Sellers often order pre-sale inspection reports. This inevitably raises the question of how much, if any, of the recommended work should be done before selling.

Ideally, any defect that would be hazardous to agents and buyers who preview the property during the sale process should be corrected. An example is a trip hazard that might cause someone to fall. In addition, to maximize your return from the sale, you should repair defects that adversely affect how the property looks.

First impressions are important. So, if the fence or entry porch are rotted and look shabby, repair them. If the exterior paint is peeling, repaint. You get a big payback when you repair a defect and improve appearance by doing so.

For example, let’s say that the wood pest (also known as termite) inspector finds dry rot under the linoleum in a bathroom. If the linoleum is worn and outdated, you’ll do better on the sale if you replace the floor covering with a new, trendier one. In the course of doing this, the wood rot can be repaired. The result is that the house shows better and a defect is eliminated–two benefits for the price of one.

Recently, a pest inspector who did a pre-sale inspection on a Piedmont, Calif., home found dry rot and fungus in a glass-and-wood container that ran from the floor to the ceiling through the end of the family room. The container was constructed to surround a birch tree. The tree subsequently died. The container no longer served a function, obstructed a beautiful outlook, and looked weird. The seller had it removed before selling the house, eliminating the eyesore and the wood damage.

You certainly can’t be expected to rebuild your home in order to sell it. Nor is this a sensible thing to do economically. The same Piedmont, Calif., house mentioned above had a deck that looked OK and wasn’t unsafe. But there was dry rot and fungus damage scattered throughout the deck. The only way to repair the deck was to replace it. It would be difficult to get the job done in the timeframe in which the seller wanted to sell.

The deck was old and no longer met current code requirements. It would have had to be redesigned. So the seller decided to leave the deck as it was and disclose that the deck needed to be replaced. The future owners could have the new deck designed to meet their needs at a later date.

When structural elements are in need of repair and you haven’t the time or money to repair them, it’s a good idea to get repair estimates and make these estimates available to prospective buyers before they make an offer. This way, you’re in control of the process and can find reliable contractors or engineers who will give you reasonable and not exorbitant estimates.

It can be unsettling to a buyer to discover that the roof is shot or the foundation needs work. Most buyers will have no idea how much it will cost to make repairs. Fear of the unknown makes people anxious, which isn’t a good frame of mind for someone who’s trying to decide whether to buy your home.

A pre-sale home inspector of an Oakland, Calif., home recommended that an engineer be consulted about a foundation that had settled. The seller hired an engineer who made a proposal for the repair. The cost was $20,000–not an insignificant number. But, it wasn’t $40,000 or $50,000 as an inexperienced buyer might imagine

THE CLOSING: If you choose not to make major repairs before selling, this should be reflected in your list price, especially if you have competition from other sellers.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.


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