Q: My wife and I are planning to retire in 2015. We will sell our home and relocate. We’re looking at things we should do now to make our home more marketable. We are already in a high-demand community near major military bases and employers in Virginia. Homes sell fairly well here, even now.
While our concrete driveway is sound, it does have numerous noticeable cracks in it.
A replacement driveway costs around $10,000. My attempts at repair only make it look worse. For a roughly $300,000 home that’s in otherwise pristine condition, is this large expense worth it for sale purposes? –Roger
A: First off, you and your wife are essentially a listing agent’s dream, in that you’re thinking and planning a couple of years in advance on how to best prepare your property to sell. Big kudos!
There are several things you should factor into your decision regarding your driveway:
1. Get local, expert input on how buyers will view the cracks. If homes move quickly in your market due to high demand and premium location, it’s entirely possible that your driveway’s cosmetic cracks — assuming they truly are cosmetic, and the driveway is sound — might have little or no impact on getting it sold. However, it’s also possible that a buyer might see very major or deep cracks and assume they are more than cosmetic, making someone who would otherwise make an offer hesitate and/or guess at repair or replacement costs and factor that into his offer price.
Also, a local broker or agent can give you their opinion on whether the cracks are so severe that a buyer’s appraiser is likely to call them out as a health and safety hazard (some concrete cracks in areas of high foot traffic can be deemed a "trip" hazard).
Look around at the other homes on the market in your area and the state of their driveways to get a sense for how yours will come off to a prospective buyer. I would urge you to contact several listing agents in your area and ask them for their input; they know what buyers in your area care about, and can also just take a look at your driveway and see how "noticeable" the cracks will be to a prospective buyer.
2. Don’t expect a huge ROI — or any at all. That said, if you do end up deciding to replace the driveway, don’t expect to get some weighty return on your investment (ROI), like that your home will sell for $10,000 more than the neighbor’s. For the most part, these sorts of things are considered more maintenance than home improvement. For your purposes, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, it simply means that if you do it, consider what you spend an investment in getting the place sold — period.
If every other home in the area has a crack-free driveway and yours appears to be crumbling to pieces, whatever you do to repair or replace it will simply bring your home up to the standard of the competition; in fact, if you decide against repairing it, you should not be surprised to see buyers look for a discount based on the condition (again, assuming these cracks really are that noticeable).
3. Rethink your inputs and assumptions. Will it really cost $10,000 to fix your driveway? Consider getting some actual contractor bids. And are you sure that it’s beyond being professionally resurfaced, as opposed to entirely replaced? I understand that there may be epoxies and overlays that may cost less than a total replacement.
Overall, as you take on the project of preparing your home for resale, I would strongly encourage you to get friends and family members to refer you to a local agent you can trust, and meet with a couple of these experts for their recommendations and advice on which things do and do not belong on your to-do list. Also, local brokers and agents can be great sources for contractors they work with on a repeat basis to get homes ready for resale.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Tara is also the Consumer Ambassador and Educator for real estate listings search site Trulia.com. Ask her a real estate question online or visit her website, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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