Tips on Selling an Old Home

Old houses benefit from specialized marketing techniques.
i Jupiterimages/ Images

You’re ready to move up in the world, but before you can make an offer on that gorgeous house in the new development, you have to sell the one you’re living in. If your current house is dated, a bit of creative marketing and some staging techniques can attract the right buyer and seal the deal. Quirky old houses are full of character, but potential buyers, and their lenders, want assurances that the house is structurally sound. Taking steps before listing your home can make the difference between a quick sale and a house that sits, collecting an occasional look and an abundance of cobwebs.


A few buyers are looking for that old fixer-upper, but most people want a house they can live in without having to catch leaky drips in buckets or stuff steel wool under the doors to keep mice out. Unfortunately, professional repairs are expensive, especially in proportion to the value of a house that isn’t worth that much. Prioritize repairs. Lenders do not like leaks because water can wreak havoc on the structure and interior of a home. Damage from termites is another red flag. Treating for termites and replacing damaged wood with new wood will give the home more appeal. Ask a real estate agent to walk through and advise you as to which repairs are the most likely to bring a buyer.

Inspections and Appraisals

A real estate agent can give you a free market analysis by comparing your home to recent sales of houses of a similar age and condition. This will give you an idea of what your home will sell for. Because it’s an older home, however, getting a professional inspection and appraisal now can reassure potential buyers and their banks that your home is fit to live in. Professional inspections and appraisals can cost a few hundred dollars each, and savvy buyers are less likely to make an offer if they think they’ll get stuck paying those fees if the house does not pass inspection.

Boost Exterior Appeal

Curbside appeal is everything. A fresh coat of paint, removing overgrown bushes and cleaning up the landscaping can attract potential buyers. Keep it real and don’t try to make your house look modern by putting something not suited to its style in the front yard. A pretty replica of a gaslight complements a Victorian-era home, whereas a chrome statue of a monkey wouldn’t appeal to most buyers looking for historic houses.

Stage Your Home

Real estate brokers will tell you that the first seven seconds a buyer is in the house can make or break a sale. Initial impressions are important, so concentrate your efforts on making your house look inviting from the time the buyer steps in the door. Staging, including removing family photographs, getting rid of clutter and arranging furniture to allow for ease of walking from room to room, can help. Your wedding photos are stunning, but put them in a drawer for now. The idea is to keep the rooms as clear and simple as possible to allow the buyer to mentally move in by imagining his own furniture and belongings in the house.

Purchase a Home Warranty

A home warranty doesn’t mean you’ll personally stand behind the house, but it does mean that an insurance company will pay the new homeowner if major appliances fail within the first year. Most of the time, an inspection is necessary before you can purchase a home warranty, but it gives potential buyers a little bit more confidence that they won’t get stuck with the cost of replacing a refrigerator or HVAC unit right after they move in.

Price it Right

No matter how much you love (or hate) your old house, it will only sell for what it’s worth in the current housing market. This is where getting a free market analysis from a real estate agent helps. By pricing the house competitively, you’re more likely to get an early offer. Offers that come in soon after listing are usually closer to the asking price than offers that come in months later. If you price the house too high, it could sit on the market, making buyers wonder what’s wrong with it. If you underprice it, buyers might also wonder what’s wrong with it. Pricing it right depends on a combination of recent sales figures and the current home-buying trends with a little fortune-telling thrown in. Getting professional advice for this step pays off.

Sell it “As Is”

Sometimes you just don’t have the bucks, or the inclination, to repair that old house. If that’s the case, sell it on an “as-is” basis. This means that the buyers must assume all risks for purchasing the house, and you will make no guarantees of any sort. The as-is market is very small, because it's harder to obtain loans to buy fixer-upper homes. These buyers often buy with cash, and they typically shoot low-ball offers because they know they have less competition. Most of the time, an as-is listing is a last-ditch effort to sell a house, and it should be reserved for those instances where it’s not possible to repair the house to reach a larger market of buyers.

the nest