In our business we frequently come across evidence of deferred maintenance: homeowners who postpone addressing home repair issues until it’s time to sell. While postponing that repair here or there might seem like no big deal at the time, our experience is that it will come back to haunt you.
For example, we remind everyone to change your air filter at least every 90 days. Letting that slip to 120 or 180 days might not seem like that big of an issue … until you consider the possibility that neglecting this easy maintenance over time can potentially lead to a much larger failure of your AC system—and that can cost many thousands of dollars to address.
This just happened in a recent transaction in which we took part. The seller had ignored many of the regular maintenance requirements in their home. These were nice, responsible folks … who, like most people, didn’t fully understand the cost of neglecting their basic long-term homeowner maintenance responsibilities. By the time all of the ramifications of their deferred maintenance had been addressed to the buyer’s satisfaction, the sellers sat at the closing table $15,000 short of their desired profit.
We live in the age of HGTV. Buyers are more educated than ever about what to expect when buying a home and they demand the perfectly presented, beautifully maintained home they see on television day in and day out. They’re no longer blind to maintenance deficiencies. You know those ripped window screens that you’ve been living with for 5 years? Your potential buyers don’t see them as something they can just get used to … they see them as a cost—up front—and they want you to pay it. And, they want the most expensive replacement screens instead of the far less expensive ones that work perfectly well that you could have purchased yourself years earlier.
Consider this scenario:
You’ve lived in your current home for 6 years and are finally ready to buy that nicer home in that next-tier neighborhood with the phenomenal school district. You’ll need to be able to extract a net 20% profit on the sale of your current home to put toward the down payment on the new home in order to make the payments manageable. You put your house on the market and you get a contract for exactly what you need to make the whole thing work. Everything is sailing along beautifully—until the buyers have their inspection.
All of the sudden, your Realtor receives a 30 page inspection report littered with all of the issues that you neglected to address over the years of home ownership: the broken garage door seal, the inefficient HVAC system, the rotting soffits and fascia, the plumbing drain problems and electrical code violations, the foggy windows with broken seals, the leaky pool and faulty hot tub panel, the dented gutters, etc. Sound like a lot? These are typical deferred maintenance issues that we see on many homes we sell—and if they aren’t addressed while you’re living in the home you will most likely pay for them when selling. You’ll stand helplessly by while the 20% in equity that you needed to purchase your new home gets whittled away to pay for all of the items you neglected to address.
Most people plan to do repairs around their property but just don’t ever seem to get around to them. Don’t make this mistake! Be diligent with your regular maintenance, repair items when they break, and save yourself an inflated, all-at-once punch in the wallet when you go to sell your property to its next owner. If you subscribe to our newsletter, we provide helpful hints every month of items you can check on to keep things in tip-top shape.
Maybe even more importantly, when you spend the small amount of time and money to maintain your home as you live in it, you get to enjoy that HGTV dream house rather than just seeing the home’s new buyers enjoy all the benefits of the money you spent!