HIQA: How to make your house attractive to buyers?

DDHI Home Inspector Q & A

Somebody who was getting ready to sell their house, asked the following question:

“I have some money saved for renovations. What should I spend the money on to make my house more attractive to potential buyers? Painting? Replacing carpet? Upgrading cabinets?”

The disadvantage of cosmetic changes

While it might be tempting to improve the cosmetic appearance of the house for a better first impression, it is not necessarily the best use of your money.

First of all, no matter what paint, carpet, fixtures, or cabinets you choose, chances are that the potential buyers have different taste than you. What looks good to you might not look so good to them. Maybe they have plans of their own to renovate or remodel. Either way, there is a good chance your money might be wasted.

The advantage of a pre-listing inspection

There is a better way to spend your money with a much higher potential for success. Find a good local home inspector and have him do a pre-listing inspection for you. He will essentially pretend he is the bad guy (the buyer’s inspector) and inspect your house. He will find all the issues with the house that are likely to come up during the buyer’s inspection. At the end, he will give you a report summarizing those issues and his recommendations.

Why would you want to do this?

  • It eliminates the element of (a bad) surprise. You will know exactly what the issues are up front and won’t be caught off guard by the buyer inspection.
  • You can sleep on it, prioritize the issues, and make a plan as to which issues you want to address.
  • By fixing any issues that could jeopardize the deal, you greatly increase the chances of a successful transaction/reduce the chances of the buyer backing out.
  • By fixing any issues that the buyer could use to negotiate the price down or other concessions, you are taking away the leverage from the buyer. This means you will get more money for the house.
  • When you list the house, you can offer the pre-listing inspection report plus documentation for any repair/service you had done to potential buyers. It presents you and your house in a much better light. It shows that you are not trying to hide anything, which makes your house look more attractive than others.

Issues the home inspector might find

Here are just a few of the issues the home inspector might find that could turn out to be deal killers if not addressed prior to listing.

  • Roof: Very common because nobody gives their roof the attention it needs. If you have missing shingles, broken tiles, bad flashings, cracked skylights, or damaged vent pipes, have them fixed.
  • Plumbing: Leaks can cause moisture issues and water damage. Clogs
    in a sink drain line or p-trap can affect drainage. For added peace of mind, also have a plumber cam your sewer line to check for cracks, roots, bellies, or blockages.
  • Pest: What was the last time you had a pest control professional check your house for pests such as termites in the wood, or rodents/insects/birds/bats in the attic? Mitigating a pest infestation can be expensive so make sure you don’t have this issue.
  • HVAC: Your HVAC system might not be not running well or is very old. There could be issues with damaged ducts, dirty filters, or low temperature differentials. Buyers don’t like houses where they have to replace an HVAC system for thousands of dollars soon after they move in. Make sure the unit is in good condition and have it serviced if necessary.

You are in charge

Now that you know what the potential obstacles are, you can address them on your terms, on your schedule, and on your budget. This puts you in charge.


Before you spend your money on cosmetic changes, get a pre-listing inspection first. Fix all the major items the home inspector found that could jeopardize the deal or reduce the price. Then, if you have money left over, you can change cosmetic things like paint, carpet, or fixtures.

Good luck on your sale!