What Not To Fix When Selling A House in Illinois (10 Items)

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Do not fix these 10 things when you sell your house

Don’t fix these 10 things when selling your house in Chicago, Illinois, to get the maximum net effective price for your house.

  1. Normal wear and tear
  2. Minor electrical issues not posing safety hazards
  3. Hairline cracks in driveways or walkways
  4. Partial upgrades to bathrooms or kitchens
  5. Old appliances that are still functional
  6. Windows and accessories
  7. Outdated detachable fixtures, furniture, and art
  8. Grandfathered in building code issues
  9. Trendy upgrades
  10. Replacing broken items with trending styles

When selling a house in Illinois, you don’t need to worry about fixing minor cosmetic issues like small paint chips or scratches on the walls. Similarly, you don’t need to repair minor plumbing or electrical problems unless they pose safety hazards.

In my years as a real estate attorney in Illinois, I’ve seen sellers make the mistake of over-improving their homes.

In fact, I’m convinced every seller’s mantra should be “FIX LESS!” and everyone could use a little insight into what not to fix when selling a house.

Your house is an investment. The idea is to get the most returns on it that you can and not drain your savings on unnecessary repairs.

Home repair - Updating outdated electrical service panel to attract more buyers, installing window treatments for a better home sale and fixing issues before selling

Common Misconceptions About Home Renovations and Returns on Investment

Not every repair is worth the time or money. 

  • The average homeowner might think fixing everything will fetch top dollar. 
  • Many believe new appliances or a major renovation are deal breakers for potential buyers. 

But here’s the truth: Most buyers seek value for their money. They understand normal wear and tear and don’t think every electrical issue is a big deal.

Repairman with tools for fixing home issues when selling - ideal for buyers, window treatments, home sale, curb appeal, real estate investor, and local agent.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 70% of potential buyers are willing to compromise on home repairs if the house is in their desired location. 

What does that tell you? 

The current market conditions and location are more critical than a new cabinet hardware set.

What Not To Fix When Selling a House (The Do-Not-Fix List)

Navigating the process of selling a house can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you’re faced with deciding which repairs and upgrades to tackle.

Differentiate between the absolutely necessary fixes and those that won’t give you much investment return.

Here’s a more detailed guide to help you figure out what to fix when selling:

The Do-Not-Fix List

1. Normal Wear and Tear

Every house undergoes normal wear and tear. Buyers do not expect the homes they are viewing to be flawless.

Spending your resources to fix minor scratches on the walls or little dings on the baseboard may not be worthwhile. Instead, channel that energy into ensuring the house is clean and presentable.

2. Minor Electrical Issues Not Posing Safety Hazards

If you notice minor electrical issues, such as a nonfunctional light switch or outlet, don’t break the bank trying to fix them.

Most buyers are aware that minor issues will always exist. But if there are major electrical issues, such as an outdated electrical panel or exposed wiring, those should be fixed as they can be safety hazards and may scare off potential buyers.

3. Hairline Cracks in Driveways or Walkways

Tiny cracks in the driveway or walkway that don’t affect the structural integrity or the house’s aesthetics don’t necessarily need fixing.

These hairline fractures are common and usually do not hinder functionality. Buyers are often willing to look past these imperfections if they are not severe.

4. Partial Upgrades to Bathrooms or Kitchens

While kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, partial room upgrades may not be the best decision.

For instance, upgrading the kitchen countertops but ignoring the dated cabinetry could make the kitchen appear disjointed. It is better to save money or invest in improvements that enhance the entire space cohesively.

5. Old Appliances That Are Still Functional

An old but functional appliance does not need to be replaced.

Although new appliances might look appealing, they don’t always translate to a higher selling price. Instead, ensure that existing appliances are clean and maintained.

6. Windows and Accessories

Replacing windows can be expensive. Unless the windows are cracked or not sealing properly, this is an upgrade you can skip.

If the windows are in decent condition, just ensure they’re clean, and that accessories like blinds and curtains are presentable.

7. Outdated Detachable Fixtures, Furniture and Art

Buyers usually have their own taste in decor. Investing in changing fixtures, furniture, or art the buyer can easily replace is unnecessary. They are likely to customize these elements according to their preference.

8. Grandfathered In Building Code Issues

If a feature in your home was up to code when installed or built but isn’t anymore and doesn’t pose a safety risk, don’t worry about it.

Buyers’ inspectors might point it out, but it’s generally accepted if the issue is grandfathered in.

9. Trendy Upgrades

Avoid falling for the latest home decor trends. What’s in vogue today might not be tomorrow. Moreover, trends are subjective and might not appeal to everyone.

10. Replacing Broken Items with Trending Styles

If something is broken and needs to be replaced, focus on functionality rather than style. Choose timeless and neutral options that can appeal to the majority.

Evaluating Repairs: To Fix or Not to Fix?

Time is of the essence. 

Sometimes the repairs you think are necessary will only delay the selling process without adding any substantial value. The longer your home is on the market, the more it will cost you. 

While fixing repair time is of essence

I remember a client who decided to redo all the plumbing in the house. It took 3 extra months to put it on the market, and did they make more money? 

Not a single penny extra. 

Evaluate the potential return on investment for repairs before committing.

How long it takes for a house to sell can vary due to factors such as location, price, and market conditions. Typically, houses stay on the market for a few weeks to a few months.

