Need to sell a house that is in poor condition? You’re not alone. Every year individuals, families and investors are faced with the challenge of selling houses that are in less than ideal condition.

Natural aging, storm damage, careless renters, and more can all negatively contribute to the condition of a house. For many homeowners, they simply didn’t have the funds to properly maintain the house over the years, resulting in compounding degradation and damage.

This can pose a challenge when trying to sell the house on the market. But all hope is not lost. This guide will take you through the steps of selling a house in poor condition on today’s market.

Assess How Bad the Homes Condition Really Is


Step one is assessing the condition of the home. This assessment should be as detailed as possible, organizing damage and condition by:

  • Home Systems (i.e. electrical, plumbing, heating/cooling, etc.)
  • Major structures (i.e. roof, foundation, flooring, siding, etc.)
  • Attached structures (i.e. garages, attics, etc.)

Once you have diagramed out all of the above, you will want to grade the condition based on three levels:

  • Does the condition make the house “uninhabitable”?
  • Are major renovations necessary, but the house is livable?
  • Can you get by with finish and cosmetic repairs?

Accurate assessment and diagnosis of the condition may require hiring a local contractor and/or home inspector to provide you with a detailed prognosis.

1. Uninhabitable Conditions

A house may be considered “uninhabitable” by your (or the market’s) standards, or by local laws and building code regulations. Reasons why a home may be deemed uninhabitable range from structural issues to pest infestations and mold.

Structural Issues – Structural issues refer to physical damage or the poor condition of major structural components of a home. In most jurisdictions, this includes both physical structures of the building itself such as the foundation and roofing, as well as home systems such as plumbing and electrical. “Structural” issues are often deemed safety hazards and in most jurisdictions must be repaired prior to inhabitation by residents (but not necessarily before the sale of the property).

Heating and Cooling – Most jurisdictions across the United States have separate building code regulations pertaining to the habitability of a house based on the working condition of heating and cooling systems. For example, a broken heating system can pose a serious health risk for those living in frigid climates.

Mold, Mildew and Water Leaks – The severity and scope of these issues will determine if these issues are large enough to qualify the home as uninhabitable per local building codes. In many cases, these issues are considered “environmental” or “health” hazards.

2. Major Renovations

In some cases simple remodels and updating can yield the best results. In other circumstances, major renovations may be necessary. Structural damage, building codes and more, may all warrant significant updates to the house. As you can imagine, major renovations are typically expensive and may take weeks to months to complete.


  • Re-wiring the entire house
  • Re-flooring the home
  • Gutting and rehabbing any room
  • Finishing a basement or attic
  • And more

3. Cosmetic / Finish Work and Repairs

In other cases, an investigation may reveal that simple repairs and cosmetic approaches may yield the best value for the dollar. Re-carpeting, stripping and painting walls, re-finishing flooring, updating hardware on kitchen cabinets, etc. all fall into this category.

We can buy your house as-is. Get your fair cash offer here.

Assess The Current Real Estate Market


Next up, assess the local real estate market. Although markets tend to follow a cyclical nature, every zip code and neighborhood has its own unique characteristics, trends and market demands.

1. Are We In a Buyer’s or Seller’s Market?

Knowing if you are in what is considered to be a “buyer’s” or “seller’s” market can help you better position your house for an expeditious sale, and one that nets you the most money at closing.

What is a Buyer’s Market?

A buyer’s market is a real estate term used to define a real estate market in which the supply of homes (i.e. those homes listed for sale) is greater than the current demand by prospective homebuyers in the market. Buyer’s markets are aptly named given that they favor the buyer in the transaction. Excess inventory often drives down prices.

Signs You are in a Buyer’s Market (or one is approaching):
  • Time from listing to closing on homes is increasingly longer month to month or quarter to quarter. Graph depictions of this data will clearly reveal any trending patterns.
  • Year over year decreases in sales.
  • Prices in the local market appreciate at rates of 3% or lower.
  • An increasing number of homes on the market reduce their listing price one or more times prior to closing.

