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Case Study: Sell Your San Francisco Home As-Is or Fix Up Before Listing?

April 14, 2023

Sell As-Is or Fix Up Your San Francisco Home Before Listing?

When it's time to sell your San Francisco home, you might wonder if you should get straight to the point and sell it “As-Is” in its current condition, or should you fix up the home with some updates first to maximize your outcome? As top listing agent, Vivre Real Estate founder Danielle Lazier has spent more than two decades helping SF Bay Area home sellers to strategically answer this question and achieve their personal goals.

This case study is all about how Danielle and the Vivre Real Estate marketing, administrative and project management team assisted a San Francisco seller in deciding whether to sell her parents' family home in Bernal Heights as-is or fix up and make improvements to get better offers. We'll discuss what it means to sell as-is, why many sellers choose to make updates, and how we ultimately helped our client make smart, high-impact changes that led to great results. And we'll share an amazing five-star review from our happy client!

The As-Is or Fix Up Dilemma: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Selling a home as-is means putting it on the market in its current condition, without making any repairs or updates. There are a few reasons why sellers might choose this option. For some, it's about saving time and effort. The family is ready to sell now. For others, it's about avoiding the expenses of home improvements or opening a Pandora’s Box of issues. In some cases, it makes total sense to sell your home as-is.

A fixer-upper two-story home with Spanish-style roof at 230 Texas Street, San Francisco, sold by Danielle Lazier Vivre Real Estate.
North Slope Potrero Hill home sold by Danielle Lazier & Vivre Real Estate.

For example, we helped a family sell their father’s home on the north slope of Potrero Hill. It had been a rental property for decades. There was a lot of deferred maintenance and repairs needed, so: sell as-is or fix it up? Unless they wanted to do a full renovation—which they did not—it made more sense to market the home as a fixer-upper, appealing to home buyers interested in sweat equity or professional home builders and developers. However, we still took the time to vacate and deep-clean the home. (We wrote a Case Study for that pre-market home sale too!) Whether a fixer-upper or not, being able to walk through a fresh, clean home will improve the bottom line for the home seller.

On the flip side, making pre-sale improvements and staging the home can boost a property's value and make it more appealing to a wider pool of home buyers. In fact, over 90% of San Francisco homes have been fluffed and staged prior to going on the public MLS (albeit with varying levels of taste and effectiveness). The key to successful listing preparation is to find a balance between cost and return on investment, ensuring that any updates are cost-effective, time-efficient, and most importantly, are extremely likely to lead to a higher sale price.

The first step is to meet via Zoom to discuss the home seller’s plans and see if we are a good fit to work together. After our Bernal Heights home seller and Danielle met for the initial selling conversation via Zoom, they decided to work together and signed the listing agreement via DocuSign. Now it was time to assess the property and determine which option would be best for her family’s goals and the current market conditions. Every situation is unique. We always take a careful look at the pros and cons of each option, providing a specific budget and timeline for each listing Danielle Lazier and Vivre Real Estate represent for sale. 

Unlocking a Home's Potential with Pre-Sale Improvements

Strategic pre-sale improvements and home staging can work wonders for a San Francisco property's value and buyer appeal. By focusing on small, high-impact updates, sellers can create a polished, inviting space that helps potential buyers see themselves living there. These improvements will also reduce the chances of lowball offers, credit requests or cancellations during negotiations.

Repainted kitchen island in Mission Dolores condo
A fresh coast of paint to the kitchen island brightened up this Mission Dolores condo listing.

Sometimes, very few touches are needed. For example, for a Mission Dolores condo sale, all we did was paint the kitchen island cabinets to transform the kitchen from drab to fab. Other times, we do a full court press: refinish the floors, fresh paint, new kitchen countertops, a fresh vanity for the bathroom, garden clean-up, and full staging. You probably think this takes many months? It typically takes our team only two or three to get the home ready for professional photography.

