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Selling Your House? 5 DIY Repairs to Avoid

Steve EvansOctober 21, 2018

If you’re prepping to sell your house, you’ve probably noticed a lot of upgrades that could make it more attractive, and with luck, more valuable too. While there are many repairs you could do yourself, there are some projects that are too complicated — or too dangerous — for even the best DIYers. Here are five types of repairs experts say you should leave to a pro, no matter how easy they may look on popular home renovation shows.

Electrical Work

Why not to DIY: Of all the home repairs and upgrades you could do, electrical work is one of the most dangerous. “You can get in over your head,” says Brett Brenner, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Electrical Safety Foundation International. Most people can safely change a light switch, he says, but lots of other upgrades require a professional touch. Specifically, he says, amateurs should stay away from any project in the house that involves getting inside the electrical box. “Anything that’s not wired correctly can be a fire hazard,” he says. He also warns against projects involving outdoor lines, “if you touch the wrong line, you could kill yourself.”

Hiring a Pro: Hiring a licensed electrician (not a handyman) will do more than make your project safer, it will make it easier to prove that everything is up to code and ready for the market. If your insurance carrier has questions about your electrical repairs, “work done by a licensed electrician will have a clear paper trail,” says John Hiller, president of Hiller Electric in Omaha, Nebraska.

Gas Lines and Appliance Repairs

Why not to DIY: Gas lines and gas appliances that aren’t maintained or fixed properly can develop a leak. This may cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be lethal. Natural gas leaking into a closed space is also highly volatile. Even turning on a light or using a cell phone near a leak could give off static electricity, triggering a spark and fiery explosion. Safety experts advise that you evacuate your house immediately if you detect the rotten egg odor of natural gas. Once you’re safely outside, call your local utility’s emergency line.

Hiring a Pro: If you have a problem with your gas lines, call a licensed plumber or gas heating specialist. Plumbers are trained in making leak-proof connections between the gas lines and your stove, dryer, hot water heater and other gas appliances. Many plumbing and gas heating specialists are used to responding to calls over the weekend or at night, so you’ll have your home ready for staging in no time.

Foundation Repair

Why not to DIY: Cracks in the wall and floor, a tilting chimney, uneven flooring, and a sagging crawl are all signs of potential foundation problems. But fixing them yourself? Not a good idea. “You absolutely need a professional foundation repair contractor,” says Richard Walters, a project consultant with Mount Valley Foundation Services in South Carolina. “No handyman is going to tackle a foundation repair project. You need hydraulic lifts, jackhammers, sometimes earth moving equipment.”

Hiring a Pro: Hiring a professional to fix a crack in a poured concrete wall will range from $800 to $1,500 per crack, according to the Foundation Repair Network. The good news is that foundation contractors almost always provide free estimates, according to Rogers. In addition, professional foundation work comes with a transferable warranty – which is important to have when selling your home.

Plumbing

Why not to DIY: You may be great at replacing the washer on a leaky faucet or clearing a stubborn drain, but a lot can go wrong if you dive into more complicated plumbing. “Usually what I see is people want to put in a new faucet and find out it’s not that simple,” says Jerry Torbert at Zurn Plumbing Service in Chamblee, Georgia, who says he gets a call like that once a week. “If we replace a faucet in an hour, that’s just an hour we have to charge. But if we have to undo something, there’s fixing it and then installing it, and that’s more time-consuming.” Such repairs, he says, are the source of a popular saying among plumbers: You can pay me once or you can pay me twice.

Hiring a Pro: Licensed plumbers are up to date on local building code requirements and permits. They’re also trained to produce leak-proof projects.

Roofing

Why not to DIY: Slapping on a shingle isn’t a demanding task, but roofs are too risky for most DIYers, says Tom McGraw, co-owner of W A Lynch Roofing Co. in Charlottesville, VA. He notes that falls are the number one cause of construction-related injuries, and everything from a dislodged shingle to a faulty ladder could send you plunging to the ground below. “If you don’t have the proper tools, equipment and training you could hurt yourself pretty badly,” he says. “Going up a roof is sometimes not much of a problem. Coming back down can be extremely problematic.”

Hiring a Pro: Professional roofing companies should offer a warranty for their work and materials, one that should be good for 15 to 20 years – a guarantee that your prospective homebuyers will certainly appreciate. Since roofing is such a major investment, you should choose wisely. Only hire a well-established roofing company that is licensed and insured, has a sterling reputation with the Better Business Bureau, can provide you with a list of references from previous customers, and offers a detailed written contract that includes an itemized list of materials, costs and the start and finish date of the project.

Leave it to the Experts

It’s completely understandable why you would want to fix as much as possible on your own, but using professionals for the above jobs – as well as ones involving hazardous materials like asbestos – will keep you and your homeowner insurance policies safe. It will also let you concentrate on creating an inviting look and curb appeal for your prospective buyers. Getting your home sell-ready is a big job in itself and one in which homeowners can definitely outdo a pro.

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    Steve Evans

    The Rocket Homes blog is here to bring you all you need to know about buying, selling and making the most of your home. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a homeowner, selling your current home or looking to keep your place in tip-top shape, our writers and freelancers bring their experience and expertise to meet you right where you are.