I woke from my sleep the other night just in time to watch my husband take a terrible spill. Back lit by the SUPER moon; down, down, down he went (followed by multiple expletives not fit to print)! For the record, Cliff rarely cusses, but it was one of those awful slow-motion moments where you know the outcome isn't going to be good.
His immediate response wasn't helped by the fact that he was in excruciating pain and scheduled to catch a plane first thing in the morning to NYC to meet with a group of other well-respected attorneys on a very high-profile case.
Cut to 2 AM: a cold, windy night, a wheelchair, an ice bag, Kaiser's emergency room, the x-ray technician, and Dr. Joe.
"What happened there?" the young doctor kindly inquired, when he finally made his way into the room and lifted the bag to see a swelling, bruising, puffy ankle.
"Do you want the real story or something more interesting?" Cliff tried to painfully joke.
(Let me tell it. He'll only fudge the facts.)
The real story is that Cliff was attempting to get our sleeping puppy off of his feet and onto mine by yanking Riley and his blanket over to my side of the bed. Riley has a bad habit of jumping up and joining us in the middle of the night and admittedly, it's often a clumsy (and wakeful) transition. He's also rather heavy at 62 lbs.
Having accomplished this dastardly deed, Cliff was racing back to his now, dog-free side of the mattress, when he clumsily tripped over Riley's dog bed in the middle of the floor. (In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have moved it there earlier in the evening.) I don't want to say it serves Cliff right, but feel free to make your own judgement call.
However, the joke was on us both as we spent the remainder of the night in the emergency room waiting to have Cliff's ankle splinted and cast (a sprain, not a break gratefully) and then made our way to SFO in a bit of a blur . . .
The moral of the story? It might have been easier just to let "sleeping dogs lie."
I bring this up because, one, I rather enjoy poking fun at my darling, Jewish husband in his Christmas stocking my mother knitted him when we got married, (the only sock large enough to cover his exposed toes and with a bell to boot!) And two, it's a legitimate question prospective Sellers often ask, as in: "Do I need to take care of this _______ (fill in the blank) or can I leave it alone?"
The answer is: "It depends."
When selling a property, there are things you should take care of, things that are optional, and things that you may decide to pass along to the next owners WITH the caveat that whatever "fixes" you leave behind, you disclose to the best of your ability. No one likes surprises, especially when the new home owners have just paid more money for a house than they ever thought they could, OR would. Unless you have incredibly forgiving Buyers, undisclosed and unwelcome discoveries are an invitation to an expensive lawsuit, to be sure.
Under the heading of "What should we fix?" I would urge you to address anything that presents a true safety concern or a hurdle too high to jump which is bound to chase prospective Buyers away. Red flags are typically pointed out by a general home inspection and they include items such as asbestos, mold, and unsafe wiring, but there are other less obvious conditions as well. Earlier this year, I sold a house where the next-door neighbor's decrepit front stairs ended up having an unexpected impact on my Sellers' bottom line and that was no fun at all (getting your reclusive/crabby/stubborn neighbors to do the right thing ain't always easy) and who knew that inadequate venting in the attic on another sale would cost the Sellers, Buyers, Brokers and Agents so dearly? (It did.)
As to "What is optional?" In a Sellers' market, everything is optional, with the understanding that while desperate Buyers will often look the other way and assume responsibility for just about anything, (despite advice to the contrary), you should expect a commiserate deduction on the selling price in return. In other words, you can't have it both ways. Still, I've easily sold "diamonds in the rough" (that were truly rough), with excellent results, but they were also well inspected AND DISCLOSED! As long as the Buyer understands the true scope of work, it's their choice to make (and they will make it). In short, disclose, disclose, DISCLOSE!
And finally, "What can you leave behind for the new homeowners to take on?" Often, it's the sewer lateral. This pesky "point-of-sale" ordinance is a legal requirement that must be corrected within 180 days of the transfer of sale on ALL homes in the county of Alameda. No, it's not sexy or fun to have to address this requirement no sooner than the deed is recorded, but it's not going to keep qualified Buyers from competing for your home either (unless the bid to do the work is FAR GREATER than anticipated). And I wouldn't get hung up on the little stuff either. While the details are important, now is not the time to get nit-picky; you're selling the house, so move on.
Regardless of whether you can, or cannot, leave nagging items undone, homes that present with a clean bill-of-health are far less encumbered throughout the marketing, selling and due diligence process (and long after closing as well), as are homes that are freshly painted, groomed, and fully staged. While Buyers are quick to say that they can envision a house in its "after" stage, (even those that are poorly presented), in my experience, they can't see beyond the green bathroom tiles, the bright pink paint in the baby's bedroom, or grandma's sad drapes.
It's why we often recommend replacing thread-bare carpet, musty wallpaper, oxidized faucets, and out-dated lighting before bringing a house to market. It's why I'm likely to encourage you to repair the deck, the leaking roof, and the broken garage door. Additionally, I'll ask you to replace non-working appliances, repair broken windows, and fix tilted front steps . . . and that's just for starters. It's not a question of what you should or shouldn't do (as in: a loving husband shouldn't run around in the dark in the dead of night playing tricks on his wife), it's a question of what serves your end goal best?!? (Got it? Good.)
With the VAST majority of Buyers beginning their search on the Internet, photos and videos have never been more important. So let's proactively get to work to present your home in its best light so you won't be hobbled before you begin. AND then let's get you top-dollar to boot. (See how I did that?)
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.