In our client's situation, we collaborated to identify areas where smart updates would have the most significant impact on the property's overall appeal. By concentrating on these high-impact improvements, we made sure our client's investment would yield the best possible return and ultimately help her achieve a successful San Francisco home sale.

Sell as-is or Fix Up: Our Approach to Assessing the Home and Crafting a Strategy

After discussing our client's goals and concerns via Zoom, we agreed to work together on the sale. We signed all the necessary paperwork digitally via Docusign, and we set up a meeting at the home to evaluate its condition. It was clear the home had been well-maintained but was in its original, outdated state. Our Bernal Heights home seller had inherited the property from her parents. There was an emotional attachment to the home, and a responsibility as the family’s trustee to achieve the best possible outcome. Rather than sell the home as-is, we believed that some light cosmetic updates would significantly enhance its appeal to buyers who often don’t want to deal with repairs and renovations as soon as they move in.

We recommended simple changes like removing old carpet to reveal hardwood floors, replacing linoleum with modern flooring, and freshening up the walls with a new coat of paint. We knew that staging would also be crucial in helping potential buyers envision themselves in the space. We left the major remodeling for the next owner, but it still looked amazing! (See before/after results below. 👇) The key to creating value is to create a clean, fresh feel that the prospective home buyers can imagine living in and fixing up themselves over time.

By making these targeted pre-listing enhancements, we were confident that buyers would see the property as a fantastic opportunity in the Bernal Heights neighborhood, where they could move in immediately and gradually remodel as they wished. Our client trusted our expertise and agreed to our proposed preparation and pricing plan. The strategic pricing plan is as crucial as the preparations. More on that later! 

A Phenomenal Staging and Design Collaboration

We teamed up with Green Couch, a top-notch local staging and design company, to transform the well-maintained but outdated property (think Grandma’s house) into an appealing, move-in ready space for the next generation of homeowners. Staging is especially popular and effective in San Francisco, where buyers often pay more for updated, attractive homes that require minimal work before moving in, or homes they feel they can move into now and fix up over time.

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The living room of our subject property in Bernal Heights, transformed by fresh paint and staging. (Natural light and professional photography don't hurt either!)

Why do most top San Francisco listing agents often recommend at least some staging to their home seller clients? Staging helps create a welcoming atmosphere that encourages potential buyers to picture themselves living in the home. It also highlights the property's best features and draws attention away from minor flaws. “Accentuate the Positive! Eliminate the Negative!” In the competitive San Francisco real estate market, making buyers fall in love with a property is vital. We want to create a sense of urgency and excitement! Staging plays a big role in reassuring buyers that the property’s price is worth it and matches their expectations.

Working with strategic partners and home preparation vendors like Green Couch Home Staging ensured our client's property would capture buyers' attention and generate the interest needed for a successful sale. Here are more before/afters!

The dining room of our Bernal Heights real estate listing after new lighting, floors, paint and butcher-block counter area.
The dining room and kitchen of our Bernal Heights real estate listing after new lighting, flooring and paint, plus a new butcher-block countertop where we removed the dark cabinet to open the space.
First bedroom before and after in the Bernal Heights listing.
First bedroom before and after in the Bernal Heights listing.

Supporting Our Client Every Step of the Way

At Vivre Real Estate, we're all about making the home selling (and home buying!) process as smooth and stress-free as possible. In this situation, we helped our Bernal Heights home seller navigate every aspect of the sale, from decisions to sell as-is or fix up, to strategizing on price and timing and negotiations, handling paperwork, and keeping her informed throughout the process.

Our support team took care of all of the details, scheduling and managing vendor appointments and property showings on the seller's behalf. This allowed our client to relax, knowing everything was under control. We also guided her through the maze of disclosure documents and reports that the home-selling process requires. In fact, she never came back to the property after handing us the keys!

Danielle Lazier’s support as a top listing agent and real estate professional in San Francisco for over 20 years ensured that our client enjoyed a seamless, hassle-free experience from start to finish.

