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 Add a fresh coat of paint to rooms that are outdated or painted in loud colors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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Selling Your Home? Don’t Neglect These 6 Maintenance Tasks—or Else

wash windows racoon on brick wall rake leaves

By: Wendy Helfenbaum

If you’re a homeowner, you already know that keeping your property in tiptop shape requires dedication and patience for ongoing maintenance. But what if you’ve put your home on the market, or even accepted an offer? Perhaps you’re thinking: Not my problem anymore.

Sorry, folks, we’ve got news for you: Just because you’re selling doesn’t mean you’re off the hook from routine maintenance tasks—and that’s especially true if you’ve already vacated the house.

Sure, a well-cared-for house shows better: Small things like broken doorbells and leaky faucets make buyers wonder if your property also has bigger issues elsewhere. But more important, a little routine maintenance can help you avoid a catastrophic problem down the line (e.g., burst pipes, roof leaks, critters moving into your attic) that could devalue your property and derail that sale.

To prevent minor issues from escalating into full-blown, money-sucking, sale-killing problems, focus on these six important areas you can’t afford to neglect.

  1. Keep up the yard and walkways

Whether you’re still living at the home or not, you’ll want to make sure to keep your landscaping tidy—remove dead tree limbs, rake leaves, and clean out flowerbeds.

If your home is already vacant, have someone tend to the yard regularly so that grass and weeds don’t detract from your home’s appearance, suggests Kyle Hiscock, a Realtor® with Re/Max Reality Group in Rochester, NY.

“If your home does not have a well-maintained exterior, (potential buyers) will keep driving,” he cautions. “Plus, this kind of neglect can be a bull’s-eye for vandals to break into your property.”

Consider having lights on timers so the house doesn’t look dark all the time, and arrange for driveways and walkways to be plowed weekly in the winter months. And don’t let mail pile up in the mailbox.

  1. Clean the gutters and check the roof

This one’s easy to forget about, even when you don’t plan on going anywhere. But when it comes to gutter and roof issues, neglect can cause a dangerous domino effect.

Overflowing gutters can damage your foundation, and also lead to drainage issues. And, of course, you don’t want buyers seeing puddling water as they approach your house.

Just ask Alise Roberts, owner/broker at Alise Roberts & Company in Bellevue, WA. In the rainy Pacific Northwest climate, she frequently has to remind her clients to keep sidewalks clear of moss and clean gutters of pine needles and leaves.

“Buyers, seeing the house when it’s raining, will also see your gutters overflowing,” she says. “That’s a terrible first impression.”

And then there’s the roof. Of course, it’ll be examined during the home inspection, but it would behoove you to do it before putting your home on the market. Small roof cracks can remain undetected for years, causing water to slowly infiltrate your home and damage ceilings and walls.

“If water starts to penetrate a property, it can be a very difficult sale,” Hiscock notes. “Water in basements or in homes is one of the top three things buyers are scared of.”

  1. Service your heating systems

It’s not sexy, but the hidden guts of your home need regular attention, whether you’re still living there or not. That means having your HVAC systems professionally serviced.

First up, your furnace: If you get it addressed before you list your home, it won’t smell like dust when you crank up the heat during an open house on a chilly day. While you’re at it, have the duct work and filters cleaned as well. And if you have baseboard heaters, vacuum those out, too.

(Speaking of heat, Roberts suggests keeping the thermostat at 66 degrees Fahrenheit when agents are showing your house so buyers can visit your place comfortably. This will also avoid any issues with pipes freezing or bursting.)

Have a chimney? Be sure to have it inspected and cleaned as well.

“You want to make sure there are no cracked flue tiles, and that from the exterior, there are no gaps in the mortar between the bricks,” Hiscock explains. “Otherwise, you could potentially have the chimney fall over onto the house, and that’s a very expensive fix.”

  1. Keep the critters out

If you don’t want to add “family of raccoons included” to your listing (and pay the hefty tab for getting them out), inspect the inside and outside of your home for any areas that need to plugged up. Take care of holes from damaged siding or fascia under the roofline—and do it promptly.

“In a colder climate, squirrels look for somewhere warm to go, and they’ll find their way into your property,” Hiscock says.

Stove and dryer vents, for example, should be covered with wire mesh to deter pests.

  1. Wash your windows

Most people associate sparkling windows with spring-cleaning, Roberts says. But if your house is on the market, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is—you need to get those babies squeaky clean.

