Fixing Up Your House to Sell Fast

What Is A Fixer-Upper?

A fixer-upper is a house available at a lower purchase price because it requires major maintenance work. While you can likely still live in a fixer-upper, you’ll need to spend a lot of time and money on structural and/or cosmetic improvements. You may benefit from a fixer-upper if you’d like more house for your money or are interested in flipping it to make a profit.


Fix Windows

Obviously you can’t glue broken glass back together. But, for windows that get stuck, let in drafts or have moisture issues, there are DIY solutions. Fix old windows, double-hung windows, window glass glazing and screens. You can also stop window drafts and learn how to avoid and remove window condensation. If you want to take on a larger task, you can even replace your windows!

Fix Tears in Leather and Vinyl

Upholstery shops charge almost $200 to fix tears in your seats. You can do it yourself in a few hours with a vinyl and leather repair kit (less than $20) from any auto parts store. You’ll have to practice a bit to get the right color mix and it might not be a perfect match when you’re done, but it’s a heck of a lot better than driving around with torn seats. Start by gluing reinforcing fabric onto the underside of the torn vinyl or leather. Then mix the heat-set filler to match your fabric color and apply it to the tear. Next, find a textured mat that most closely resembles the texture of your vinyl or leather and place it onto the liquid filler. Heat the patching tool with a clothes iron and press it onto the textured mat. Remove the patching tool, but leave the textured mat in place until the patch cools. Then peel it off. Learn more about the step by step process of leather repair.

How to Get the Most for Your Money

Whether you choose to start with new flooring, kitchen renovations, updated ceilings, or drywall, if you're hiring a professional to do the work, it's best to shop around to make sure you're getting a good price. This will also help you develop a more complete picture of the expenses involved.

"Get at least three qualified quotes from contractors to do the work," says John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a platform that helps homeowners manage renovations. "This is where you start to see what the total cost of the project is beyond material costs, because the contractor quotes will include their labor costs, their tools costs, insurance costs, and their goals for profit on the project."

One more point about selecting a contractor: the lowest bid is not always the best bid, even when you're on a tight budget. 

"Hire the right contractor, don't hire the cheapest contractor to save money," says Chillag. "It will cost you more money in the long run. Get recommendations for contractors, interview them, and talk to their prior clients. A good contractor will look at your remodel wish list and give you advice on how to save money and what order to do things in so that you're not undoing work later on in the remodel process."

1. The Basics

The basics are the things that every buyer expects when they purchase a home. This includes a roof that doesn’t leak, functioning gutters and downspouts, a dry basement, a reliable furnace, solid floors, walls that are in good repair, retaining walls that work, and functioning plumbing and HVAC systems. Potential buyers of any home—even first-time buyers—have a checklist that includes all of these amenities. In upscale properties, the basics might also include a certain number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and multiple-car garages, and any other features common to the neighborhood.

This doesn’t mean you have to upgrade all of it. You can focus on regular maintenance and smaller, cheaper improvements that keep everything in good working order. Adding the basics to a home that lacks them doesn’t add value; it merely brings the property up to the standards of the rest of the homes in the neighborhood, ensuring that you can ask a comparable price.

On the other hand, while you do want your house to stand out from the competition, you shouldn’t make upgrades that greatly exceed the neighborhood standard. Not only will you end up losing money, but you may also scare off potential buyers. In short, before you invest tons of money in an elaborate renovation project, consider what the competing properties in your neighborhood have to offer. Find out how similarly priced homes in your neighborhood measure up and make improvements based on your specific marketplace.

#5 Check the Cost of Financing

Be sure you have enough money for a downpayment, closing costs, and repairs without draining your savings. 

If you’re planning to fund the repairs with a home equity or home improvement loan, get yourself pre-approved for both loans before you make an offer.

Make the deal contingent on getting both the purchase money loan and the renovation money loan, so you’re not forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the house.

Consider the Federal Housing Administration’s Section 203(k) program, which is designed to help home owners who are purchasing or refinancing a home that needs rehabilitation.

The program wraps the purchase/refinance and rehabilitation costs into a single mortgage. To qualify for the loan, the total value of the property must fall within the FHA mortgage limit for your area, as with other FHA loans.

A streamlined 203(k) program provides an additional amount for rehabilitation, up to $35,000, on top of an existing mortgage. It’s a simpler process than obtaining the standard 203(k).

How Do I Improve the Curb Appeal of My Home?

Features that improve the curb appeal to every prospective buyer that approaches your house include a well-manicured lawn, low-cost landscaping, fresh paint (the front door at a minimum), and new address numbers.


