The best advice is to remodel for yourself and not a potential buyer. Try to keep up with maintenance issues as they arise, instead of pushing them off until it is time sell. If you wait, you will miss out on enjoying the improvements that you have to pay for. If you don’t make the improvements, you will most likely be paying for them anyway, in the form of a price reduction when you sell.

  The simpler, lower-cost projects usually have a greater return. Focus on the buyer’s first impression as they arrive at your home, starting with your landscaping, and exterior. Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report states that a new front door ranks highest on the payback scale, followed by a new garage door. Midrange window replacements and a minor kitchen remodel have an average pay back of about 80% of the cost. So don’t expect to make money on most remodeling projects.

  I advise my sellers to clean everything from top to bottom, pack up everything you can live without, clean or replace old carpet, and then paint where needed. It is amazing the impact a freshly painted basement has on buyers. Take care of leaky plumbing fixtures, old light fixtures, and appliances that don’t work. You don’t need to purchase high end replacement items, just make sure they match your décor. 

  If your furnace, air-conditioner, or water heater haven’t been cleaned or inspected in a few years, I recommend having that done before the buyer’s inspection. If you have a well or septic system, the buyer will most likely ask for you to pay for those inspections, so you might as well do it upfront to reduce the amount of time needed for the inspection contingency.

  If your roof is at the end of its life expectancy, or if you have peeling paint, or safety issues, a buyer may not be able to get financing, which can limit your buyer pool, and that typically means a lower selling price.

  Every situation is different, and not all sellers can afford to make improvements, so sometimes we need to sell your home “as is”. If you are thinking of selling in the near future, now is the time to talk with an experienced real estate agent for advice on repairs or updates that will help you get the highest price.

Ask the Real Estate Agent is a weekly column by Cheryl Kempenich of Coldwell Banker Burnet, who lives and offices in the Chisago Lakes Area. Submit your questions to All information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed. For legal assistance consult an attorney.