A Winning Strategy: Exceptional Results in a Challenging Market

Our well-planned strategy paid off! Despite the tough real estate market with high interest rates, dramatic inflation, a war in Ukraine, tech industry layoffs and more, in which many sellers all of a sudden had a hard time getting their homes sold after years of a booming Seller’s Market, Vivre Real Estate achieved an outstanding result for our client. Danielle Lazier, our fearless leader and listing strategist, is known for her honest and direct approach. She knows that, at its core, real estate is a service industry. She is always looking to serve her clients with the highest level of care. Clients who trust and follow her experienced advice end up with better outcomes.

In this case, our client's willingness to collaborate openly with us—we listened to understand her goals and concerns, and she valued our informed advice and recommendations—played a crucial role in the property's success. It shows the importance of hiring an agent whom you really trust has your best interests at heart and the expertise to achieve them. 

This is also the value of the pre-listing Zoom call. Instead of being distracted by the details of the home itself, which are important but come later, we focus on the particulars of your situation: what are your goals, your worries, your ideal timeline, your unique situation? We want to craft a plan that gets you where you want to go, when you want to get there. It probably sounds funny, but figuring out if there is a sense of mutual trust and good working chemistry is more important than the property walkthrough! 

After a flurry of preview showings, public open houses and private showings, we received multiple offers, which shows we were dead-on in our assessment of current market conditions. After negotiations, the final sale price exceeded our client's expectations, showcasing the benefits of making thoughtful updates and working with an experienced team that knows the San Francisco market inside-out and will never leave any money on the table.

Five-Star Client Review of Bernal Heights Home Sale 

We always appreciate it when our home sellers and home buyers share their positive experiences and kind words about our services. Here is the seller’s unedited, five-star review:

"If you are looking for a Realtor, I highly recommend that you contact Danielle before talking with anyone else. She posted a Case Study on her website that described a situation similar to ours, so I initially reached out to her to get her thoughts. 

She listened carefully and went over each of the questions I raised. By the end of our session, I felt she was the only one I wanted to work with; there was no need to talk to any other Realtor. 

Being a first timer, the selling process can be overwhelming, but after talking with Danielle, I threw out my preconceived notions and let Danielle and her team guide me. Her experience and instincts are right on target in terms of pricing, timing and marketing. 

The staging and design company she works with did a phenomenal job in delivering on time. Her support team were outstanding in guiding us through the countless disclosure docs and reports that are required. We received multiple offers after the first weekend of open house. Needless to say, we were extremely happy with the outcome. We couldn’t have done it without her help. I’d give her ten stars if I could."

Trust Vivre Real Estate for Your SF Bay Area Home Sale

Deciding whether to sell your San Francisco home as-is or make pre-sale fix up improvements can have a significant impact on your home-selling process and ultimately the sale price. Danielle Lazier Real Estate and our team at Vivre Real Estate is a boutique group of full-time Bay Area real estate professionals, dedicated to helping our clients make informed decisions, and backed by over two decades of experience as top-producing agents in the competitive San Francisco Bay Area real estate market.

As demonstrated in this "sell as-is or fix up" case study, our strategic approach to pricing, presentation, and targeted updates can lead to exceptional results, even in a challenging market. By working together on a basis of trust and understanding, SF Bay Area homeowners can experience a seamless and successful home sale process that exceeds their expectations.

If you are considering selling your San Francisco home and want to improve your chance for the best possible outcome, contact our team at Danielle Lazier Vivre Real Estate today. Let us help you navigate the market and devise a tailored plan to maximize your property's value. If you think we are a good fit, fill out our Seller's Worksheet on our selling page and tell us more about your situation. We appreciate your business very much and look forward to hearing from you!

PS. Want to keep up with our SF Bay Area Real Estate Blogs, local culture, events and more? Subscribe to the Vivre Real Estate newsletter and get our latest updates direct to your inbox. Only the good stuff—no spam or games.

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