I know I’ve talked about the cool little (300 sq. foot) cabin I lived in over in Lincoln before. It was basically meant for summer use, but got converted to year round so someone could make a buck (and I could have a neato place to live). It was up on blocks and had minimal insulation. I even had a chipmunk poke his head up through a hole in the floor once! It also had abysmal windows as far as insulation is concerned. I put that plastic on the inside of the windows (that you heat with a hairdryer) and added another layer of plastic to the outside of the windows as well. It made a huge difference, but felt a bit like living in a poorly lit cave all winter.

If someone were interested in buying that place, the plastic would be a dead giveaway that the home was basically a sieve. As a seller, there are a handful of things you could (should?) do before selling your home. Many of those are standard cleaning and decluttering tasks. The larger ones are those that would be caught by the home inspector or truly functional repairs that need to be done. What you should NOT do, however, is put “Band-Aids” on items that are true trouble spots. More specifically, items that will be noticed by savvy buyers and make you look like the scammer you are. Yes. Santa has come and gone, but you should still try to be “nice”!

The first red flag is a newly painted ceiling in just one room. This “flag” is waving even more if it is the only thing that has been painted in the whole house. The same is true if there’s a can of “Kilz” or other stain-killing primer in the basement or garage. The jig is up. Someone is trying to hide a water stain or some other damage that we all know is going to come back shortly after closing. Your best bet here is to hire a professional to fix the issue or at the very least rule out the presence of an issue. If you are going to paint over it, maybe also share a copy of the receipt from the person who fixed it. Disclosure is a welcome thing as a buyer.

Another trouble-spot that seems to always have a fresh coat of paint is the trim. In older homes the baseboards and other trim can get water damage or simply rot over time. Fresh paint here is another red flag and those scrutinizing buyers will see right through it with a simple fingernail poke. Take this opportunity to replace the trim. While you are at it, check the wall behind the trim and ensure there is not more damage back there.

I admit. This is a scary path to travel. Anyone who has remodeled an older home knows the demons that can lurk behind every piece of trim and sheetrock. Nobody wants to keep digging further down this rabbit hole of endless costs and repairs. That said, the more you know the better suited you are to make informed decisions. “It can be scary to uncover cosmetic or structural defects when all you wanted to do was remove some wallpaper or replace a lightswitch,” notes Badger Realty agent, Nubian Duncan. “It is important to know when to stop and reassess. You need to decide if repair is the right path, or simply disclose and let the buyers decide for themselves,” he continued.

For the longest time I had a small space heater in my office. It was really just a section of the basement and it was nowhere near as warm as the rest of the house. When buyers are evaluating a home, the smart ones are keenly aware of the presence of space heaters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers and other environment-altering machines. While sometimes the person occupying the space simply wants it warmer or cooler without having to affect the whole house. In many cases it is a sign of past or present trouble.

As Nubian noted above, this is the time for that big decision. As the seller, you need to determine if it makes sense (financial, timing, skillset, etc.) to tackle this repair yourself or allow the buyers to handle it. If moisture is an issue, I strongly recommend you get that fixed before your first showing. Chilly rooms, drafty windows, humid attics or other larger scale issues can mean massive repairs, remodels and cost. It is at least worth getting some estimates so you can make an informed decision.

We’ve talked about the seller’s dilemma numerous times before and today is no different. Either you fix the trouble-spots or make some concessions at the closing table. There is no “right” answer to this one as each case is different. If it helps, reach out to your favorite real estate professional and see if they can offer you some guidance. There are loads of factors at play, so give yourself some time to evaluate and ponder. Whatever you do, avoid the silly (shady!) Band-Aids noted above. Nobody likes a sneaky Pete. Happy New Year! (finally!)

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