On the other hand, the average time to close on a house usually is about 30 to 45 days from accepting an offer to the final closing date.

These timelines may differ based on individual circumstances and negotiations between buyers and sellers. If you’re selling your house for sale by owner (FSBO), the time to close on a house can vary even further based on how fast the seller completes the paperwork for selling a house by owner.

When Over-Improvement Can Be a Waste of Money

Unfortunately, your personal taste might not resonate with your buyers’. 

over imporovement of kitchen

You might adore the Mexican tiles on your kitchen floor; others might think they’re too loud. If your house is the only one on the block with a 3-car garage, it won’t match the neighborhood standards.

Questions to Ask Yourself to Decide What Not to Fix:

  • Will this repair add substantial value to my house?
  • Is this repair likely to prolong my home-selling process?
  • Is this repair worth the asking price?
  • Will a potential buyer even notice this repair?
  • Is this repair in line with the current market trends and neighborhood standards?

What to Fix When Selling a House in Chicago (7 Things)

On the other hand, let’s look at repairs that can significantly impact the sale of your home in Cook County or Chicagoland if fixed before the sale.

1. Addressing Major Issues

major repairs in a home

Major issues such as leaky roofs, foundation problems and outdated electrical systems can be a deal breaker for many buyers. 

If your home has these problems, addressing them should be a priority. Fixing these issues could prevent a potential buyer from walking away and helps you avoid potential legal issues.

2. Safety Issues

mold deposits on a wall

Safety should always be a top concern. Issues like mold, asbestos, or radon gas can pose serious health risks. If your home has any of these problems, hiring a professional to fix them is crucial. 

Safety issues can also come up during a home inspection, and dealing with them proactively can help smooth the selling process.

3. Light Landscaping for Improved Curb Appeal

landscaped yard

First impressions matter, and the exterior of your home is the first thing a prospective buyer sees. 

Light landscaping, such as mowing the lawn, trimming overgrown bushes and adding a few flower pots, can significantly increase curb appeal.

4. Neutral Paint Colors for Broad Appeal

neutral colored wall paints

While you might love your bright red kitchen, it might not appeal to most buyers. 

Painting your home in neutral colors can help potential buyers visualize themselves in the space. Plus, a fresh coat of paint can make your home look clean and well-maintained.

5. Fixing Glaringly Broken Essential Items

HVAC system outdoor unit

Essential items like HVAC systems and water heaters play a significant role in a home’s functionality. If these items are broken, it’s worth fixing or replacing them. 

This makes your home more appealing to buyers and prevents potential negotiation issues during the sale process.

6. Replacing Outdated Light Fixtures and Fans

light fixtures in a room

Outdated light fixtures and fans can make your home look sad. 

Replacing them with modern, energy-efficient options can give your home a fresh, updated look. Energy efficiency is also a selling point that many buyers appreciate.

7. Cosmetic Fixes for a Better Overall Appeal

Mica sheet changes in kitchen cabinet

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of fixing cosmetic flaws. 

Simple updates like replacing old cabinet hardware, fixing minor cracks in walls, or re-caulking the bathroom can make a big difference in how your home is perceived.

Showcasing Potential, Not Perfection

Your goal should be to showcase your house’s potential, not to make it perfect. This is where staging comes in. 

Staging involves arranging furniture and decor to highlight your house’s strengths and downplay its weaknesses. It can help potential buyers visualize themselves living in the space.

Strike a balance between creating an appealing space and leaving some room for potential buyers to imagine how they would personalize it. 

showcasing a room
  1. The Cozy Living Room: 
    • Instead of completely filling the living room walls with family photos and artwork, you can create a focal point by hanging a collection of well-curated pieces on one wall while leaving the opposite wall blank. 
    • This would allow buyers to envision their own art or statement piece in that space. 
    • By striking this balance, you showcase your style while allowing buyers to visualize how they can personalize the room.
  2. The Elegant Dining Area: 
    • Rather than overcrowding the dining area with elaborate table settings and decorations, consider setting the table with a simple yet sophisticated centerpiece that complements the space’s overall aesthetic. 
    • Leaving some empty spaces on the buffet or sideboard allows prospective buyers to imagine how they would personalize it during special occasions or holidays. 
    • This way, you create an inviting atmosphere while still leaving room for their creativity.
flower pots in dining area

How Real Estate Agents Can Help You

An experienced real estate agent is your guiding light. They’ll bring in market insights, tell you what comparable homes are selling for, and advise you on the repairs that make the most sense. 

Don’t be a lone ranger. Seek expert advice. 

Real estate agent assisting a few buyers to install window treatments

Your local real estate agent can provide a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to understand market conditions and necessary repairs. 

A Realtor will also know which items on the home inspection report will most likely be deal breakers for prospective buyers.

Frequently Asked Questions


a toy home lights up denoting what not to fix when selling a house in chicago

Your energy, time, and resources are precious. Don’t waste them on efforts that won’t yield returns. 

In the real estate world, it’s not just what you do, but also what you choose not to do that counts. 

  • Engage an experienced real estate professional, prioritize your to-do list and focus on repairs that attract buyers. 

That’s the magic recipe for getting your house off the market efficiently and profitably. 

Remember: Show potential, not perfection, and let the beauty of your home speak for itself.

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