Should I update my mom’s dated house before selling?


Dear David: My family is about to list my mother’s house. It is 50 years old and in good shape, but very dated – avocado bathroom fixtures, original kitchen etc. It’s a huge house on a large property and could possibly demand a high price, but I can’t imagine getting top dollar when it needs so many updates. We are thinking of giving it a “light renovation” to update some rooms before we list it.  Will this attract more buyers, or are we just wasting our money? – UNSURE

DEAR UNSURE: In a situation like yours where the house is dated but in good shape, a “light reno” is not something I would usually recommend.

Selling a dated house with solid bones is a lot like selling an antique car. If you were to give an antique car a fresh coat of paint and put it up for sale, a potential buyer would open the door and notice the interior isn’t done. If you painted the car and re-upholstered the interior, they would open the hood and notice the drive train isn’t done. Basically, you’re never going to reap the full benefit of your restoration project as long as there are glaring bits that a buyer will still have to tackle themselves.

The same could be said for the sale of a dated house.

I show hundreds of houses each year and listen to what buyers say. They’ll notice an updated bathroom, but also the tired kitchen floors, worn carpet and dated wood paneling in the rec room. Small renovations won’t change the context of the house, and really, it’s all or nothing.To top it off, finding a contractor to do it may be especially hard these days.

With this in mind, I recommend a simpler approach. Instead of starting a renovation project, try sprucing up the assets that are already in the home. Bring in landscapers to trim the hedges, edge the gardens and make the exterior as tidy as possible. Hire a professional cleaner to tackle every corner. The kitchen and bathrooms may be 50 years old, but if they’re sparkling clean, people will react differently and get a sense that the home has been lovingly cared for. Ultimately, this may go further in terms of added value than a few light renos.

The repairs you really need to do will likely cost a few hundred dollars and a bit of elbow grease. You’ll want to fix things like loose door handles or dripping taps, basically items that give the sense of clean, well presented home. If anything is in dire need of replacement (like the roof) you can make that call on a case-by-case basis.


When it comes to pre-sale repairs or renovations, your choices need to make good business sense. Don’t take on the burden of renovating the whole house. You’re trying to maximize your mother’s asset, not start a second career as a contractor. #Advice #AskDavid #TheNegotiator

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