Ask an Expert

Our renovation was done badly. What do I need to do before I sell?

By Alanna Schubach  | June 4, 2018 - 12:00PM

You'll want to consult a few real estate experts before you proceed with the sale. 


A few years ago we attempted a major renovation of our co-op. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong contractor and ended up with a number of poorly done projects.

Now we would like to sell our apartment. Should we undertake some remedial work to repair the worst of the problems, or just list the apartment and hope to attract a buyer who wants to create their own space? And who do we consult: a design-and-build contractor or a real estate agent?

For both renovations and sales, it all comes down to hiring the right team, our experts say,

As for whether to address some of the renovation-related problems in your apartment before selling, you should first consult a real estate agent who has experience with this issue. 

"Get two or three real estate agents in to view the property and give you their advice. Be sure that the people that you have come in have had experience with something like this in the past," says Deanna Kory, a broker with Corcoran. "This may mean that you have to do some research, get referrals, or ask around until you find the person you feel comfortable with on the phone who can give you the confidence that they know what they’re doing."

You may find, through these consultations, that you're better off leaving your apartment as is. After all, one person's idea of poorly done work may not be another's, Kory points out. 

Furthermore, many prospective buyers prefer to put their own stamp on an apartment and may have renovation plans themselves. 

"A lot of buyers will want to renovate the home regardless of the condition it's in, so you should factor that in before you sink more money into the apartment that you may not get back," says Fraser Patterson, founder and CEO of Bolster (a Brick sponsor). 

Small fixes on the cheap

That said, you should at least get your apartment to a point where it's not in a state of disrepair so as not to scare off buyers seeking something move-in ready, he adds. 

There are also small tweaks you can make in staging your apartment that will be far more affordable than another renovation. If your flooring was damaged in the renovation, it may be worthwhile to spend some money repairing that, and a fresh coat of paint is always helpful in brightening the space. You should also try to clear away many of your personal items to create a neutral space that would-be buyers can picture themselves in. 

"Have the agent give you examples of properties that they have renovated. Then bring them into the apartment and have them give you their advice," Kory says. "Since it sounds like your experience was a difficult one, make certain to get references and speak to the references in advance of choosing what to do." 

Don't make the same mistake twice

Finally, there are steps you can take to avoid running into this conundrum in future renovations. 

"Make sure you're engaging a smart renovation firm," Patterson says. "Instead of hiring an architect, then a builder, and all the pitfalls that come with that, hire a streamlined single firm or entity that measures and quantifies the risks of your project and absorbs them. And then by absorbing them, they are forced to build solutions that mean risks are less likely to occur and do not affect the homeowner."

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Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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