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(The ULTIMATE GUIDE)
Assuming that everyone who puts their home "on the market", wants to get the highest possible price in the shortest period of time, this is a pretty comprehensive list of items that need to be looked at (because the Inspector will surely notice them), or addressed (because a potential Buyer will get a negative impression - which negatively affects their offering price).
Therefore, if you have the time, the skill set, or the funds to take care of the following items PRIOR to putting it on the market, you will be setting yourself up as the home that is the most desirable for the pickiest Buyer. Result: Highest Price in the shortest time period.
I'm aware this is a long list, and hopefully most won't apply to you. But they are all items I have seen.
If repairs are needed, they are usually noticeable to the Buyer and the Buyers' Agent. Since the repairs reflect on the Seller, as soon as one repair item is found, the Buyer will begin to look for more. Don't let them. If you get an offer, and repairs are needed, the offer price will reflect the perceived condition of the property!
Also, if you get an offer and the Inspector notices "too many" items needing repair, you may lose the deal - and effectively you're off the market during the "Due Diligence Period".
- Sinking Brickwork or Stonework The settling of steps leading to a porch is acceptable, up to a point. Beyone that point, repair is absolutely needed, probably by a professional.
- Wood Surfaces need Paint or have Wood Rot, or have been chewed. Check all the cornerboards, especially at the bottoms, where rain can be absorbed where the wood was cut. Especially check the garage door framing for wood rot, then around the doors, and all the window sills - especially those that face South, the sunny side. Sometimes it's simply paint that is needed, sometimes it is caulk to keep the water from being absorbed, sometimes it is repairable with Bondo (where you chisel out the rotted wood and cover with Bondo that is sandable and paintable). Sometimes the wood needs to be replaced!
- Shrubs Overgrown. The only real problem here is when the shrubs are overgrown against the house and are above the window sill. Trim shrubs to below the sill.
- Dead Shrubs. Dead shrubs should be removed, or, if they affect the curb appeal (they're visible from the front of the house) they should be replaced.
- Siding Inspection. This you can do yourself. If it's brick, does it need pointing to fill in missing mortar between the bricks? If it's vinyl, it it chipped or cracked? Regardless, check that all siding ends were nailed into studs, (not into air) and that the ends aren't protruding or have gaps between the pieces.
- Shutter Issues? Are there slats missing? are the shutters warped? Need painting?
- Exterior Plumbing. Do all the faucets work and do they all have handles with which to turn on and off? (Don't throw away faucet handles and use a wrench to turn the water off and on. It will cost you!)
- Decks. Do you need to replace the floorboards because they've obviously aged? Railings sturdy? Missing balusters? Sagging in places? Split wood? If there are steps to the ground is there a concrete pad supporting the bottom step so the wood doesn't touch the ground?
- Bird Nests. On the front porch or the rear porch, are there any bird nests up high or underneath (and the accompanying evidence!)? Sorry birds - nothing personal!
- Roof Condition. As you get toward "end of life", it may become an inspector's pleasure to inform the potential Buyer that they may have to replace the roof soon after buying. (Incidentally, you may want to Google "Atlas Chalet Shingles Class Action Lawsuit" in case your roofer doesn't tell you what he's using.)
- Chimney. Look at the top to see if the corner pieces of wood need replacing or painting. Chimneys go faster than even South-facing window sills.
- Septic Tank. These are so overlooked until a major repair is needed! If it was serviced within the past year, you should be good. If never, take care of it and get competitive bids - don't believe everything you see on web sites. Incidentally, do you know where you septic tank is located?
- Gutters. Any sags or nails that are obviously not attaching the gutter to the roof?
- A/C rubber insulation out by the compressor? A major stickler for home inspectors. Simply tear off the old and worn and replace with new rubber insulation. Make sure you can't see any of the pipe.
- A/C units. They should be perfectly level sitting on the ground or on their pad.
- A/C condensate line. The tube or pipe that is there to remove water away from the house should be long enough so that the water doesn't drip next to the house. Extending it is easy.
- Water around the exterior of the house. Water should always drain away from the house, everywhere, and on all 4 sides. and all siding should be 6 inches up from the ground.
