HELP! I want to sell my house, but it needs so much work!

The real estate markets across Montana are seeing unprecedented times, leaving many homeowners wondering if this is a good time to sell their homes.

Many of these homeowners are paralyzed by the same thought:  “I want to sell my house, but it needs so much work!”

Step 1: Breathe. Take deep cleansing breaths in and out, for a count of 10! We’re going to help you with a little perspective that may be helpful.


It is impossible to see your home through a potential buyer’s eyes! You live in your home, day in, day out. You see every little thing that is wrong with it, and worse yet, you probably obsess about which weekend you are going to dedicate to fixing it. But life being what it is with work, busy schedules, kids, finances, and just plain fatigue – those weekend projects can linger on for way too long!

Besides the reasons we just mentioned, why do these projects linger on? BECAUSE THEY DON’T MATTER. They are not integral to your daily living or happiness so they are easy to kick down the road. If your toilet was overflowing, you’d fix it. That matters. The closet rod that needs to be replaced in the guest bedroom doesn’t matter, or you’d fix it right away.  

Soon we get tunnel vision about these things that are wrong, many of which are truly insignificant. We start to think our home is just one big mess of disrepair, losing sight of what there is to love about it. 

Think of it in these terms: Is someone really going to turn around and walk out of your house because the Lazy Susan doesn’t spin anymore? Probably not. 

Different people have different checklists

Just because something bothers you about your house, does not mean the next person will notice or care. This seems like a good place to issue a very important disclaimer: Anything and everything that is wrong with your property MUST be formally disclosed on a disclosure statement. Let people fall in love with what is right about your property, and you’ll typically find that once an emotional connection is made to the property, the little things that you think make your home less marketable might be meaningless to your potential buyer. 

Let’s say you have an amazing three-car garage with workbench space, but the windows need to be replaced. You hate the windows, you’ve always hated the windows, you will always hate those garage windows. THEY MUST BE REPLACED. If they leak, or are broken, or are otherwise structurally compromised, you must list that on the disclosure statement. With that being said, WHAT IF your potential buyer has never had a garage? At all? What if they make artisan picture frames on the weekend and have never had the proper space to do that? They will fall in love with the garage. It will be more space than they have ever had, and it has much-needed workspace to boot! Often times this becomes a scenario of, “Honey, did you SEE that garage? I know we have to replace the windows, but I’m so excited about all that extra storage and work space!”

Another potential buyer might be turned off by the windows. That’s OK. You want someone who loves your space as much as you have loved it, and sees only the good things and the potential.

Capitalize on the good

Think back to when you bought your home. What were the five things that made you want to buy it? These are often things that don’t change with time. People don’t (typically) buy homes for the flooring, because that can be changed. Usually, things like the number of bedrooms, family space, yard size, landscaping, entertainment space, views, decks, etc make people fall in love with a certain space. 

What shape are those things in? If you are going to fine-tune anything, maybe dust off those fixed features that make your home loveable. 

Steer away from thinking, “We’d have to completely re-do the kitchen!” If your kitchen is dated and you update it, who’s to say your next buyer will like the changes you made? You could end up going to a lot of time, trouble, and expense and the buyer may ask for changes anyway. By the same measure, the buyer may be glad that there are some retro features in your kitchen, and get excited about how they will renovate around those features. 

Trust your real estate professional

Before you get in your head about how much needs to be done to your property, talk to a trusted real estate professional. Someone who is well versed in your specific market will tell you exactly what matters to buyers in the moment that you are looking to sell. Set your assumptions aside and let a professional tell you what should and should not be done to your property. Then, and only then, will you be able to make an informed decision. 

Your trusted real estate professional will also help you set realistic expectations about pricing. They may suggest that you adjust your pricing to accommodate for repairs, or they may suggest that you be open to allowances. In the event of the garage window example, your real estate agent may suggest you offer an allowance for new garage windows. 

If you are interested in selling your home, but you think it needs too much work, don’t panic! Erase any preconceived notions about what you think may be deal breakers for potential buyers. Consult with a professional real estate agent, listen to their recommendations, and then you can make a decision.