7 Important Home Repairs to Do Right After Moving Out

home improvement

By Daniel Bortz

Congratulations: You’re moving out, and on to your next home! Now all you have to do is pack up your things and skedaddle, right?

Not so fast. If you’re still trying to sell your current home, you’ll want to make sure it looks its best, which means you might have to make a few repairs. And there’s no better time to do this than after you’ve removed all your boxes and furnishings since this means you’ve got plenty of space to get the job done right (and with minimal mess).

Granted, you might have already made some upgrades during the early stages of sales prep … but moving out means you could uncover a whole lot more. And trust us, buyers will notice!

Of course, if you’ve already sold your home, you’re off the hook … but if not, it will behoove you to do these seven upgrades after moving out. Don’t worry, they’re fairly easy, and they’ll make a big difference helping you find a buyer who’ll pay top dollar.

1. Patch holes in walls

Seeing walls with holes—even small holes left by nails—is an immediate turnoff to home buyers, says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design at The Home Depot. But you don’t have to repaint your entire house to have your home looking fresh again. A little spackling, followed by spot painting—a cinch if you’ve kept some original paint—will do the trick. (If you don’t have any leftover paint, peel a dollar-size piece from the wall and bring it to the paint store so they can match the color for you.)

If you have only a few holes and scratches, you can fill them with spackling compound, which is sold in small quantifrecities. For a greater number of gashes or holes, use joint compound, which is sold in quarts or 5-gallon buckets.

2. Add a fresh coat of paint to rooms that are outdated or painted in loud colors

Love that plum paint color you chose for your master bedroom? Home buyers might not! The good news is, painting a room is an easy, low-cost project you can do yourself. Selecting the right hue, though, is crucial.

“Neutral colors are generally the safest choice, as they blend with many different decor styles,” says Hunter Macfarlane, Lowe’s project expert. “Gray is a popular color to paint a room before selling, as it gives the walls depth while still tying furniture and other decor items together.”

Moreover, “a fresh coat of paint never hurt resale value,” Fishburne says.

3. Replace old outlet wall plates

This is another quick and budget-friendly way to make a space feel cleaner and updated, Macfarlane says. Proceed with caution, however: Old wall plates can be a fire hazard if they’re cracked or damaged in any way. If you suspect there’s an issue, hire an electrician to replace the wall plates for you.

4. Clean carpeting

Dirty and dingy carpets are huge eyesores, which is why David Pekel, chief executive officer at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, recommends that homeowners give their house’s carpeting a good cleaning after moving out. You can amp up your vacuum with rug-cleaning products such as powders, foam sprays, and liquid shampoos available at grocery and hardware stores. For stained areas, use a bristled brush to work the cleaning solution into the carpet before allowing it to dry and then vacuuming up.

To remove embedded dirt, you may need to use a powerful industrial-style carpet-cleaning machine, like a Rug Doctor, which sprays hot water with a detergent over the carpet and extracts it with a high-powered vacuum. Industrial carpet cleaners have more washing and sucking power than most consumer carpet cleaners, but they’re expensive to buy—about $400 to $700—so it’s more economical to rent one from a hardware store for about $25 to $30 per day.

5. Clean hardwood floors

Many home buyers swoon over hardwood floors. So if you have them, make sure they’re glistening after you move out.

“Wood is probably the easiest floor covering to keep clean, but you have to use the right cleaning products,” says Brett Miller, vice president of education and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis.

Most wood floor installers or manufacturers recommend cleaners that contain isopropyl alcohol, which dries quickly, and are available at home supply stores. To make your own solution, simply add a capful of white vinegar to a gallon of water, which will help dissolve grease and grime on the floor but won’t strip the finish. To remove shoe scuffs, rub marks with a tennis ball, which cleans without scratching the finish.

Under no circumstances should you use a steam mop, Miller warns.

“Steam is horrible for wood floors. It opens the pores in woods and damages the finish, causing irreversible damage to any wood floor,” he says. Here’s more on how to clean hardwood floors.

6. Replace or refresh old hardware

Swapping out old cabinet and door hardware is a simple, low-cost project you can tackle in a day that will make your home more visually appealing. All you need is a screwdriver and a free afternoon. Want to save some money? Keep your existing hardware and give it a makeover with spray paint—a few light coats can breathe new life and personality into rusty old knobs and pulls.

