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. If your home does not have a well-maintained exterior, (potential buyers) will keep driving. 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.
2. 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. Buyers, seeing the house when it’s raining, will also see your gutters overflowing, and 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.
3. 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. While you’re at it, have the duct work, registers, and filters cleaned as well. Have a chimney? Be sure to have it inspected and cleaned as well.
4. 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.
5. Wash your windows: Most people associate sparkling windows with spring-cleaning, 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.
6. 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.” That means tackling seasonal tasks such as clearing away lawn mowers in the fall and storing shovels in the spring. It shows deferred maintenance and lack of caring, and can really turn off a potential buyer. 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.
Author: Wendy Helfenbaum