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Helpful Tips

Tips to MAXIMIZE the resale value of your home!

It really is amazing how a home that presents itself in the best possible light can sell for much more money and sell more quickly than a home of comparable size and age in a similar location.

“Best possible light” means more than just nicely furnished and tidy, it also means a home that looks and feels fresh and well maintained, and in which the owners have paid attention to current color schemes and design trends.

The exterior of your home is obviously what buyers see first, and may be the deciding factor on whether they call or not and ask to make an appointment (they call it curb appeal)! If they don’t like what they see on the outside, it is very unlikely they will even want to see the inside. So, besides making sure that any siding, trim, windows, soffits and fascia are in good repair, the paint may need attention too.

Worn, peeling or faded paint indicates that the owners may not be keeping up with good maintenance habits, which can lead to problems with the house. A fresh coat of paint on the front, side or rear doors, and on the mail box too, can really make a difference.

Don’t neglect the house numbers too—remove them and spray paint them, or even replace them. If your deadbolts and door knobs are all tarnished and scratched, replace them! Buyers are often watching their agent put that key in the lock, and they notice old looking door hardware.

Wash the windows inside and out—make them sparkle! Buy a new front door mat, and sweep away (or pressure wash) any cobwebs and dirt on the walls, porch and walkway. Wash or replace any old, tarnished exterior light fixtures and make sure all of the light bulbs are working. Try to avoid using the “corkscrew” or yellow light bulbs—they just look bad through the clear glass of the fixtures.

Keep the lawn mowed, preferably on the diagonal, bushes always trimmed back and fresh mulch in the beds. Pull any weeds, and when the weather improves, be sure to leave some lushly planted pots of flowers by the door.

There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to de-age a house on the inside too. Painting should preferably done in a neutral color, and don’t neglect the ceiling or trim. It’s best to avoid semi-gloss or eggshell wall finishes, as they tend to show up every wall blemish or nail pop and emphasize them—flat wall and ceiling paint really is best, with a semi gloss for the trim. Be sure to repair any ceiling or wall cracks, and nail holes that don’t have an actual nail in them (hanging a picture) prior to repainting.
Rent a carpet steamer and clean the carpets—pre-treat for spots or stains ahead of steam cleaning. If your carpet is in good condition but is no longer laying flat (bunching up in areas) it may need to be re-stretched. If it is too worn or stained, it is best to replace it. The newer “frisee” style or the new types of Berber, may be preferable to the typical plush style of carpet. A monochromatic color scheme is usually best (carpet color and wall color that are very similar) and can make rooms appear larger.  Use the same color paint and carpet color throughout, if possible (especially in bedrooms and hallways) for a more unified appearance.

If your hardwood floors are very worn, scratched or the sun has bleached them (and throw rugs being removed reveals a “two tone” look to the floor), it may be wise to consider having the floors refinished. You will be amazed at the difference in the appearance of your floors—they will go from probably “looking their age” (the age of the house or worse!) to looking like you had brand new hardwood floors installed!

Buyers are especially interested in the condition of the kitchen and bathrooms and are often reluctant to tackle purchasing a home that needs a total kitchen or bath renovation. If your kitchen cabinets are old and tired looking, sometimes the best thing to do is to have them professionally painted inside and out before you put your home on the market. Replacing them can be very costly and often the paint job will give them a new lease on life! New hardware is another great “fix” for the cabinets—if you need a lot of pieces, check out the contractor’s packs at the “Big Box” hardware stores. Take one of your knobs, pulls or hinges with you to make sure you purchase the right size (check the distance of the holes on the pulls especially)! Make sure your kitchen faucet is not dripping or leaking—if possible, consider replacing it with a new one.