7. Improve the look and functionality of your master bathroom

A full bathroom remodel is expensive; on average, it costs $10,344, according to HomeAdvisor. Just a few changes to your master bathroom, though, can make it one of the most stylish rooms in your house.

Simple touch-ups, like regrouting and recaulking bathroom tile, will make the room look newer. In addition, swapping out inefficient toilets, faucets, and showerheads for products that aid in water conservation can add real appeal to prospective homebuyers who are looking to lower their water footprint (and lower their water bill!). A low-flow toilet, for example, uses 20% less water than a standard toilet, and water-saving showerheads can help families save almost 3,000 gallons of water a year.

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Is Replacing Carpet With Hardwood Always Worth It?

replace carpet with hardwood

By: Michele Lerner

Thinking about replacing your floors? Especially if you have carpet, the choice seems clear: Hardwood floors are preferred by home buyers and renters across the United States.

But consider carefully whether hardwood floors are the right choice for every room in your home—and what type you might want to install for the best resale value.

As you weigh investing in your floors, you’ll need to evaluate your budget, the preferences and traditions in your community and your own personal taste. Some people only want to step on soft carpet, while others prefer hard surfaces. In some warm climates such as Florida, ceramic tile flooring rivals hardwood in popularity.

In more traditional markets, tastes still lean toward oak floors, but some owners of more contemporary homes are choosing to stain their wood floors in different colors. Other trends in hardwood include wider planks, the use of reclaimed wood or hand-scraped wood that looks antique and exotic species of wood such as hickory or walnut.

Homeowners on a tight budget also may want to look into laminate flooring, which offers the look of wood at a lower price point.

Keep in mind that people with allergies typically want a hard surface that won’t hold dust. You should also think about the care and maintenance required for your floor surface since you’ll need to take care of it for years. Hardwood flooring lasts longer than carpet, can be easier to keep clean and can be refinished.

In the end, though, the decision about whether to install hardwood or carpeting in a bedroom should be based on your personal preference, at least if you intend to stay in the home for years.

Hardwood Flooring: It’s What Buyers Want

According to HGTV, the top request of home buyers and renters when looking for a home is hardwood flooring. In fact, a study of homebuyer preferences by USA Today using data from the National Association of REALTORS® found that 54% of home buyers were willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring.

Installing hardwood flooring can cost between $9 and $12 per square foot, compared with about $3 to $5 per square foot for carpet—so some homeowners opt to install hardwood only in some rooms rather than throughout their home. However, carpet typically needs to be replaced if it becomes stained or worn out. Good quality carpet can last about 10 to 15 years, while hardwood can last forever.

The return on investment for installing hardwood will vary according to your market and other factors, but hardwood flooring can often help your home sell faster.

Reasons to Install Carpet

While many buyers and homeowners prefer hardwood flooring throughout their home, some people prefer carpet in the bedrooms—because they like a softer surface. When you live in a two or three-story home, carpet also helps reduce noise.

If you would still prefer hardwood floors throughout your home, you could use put area rugs in your bedroom.

This story was rewritten from an earlier version on realtor.com®.

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3 Areas Your Home Inspector Should Check in the Attic

home inspection

By: Patricia Anne Tom

Before purchasing a house, it’s important to hire a home inspector to evaluate the home from bottom to top—including the attic.

This often-overlooked storage space can provide visual cues to potential problems in the safety and structural integrity of a home.

If there is damage present, the inspection can help you determine what to bring into the sale negotiations, including an estimate of repair costs.

Look at these three primary areas when analyzing the attic.

1. Structural Damage

Before closing on a home, the home inspector should examine the attic for structural damage. Damage to the trusses and rafters can indicate that the home has shifted, causing them to crack or break. A substandard level of wood quality, improper construction or incorrect lumber size may have allowed these pieces to deteriorate and could cause the roof to sag and eventually leak.

If there has been fire damage, you should be able to see evidence in black marks from charred or smoke-damaged wood. However, check to see that such damage hasn’t been camouflaged with layers of paint.

Because water usually enters the shell of the home from the roof and not from the sides, you may see water stains if the roof is leaking or has leaked in the past. Signs of moisture also could indicate that ventilation is inadequate.

