At Home: Don't over-fix up a home to sell it

Marni Jameson writes about the best ways to fix up a home, but not over-fix it, to sell.
BY Marni Jameson Published: February 11, 2013

Maybe it's because I was the youngest in my family. Maybe it's because I'm five-foot-three and have a voice like Snow White, but I lash out like a cornered rattlesnake when someone doesn't take me seriously.

A Southern California real estate agent found that out last week. He played the there-there-little-lady-you-can't-possibly-understand-the-big-complicated-world-of-home-sales card with me.

At issue was the pricing of my parents' home. Mom and Dad moved into assisted living last May. I'm in charge of selling their house, a responsibility that feels greater than selling my own home along with my children.

“We're not in a hurry,” I told the agent. “We'd like to get as much as we can for it.”

The agent came back with an as-is price so low a monkey could sell it at a pawnshop. His fixed-up estimate was even more ridiculous, and clearly meant to discourage the effort so he could nab a quick listing.

I run all this by Bill Wood, a Yorba Linda, Calif., real estate agent and longtime family friend, who's heard it all before.

“For most homeowners, their home is their biggest asset. For an agent it's just a listing,” said Wood, who in addition to selling homes, owns 59 homes that he has fixed up and rents.

To an agent making a three percent commission, the difference between selling a home for $300,000 or $330,000 is the difference between making $9,000 and $9,900. While that difference may not be worth the extra time and effort, for a homeowner $30,000 can be huge.