In your bathroom—be sure to keep it squeaky clean for showings! New towels, (nicely displayed) and even a new shower curtain can make a big difference. If the grout looks bad or dark, bleach it, scrub it, and if need be, have it re-grouted.  It costs about $100-$150 dollars to buy a new toilet and they are not hard to install. Big Box stores will even have them installed for you for a fee, and if you are having a plumber to the house to install that new kitchen faucet, have them install the toilets too.  You will be astonished at how a new toilet makes the bathroom look much newer. At the very least, be sure that your toilet is not leaking or in need of a new “flapper”. Buyers can hear the dripping, or “shushing noise” toilets make when the house is empty and they are viewing it. A new flapper costs about $10 and can be installed easily. Again, take your old one with you to the store if you are not sure which one you need.  If your bathroom is really old, and very out of date, and major updating is really out of the question, at least try to pay close attention to making wall color choices in the room that are the most compatible with the old tile.  Be sure to hide personal items under the (neatly organized) sink cabinet or bathroom closet, and please don’t leave a plunger out for all to see!

Clean out cabinets, toss out, donate or give away unnecessary items that just add clutter and make your home feel too stuffed and too small. Organize everything! Don’t forget to do the same in the garage. Buyers will look in cabinets, drawers, closets. In a buyers mind a home that is well organized and well maintained is a home that has been cared for.  To them, this translates into a home that is in good condition and possibly worth purchasing.  Look at your home from every angle, inside and out. Be critical and observant! Distance yourself emotionally from your home while you are doing so—remember that this will be a home on the market competing against many others. This vigilance and extra effort can pay off big time!

Important Property Issues to Explore When Buying or Selling a Home

Whether you are an experienced home owner who has not bought or sold a home in awhile or a buyer who is new to the market, it is a good idea to become more familiar with the various types of verification measures most buyers currently explore when purchasing a home today.

Most buyers are advised by their real estate agents to strongly consider having a thorough home inspection on any home that they are purchasing—often soon after they are “under contract”.  This should typically include a complete inspection of the actual home and any outbuildings or structures, a radon test, and a termite/pest inspection.  If this is an older home that might have asbestos pipes or tiles, lead based paint, or an oil tank for heating oil, it would be wise to have these inspected as well.  Additionally, if the home is not connected to city water or sewer, a septic tank inspection and a water test to ensure there are no contaminants in the drinking water should also be performed.  Certain other important verifications should also be made (the gallons of water per minute can the well accommodate; the number of bedrooms was the septic system permitted for, etc.).

The actual home inspection should be a thorough “going over “of the house.  Although no inspector can see inside of interior walls or create damage in the name of “exploration”, or guarantee everything they have inspected, a good inspector will examine all appliances, the HVAC system, electrical system, plumbing system, all windows and doors, insulation, the roof, and attempt to point out any framing or structural defects in the house, driveways and outbuildings.   A good report should also point out the overall condition, and the apparent quality of construction.   While some homes may need cosmetic updating, a home inspector is really looking to comment of the functional condition of the home and to point out any problems.

A home inspector in North Carolina is required to be licensed by the state.  The best inspectors typically have an extensive background in construction and/or engineering,  but when they encounter significant issues with certain systems (possibly like the HVAC or gas logs or roof) they usually recommend that the buyer obtain an additional inspection by a specialist in that field.  For example, an “inbalance” in an HVAC system would typically result in the home inspector stating that “further exploration with this system is beyond the scope of the home inspector and further evaluation by a licensed heating and air contractor is recommended” or  “the roof appears to be near the end of its functional life, and a licensed roofing contractor should be enlisted to further evaluate”.

