How to Repair Your Home Without Damaging Your Wallet

Written by Phoebe Chongchua

Some homeowners have a long laundry list of to-do repairs and, interestingly enough, many of those items don’t get addressed until (or if at all) it’s time to sell the house. In hot real estate markets, repairs are sometimes not done before the sale. Remember bidding wars over properties that needed work? Well, today sellers are looking for the advantage that makes their home stand out. Even though housing inventory declined toward the end of last year, it’s expected to rise as more foreclosures tumble into the marketplace this year.

While fixing up a home to sell can be costly, there are some ways to reduce the damage to your wallet. Cheryl Reed from Angie’s List spoke to me about important repairs that shouldn’t be overlooked. They are: changing your furnace air filters regularly, fixing leaky faucets/toilets, repairing caulking issues in the bathroom and defective electrical outlets/wiring.

“Our experts in the heating ventilation air conditioning industry tell us that 60 percent of all their service calls start because it’s a dirty filter issue. If you have a dirty filter, it affects the efficiency of your furnace,” says Reed. She says that it’s a simple and easy repair that improves the air quality and saves you money.

“You can save about $100 a year if you just change those filters when you should.” She recommends checking your air filter every time you get your energy bill. “If it’s dirty and you can tell, you can see it; just switch it out. You can buy a number of air filters ranging from moderately good to really expensive and high efficiency, in terms of cleaning the air. You have a number of different options, depending on your budget,” says Reed. She also says, depending on health conditions of those living in the home, changing filters more frequently might be necessary. The second repair is annoying and easy to spot. “If you’ve got a leaky faucet or running toilet, that’s going to cost you,” says Reed. “If you don’t get it fixed you’re going to be paying more and more. It can also lead to mold damage. It can lead to a loss of your cabinetry—the flooring in your cabinetry can be rotted away and that can affect your floor underneath and the walls. So you can have a big issue if it’s not fixed soon,” says Reed.

If there are problems with your home when you begin to show it, buyers will spot them. Reed says, “People who come to your house to check out whether they’re going to buy it or not are looking really closely and they’re listening really closely too.” With plenty of housing inventory on the market, buyers are likely to move on if they feel the house needs a lot of repairs.

“You have to put forth your best impression. These small relatively inexpensive fixes are really important,” says Reed.

Dirty tiles and damaged caulking can send a message to buyers that the house may be in need of even bigger repairs. “You’re first going to have an aesthetic issue and second that’s an indication that you’ve got a problem that could lead to mold and nobody wants mold in their house anywhere at all—it will grow if you don’t have proper seals in your bathroom,” says Reed.

“Those are things that you can see every day—sometimes we get so used to seeing them that we forget about them,” says Reed. However, buyers don’t.

Reed offers this advice, “Pretend you’re going to try to buy your own home; what do you see that you wouldn’t tolerate?” She says it’s worth it to take the steps to fix the problems. Buyers don’t want to fix those problems any more than sellers do. Check for defective outlets. Electrical problems are not only irritating but also can be very hazardous. “An electrical fire can destroy your home,” says Reed.

Who should do the job? Of course, saving money is always key. Reed says some of these repairs might be suitable for a handyman but she cautions homeowners to be sure that the level of the repair matches the expertise of the person you hire.

“You’re going to pay more in the end if you don’t check out the person you hire to help you. Make sure that person has a good reputation and if it’s required for him or her to be licensed in your area, you really should [use] a licensed person, even if it’s more expensive,” says Reed. Reed says, you may pay more but you’ll get the job done right the first time.

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