“If buyers walk through your home and all they see is dirty windows, that’ll really mar the showing process,” she says.

Make sure to wipe them down after a bad storm, when they’re especially likely to show muck and grime buildup.

  1. Check the calendar

Depending on what time of year you bring your house to market, pay attention to any details that scream, “We don’t live here or care anymore,” Roberts says.

That means tackling seasonal tasks such as clearing away lawn mowers in the fall and storing shovels in the spring.

“Too often, I see a seller’s patio furniture still outside during the winter time. To me, that’s not a good reflection on the property,” Hiscock says. “It shows deferred maintenance and lack of caring, and can really turn off a potential buyer.

“If a seller can’t put away their patio furniture and lawn mower, what makes you believe that they’ve actually maintained the property all the years they’ve been there?” he adds.

Staying on top of these regular tasks will make it easier to sell your home with fewer headaches. Plus, it’ll preserve the value of your property, and potentially, the thickness of your wallet, too.

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7 Small Home Flaws That Can Be Big Deals for Buyers

torn screen

By: Stephanie Booth

After living in the same home for a while, it’s amazing what you can get used to. A creaky floorboard, for instance. A chipped tile that you’ve been meaning to replace but haven’t gotten around to. A doorknob that needs a little coaxing to turn. No big deal, right?

Well, these small flaws can be huge deal breakers when you decide to sell your home.

“Prospective buyers are going to add all the ‘flaws’ they find to the price of the property, and that’s when they start trying to discount the price,” cautions Jane Peters, a real estate broker and owner of Home Jane Realty in Los Angeles.

Curious what some of these seemingly small problems are? Check out this list of minuscule (to you) things that buyers see as big hurdles to closing a sale.

  1. An old electrical panel

Recently, home buyer made a controversial request for a repair at a property listed by Cedric Stewart, a real estate consultant at Keller Williams in the Washington, DC, area.

Apparently their home inspector claimed that $2,000 worth of repairs were needed on an electrical panel to get it “up to code.” The sellers insisted the current panel worked just fine.

“To the sellers, it was a small issue,” says Stewart, “but to the buyers, it was an electrical panel that could fail them at any time.”

To end this particular dispute, Stewart received bids from four electricians and got the repair quote knocked down to $1,200. The sellers offered that amount as a credit in lieu of repair at closing.

“The buyers grumbled,” Stewart recalls, “but they took it.”

  1. Ripped window screens

Window screens will wear out over time, but if yours are torn, take it seriously.

“They’re a pain for anyone to replace,” says Stewart. “Therefore, sellers don’t want to do it and buyers will insist that they do. If the sellers refuse to fix it, the buyers will demand a credit. This can be a major point of contention, and we’ve seen it delay progress before.”

Stewart recalls one seller who agreed to replace a damaged window screen. But on the final walk-through, it still hadn’t been done—and the buyer threatened to walk away from the deal.

“It worked out,” says Stewart, “but it wasn’t pretty.”

  1. The location of your laundry room

Even if you own a state-of-the-art washer and dryer—and plan to bestow both on your lucky buyers—they may not be so thrilled with these nice appliances if they aren’t situated in what they think is the “right” place.

“Some buyers have a problem with the laundry being on the ‘wrong’ level, especially in a three-level house or townhouse-style condo,” Peters explains.

In other words, you might be fine lugging your laundry to the basement, but don’t expect all buyers to feel the same way. Offer to move these items to a new locale to warm buyers up.

  1. Sticky door locks

Live in a house long enough, and you’ll encounter a malfunctioning door latch or lock. That may be no big deal to you, but it may alarm buyers big-time.

If it’s an exterior door, they will likely view this as a major safety issue, explains Stewart. And although it may seem like a simple fix, it’s often a complex one, he says.

Think about it: The company that installed the doors may no longer be around, the model may not be in production anymore, and/or it could be tough to get someone to replace the exact hardware. Consider fixing this problem before a buyer notices it.

  1. Your bathtub or shower

Some people prefer showers, others want baths (particularly parents who must clean up small kids). So if you’re missing one or the other, watch out.

In an ideal world, you’ll have both: a bath with a showerhead above. But even if your bathtub works just fine, make sure the style isn’t too off. Not everyone is excited to soak in a tub straight out of “Stranger Things” in avocado green. If that’s you, luckily there is an easy fix: Consider slapping on a new coat of paint (yes, you can do that). Here’s how to paint a bathtub.

