. Temporary Fix: Fading paint and minor scratches often show the home’s age, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A well-aged home has character, something a new paint job can’t always improve.
  3. Financials: Painting a house, especially if you hire professionals, can be costly and time-consuming.
  4. Negotiation Tool: Leaving some minor cosmetic issues gives buyers a point to negotiate, allowing you to possibly avoid making more significant, costly repairs in exchange.

Outdated Decor

Shag carpets, popcorn ceilings, and wood paneling may scream ‘outdated’ to you, but they could represent a unique charm to another person. Before you pull out the sledgehammer, consider the following:

  1. Niche Appeal: Certain buyers, especially those looking for a home with retro character, might find outdated decor charming or even desirable.
  2. DIY Buyers: Many people buy a home with the intention of making it their own. They may see outdated decor not as a drawback, but as an opportunity to remodel and add value.
  3. Renovation Loans: Some buyers seek homes that qualify for specific renovation loans, which require the home to need cosmetic upgrades.
  4. Expense: Completely changing the decor of a room is a considerable investment, one you may not recoup in the sale. This is especially true for changes that require structural work, such as removing walls or changing fixtures.

Small Hardware and Finishes

Many homeowners ponder whether updating hardware like door handles, faucets, and light fixtures would make a significant difference. In most cases, the answer is no for several reasons:

  1. Minor Impact: Small hardware elements often go unnoticed during house tours as buyers focus more on the overall space and layout.
  2. Personal Touch: Buyers usually want to add their flair to a home, and that often starts with hardware and finishes they personally select.
  3. Cost Accumulation: Though each piece of hardware may be inexpensive, the cost can add up quickly, especially if you opt for higher-end options.

Carpet Stains and Hardwood Scratches

You might be horrified at the thought of showing your home with some minor carpet stains or scratches on the hardwood floors. However:

  1. Normal Wear and Tear: Most buyers expect a used home to have some signs of wear. These minor imperfections often fit within that expectation.
  2. Rug and Furniture Placement: Buyers will often visualize the home with their own furniture, potentially covering any minor cosmetic flaws in the flooring.
  3. Negotiation Leeway: These minor issues can be points of negotiation that don’t require substantial financial investment to resolve, unlike more significant issues like a failing roof or outdated electrical system.

Big-Ticket Items with Minor Impact

When selling a home, the instinct to present it in the best possible light is strong. While some repairs can boost your home’s value significantly, others are big-ticket items that could drain your wallet without offering a substantial return on investment. Below, we delve into why certain expensive repairs might not be worth your time and money.

Roof Replacement

Replacing a roof is a significant expense that can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Here’s why you might want to reconsider doing it:

  1. Longevity: Roofs are designed to last for several decades. If your home’s roof is somewhere mid-lifespan, replacing it might be overkill.
  2. Inspection Nuances: A home inspection will indeed uncover the age of a roof, but most buyers are satisfied as long as it isn’t leaking or showing severe wear.
  3. Negotiation Leverage: If the roof does come up as a sticking point, you have the opportunity to negotiate the price rather than fronting the cost yourself.
  4. Insurance: Many homebuyers know that their home insurance will likely cover a roof replacement if it becomes necessary after purchase, diminishing the need to buy a home with a brand-new roof.

Old Windows

Replacing old windows could make your home more energy-efficient, but it’s often not worth the investment for these reasons:

  1. Aesthetic Value: In historical or older homes, the original windows are often a selling point that adds character.
  2. Minimal Energy Savings: While newer windows are more energy-efficient, the monthly savings on utility bills may not be substantial enough to justify the replacement cost.
  3. Upfront Expense: High-quality windows are costly, and installation can add to the expense, often making the investment hard to recoup.
  4. DIY Option: Some buyers might prefer to replace windows themselves to qualify for specific tax credits or to choose the design.

Pool Installation

The thought of a sparkling pool in the backyard might seem like a guaranteed way to attract buyers, but it’s a risky investment:

  1. Maintenance Concerns: Pools require constant upkeep, which could deter buyers who view it as a burden rather than a feature.
  2. Safety Issues: Families with young children may be concerned about safety risks.
  3. Limited Appeal: Depending on your location, a pool may be unusable for a significant portion of the year, limiting its appeal.
  4. Permit and Insurance: Installing a pool involves navigating local permits, and it can also raise home insurance premiums, complicating the sale process.

Full Kitchen Renovation

A modern kitchen can certainly be a selling point, but a complete overhaul is generally not worth it:

  1. Taste Specific: Kitchen designs are highly subjective. What you think is a dream kitchen might not be to someone else’s taste.
  2. High Costs: Kitchen renovations, involving cabinetry, appliances, and possibly structural changes, can be one of the most expensive home improvement projects.
  3. Time-Consuming: Such a significant renovation can delay your selling timeline substantially.
  4. Partial Updates: Often, minor updates like a new backsplash or updated hardware can give the kitchen a fresh look without the massive expense.

Upgraded Electrical or Plumbing Systems

Although a home with updated electrical and plumbing is attractive, these upgrades are usually not deal-breakers for the following reasons:

  1. Invisible Improvements: Buyers can’t see these changes, making them less likely to increase perceived value.
  2. Code Compliance: As long as the existing systems meet current codes, most buyers won’t have a problem with them.
  3. Expensive and Disruptive: These types of projects can involve tearing down walls and extensive periods of work, all for upgrades that most buyers won’t fully appreciate.

Low-Priority Repairs

Landscaping Overhaul

While curb appeal is essential, investing in significant landscaping changes, such as adding a pond or new flower beds, may not bring you a return on investment. Stick with basic lawn maintenance for a neat appearance instead.

Garage Door Replacement

Unless the garage door is malfunctioning or severely damaged, this is generally a low priority for most homebuyers. The garage door is often not a deal-breaker and doesn’t warrant the expense of a full replacement.

Outdated Systems


If your HVAC system is old but still operational, it might not be worth replacing. These systems are expensive, and a new one won’t usually add enough value to justify the cost. Instead, have the system serviced to ensure it’s in good working condition when you show the home.

The Caveat: The Local Market Matters

While the above advice holds true in many cases, local market conditions can dramatically impact what you should or shouldn’t fix. In a seller’s market, for instance, buyers may be more willing to overlook certain issues, whereas in a buyer’s market, you may need to make more repairs to compete with other listings.


Selling your home involves a multitude of complex decisions, and while it might seem logical to fix every little issue, not all repairs or upgrades are worth the investment. That’s where experts like DealHouse can provide invaluable guidance. We help you identify which improvements are worth the effort and which could actually detract from your home’s appeal, saving you both time and money. By honing in on strategic changes that genuinely add value, you can streamline the selling process and maximize your profit, all while navigating the complexities of the real estate market with confidence and ease. Let DealHouse be your trusted partner in making your home-selling journey as smooth and profitable as possible.

Chris Chiarenza