What is a Seller’s Market?

A seller’s market is a real estate market in which the demand for homes by prospective homebuyers surpasses the number of homes currently listed on the open market. In other words, there are more people wanting to purchase homes in that location but not enough homes available to buy.

Seller’s markets present a great opportunity for securing top dollar for homes listed on the market, with increasing demand and even bidding wars driving up the closing prices.

Signs You are in a Seller’s Market (or one is approaching):
  • Available home inventory on the market will typically begin showing a decline between 6-12 months before peak seller’s market territory.
  • You may see builders reduce or eliminate purchase incentives for new construction.
  • The number of offers on properties listed will increase.
  • Days from listing to closing will decrease steadily.
  • Agents may begin to reduce commission rates as selling homes becomes easier and faster and as sellers realize they may not necessarily “need” an agent.
  • Foreclosure rates in the local zip codes will go down.
  • An increase in “second” home purchases is often seen.
  • Final closing prices increase.
  • Year over year the overall number of sold properties increases.

2. Check Out the Current Competition

Knowing what you are up against can help you better position your own house to look more attractive than the competition when it comes time to list.

Take Note of:

  • Comparable homes and properties
  • How many bids they receive
  • Final closing prices
  • Time from listing to sale
  • Any improvements they have made to the house or property
  • Comments (if available) on the home’s listings by those who have viewed it

All of the above can provide you with “competitive intelligence” and deep insight into what the market is currently responding to and what you may need to do in order to make your house more attractive for purchase than the competition.

3. Review ‘Recently Sold’ Data on Poor Condition Houses and Comparable Sales in your Neighborhood

In the real estate world, homes listed or sold on the market that are similar to yours are known as “comps” or “comparables”. When listing a home (especially one in poor condition) it is imperative that you first know what the home is worth.

List it too high and you’ll be sitting on the property forever, wasting time, energy and resources marketing an “overpriced” property that turns people off. Alternatively, list the property too low and people may be wary of a “too good to be true” deal, or you may lose out on potential ROI at closing.

These comps also provide unique insight into what is in demand and what buyers are (or are not) willing to pay a premium for. This can help guide you in making decisions regarding what types of repairs, renovations or remodels to consider prior to listing, and how much is actually worth investing in the house.

What are Comps Based on?

You’ll never find an ‘exact’ match to your own house. But by following the guidelines below you can find ones that are the most similar.

  • Property type: i.e. single-family house
  • Recent or pending sales: those homes that are pending sale with an offer or that have recently sold will provide the most realistic information.
  • Location: markets fluctuate a lot between zip codes and even among bordering neighborhoods. Find comps ideally within a 1-3 mile radius of your own house.
  • Size: Square footage of any comps should be within 10% of that of your own house, and should have similar “living space/areas”. For example, living space on the main floor may be worth more than that included in a finished basement or attic.
  • Year the Home Was Built: In an ideal world you would want to find comps built within the same decade, and ideally within 5 years of yours.
  • Age of Home Systems: Similar to the age of the home, major home systems such as heating and cooling should be similar in type and age.
  • Overall Condition: Should be as similar as possible. If your home requires major, expensive renovations, but the other just needs cosmetic work, these are not good comps.
  • Style / Type of Home: For example, you would not want to use a ranch style home as a comp to compare against your two-story home.
  • Equivalent Number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms
  • Special Features: Such as patios, pools, wine cellars, hardwood flooring, updated appliances, etc.

4. Determining a Pricing Strategy

Now that you have your comp data in hand, it is time to determine a pricing strategy that will help you reach your goals.

When coming up with a strategy, having the end goal in mind and knowing what goals are most important to you can help to formulate a plan that makes the most sense.

For example, is selling fast a top priority or are you comfortable waiting for the ‘right’ buyer to come along? Or is getting top dollar for your house the most important?

Strategies To Help You Get Started

Free Online Home Valuation Tools

These are what are known as “Automated Valuation models” or AVMs. You’ll answer a serious of questionnaires and fill out a forms that provide the system with criteria used to value the property. Think of this as being similar to filling out a Kelly Blue Book automobile valuation tool. You’ll answer questions such as the type of home, age and condition of systems, etc.

