Many homeowners take great efforts and spend time to renovate their homes to provide that personal touch. While there is nothing wrong with making upgrades to enhance the appearance of a property, the next buyer may not appreciate them as much as you do. You may think that when it’s time to sell you’ll get back every penny you stuck into your remodel, whereas a new buyer just sees the improvements they will have to make in order to make a home their own.

Fifteen members of Forbes Real Estate Council share some of the most common dos and don’ts of property maintenance that homeowners should be aware of to make sure they get a good deal when they decide to sell.


1. Don’t Overcustomize

I painted the walls of my first condo tangerine orange. When I put it on the market, I didn’t understand why it didn’t sell quickly! Now, as a real estate pro, I understand that overcustomization is a deal-killer for resale. Buyers want the experience of enjoying a home’s potential — you must remove crazy wallpaper, overly artistic bathroom tiles and odd/unusual fixtures you’ve installed over time. – Courtney Poulos, ACME Real Estate

2. Always Consider The Costs

Most homeowners fail to consider the cost when making repairs or keeping up their house. The main one I’ve seen recently is the maintenance of the landscaping. The drought in southern California has encouraged people to not water their yard. Less water is good, but over time the landscaping can die. If the property has no landscaping it discourages buyers who see it as a lot of work or expense. – Jeff Maas, National Realty Group

3. Think Like The Next Buyer

Preventative maintenance ignored throughout the years can create costly issues and challenges for homeowners when the time comes to sell their home. Make sure to keep up on HVAC, plumbing and roofing maintenance, especially. Also, updating with a different style in every room can create a very disjointed feel in the home and turn away buyers. Keep any light upgrades tasteful and cohesive. – Tracy Royce, Royce of Real Estate

4. Concentrate On The “Bones” Of The Property

When the time comes to sell and the buyer performs an inspection, your big ticket items are the bones (plumbing, roof, structural, etc.), not the cosmetics. They’ll probably want to choose their own paint and carpet anyway, and high-ticket repairs could scare them off. Keep up the maintenance on the structural part of the home before the cosmetics. – Alex Hemani, ALNA Companies

5. Use Neutral, Classic Designs

Upgrades should be for the purpose you are creating for the property. If you are going to sell it, keep it to neutral, classic designs rather than trendy designs. Trends typically last two to four years. Keep that time frame in mind when making upgrades. – Susan Leger Ferraro, Peace, Love, Happiness Real Estate

6. Document All Improvements

We’re great at keeping every maintenance slip for our cars knowing that when we sell it or trade it in, those records are gold for firming up its resale price and reducing buyer haggling. Yet for our homes, we fall short. When did we replace the washer and dryer? The stainless steel appliances? Five years ago or longer? The hot water heater is how old? Bad data can cost a seller a lot of dough. – Kevin Hawkins, WAV Group, Inc.

7. Renovate To Fit The Neighborhood

When renovating a property, you need to keep in mind what fits in the neighborhood. You might love your 2,000-square-foot addition, but if your home is overbuilt, it might be hard to sell. Appliances, paint color and landscaping can all impact resale value. If you do want to build to your specific tastes, just recognize that you might have to “remodel your remodel” prior to listing it. – Lisa Fettner, ReferralExchange

8. Know Your Audience

Often, homeowners make upgrades that are too idiosyncratic to themselves and don’t resonate with the buying audience. My recommendation has been to look at home improvement and interior design-centered publications to see what is most popular. Buyers like unique homes, but striking the balance between market forces and individual character is essential when it comes time to sell. – Ari Afshar, Compass

9. Don’t Overimprove Your Home

Some homeowners move into their new home and believe they are decorators or architects. The weekend warrior of home improvement can make terrible mistakes to their homes by not going to trusted sources and getting good advice. A great source is the agent they purchased through. Getting an outside opinion is regularly free and very important prior to upgrading or adding to your property investment. – Rita Santamaria, Champions School of Real Estate

10. Do Regular Inspections

I’m a bit surprised this isn’t a more common practice, but I always encourage my clients to do a property inspection every three to five years, depending on the age of the home. In our area, it’s common to do inspections before selling your home. But by doing inspections every few years, you can stay on top of ongoing maintenance of your home and any potential repairs needed. –Brad Le, Climb Real Estate

11. Stay Within The 10% Margin

Unless you plan on living in your current house until you pass to the other side, stop upgrading immediately if you have exceeded 10% of your original purchase price in upgrades. Maintenance is mandatory and having a home warranty plan in place to cover repairs will pay for itself over time. Choose upgrades that are less expensive. Following this plan will almost guarantee a profit when you do finally decide to sell. – Angela Yaun, Day Realty Group

12. Leave Yourself A Buffer

The biggest problem that a lot of landlords and homeowners have is they fail to leave themselves a buffer. In other words, all the income the property generates is immediately spent on personal expenses instead of setting aside a portion for regular general upkeep of the property. Instead of spending that money, you need to put money toward fixing the property every month and getting it ready to sell. – Engelo Rumora, List’n Sell Realty

13. Clean House

At the end of the day, the largest turn-off to buyers is a dirty, cluttered home. Remove everything from your home that’s not needed daily, and clean from top to bottom. Buyers stop looking at a home the second they are distracted by dirt and clutter. Cleaning, organizing and decluttering are all free ways to improve a home’s marketability and increase the odds buyers will overlook the need for updates. – Coni Dean, Venture Realty & Investments

14. Invest In Visible Improvements

Don’t put your money into branded expansive decorations and furniture. Don’t wire your property with boomboxes and subwoofers. Investors should put money into visible improvements and those that make a property appraise well. Kitchen, flooring, new windows, new bathrooms, tile, marble and staging of the residence are good ways to improve value. – Elliot Bogod, Broadway Realty

15. Do It Now

Many homeowners take a “we’ll get around to it later” stance on exterior maintenance, and that is one of the most costly mistakes I regularly see — either coming up when it is time to sell and prep the house or on an inspection. Also, regularly servicing your HVAC system can save tons of money down the line. – Megan Jumago-Simpson, Keller Williams Realty Portland Premiere


Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization for executives in the real estate industry.