should i fix my retaining wall if i am selling my house?

Offering reliable landscaping services to homeowners in British Columbia since 2013

Natasha Maerz

Natasha Maerz

Owner/Office Manager

When selling your house there are a million things that need to be done.

While you look at other houses, think about new house locations and how you are going to decorate, one thing that will come up when you are planning on selling your house is if you should fix things in your home that are broken or outdated, or if you should leave it for the next owners.

This problem can be tough because there may not be a clear right answer.

Most of the time the most glaringly obvious part of a homeowners landscape that needs to be fixed is their retaining wall or walls.

Older homes have retaining walls built out of wood or landscape ties that are failing due to the rainy weather in the Fraser Valley, while newer homes have concrete walls that are failing due to poor installation methods.

failing-ab-retaining-wall

When it comes to the selling and buying of a house we work with two different sets of people.

The first set of people are homeowners who are thinking of selling their home and want to get things tidied up for the new owners. They are aware that their yards and more specifically their retaining walls, need to replaced, and want potential buyers to do a walk through of their house with everything squared away.

The second set of customers are people who have just bought a home with a failing retaining wall that they need to get done.

In most cases they have bought the house for a cheaper price due to the state of the homes retaining wall ,and are now looking to have it fixed.

So, how do you figure out if you should fix your dilapidated retaining wall or keep it as is?

Each situation is unique to each homeowner, their home and their retaining wall.

failed-allan-block-retaining-wall

What house sellers should know

If you are planning on selling your home and have a retaining wall that needs to be fixed, you have two options

1.Fix the wall, 

2. leave the failing retaining wall and sell your home as is.

Fixing the retaining wall

Positives of fixing your retaining wall

  • Up  the curb appeal of your home
  • Sell your home for a higher price (better resale value)
  • Have more potential buyers who are looking for a move in ready home
  • Have more serious buyers looking to buy your home

Negatives of fixing your retaining wall

  • Having to find a contractor to do the build
  • Paying for the build
  • Waiting until the retaining wall build is done before putting your house on the market

Leaving your retaining wall as is 

Positives of leaving the retaining wall as is

  • Sell your home at a lower price, potentially opening it up to more buyers
  • Not have to worry about finding a contractor
  • Not having to come up with the money for the retaining wall build

 

Negatives of leaving the retaining wall as is

  • Potential buyers shying away from buying a home with a failing retaining wall
  • Being liable if your home sells and the new homeowners realize the cost of fixing the wall (some may be unaware of the true cost of a retaining wall)
  • Being liable if the wall causes damage to the home or surrounding areas
  • Being liable if the wall causes bodily harm to buyers

What home buyers should know

When potential buyers are looking to make an offer on a home, most people usually opt to have a home inspection done. The home inspection gives them peace of mind that the property they are purchasing is not going to come with unexpected costs.

What is overlooked in a home inspection is the backyard. Surprisingly, home inspections only include the inside of the home, not the back or front yard, or side yards. 

This means that when the home inspection is done the inspector is not looking at the outside of the home.

This is a problem when a backyard has something as hazardous as a potentially failing retaining wall.

The potential buyer may think that because they got a home inspection done that the retaining wall of the house they want to buy is good for another couple of years, when that may not be the case.

Another issue that comes into play is most realtors are not educated on retaining walls and how much they cost. We have had many customers call us about replacing their retaining walls stating that their realtor said that to fix this wall would only $5,000 only to find out that their wall is $50,000.

This can be devastating to homeowners who have put all of their money into the purchase of their new home and have nothing left over to remedy their yard and unsafe wall.

allan-block-aztec-retaining-wall

As you can see, each situation is going to be unique in deciding whether or not you should replace your failing retaining wall before selling, or leave it as is.

As a seller its important to think about things like whether or not your home is being sold for the land, ( if this is the case the wall is going to be demoed regardless if it is fixed or not) or if your home is in great condition and needs to be move in ready, hence replacing your old retaining wall with a new one.

As a buyer its important to remember that a home inspection does not cover things like retaining walls, and to get an expert to inform you of the price of replacing a wall, not just taking the homeowner or relators word for it.

In the long run, that retaining wall is going to need to be replaced regardless of who does it.