While this can be a good starting point, these types of systems are known to be quite inaccurate at times.

Based on Comps

As previously discussed in detail above, comparable sales data provides you with real-world, unbiased insight, into what the market currently is supporting in terms of prices.

The Value Play

In some markets, a strategy to consider may be to underprice the market, listing your home significantly below the “going price” for comparable houses. Doing so may attract attention over competitors, earning you multiple bids that result in a “bidding war”, thus driving up the price back to that of the actual market value.

Seasonal or Market Shift Pricing

Every real estate market sees its ups and downs, with seasonal shifts measurable in virtually any market in the United States. Other shifts and trends may be influenced by local economies, regulations, job market and more. Understanding these trends can influence your pricing strategy, making adjustments that best suit the current market conditions and climate.

We can buy your house as-is. Get your fair cash offer here.

Should You Sell As-Is?


This is a question virtually every seller of a house in less than perfect condition struggles with. The answer depends on several variables unique to your particular house as well as the local market.

Reasons You May Want to Consider Selling “As Is”

1. You Can’t Afford Costly Repairs

In many cases, you may find that your current financial state simply doesn’t afford you the opportunity to make needed repairs. In such cases, listing “as is” may be the only option.

2. You Wish to Avoid the Stress of a Traditional Home sale

Selling a home isn’t always a fun prospect. It can be a lengthy process, wrought with red tape and requiring dealing with agents, lawyers, filing dates, inspections, negotiations and more. Selling “as is” typically attracts investors and cash buyers who are eager to close fast in a “no-nonsense” manner, helping you get a fair market price for your house and allowing you to move on with your life.

3. Financial Distress

It happens to the best of us, often without notice. Looming medical bills, accidents, layoffs, and more can all put homeowners in crisis mode, fearful of where their next paycheck will come from and how they can afford to make mortgage payments. Selling “as is” may offer hope and relief in the way of fast cash transactions that don’t take months to get approved by the bank.

4. Job Transfers or Family Emergencies

Sometimes life throws us a curveball. When time is of the essence, due to a job transfer, family emergency or other major life events, selling your house “as is” can put cash in your hand quickly, giving you the opportunity to move quickly when necessary.

Pros of Selling a House “As Is”

  • Little to no costs associated with repairs
  • Easier, hassle-free selling process
  • No headache of dealing with repairs in terms of time and labor
  • Minimal paperwork required
  • No need for a real estate agent or costly commissions
  • Faster sale possible
  • Cash offers
  • Reduced liability (buyer beware)

Cons of Selling a House “As Is”

  • Generally lower sales/closing price
  • Cautious buyers
  • Limited pool of buyers (i.e. those interested in ‘fixer-uppers’ or projects)
  • Likelihood of ‘low ball’ offers, haggling and negotiations necessary
  • Pricing can be tricky
  • First impressions sell, and distressed homes can ‘turn off’ many buyers even when the deal is a good one

Don’t Forget About Disclosure Laws

In virtually all states across the US, sellers of residential homes are required to make certain “disclosures” to prospective buyers prior to the closing sale of the property. Typically, these disclosures (and the regulations surrounding them) require that the seller make the prospective buyer aware of any “material defects” the home, its structure or systems have.

Regulations surrounding disclosure vary state by state, although federal regulations are required of sellers regardless of which state the home is in. Failure to make proper disclosure as required by local and federal laws can open a seller up to civil, and potentially criminal, liability.

Are you Required to Seek Out or Look for Problems?

Most disclosure laws state in one way or the other that as a seller, you are only required to disclose material defects that you are (or should have been) aware of. Those defects unknown to you at the time of sale are not required to have been disclosed. However, you should use good judgement here. For example, if you have water spots on the ceiling, failure to disclose that your roof likely has a leak would be in violation of disclosure laws.

