Home & Garden

3 tips for selling a run-down home

Because he’s facing both financial woes and multiple maladies, a semi-retired consultant in his 60s badly needs to sell his suburban cottage. Although his place is in a popular neighborhood served by top-notch public schools, he was recently rebuffed by an agent who refused to take his listing.

The problem is the consultant’s resistance to taking even minimal steps to make his place presentable, such as basic cleaning and clutter clearing. That, coupled with the man’s deferred maintenance and overgrown yard, convinced this agent the property wouldn’t be salable in its current condition.

“Sometimes, real estate people simply have to turn down potential clients who reject reason when it comes to getting their house ready for sale,” says Sid Davis, a real estate broker and author of “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home.”

“These days most buyers … can’t afford to take on substantial home renovation projects,” Davis says.

But spending a lot of money on a crash program to upgrade a property in extremely poor condition isn’t always the wisest course.

Here are a few other pointers for sellers:

1 “Focus your spending on your highest-priority projects, like cosmetic fixes to your kitchen and bathrooms and essential repairs, like plumbing or electrical problems. Also, paint your property and make your front entrance beautiful,” says Ashley Richardson, a veteran real estate agent affiliated with the Council of Residential Specialists.

2 Seek out a seasoned agent for guidance.

Although our consultant was rejected by the one agent, Richardson says that he should continue to search for someone who can advise him on how to make his place market-worthy.

Eric Tyson, a personal finance expert and co-author of “House Selling for Dummies,” says not all agents are created equal.

“What you want is someone who will help you develop a strategic, step-by-step plan that works within your budget, however limited. And then you have to be open-minded about the necessary changes,” Tyson says.

As he says, some agents will even step into the role of project manager, helping you find contractors willing to take on small jobs for reasonable prices.

“It could be a waste of money to pour your limited funds into a full kitchen renovation, including the installation of expensive new cabinets. But it might be worth the cash to paint your cabinets in a high-gloss white paint,” Tyson says.

3 Look for help to de-junk your property efficiently.

Richardson says sellers who can’t handle the often intensive work of prepping a house for sale themselves should ask family members and friends to assist. But what if no volunteers step forward? In such cases, Richardson suggests that owners may wish to hire students or others looking for temporary, part-time work.

“Post a classified ad that seeks assistance ‘pre-packing for a move.’ And don’t forget to check background references before you arrange for any stranger to come over to your house,” she says.