Most home inspectors can also perform a radon test at the same time that the home inspection is being performed.  Some will request to come a few days prior to the actual home inspection to place the monitor so that the results can be read at the time of the home inspection and some will place it at the time of the inspection and come a few days later to retrieve it. Naturally, appointments need to be made for this in order to accommodate both the sellers and buyers schedules.  Radon is a colorless, odorless, carcinogenic gas that can seep into a house through a slab, basement wall or crawlspace.   The Environmental Protection Agency mandates that any radon reading above 4.0 pCi/L should be remediated to bring the radon to acceptable, healthy levels.  Most buyers want to have this test performed, and most home owners should possibly consider having their home tested.  For health considerations alone, this is a wise decision.  Also, if are planning to sell your home, it is better to find out in advance if you are in need of radon remediation.  That way, you can have a system installed ahead of putting your home on the market.  Most buyers seem to feel more comfortable in knowing that while there may have been a past high radon level in their prospective new home, that it has been taken care of—rather than finding out during a home inspection, which can make a buyer feel uneasy about the house (despite the fact that many people have homes with a higher than desired reading of radon at some point).

Pest inspections are also very important when buying a home (and some lenders even require this).  It is also extremely beneficial for home owners to have an annual termite/wood destroying insect inspection.  You might not ever see any outward sign of an infestation in your daily living.  Since termites cannot survive in daylight and usually burrow into the wood members of your home, often crawling thorough “forage tubes” which protect them from light, and most folks don’t even know they are there.  They can significantly damage or destroy your house if left untreated.  A licensed termite inspector knows specifically what to look for, and in the event that they find a pest problem, can and should show you where they see the signs in your home.  They can treat these destructive pests, stopping further damage, and should come back every year thereafter for an annual inspection.  Once your home is treated, it is important to keep it “under bond” with the pest company.  For a nominal fee, they will ensure that there are no active termites every year and if they do see signs of re-infestation, will usually treat at no additional cost as long as it is under bond.  Pest companies offer various types of treatments, and they are effective for a varying number of years, and then retreatment is often advised when the chemicals are no longer effective.

Excessive moisture and mold can also create significant issues for any homeowner.  Excessive dampness in or around a crawlspace or basement wall is one of your homes worst enemies.  It really is an “open invitation” to termites,  and promotes decay and mold growth.  This is often fairly easily avoided–keep those gutters and downspouts clean and free flowing away from the house, bring in additional soil to mound around the perimeter of your foundation if it has compacted and or eroded over time, have a chimney cap installed or inspected if you have an old one, have your leaky spigots and faucets repaired, and fix that roof leak or replace it, folks!  If left untreated for any extended period, moisture intrusion is a recipe for a really big problem and potentially huge expense.

Additionally, if you are considering making any type of significant improvement to your home (a room or partial room addition, finishing a basement or attic, changing windows, building a new or replacement deck, remodeling a kitchen or bath involving electrical or plumbing changes, etc.), please be sure that you hire a licensed contractor who will obtain all necessary permits.  If you are a DIY type, be sure to contact the county building inspection department to be sure that any improvements are done with a permit when required.  If you are attempting to purchase a home in which there appears to have had recent improvements, it would be wise to verify with the county that the correct permits were issued and “closed” at the end of the project. This will ensure that the construction was done properly and approved by the county.

Lastly, I always encourage my buyer clients to have a new survey of the property performed.  This is the most effective way to learn if there are any encroachments on the property (or whether the surveyed property is encroaching on another).  This may be a simple thing—like a driveway corner encroaching on a neighbors yard by a foot, or a more significant encroachment—like a concrete swimming pool where half was built on a neighbors land—no kidding, I really encountered this on a property .  It is important to know what you are buying or selling with regards to a survey, because chances are you may learn that you have an issue at a very inopportune time (like when you are already under contract).   Often the survey will turn up nothing problematic, but if there should be an issue, it is wise to know so that it can be dealt with properl y.  Even if it is not an issue you consider a “big deal problem”, chances are the next buyer will not feel that way and will expect you to fix it.

Being armed with enough good information can have a significant impact on the life span of the home you own or are buying, and can also have a big financial impact on one of your largest investments.  In addition, the information you may learn during this process can help increase your ability to address maintenance items that nearly every homeowner has to tackle.   Hopefully, this will help you to avoid any costly or unpleasant surprises!