Should You Put Money Into a House You’re Planning to Sell?

Q: I am a senior citizen and I live in a modest Cape Cod-style home in northern New Jersey. The house could use some updating and repairs, but I expect to sell it in two to three years. Every house like mine that has sold in the neighborhood in the past five years has been torn down and replaced by a much larger house, and I can live with mine as it is now. Does it make sense to spend any money on this house — and if so, on what?

A: Even if your neighborhood is a magnet for developers, it’s generally not a good idea to put your home on the market assuming that it will only attract one type of buyer, such as a builder.

Not every lot is a good candidate for a new build. And buyers who are purchasing a house to live in, rather than to demolish, tend to pay more, said Suzy Minken, a real estate agent with Compass in Short Hills, N.J.

Think about the kind of sale you want, Ms. Minken said. Is your goal to maximize the value of your property by attracting many potential buyers? Or would you prefer a quicker sale that minimizes disruption in your life? Selling to a builder could result in a smoother transaction (possibly in cash), but would likely yield a lower price.

Consult with a real estate agent who is knowledgeable about sales in your town. The agent can peruse your property, consider your goals, and make recommendations on any worthwhile upgrades.

“With any house, the preparation is really important,” said Sara Parker Henderson, a real estate agent with Lois Schneider Realtor in Summit, N.J. “You can’t just slap a sign on it.”

If you’re going to list your home and you’ve lived there a long time, it can be difficult to see it the way a first-time visitor would. Start by going through the front door and taking notice of broken masonry or railings. Most buyers want a sense that a property has been cared for; if there are obvious needed repairs, buyers might conclude that there are bigger problems in places they can’t see.

Start to declutter, selling or donating items that you know will not come with you to your next home. Even buyers who are looking for a property to renovate want the house to be presentable, Ms. Henderson said: “They don’t want to walk into a total disaster.”

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