Each fixer-upper is different. Yours will have its own set of unique characteristics that needs to be fixed! Whether it’s a basement below, the roof above, the siding surround or sewer pipes and HVAC ducts within, there are items you may need to address in the home’s ‘under, above, around and through.’ And quite a few of these projects need to be undertaken before you beautify your walls, so be sure to scan through this list before embarking on a total overhaul.

WATCH OUT BELOW! Prevent Basement Flooding

Certain seasons and locations are more likely to receive above average rainfall. In the instances where it’s more than a light drizzle, you need to be prepared to keep the water from overtaking your property. Because water runs down, basement flooding is a particular concern, so keep everything dry below deck (and downstairs).

Sufficient Sump Pumps

No matter how prepared you are, there’s always the possibility of a flood or leak that can wreak havoc on your place if you’re not ready with the right tools. Your best friend in that situation is a sump pump, but it will only help you if it’s in working order when the time comes; follow these steps so you’re not caught with your sump pump down in the event of a water emergency.

Evicting Annoying Animals & Critter Control

Just because you love animals and may have pets of your own doesn’t mean it’s open house for unwelcome ‘tenants.’ Whether incorporating certain barriers like fencing or lattice under your house or making sure not to tempt them to your pad by leaving trash and food exposed, there are many ways to keep those critters outside where they belong.

At the same time, no animals or people need to be harmed in the eviction process. Take an extra moment to keep your home free of damage and animals safe with these anti-pest techniques.

1. Refresh Rooms with Paint

Once you've addressed safety matters, you can turn your attention to aesthetic renovation projects and upgrades. Adding a new coat of paint throughout your home can make a big difference without a big investment, says Stephanie Lindsey, principal designer with Texas-based Etch Design Group.

"A fresh coat of paint on walls goes a long way for our mental health," says Lindsey. "We feel rejuvenated and like we have a clean slate to start a new chapter. You can paint walls, cabinets, or even your front door for a fresh new look."

The best part: a paint project can cost as little as $50, depending on the scope. Maynard also notes that paint almost always needs a refresh anyway when a home transitions from one owner to the next. "New paint is the first thing that makes a huge impact," says Maynard. "The great thing is you can paint yourself and save on this one."

For an added style boost, consider painting an accent or focal wall, which is generally the wall you first see when entering a room. It might also be the wall where your sofa or your bed is located.  "Dark gray or smoky green or blue are all popular colors," says Maynard.

kitchen with large island and wood floors Credit: Werner Straube

Selling a House As Is

There are some situations when it makes more sense to sell the house as is.

When a seller lists a house for sale as is, typically it means they will make no repairs to the property before the sale or offer any credits to the homebuyer to make improvements after the transaction is complete.

Let's say the property in question needs a lot of work. It has holes in the walls all the way to the exterior and urine-soaked wood floors. Much of the electrical system doesn't work, and the bathroom tub has fallen through the joists. All the faucets leak.

This is not a home that can be easily or economically fixed. A coat of paint won’t help. In this case, you might want to just price the house low enough to attract multiple offers. You can probably anticipate that only contractors and flippers will make offers.

Closing Thoughts

At first glance, a fixer-upper may seem like a great deal you can’t pass up. Once you realize how much you need to spend on repairs and renovations, however, you may have a different opinion. Before you move forward with a fixer-upper, do the heavy lifting and make sure it’s a worthwhile investment.

If you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to finance a new home, you can get started today.

Install new doorknobs, faucets, and light fixtures

While they are probably the easiest feature to overlook, new doorknobs and fixtures can make a huge difference in a room. Depending on the type of doorknobs you purchase, and considering that most homes have quite a few knobs, the price can add up pretty quickly.

If you don’t have the time or money to replace all your doorknobs at once, work on replacing just a couple every month, starting with the most obvious ones.

Faucets can get pretty expensive as well, especially if you want to replace them in both your kitchen and bathroom(s). If you want to save some money, I recommend searching online or heading to the clearance section of your local home improvement store.

If you’re lucky, you can find great deals on some beautiful faucets. Replacing all your faucets at once might not be feasible, so don’t be afraid to take your time with this project. Before you know it, you’ll be able to enjoy the luxury of attractive faucets in all your rooms.

As for light fixtures, you may already have fixtures that you like, but they just need a color update. Instead of buying new fixtures, grab a can of spray paint and go to town. It’s amazing what a difference a $3 can of spray paint can make!

Before Fixing Up Your Home

Smart sellers will weigh the cost of the proposed improvements against the home’s market value after the repairs or upgrades are completed. Such an improvement might not be warranted if an upgrade won’t provide a good return on the investment (ROI). Before you decide to lift the roof and install skylights in the master suite, realize that kitchens and baths carry the highest return.