  1. Small closets

“Many buyers focus on closets,” says Peters. “Are there enough? Are they large enough? Walk-in closets are also preferred.”

There are a few things you can do to ease these concerns. For one, try to make your closets look roomier by decluttering them as much as possible. Put excess items elsewhere (like a rented storage unit). You might also consider hiring a contractor to build or extend closets where needed—or at least point out to buyers that they can do this themselves.

  1. The walls of your kitchen

Some people like—no, make that love— open kitchens. So if your kitchen currently has four walls, you could be in trouble.

“Buyers may look at the possibility of breaking down a wall,” Peters says. But be warned, many might not want to do the work, or just get such a bad first impression of your kitchen that they move on. If you think your kitchen’s four walls feel cramped and is stalling your sale, consider opening it up yourself. Here’s how to knock down a wall.

 

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Does Home Disclosure Have to Include Previous Repairs?

previous home repair

By: Jeanne Sager

Home repairs are part and parcel of home ownership, but when it comes time to sell, does a home disclosure have to include those repairs?

It can be a conundrum. Buyers want (and deserve to have) a full picture of the house they’re buying and the condition it is in. However, disclosing a previous home repair may actually turn off a potential buyer. A foundation that’s had repairs for leaks several times over in recent years, for example, may signal to the buyer that they could have a major water problem on their hands. Both legal and ethical considerations come into play when you’re debating whether or not to ‘fess up to a previous repair. So let’s dig in!

What do you have to disclose to the seller?

Federal seller disclosure laws require sellers to be open and honest about the existence of lead-based paint in a home, but most laws regarding what a seller must share with a buyer are made at the state level. That means your state may or may not require that you disclose a previous repair, says Kathryn Bishop, a Realtor® with Keller Williams in Studio City, CA. To find out the laws in your state, do a search online for “[your state] seller disclosure laws.”

Does home disclosure include a previous repair?

In Bishop’s home state of California, law dictates that every significant repair made since purchasing a property needs to be disclosed. Your real estate agent will be able to advise you on what regulations must be followed in your state, so it’s best to disclose a previous repair to them at your first meeting about the sale. And note there are some exceptions to the law. You don’t have to share every single fix made in all the years you’ve lived in a house—just the big ones.

“I don’t mean when you’ve changed a faucet washer,” Bishop clarifies. “I mean when you had to repair a plumbing break.”

Nor do you technically have to disclose work done by the previous owner, even if they disclosed it to you. That said, many experts advise that sellers share that information too.

Because they might very well find out on their own, anyway. During the home inspection phase, buyers may request a copy of your Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report—a free report that details every claim made to your homeowner’s insurance in the past seven years. And even if you paid for a repair without the help of insurance, an eagle-eyed home inspector may note fresh paint on a ceiling repaired after a plumbing leak or start asking why the hot water heater, furnace, and other basement appliances seem to be brand new. Failing to disclose any of these things could put you in serious legal trouble.

The ethical side of seller disclosure

Even when disclosure isn’t required by law, or a project was done by a previous owner, Bishop still discusses disclosure with her clients. After all, you don’t want the seller caught by surprise with an issue that preceded your homeownership.

“If the previous owner disclosed in writing that they had a serious case of mold and it’s been cleaned up, I will advise my client who is now selling to pull out those old papers and disclose,” she says. “We know that what typically happens is the new buyer moves in, and the next-door neighbor asks if the mold has been cleaned up!”

The ways seller disclosure helps you

If following the law and being ethical aren’t reasons enough to disclose a previous repair, there’s are other benefits to doing so, says Michele Lerner, author of “Homebuying: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time.” Among them:

  • Buyers might prefer negotiating with sellers who have proven they are upfront with information about their home, as opposed to those who are just spinning everything to attract buyers.
  • Buyers want to know that sellers have maintained their property appropriately, so providing an example of your diligence in repairing your bathroom and fixing your ceiling can have a positive impact.
  • Your disclosure can protect you from future disputes with the buyers.
  • Buyers may feel relieved that you have already made necessary repairs, since that becomes one project they don’t have to handle in the immediate future.

 

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7 Important Things Home Sellers Often Forget to Do

By: Jennifer O’Neill

When you’re selling your home there’s so much to do: find a Realtor®, do touch-ups, get that balky air conditioner fixed, look into staging… It’s no wonder that sometimes things fall between the cracks. Big things. (We’re not pointing fingers, promise!) Our arsenal of experts—aka real estate agents who have worked with many home sellers—identify the to-do’s that sellers typically overlook. We promise you, these tasks are well worth the time it will take to complete them (which isn’t very long at all).

