Portland Home Sellers’ Guide: To Fix or Not to Fix?

portland home seller guide

If you’re planning on putting your home on the Portland market before the Portland real estate summer market is over, you may be looking around wondering, “What do I need to upgrade, repair or fix?”

For most sellers, home repairs fall into three main categories: Getting the home into a condition that the home appraiser will approve of, making capital improvements that might increase its market value, and doing additional repairs requested by the buyer after an offer is accepted.

How to Prepare for a Portland Home Appraisal

According to the 2017 National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 88% of buyers use some kind of institutional financing for their home purchase. That means there will be appraisal involved (although cash buyers may also use an appraiser). The appraiser works for the lender — it’s their job is to confirm that the lender can get its money back and resell the home if the buyer defaults on the mortgage.

Appraisers have the power to require that the mortgage application be rejected if they find major issues with the safety or functionality of the home. Savvy home sellers will start out by contacting a listing agent and having them do a walk-through before the appraiser does. Red flags may include:

  • Peeling paint, if it contains lead (Only a possibility on homes built before 1978).
  • Loose railings on staircases, decks, etc. Any fall hazards.
  • Lack of functionality with utilities.
  • Lack of functionality with HVAC system.
  • Any plumbing issues, roof leaks or unexplained water stains.
  • Cracks in the walls, ceiling or foundation that may indicate foundational issues.
  • Water intrusion through the foundation.
  • Roof damaged or needs replacing.

For home sellers in Portland, the upshot is that if they have any of the issues listed above, they’re going to have a difficult time selling their home because buyers will not be able to secure financing. Some may qualify for a renovation loan, but the majority of buyers do not go this route.

Adding Value with Portland Home Improvements

This is where some people get a little crazy, making major home remodels right before they sell. Keep in mind that for most remodeling jobs, the return on investment is minimal.

On the other hand, some upgrades are worth considering. An experienced real estate agent should be able to advise you on projects that will bring your home to the higher end of the value range for homes in your area. If you have the time and money to make these improvements, chances are, you could bring in some better offers for your home.

The remodeling/repair projects projects with the best return on investment include:

  1. Energy efficiency upgrades. With Portland’s new Home Energy Score providing buyers with a way to comparison shop for efficient homes, your home’s energy consumption is in the spotlight. For older homes, attic insulation will go a long way toward stopping heat and cooling loss, as will duct sealing and insulation. Buyers who want to save money on utility bills (and who doesn’t) will see your home as a better value.
  2. Minor kitchen remodel. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Value report, homeowners who spent in the ballpark of $20,000 on new kitchen cabinet fronts, countertop resurfacing and appliances were able to recoup 80% of their costs.
  3. Update garage door. A good-looking garage door tops the list when it comes to returning cash to your pocket, the Cost vs. Value report shows. A nice carriage-style or even just a regular garage door has a way of making buyers’ eyes pop. If you don’t need a whole new door, a fresh coat of paint and some accent decor will update the look.
  4. New siding. Depending on the age of your old siding and the material you use to replace it, you could get back 77-97% of your investment by replacing the siding on your home. Just be sure to use a quality product.
  5. Add a deck. Buyers — especially Portland buyers — love an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Give them what they want by adding a dedicated relaxing space on the exterior of your home. Check out our blog post on decks, patios and more to get started.

Making Additional Home Repairs After Accepting an Offer

It’s pretty common for buyers to request fixes after their offer has been accepted and they’ve had a home inspection done. Sellers who wish to be accommodating, or who don’t want to lose the sale, may say “yes” before doing the research.

Before agreeing to a repair, Portland homeowners may wish to ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Is it affordable? Sometimes small fixes can be accomplished by the do-it-yourselfer.
  2. How long will it take? In Portland right now there’s a long wait for contractors and repair people. It may take weeks to get someone out just to make an estimate. If the repair doesn’t seem like it can be made well before closing, it’s best to say no.
  3. Would taking the cost off of the sales price make more sense? In most cases of major repair, buyers and sellers both prefer this method. Get an estimate for the work and deduct the cost from the sales price of the home, or offer the buyers a credit toward their closing costs. That way, buyers can have the work done on their own timeframe and to their standards, and the seller is saved the hassle of doing it in the midst of moving out.
  4. Are repairs merely being used as a tool in negotiation? Sometimes buyers can point to cosmetic issues with the home, or bring up a laundry list of small repairs, in order to come down in their offer. This is where having a good real estate agent is helpful for holding your ground and considering another offer instead.

Summer is flying by! Ready to list your home on the Portland real estate market before it’s over? Contact our top 1% Portland seller’s agents today.

July 16, 2018

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. A Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington, he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales. Call his team in Oregon at 503-714-1111 or in Washington at 360-345-3833.

4% max to sell a home in Portland and SW Washington.
4.25% max to sell a home in Salem and Bend.
Over 2,000 homes sold.