Other improvements with a high ROI include:

  • Replacing siding with fiber-cement or vinyl
  • Replacing windows
  • Adding a deck
  • Swapping in a steel front door

You might also want to take an afternoon to tour other homes in the neighborhood with your agent. Note the condition and amenities in those homes.

Compare homes in the neighborhood to yours. If most of them have upgraded kitchens, you should concentrate on fixing your kitchen. These homes are your competition.

This doesn't mean you have to buy designer appliances and tear out the cabinets, but a minor kitchen remodel might be a good investment. Sometimes simply painting oak cabinets a darker color and installing updated hardware can give your kitchen an all-new look.

DIY Home Improvement Ideas to Make Big Improvements for Little Money

1. A coat of paint can do wonders

A coat of new paint is easily the most transformative thing you can do for your house on a budget. The best part is that you don’t necessarily have to hire a professional. Do a little research, watch a couple of YouTube videos, buy some useful tools and you can do the job yourself. Here is how we’ve redone a basement room that was a little too dark (see before and after pic below).

2. Install new doorknobs, switchboards, and light

2. Install new doorknobs, switchboards, and light fixtures

Like I said above, little things can make a huge difference. Doorknobs and switch plates are easy to overlook but install new shiny ones and you will see how the whole space instantly gets elevated. The same goes for light fixtures and faucets. Good lighting opens up the room and makes your space look bigger.

Faucets, however, tend to be a bit expensive. But

Faucets, however, tend to be a bit expensive. But you don’t have to replace all the faucets in your house at once. Start with the kitchen and do the bathroom next month. You might also find some discount deals on your local home improvement store.

3. Add an inexpensive stair runner

The whole staircase can’t be ripped apart and replaced when you’re on a tight budget. Try an inexpensive runner instead to give your stairs a non-slip new look. Check out a thrift store or get the biggest table runner you can find (which works for stairs, of course).

4. Accentuate with crown molding

4. Accentuate with crown molding

Another way to upgrade your house is by adding crown moldings. But the easy way. Look for lightweight foam moldings (polystyrene foam coated in hard plaster). They are not only inexpensive but also easy to cut and install.

You can finish this project over a weekend and give your rooms an elegant touch.

5. Introduce greenery to your home

5. Introduce greenery to your home

THE most inexpensive way to give your home a new look is by adding greenery. Never underestimate the transformative power of lush green leaves and bright flowers.

Add a bunch of easy-to-maintain indoor plants like the snake plant, aloe, money plant, jade, rubber plant, and Philodendron to your living room. The greens will breathe a new life into your space and make it look brighter.

6. Add new curtains, rugs, towels, and sheets

6. Add new curtains, rugs, towels, and sheets

Faucets and light fixtures seem too much? Replace curtains, rugs, towels, and sheets instead. You won’t have to spend a lot of money and will still get a new look.

Is Selling my House As Is Right for Me?

When evaluating whether you should sell your home as is, it is important to think about the following common reasons for selling a home as is:

The house is outdated, though perfectly functional

While you may have been living in your house for a while and it has no specific issues, if you have not kept up to date with modern trends, it will appear very out of date. The kitchen and bathroom are often the key areas where this will show, and unfortunately, they are also typically some of the more expensive renovations to perform.

While the house is technically “move in ready,” a prospective buyer will look at the house and realize they will have to redo the kitchen, bathrooms, etc. which quickly adds up to tens of thousands of dollars. Instead of trying to find a buyer who is willing and able to put that work into the home after buying it, this is often an ideal scenario to sell a house as is.

The seller doesn’t have the time or money to invest in correcting the defects

Performing repairs on your home requires some significant resources – both Time and Money. If one of these are lacking because perhaps you are in financial distress, you need that money to purchase your next house, or maybe you have relocated for a new job and don’t have the time or want to deal with the hassle of managing the repairs, then selling your home as is can be a great option.

The buyer is likely to perform renovations on the home

Sometimes you may know that your home will undergo major renovations or even a tear-down by the new buyer. This can happen for reasons such as the home being very outdated, having a poor layout for most families, or maybe the other houses in the neighborhood have been torn down and rebuilt much larger. In this case there is no use wasting your money on repairs if the home may be torn down anyway.

The seller hasn’t lived in the house and in unaware of the issues

Some homeowners inherit the house that they are looking to sell and may not be familiar with the work required. This lack of familiarity with the issues enables the seller to sell the house as is with no disclosures of known issues (which are required to be disclosed if known), and can make an as is sale a great option.


About Your QuestionsNeed help with a reno, repair or décor project? We’re here to help! Post your question or call us at 1(888) MONEY-PIT. From bathrooms to basements and demolition to décor, we are here to help you tackle your to-do’s with confidence!


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