- Garage Doors. Working smoothly/ Any obnoxious dents that you wouldn't want if you were the Buyer?
- Ground to siding clearance should be 6 inches at least. Or, to rephrase, 6 inches of the foundation should be visible everywhere
- Heat and A/C work properly?
- In the Attic. Are there any indications of critter infestation? The easiest way to check is to look for droppings, usually found on the uninsulated floorboard. It's hard to see tunnels in the insulation, but sometimes you can see a path if you have them. Regardless, if you have critter indications, there are 2 problems: Somehow they got in there, and that needs to be addressed. And they may still be there - which is a different issue. You will need an exterminator.
- In the Attic is there ductwork? Have any of the pipes become disconnect from another pipe to which they were supposed to be attached?
- In the Attic are there water stains? Water stains indicate a roof leak and they can be overhead (from nail holes from a poor roofing job), or on other wood beams (indicating there is a problem that also needs to be addressed).
- Hardwood Flooring. If the wood flooring is "cupped", it indicates that water has caused the boards to swell. If it's painfully obvious, the boards should be replaced or re-surfaced and the cause determined.
- Broken tile. Tile flooring is not unusual as long as it's not so bad that it indicates a major settling problem or an abominable installation.
- Electrical. Unless you're licensed, I'd stick with ensuring all light switches work, all outlets work, the breaker panel is neatly and completely marked, and all burnt out bulbs are replaced.
- Windows. Thermal pane windows can fog up if their integrity is compromised. You will be asked to replace the windows after the Inspector notes them. Replacement windows are relatively inexpensive if you know where to go. I prefer Robert Bowden, Inc., off Rte 41 in Marietta.
- Window Mullions. Some windows have removable mullions, usually cheap plastic that breaks down because of the sun. If yours are all god, leave them. If some are broken, you may have to figure out if you want to replace the bad ones or just remove all of them and throw them away.
- Window Screens. A house shows better without the screens. If you remove them, put them all together in the attic or garage or basment and label each screen as to its placement.
- Interior doors. Do they close and latch? Get out your Dremel and widen the latch hole. Check that all the pins are hammered down fully.
- Venetian Blinds and Plantation Shutters. If they are in need of repair, do it now.
- Ceilings. Are there water stains from overflowing tubs, showers, or leaking toilets? If it's simply an old stain, but it's still there and the problem was resolved and the ceiling is dry, spray the stain with KILZ until the stain is completely covered. You may need to repaint the entire ceiling with flat ceiling paint.
- Carpets. Rarely do stains come out completely. You can try to clean, either personally or professionally, but you may need to replace. In Georgia, my favorite is Beckler's in Dalton or, if you don't want to drive to Dalton, I lke Carpet Surplus in Roswell on Rte 9.
- Plumbing - Water Heaters. Water heaters have a life expectancy. However, if you don't have a problem at all, don't replace it.
- Plumbing Leaking Faucets. Leaking faucets and showerheads that leak will be noted by the inspector and should be repaired. (Probably just a washer)
- Plumbing - Jetted tubs. Whirlpool or jetted tubs should work. If you've never used yours, now is the time to ensure that it works. It will be fully inspected and is expected to make bubbles.
- Plumbing - Showers. If the shower or tub need grouting it will be noted by the Inspector.
- Ceiling Fans. If a ceiling fan doesn't work at all, replace it with another, or a light fixture. Don't leave it non-functional (or ugly looking). If the ceiling fan NEEDS a remote to turn on or off, DO NOT LOSE the remote or you will have to replace the entire remote unit in the light along with the hand-held remote.
- Toilet. Does it rock at all? It can usually be tightened down and sometimes an adhesive caulk under the toilet can solve the issue.
- Toilet. Does it run? Cheap rubber parts often need replacing. Not hard to do.
- Exterior door seal/gasket. Dogs and cats are usually the culprit in tearing up the gasket. Gaskets are inexpensive and easily replaceable at Lowe's and Home Depot.
- General statement: If something is missing that you know should be there, put it back on. This applies to air register vents, registers, light switch covers, window locks, etc.)
