A Step-by-Step Guide on Preparing a House in Poor Condition for Sale

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By Bill Gassett Updated May 7, 2024


Selling a house in poor condition can be challenging, but it isn't impossible. You can get your home under contract quickly and profitably with the right strategy, budget-friendly improvements, and pricing tactics.

The question that will become evident is precisely how much you should do. The answer could depend on your budget, time, and local real estate market conditions.

As a realtor for the past three decades, I know the importance of making any home look its best. Even with a little bit of effort, you can dramatically increase your chances of selling faster and for more money. When selling a house that needs considerable work, following the tips I outline will put you in the best position to succeed.

This step-by-step guide provides insights on effectively preparing your house for sale.

Step 1: Evaluate the House

Before making repairs, conduct a thorough evaluation. This initial assessment will help you understand the extent of the work required. We can all become immune to the defects in our own homes.

  • Assess the damage: Walk through each room, checking for structural issues, plumbing leaks, or electrical faults. Look for cracks in walls, floors, or the foundation.
  • List needed repairs: Create a comprehensive checklist for all necessary maintenance, ranging from minor fixes to major renovations.
  • Estimate costs: Determine a budget for the required fixes by obtaining quotes from contractors or researching typical costs for each repair.

Step 2: Set a Budget

Allocating a reasonable budget helps prioritize repairs and focus on the most crucial fixes:

  • Focus on essentials: Prioritize essential repairs that improve safety and functionality. Address issues like broken windows, faulty wiring, or plumbing leaks first.
  • Allocate funds for quick fixes: Reserve a portion of the budget for minor cosmetic upgrades that can significantly improve the house's appearance, such as painting or replacing outdated fixtures.

Step 3: Make Budget-Friendly Improvements

Small, cost-effective changes can make a big difference in how your home appears to potential buyers:

  • Paint walls: A fresh coat of paint can brighten and modernize any room. Choose neutral colors that appeal to most buyers. I always recommend to my clients that they go with light gray or being as they are popular among most buyers.
  • Deep clean: A thorough cleaning helps create a welcoming environment. Clean windows, floors, and carpets and remove any lingering odors.
  • Replace fixtures: Update old light fixtures, door handles, and faucets. Affordable new fixtures can make a home feel more modern.

An excellent listing agent can advise you to make the best improvement decisions.

Step 4: Focus on Value-Adding Renovations

Investing in renovations that increase the value of your home is crucial for maximizing your return:

  • Kitchen updates: Modernize with new appliances, countertops, or cabinetry. Stainless steel appliances and granite countertops attract many buyers.
  • Bathroom upgrades: Replace outdated fixtures and add fresh caulk or grout. Simple changes, like a new vanity or showerhead, can make a big difference.
  • Flooring: Replace damaged or worn-out flooring with affordable alternatives. Laminate or vinyl planks are cost-effective and look great.

Step 5: Address Major Structural Issues

Significant repairs are essential for safety and to satisfy buyers, especially if your home has significant damage:

  • Foundation repairs: Address cracks or settling issues that could compromise the home's structure. Hire a professional to assess the foundation's condition.
  • Roof repairs: Fix leaks or replace missing shingles. If the roof is in poor condition, replacing it may be necessary to pass a buyer's inspection.
  • Plumbing and electrical: Ensure all systems are functional and up to code. Replace any faulty wiring or leaky pipes to avoid potential hazards.

Step 6: Stage the Home

There are many things you can do to stage a home. Staging enhances the appeal of your home and helps buyers envision themselves living there:

  • Declutter: Remove personal items and excess furniture. A clean and organized space appears more prominent and inviting.
  • Add fresh decor: Incorporate new curtains, rugs, and decorative pieces. Bright pillows and fresh flowers add warmth to any room.
  • Improve curb appeal: Tidy the yard and touch up exterior paint. First impressions matter, so ensure the outside looks appealing to buyers.

Step 7: Pricing the Home

Pricing a house in poor condition requires a strategic approach to attract buyers and ensure a quick sale:

  • Market comparison: Compare similar properties in the area. Look for homes in identical condition to establish a competitive price range.
  • Factor in repairs: Adjust the price based on the estimated cost of repairs. Buyers will expect a discount for the work they'll need to complete.
  • Consult a real estate agent: Seek professional guidance for accurate pricing. An experienced agent can help you navigate the market.

Step 8: Understand Local Market Trends

Knowing local trends helps tailor your strategy to attract the right buyers and sell quickly:

  • Research property sales: Analyze recent sales data in your neighborhood. Understand the average days on the market and the final selling prices.
  • Assess demand: Understand buyer preferences and how they affect pricing. Homes in specific locations or with desirable features may sell faster.
  • Time your sale: Identify the best time of year to list your home. Spring and summer are often the best seasons for selling houses in most places.

Step 9: Consider Selling As-Is

Selling as-is can be a viable option for houses in poor condition. This approach allows you to avoid costly repairs:

  • Real estate investors: Investors often buy homes quickly without demanding repairs. They specialize in rehabbing homes and reselling them for a profit. This is one of the popular options when you want to sell a house fast.
  • Cash buyers: Look for buyers willing to pay cash and handle repairs themselves. These buyers typically want a discount but can close quickly.
  • Real estate auctions: Consider selling through auctions for a quick sale. Auctions attract serious buyers and can lead to competitive bids.

Step 10: Market the Property

A comprehensive marketing plan helps reach potential buyers and sell your home efficiently:

  • Online listings: List the property on popular real estate websites. Include high-quality photos and a detailed description to attract interest. Very few things in real estate sales are more vital than professional photography. The images seen online are the first showings of your home.
  • Social media: Use platforms like Facebook and Instagram to reach a broader audience. Share posts with friends and local groups to spread the word.
  • Open houses: Host open houses to showcase the property. Invite local real estate agents and potential buyers to view the home. Just be sure to take precautions to keep anything of value away from visitors. An open house can be a magnet for crime in some areas.


Selling a house in poor condition requires planning, budgeting, and understanding market trends. With strategic improvements and effective marketing, you can sell your property quickly and profitably. By following these steps, you will be better equipped to prepare your house for sale and attract the right buyer. Best of luck with your sale!

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