Heed this sound advice, and there’s a good chance selling your house won’t be nearly as stressful as everyone tells you it is.

To-do No. 1: Google your address

Not all sellers scour the Internet to find out what’s being said about their property, but they should. Nearly all buyers—90%—search online during their hunt for a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. You should be aware of what your online listing looks like, since it will influence the kinds of concerns buyers will have, says Avery Boyce, a Realtor with Compass Real Estate in Washington, D.C.

“Is the site’s estimated value very different from your asking price? It might be because tax records have the wrong information about the number of bedrooms or bathrooms your house has, and this is easily fixed,” Boyce says. Consider this too: Google Maps’ street view of your property may not show improvements that you’ve made, so you’ll want to be sure to include those updates in your listing.

To-do No. 2: Account for improvements and issues

“If you’ve owned your home for a while, make a list of all the problems you’ve solved while you’ve lived there,” says Boyce. This could include chimney fires, water damage, or a flood in the basement. Whether you solved the problem or not, you should disclose this information to the buyer so you don’t wind up in a lawsuit after the sale. Disclosing “invisible improvements” that you’ve made, like re-grading or adding a French drain system, can also be a great source of comfort for buyers, adds Boyce.

“The same goes for sewer lines or tanks, radon remediation, or leaky skylights.”

To-do No. 3: Check your real estate agent’s references

An agent’s bad behavior or incompetence could cost you time, money, and peace of mind, so it’s well worth taking extra steps to find the best real estate agent for you. Ask friends for recommendations.

Check that the people you’re considering have a current real estate license—with no complaints filed against them. Meet with the agent and reach out to a few of their references directly.

“Real estate agents should be happy to provide a number of references for a new client to call,” says Marianne Leonard Cashman a Realtor with William Raveis Real Estate in Andover, MA. As far as talking to your friends about a real estate agent recommendation, here are some questions Cashman suggests asking:

  • Did you have confidence in your real estate agent?
  • Do you think he/she had good knowledge of the local market?
  • Did your agent communicate well and keep you informed during the entire transaction?
  • Do you think that he/she negotiated well on your behalf?
  • Did your agent have good vendors who could assist you?
  • Did your agent returned calls/emails in a timely fashion?
  • Would you recommend this person? Why? (Or why not?)

To-do No. 4: Insist on social media marketing

You staged your home beautifully, picked a competitive price, and listed the property, but there’s something else you’ll need to prepare before you’re fully ready to sell—a social media marketing plan. Video tours, floor plans, and photo galleries promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are must-dos, advises Cashman.

“You want to make sure that your agent is using all avenues to attract the right buyer for your home,” she explains. “Make sure your home has a presence on your agent’s website, their agency’s website, and is promoted on various sites that will market the home and give information about open houses.”

To-do No. 5: Make sure the doorbell rings

Ah, attention to detail. It’s those little cosmetic repairs that could cost you your home sale. If buyers see that you can’t even be bothered to repair a busted doorbell, they’re automatically going to think about what else may need fixing and view the home negatively.

“First impressions make all the difference,” says Cashman. “A well-kept home, starting with the view from the curb, gives the perception that the seller has great pride in the home and has taken good care of it—which translates into less energy and costs for the buyer as they prepare to move in.”

To-do No. 6: Clean inside everything

Storage is a huge selling point for homes. So be warned: Buyers are going to poke around inside closets, drawers, cabinets, ovens, refrigerators, and even the dishwasher, whether they’re cleaned or not—so you’d better make sure they are clean.

“Spending the money on a service to deep-clean your home will come back to you at least 10 times in your sales price,” says Boyce. Even if you’ve swept up and scrubbed all surfaces to a shine, you’re not done until dust, crumbs, and creepy crawlies are cleaned out from within the small spaces too.

To-do No. 7: Clarify which items are not included

You don’t want a buyer to fall in love with your house because of the custom window treatments and then rescind their offer when they find out the curtains aren’t for sale.

“The law says that anything bolted to the wall or ceiling goes to the buyer unless specifically excluded in the contract,” says Boyce. “If you want to take your flat-screen TV, chandelier, or custom pot rack, be sure to label it as soon as the house goes on the market, so that buyers don’t bank on owning that item and wind up disappointed.”

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