When getting a home ready to sell and be inspected there are quite a few things that the seller can do to help make the home more presentable both to a potential buyer as well as the home inspector that will be sure to follow. As they say, first impressions are lasting.
The first thing should be obvious – curb appeal. Keep the lawn mowed, vegetation trimmed around the home, weeds pulled, and flowers blooming. Of course, some of these things can be tough when selling a home between November and March.
Beyond the landscaping, an equally important concern is the condition of the home’s siding material and roof. A well maintained exterior gives the impression of a well maintained interior. If the siding is falling off, there is lots of rotted wood trim, the front storm or screen door is held on with one screw, or there is a considerable amount of deteriorated external masonry, what will the potential buyer think is waiting inside for him?
A pleasant aroma is welcoming to visitors, even a little scented candle can do wonders to encouraging a potential buyer to “come on in”. Too much of a strong odor, though, can make a potential buyer think that something is being covered up. Freshly painted or wallpapered walls and clean, uncluttered floors also give the impression of a well maintained home. I can recall quite a few homes where I’ve arrived to perform a home inspection and I have to find spaces among the 'stuff' covering the floors so I can walk in, and hopefully find a way back out. Clutter in the home can tell the potential buyer a few things, such as ‘there’s very little storage in the home’ and/or ‘the seller hasn't maintain the home’. As most Realtors® know, a common reason people move is because they’ve outgrown their home and need more room. A cluttered home tells this type of buyer ‘maybe this home isn’t the one for me’. If the seller just has lots of stuff, a good idea may be convincing the seller to put some of their stuff into storage while their home is on the market.
On the other hand, some buyers find a vacant home unpleasing or non-welcoming. Having a Certified Home Stager put some strategic furnishings back in the home can sometimes help.
An easy and relatively inexpensive thing that a seller can do is have the home’s heating/cooling systems serviced prior to putting the home on the market. One of the most common things that I run across when inspecting homes is the lack of recent service records posted at the HVAC equipment. Un-maintained heating and cooling equipment can be more expensive to operate and it can wear out quicker. A potential buyer having proof of a regularly serviced HVAC system can help put their mind at ease that they won’t have to shell out $4,000~$8,000 in the coming year to replace a worn out system. Make sure the service records are posted right at the furnace or boiler or A/C system for the buyer and inspector to clearly see.
Ensuring all plumbing and electrical work is performed by licensed and qualified professionals can also go a long way to presenting a good first impression. What would you think if you took a prospective buyer through a home and there was exposed wiring or leaks visible in the home? This could turn off some buyers immediately, especially if they see significant lack of maintenance.
There are also lots of relatively easy and inexpensive things that a seller can do to get a home ready to sell. Some of these include properly caulking around joints in the bathrooms, repairing torn window screens, cleaning or replacing stained carpeting, etc. Replace smoke detector batteries or replace the smoke detectors themselves if they are more than 10 years old; if unsure, remove the smoke detectors from the wall or ceiling, the manufacturer probably stamped the manufacture date on the back (if no date is shown, assume it’s old and replace it). Even replacing burnt out light bulbs (inside and outside) can go a long way to welcoming a potential buyer. How many of us have walked into a strange basement only to find all of the light bulbs burnt out leaving us a little wary of where we venture?
You never know when a ‘simple to repair issue’ may prevent a prospective buyer from making an offer. The less the buyer has to do after closing, the more attractive the home becomes and the easier it is to sell. Getting a home ready to sell doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but regular maintenance prior to the sale can go a long way in attracting more potential buyers and keeping them attracted. A pre-listing ("Ready For Purchase") seller's home inspection performed by WIN Home Inspection can also go a long way at helping a seller know what areas need attention before putting the home on the market. A pre-listing inspection can also save the seller money as they'll have time to get repair quotes so that they know exactly how much a repair may cost before a buyer comes along and asks for 2 or 3 times the repair quote in credit.
A buyer's home inspection report will include areas needing repair or attention. If the seller has already had their own inspection, and any larger issues have already been addressed, this helps instill more confidence in the home buyer to proceed with their home purchase.
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© 2014 Matthew Steger
Matthew Steger, owner/inspector of WIN Home Inspection, is a Certified Level 1 Infrared Thermographer, an ASHI Certified Inspector (ACI), an electrical engineer, and a US Dept. of Energy Home Energy Score Assessor. He can be reached at: 717-361-9467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WIN Home Inspection has provided a wide array of home inspection services in the Lancaster, PA area since 2002. This article was authored by Matthew Steger, ACI - owner of WIN Home Inspection in Lancaster, PA. No article, or portion thereof, may be reproduced or copied without prior written consent of Matthew Steger.