How to Make the Most of Your Home's Flaws

Sell a home with flawsMost every home has a flaw or two. The question, when it comes to selling your home, is whether to hide, fix or celebrate those flaws. And today, we try to answer.

Hiding Flaws: Not a Good Tactic

Tempted though you may be to sweep problems under the rug (literally and figuratively), hiding flaws from potential buyers will more likely than not backfire. You can paint over stained walls, sure, but trying to paint over serious cracks is another issue. We’ve often advised sellers to clean up homes and to consider putting a tray of cookies in the oven or buy a bouquet of lavender to sweeten up the smell of the place.  But we intend these suggestions to help your home show its best, not to hide issues like mold growing in the basement due to a water leak.  Failure to disclose major problems with your home, if you know about them, is illegal. If your buyers later find out and can prove you knew about something you failed to make clear to them, they can sue you.

Fixing Flaws: Up for Debate

We’ve offered many articles on how to polish your home for selling, and on what repairs you should make and which you can hold off on. Not all renovations pay you back dollar for dollar in your sale, but sometimes you’ll have trouble selling a home if you don’t make the repair, and that’s the catch-22.

A good Realtor ® will be able to guide you in these decisions. Locally based, experienced real estate agents know the legal aspects of home repair as well as local demand. For instance, your city may require you decommission a buried oil tank before you sell your home (legal); or, buyers in your neighborhood may really want fenced yards and you don’t have a fence on yours(demand).

You don’t have to fix anything not legally required. But your agent can help you decide if you then should be ready to negotiate your asking price because of that flaw, or if you should start with a slightly lower than market rate for your home and list “as is” to acknowledge and compensate for the expense buyers will incur fixing it. In highly competitive markets, of which the US has so many right now due to historically low inventory, you may not have to fix much at all: your agent can tell you that too.

Celebrating Flaws: A Matter of Perspective

Marketing your home can be a chance for you to focus buyer attention on what’s great about your home, not on what it’s missing. So, you only have one bath room. But you have a 2-car garage on a quiet street! Maybe you don’t really have a master bedroom, but you have a fully finished basement. Most buyers understand they won’t get a 100% perfect fit for everything they’ve ever wanted in a home, particularly first-time buyers. If your home has more plusses than minuses, you’re still in the running. It just takes help from a locally experienced Realtor® to help you pick out and highlight the “best” qualities about your home to your target buyer.

You can also create language with a certain buyer in mind. A garden you’ve let run wild with weeds can be a “great opportunity for a green thumb” to make something unique and personal. Crazy colors you loved and now don’t have time or money to paint over could thrill a similarly “arty” buyer. Your agent can help you craft your listing, not only in how you word it but how you photograph it—as well as where you list it.

So today, let’s celebrate flaws as part of what makes your home unique. If you know how to deal with them, they might not be flaws at all.

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Anna Marie Erwert writes from both the renter and new buyer perspective, having (finally) achieved both statuses. She focuses on national real estate trends, specializing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaMarieErwert