You might decide it would be worth it to drop a few hundred dollars and bring out a high-end landscaping company to spruce up your yard before you place it on the market. Your neighbors will surely be jealous, and when they ask what you’re up to you’ll tell them that you’re increasing curb appeal. “I want to squeeze every last penny out of this house when it sells,” you’ll say.
There is only one problem, and it might be surprising. Curb appeal will not increase the value of your home. It might make it more attractive to more buyers, which may cause it to sell faster, but the value of your home is determined by its quality, not its luster. Here are five often overlooked problems that actually can cause you to sell your home for less than its worth.
More than a simple annoyance, faulty wiring can be very dangerous. Home inspectors zero in on wiring for a reason. This can especially be a problem with older homes that might have been built in a time when codes weren’t so strict. You may want to spend a few hundred and call in a licensed electrician to bring you up to code so you’re not stuck with a hard-headed buyer intent on “knocking 20k off the price to run new wiring.”
Mold in the Basement or Other Damp Areas
Common and even unavoidable in some bathrooms—particularly those of us who love a steamy shower—mold is another easy to miss catastrophe. Mold remediation can run thousands of dollars, and any responsible buyer is going to ask you to front the cost, most likely in the form of a lower purchase price. You may “know” that the fuzzy stuff in the rafters of the basement is harmless, but an inspector is required to report a “mold like substance, black in nature” and there isn’t a way for you to prove that your basement never flooded and isn’t infested with the dreaded black mold. It’s better to clean that stuff up ahead of time.
I once thought I’d found the home of my dreams. Unfortunately, when I walked inside I discovered that the living room was slowly sinking into the basement. As it turned out, the owner never felt like addressing some issues with the wood work under his floor. Over time, the problem only worsened. Granted, this is an extreme scenario, but you might want to spend some time with a flashlight and a level looking for areas in your home that sag. The fix might be as easy as replacing an old rotten board.
This is one exception to the “curb appeal” rule. Not only will a new roof look nice, it assures prospective buyers that there haven’t been any leaks. I’ve seen homes sell for up to $10,000 less than an identical house next door simply because the rain had worn away a big portion of the shingles. Be sure to check your roof’s warranty—many manufacturer’s offer warranties lasting as long as 30 years.
Do you have gutters? No? Get them. Why? Because when it rains, if the water is not diverted away from your house, it will inevitably pool up around the sides where it sinks underground and rests up against your foundation. This problem is often made worse by improperly graded soil—that is, parts of your lawn that slope toward your home. Water that rests against a home’s foundation for extended periods will eventually start to wear away at it — a nightmare scenario for any home owner and a definite show-stopper for prospective buyers who have no way of knowing how long you’ve neglected this problem.
The bottom line is that you should spend more time and money fixing the things that are more likely to cause a prospective buyer to make a low offer. Contact a realtor in your area and focus on the things that will help you pass your inspection. Repainting the fence, putting up a new mailbox, resealing the deck… these things will undoubtedly make your home look more attractive to buyers, but they will not command a higher purchase price any more than a new haircut will get you a raise at work.