There are certain states whereby the seller IS required by law to have the property inspected for lead, known termite damage or other disclosures. California, for example, has very detailed disclosure requirements. As such it is always prudent to obtain advice or counsel from a licensed real estate agent or attorney to ensure you are in full compliance.

Should You Hire a Property Inspector?

The majority of states do not require the conducting of a property inspection by the seller. Inspections can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they can help you ascertain the condition of your home and systems, giving you reliable and accurate information that can be used to budget or plan for potential repairs, or uncover potential deal breakers that may turn away buyers. On the other hand, any defects uncovered in an inspection must now be disclosed to the prospective buyer.

Are You Required to Repair Defects Discovered?

Generally speaking, in the majority of cases the answer is “no”. However, there may be caveats. For example, material defects that are a known health hazard (such as dangerous mold, lead, asbestos, structural damage), etc. may, in some jurisdictions, need to be repaired prior to any inhabitants occupying the building.

What Types of Disclosures are Required by Federal Law?

The Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 requires the seller:

  • Provide disclosure statement informing the buyer of any lead-based paint or related hazards on the property
  • Provide the buyer with a 10-day window to test for lead
  • Provide the buyer with an EPA pamphlet, “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home
  • Incorporate legal warnings regarding lead in the sales contract
  • Obtain statements from all parties of the transaction signed and dated to verify compliance with legal mandates
  • Maintain signed copies of such acknowledgements for 3-years post-sale
We can buy your house as-is. Get your fair cash offer here.

What’s Next? Consider Making These Repairs


By now you have a detailed understanding of what the condition of your house and its systems are in, the degree of damage or repair needed, and what is helping similar homes in your neighborhood sell for top dollar (even those needing some TLC).

But what types of improvements can net you the most return on your investment in time, money, resources and, likely, a bit of a headache?

Major Home Improvements

  • Finished Basement: Costs range from $6000 – $18,000 on average, but can add up to $40,000-$50,000 in asking price, a 65%+ return.
  • Open Floor Plan: Knocking out a wall or two or three might be a bit expensive, but it can really transform a living space into something truly appealing to buyers.
  • Siding / Veneer: Although a larger expense, new siding can enhance curb appeal and bring in more buyers.
  • Remodeled Kitchen and/or Bathroom: Kitchens and bathrooms are the two most popular rooms in a home, earning home sellers up to 84% of their investment back at closing.
  • Updated Flooring: The floor of your house sets the tone and is often the first thing people notice when stepping inside. It establishes a strong foundation and flow that can help complement the rest of the space.
  • New Windows: Although expensive, new windows can really make a home’s interior and exterior ‘pop’, enhancing both curb appeal and utility function, while improving insulation and reducing energy costs.

Quick & Easy Repairs

  • New Paint: A fresh coat of paint is likely the most effective way to breathe new life into any room without breaking the bank.
  • Updated Hardware: Can’t afford new cabinets, shelves, or countertops? Consider updating the bathroom and kitchen with new hardware.
  • Resurfacing Cabinets and/or Floors: Similar to a new paint job, resurfacing cabinets, floors and other wood surfaces can bring them back to life.
  • New Shades / Shutters: Complement your windows and siding without having to replace either.
  • Small Repairs: Those loose floorboards, squeaky hinges, scratches and dents, torn screen and other quick and easy fixes can really make a big difference.
  • Basic Landscaping: A well kept yard and planting some strategically placed foliage or flowers can make your yard pop and enhance curb appeal, enticing prospective buyers to give the house a second or closer look.
We can buy your house as-is. Get your fair cash offer here.

How To Market A Fixer-upper For Sale


Real Estate Brokers

Real estate brokers are “agents” who have passed their real estate agent licensure requirements, as well as having passed their broker’s license exam. They typically have several years of experience under their belts, and usually own their own brokerage in which they hire a team of agents and other support staff. Brokers have a lot of resources and can typically match you with the best agent for your property type.

Traditional Agents

Similar to brokers, traditional real estate agents have access to a number of unique tools, resources and strategies to help market your property in exchange for a commission upon closing.

