What-NOT-to-Change-When-Selling-Your-HouseYou’ve finally made the decision to put your Maplewood or South Orange, New Jersey, house on the market—whether you’re moving to a larger house on the other side of town, relocating across the country, or simply downsizing to a smaller home. While most sellers have very different reasons for listing their houses, they typically all have the same goal—to make as much money as possible on their existing home.

But with the popularity of such shows as Fixer Upper and Love It or List It on HGTV, many sellers think the best way to maximize their profits is to modernize their home with a “quick” renovation project that will convince buyers within minutes of walking in the front door to make an offer at full asking price—or even higher.

Sure, it makes sense to paint over and neutralize bold and unpopular room colors, to rip up old wall-to-wall shag carpeting, and take down wallpaper from the ‘80s, but there are actually certain projects in your house that it does NOT make sense to redo just a few weeks before listing your home. Here’s a list of what not to change when selling your home:

  1. A complete kitchen reno. Yes, kitchens DO sell homes. But if your kitchen hasn’t been touched for 20 years and you only have a month to get the house ready to put on the market, you simply don’t have enough time to completely gut it. And with many kitchen renovations costing between $50,000 and $100,000, this is hardly an inexpensive fix. You’re better off painting the cabinets, changing out the cabinet hardware, replacing light fixtures, upgrading the appliances to something current and functional but not top-of-the-line, or even installing new granite or marble countertops. But you don’t have time for a full kitchen renovation, and you also don’t want to undertake the financial cost of such a major project.
  2. A new heating system when the old one still works. While buyers are looking for new or upgraded systems in a home, the old adage “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” certainly applies when selling your house. You’re better off putting your money toward repairs that are needed—something the buyer will absolutely notice when they walk through the door. First impressions are key, so any obvious repairs should be addressed first.
  3. A new roof if the old one is not leaking. While the topic of roofs is a sensitive one with many home buyers—and may even be a deal breaker if there are significant concerns—there is no need to replace an older roof just because it’s older. If it’s not showing signs of significant wear and is not leaking, you don’t need to invest in a new roof, which could cost you $10,000 to $20,000, depending on the size of your house. If the roof truly becomes a point of contention during the home inspection and you’re in danger of a buyer walking away, you can give a credit at closing toward roof repairs or replacement.
  4. Ripping out all of your mature landscaping. While overgrown bushes and trees may make your house look old or dated, don’t go overboard and rip it all out with the intention of buying some new small evergreens at Home Depot and planting them the week before you list the house. Landscape design is more complicated and expensive than you’d think, and now is not the time to see if you have a green thumb. A better fix is to have an experienced landscaper come in and heavily prune your current bushes and trees to add light to your house and yard and to generally clean up the look from the street.
  5. Spaces that can’t be seen. Now is not the time to sheetrock the crawlspace above the garage for extra holiday storage or to add a craft room behind the utility room in the basement. It’s one thing to add an extra bedroom or bath, which will surely get your money back, but finishing off spaces that can’t be seen for minimal extra space or value will most likely not yield a return on your investment. Besides costing money, these small projects also cost time, which may be better spent sprucing up other areas of your home.

Details that are specific to your home’s style. Details such as a stone fireplace, antique floors, architecturally unique front door, vintage stove, or exterior paint details that add charm and character to your house, especially if it’s of a particular style such as the tudors or Victorians found in South Orange and Maplewood, should remain intact if they’re in good shape and working order. Now is not the time to bring California modern to your Georgian Colonial. While you may be tired of certain features, buyers often fall in love with the unique characteristics of these particular home styles—and the weeks before listing your house are not the time to remove them. No matter how practical a Timberline roof may be, it just won’t have the same charm of the original slate roof on a Maplewood English cottage style home.