General statement: De-clutter everything. If it's dirty, clean it. If it's supposed to be shiny, shine it. If it's dusty, dust it or vacuum it. If it doesn't belong there, put it where it belongs, or find a place to put it, or make a place for it, or get rid of it!
When you have done everything you can or want to do yourself, a couple of days prior to putting your home on the market, have a cleaning crew come in and do a thorough finishing job.
Special areas to clean: Showers and shower doors. Venetian Blinds and Plantation Shutters. Sinks and Toilets. Air registers and air vents (vacuum the grates). Chandeliers. Bugs inside the glass in ceiling domes and fans. Baseboards. Spider webs and the bugs caught in spider webs outside the front door. Horizontal surfaces like mantels, chair rails and the top of the refrigerator.
- Closets. Closets generally don't need cleaning as much as they benefit from organizing. See "Organizing" below.
- Garage. Sweep or blow out all the grass clippings and leaves and spider webs. (If you have venetian blinds or shutters covering the windows in the garage, they probably need a cleaning).
- Kitchen. Clean the oven. Clean the inside of the microwave. Minimize the clutter under the sink to a few cleaning items. If you have a microwave that is above the cooking surface, and it has a metal filter, put the microwave filter in the dishwasher to clean it. Make the top of the stove sparkle. All stainless steel should be polished.
- Basement. Make your self a clean area where you can store things you really want to keep and another clean area where you can put things you finally decided to throw away. (You can also do a 3rd area if you want to have a yard sale or put items on Craigslist). Keep the "KEEP" area neat and organized. For the "THROW AWAY" pile call someone to remove it. I prefer "Mr. Junk" because they are lower priced, faster turnaround, and they take EVERYTHING, relative to their competition.
Closets are a topic unto themselves and require more detail than can be put here. BUT, they have a very significant impact on the potential Buyer.
- Linen Closet. Sheets, blankets and towels should be neatly folded and extra pillows stored high. Basically, it's a game of neat piles.
- Master Bedroom Closet. If you have wire racks and hangers, depending on the season, fold sweaters and store in neat piles. Shoes should be on racks or neatly paired and placed on the floor. Other than shoes, nothing on the floor. I could discuss color co-ordinating, or using only one type of hanger in the closet (for uniformity), or hanging all long sleeve shirts together and all short sleeves, etc. But you get the point.
- Children. If you have small children who like to play with their toys on the floor (or teenagers who do that too!), have a laundry basket always available in case there is going to be a "surprise showing". Throw everything into the basket, put it in the garage, leave and come back to where you were.
- Kitchen accoutrements need to be minimized. Items that complement the decor are good. Plastic bottles are bad, even soap dispensers.
- Paint what needs to be painted, both inside and out. If there is a lavender room, you can leave it if the bedding and the curtains match the room. Otherwise, either replace the bedding and curtains or neutralize the paint. (I prefer flat paint because it shows imperfections less than eggshell.
- Front Door Hardware. Do you need to replace it? (It's a strong "first impression" statement.)
- Flowers needed in the front yard for curb appeal?
- Is you lawn grass? Or is it weeds? You might consider a lawn service prior to, and during the selling period to get it as spectacular as possible.
- Fenced Yard? Does the fence need repair? If wood, is the wood gray and unattractive?
- Basketball hoop in the driveway? If it looks good, leave it. If not, at least replace the net and paint the pole.
- Edge the sidewalks and driveway.
- Replace the Heat and Air filters.
- Make sure all drains in the house drain rapidly. Inspectors don't like clogged drains.
- Do ceiling fans have a layer of dust on the leading edge?
- Are there ashes in the fireplace?
- Is there any broken furniture that can at least look like it isn't broken with a minor repair or paint?
- In the front and rear yard, are there any holes from the neighbor's dog? Fill and seed.
- Pantry. Straighten out the pantry and get rid of what you don't need. (If it is stuffed to the max, the Buyer will think that it's not large enough for them.)
- If you have dead plants in the house, either replace them (which would be good), or dispose of them (which eliminates clutter.)