Marketing Tactics Include but Are Not Limited To:

  • Digital ads
  • Social media marketing
  • MLS (multiple listing service listing)
  • Newspaper ads
  • Networking
  • Cross-promotion and deals with buyers’ agents
  • Promoting, scheduling and hosting open houses
  • Conducting home showings
  • And more…

Discount Real Estate Agents

Discount real estate agents and services, also sometimes referred to as “flat rate” agents, offer a set of standard services in a package at a flat rate or discounted rate as compared to a “full service” traditional agent. Although you get less in terms of hands-on support, this option may be a good fit if you are in a market that is hot or if you are willing or able to pick up the slack. For example, listings on the MLS are typically included, but the agent likely will not be scheduling or hosting open houses.

For Sale By Owner

This approach is entirely “hands-on”, with the seller taking on all responsibilities involved with the process of preparing, listing, marketing, showing and closing on the sale of the property. Although you can go at it on your own, you may still want to pay for a listing in the MLS and perhaps consult with an attorney or agent to ensure proper paperwork is in place and that all local regulations are followed.

Want To Learn More About Selling With

picture of flat fee mls customers

Check out our article – How a Flat Fee MLS Listing saved James & Mary $9,450!


Alternatives To Listing Your House For Sale


Although most home sellers opt to go the “traditional” route of selling their house, selling through a real estate agent on the MLS isn’t the only reliable and effective way to unload your house. You can also purchase a one of our flat fee mls listings for a nice alternative.

Sell To We Buy Houses Real Estate Flipping Companies

All across the country, “we buy houses” companies proactively seek out and purchase distressed houses that need a little extra TLC. These companies primarily look to purchase properties as an investment, calculating in the amount of money, time and resources that will be needed to increase its value for re-listing on the market. Selling to a “We Buy Ugly Houses” company is typically a very straightforward process that is fast, efficient, and puts cash in your hands in less than two weeks if a deal is made.

Sell To iBuyer Companies

iBuyer is a modern approach to buying and selling houses. iBuyer companies utilize specialized technology and algorithms based on market data and information about your house in order to provide a near-instant quote on how much they would be willing to purchase it for.

Typically iBuyer offers are “all cash”, making the process quick, seamless and efficient, cutting out middlemen such as the banks, and eliminating the need for a real estate agent or attorney. For home sellers looking to skip the hassles involved with a traditional listing and sale, iBuyer may be an option worth exploring further.

Rent It Out

In some cases, selling your house right now might not make the most sense. This is especially true for those of you with houses in poorer condition. Generally speaking, the overall condition of a home is less important to a renter than a buyer. Renters, for example, often care more about surface level appearances and functionality, vs. say, a degrading roof or other major repairs that may need to be considered in the coming years.

Reasons why you may Want to Consider Renting Out Your Home

  • Temporary Moves: For example, if you are moving for a designated period of time (say 1 year for work), you may want the option to return “home” at a future date.
  • Home values are on the rise: In markets that are on the up and up, you may want to hang on to your property a while longer as the home appreciates in value, opting to sell at the peak when it is worth more.
  • The Local Rental Market is Strong: You’ll need to run the numbers, but in some cases you may be able to generate a stronger ROI with consistent positive cashflow in strong rental markets.

Hold On For Appreciation In Value

In today’s digital age, data on the state of your real estate market is only a few clicks away. Information on market trends and projected forecasts for the year or years ahead, combined with information on the local economy, job market and more may demonstrate that your house is well-positioned to appreciate. In such cases, you may want to postpone a sale until such time as your house has gained significant value.

We can buy your house as-is. Get your fair cash offer here.

Ready to Take the Plunge and Sell Your House?


Selling a house in poor condition can be a challenge, but with the right information and preparation, successfully unloading your property can be a rewarding experience. Knowing how to list, market, and prepare your home for sale, as well as what repairs need to be done and what can wait, will help set you up for success. By following the tips in this guide, your home will be well-positioned to gain the right attraction from the right buyers in your local market, helping you close the deal and move on to the next stage in your life.


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