Inspectors also may be able to see pest damage from termites if they have eaten the wood (or from other rodents that can leave chew marks on wires and insulation or excrement). Rodents like squirrels and rats often enter through the eaves or loose boards.

2. Proper Insulation

An attic must be properly insulated with the required R-level of insulation material for your climate: the colder the climate, the higher R insulation number. Your home inspector will note whether this is up to code, as the code may have changed since the home’s original construction.

An inspector also should be able to tell you whether insulation has been placed properly and in the correct direction, according to the type of batts (sections of insulation backed with heavy paper) or blow-in insulation used.

In addition, attic windows and dormers should be properly insulated and in good condition to prevent outdoor elements from entering into the attic.

3. Chimney and Storage Areas

An attic inspection will show the condition of the exterior of the chimney shaft under the roof. It should be sealed properly where it meets the attic floor and roof. The condition of the bricks and mortar should be solid—not cracked and crumbly.

Although this inspection will not tell you what the interior chimney shaft condition is like, it will give you an idea of the chimney’s exterior structural health.

While the inspector performs the attic inspection, note the condition of storage areas and attic floors, look for damaged floorboards and again look for evidence of water, pest and fire damage.

Crawling into the attic may be uncomfortable, but a proper inspection will help to ensure there are no skeletons in the attic that will haunt the integrity of your future home.

Updated from an earlier version by Philip Commins.

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Choose Your Flooring: Solid Wood vs. Engineered Wood

wood flooring

By: Cicely Wedgworth for Realtor.com

If you are considering having hardwood floors installed in your home, you’re going to have to decide whether you want solid wood planks or engineered wood planks.

Both qualify as hardwood flooring, but they’re surprisingly different from each other.

Solid Hardwood Planks

Solid wood planks are milled from a single piece of hardwood and covered with a thin, clear protective layer that often consists of aluminum oxide, ceramic or an acrylic substance.

Typically three quarters of an inch, the thickness of solid wood planking enables it to be sanded and refinished many times throughout the life of the floor.

Because the plank is a solid piece of wood, it will expand and contract in accordance with the home’s relative humidity. To prevent warping, the home’s interior relative humidity needs to remain between 45% and 65% all year round.

Solid wood flooring is available in a wide array of wood species—including oak, maple, and black walnut as well as regional-specific choices like pecan, mesquite and others. The market also sometimes offers exotic species of hardwood from Brazil, Africa and elsewhere.

Solid wood flooring is permanently nailed to the subfloor. Because of the expansion and contraction issues, installers will normally leave a gap between the wall and the floor to accommodate swelling.

This type of flooring should only be installed in parts of the home above grade and only over plywood, wood or oriented strand board (OSB) subfloors.

Engineered Hardwood Planks

Hardwood planks classified as “engineered” feature multiple layers (typically three to five) bonded together under extreme heat and pressure.

The layers typically include a top veneer of hardwood backed by less expensive layers of plywood—although some manufacturers use substrates made from recycled wood fibers mixed with stone dust for improved durability and stability.

Because of the way engineered hardwood is processed, it is not as affected by humidity as solid wood planks are. Therefore, the product is often the preferred choice for kitchens and bathrooms or in areas where the humidity level can vary—like in a basement or a part of the house below grade, as long as a moisture barrier is placed between the subfloor and the hardwood planks.

They are also better suited for installing over in-floor heating systems.

Engineered wood planks now are being created with a tongue and groove installation method, much like laminate flooring. This enables them to be installed in a floating floor format without nails or glue.

Engineered hardwood floors are suitable for installation on all levels of the home and over plywood, wood, OSB and concrete subfloors.

Which Wood Flooring Should I Choose?

Ultimately, your hardwood choice is going to be determined by where you are planning to install the product and what you’re looking for in terms of design aesthetic.

If you’re installing hardwood flooring in a lower level of your home or in an area where moisture or high (or low) humidity might be an issue, then you’re going to want to stick with engineered hardwood.

On the other hand, if you are installing the new floor on an above-grade level and you want a traditional hardwood floor, then you can go ahead with solid hardwood.

Both types offer a beautiful finish and will increase the value of your home—as long as they are installed correctly and maintained properly over the duration of your ownership.

Updated from an earlier version on realtor.com®.

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