By Mitch Kuffa
I recently had several phone calls from people who are trying to sell their home. They wanted to know what could be done to make their house stand out from the competition; how could they make their house more marketable, sellable, and desirable.
After inspecting thousands of houses (and reporting my findings to potential buyers), I have a good idea of what buyers are looking for and what impresses them most. Here is a list of their top ten.
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What is the life expectancy of the roof? This is the most expensive item to update and buyers do not want to incur that cost after purchasing the home. If you know or can prove that your roof is less then 10 years old (with the average life expectance being 20 years), you should flaunt this item.
What is the condition of the furnace? This is another relatively high replacement cost item and an old furnace can be a health and safety issue to the occupants. If you don’t know the age of your furnace or if you are aware that it is older, but it still seems to be in good condition, get a licensed heating contractor to inspect it and give you some documentation that you can provide to a potential buyer. This type of consideration is highly appreciated.
3. Water issues
Is there any evidence of water (past or present) in the basement/foundation area? Whatever you do, don’t try to hide or conceal any stains! Approximately 90% of all foundations leak at one time or another and about 75% of those can be easily remedied. Make sure your gutters are clean, all downspouts have an extension away from the foundation, the eight-foot perimeter grade around your house needs to pitch away from the building (including any driveways, patios or sidewalks), trim your perimeter landscaping in order to allow air and sunlight infiltration, put a sheet of plastic under any wooden decks, discourage raised flower beds (which holds water near the foundation) and finally paint the interior perimeter of the foundation walls with a masonry waterproof product where possible. If there are any cracks in the interior of the foundation, patch them with an appropriate product before painting (hydraulic concrete or similar). Is there any water restriction? Replacing old galvanized water lines can be costly.
Are there any cracks in the wall or ceiling areas? The great majority of “hairline cracks” are simple stress areas, are very common, and should be patched or painted.
Is there any observable mold or mildew stains? Most houses have these somewhere, but if you can see it, treat it! They are most commonly found in basement areas. There are many great products on the market today that treat this concern and are economically priced. Also, look up in the attic. This condition shows up as a black or grey smudge on the underside of the roof sheathing (and is usually caused by a lack of venting and/or insulation having been added without increased ventilation). This is an area, where if you are not sure, you may need to get an expert to evaluate it for you.
Are there any lead paint concerns? If your house was built before 1978 it most likely has lead-based paint. No peeling paint should be seen anywhere! And clean up any residue caused by scraping or sanding prior to painting (exteriors as well).
Electrical irregularities are always a concern. If you have any malfunction or know of any nonprofessional work that has been done, get it fixed! If you want to scare away a potential buyer, just let them see taped up wires, wires hanging down, missing cover plates, lights that don’t work, etc. And for goodness sake, make sure all light fixtures have functioning light bulbs.
What is the condition of the garage? If it is attached to the house, does it have a proper fire separation wall between the garage and living area? This is typically a consistent application of drywall from the bottom concrete to the underside of the roof sheathing or also having the ceiling drywalled. A garage adds substantial value to the property. Clean it out, organize it, make sure all doors are functional, patch any holes, and paint it if necessary.
9. Crawl Spaces
Is there a crawlspace? When I open a crawlspace door I never know what to expect. One of the nicest experiences is when I find a crawlspace that is easily accessible, clean, has functional vents, is dry, and has a Visqueen plastic “vapor barrier” over the dirt floor.
Finally, cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness. Remember that cleanliness and evidence of maintenance sets the initial mood for the buyer and provides the proper curb appeal. There is no greater “turn off” than dirty walls, overgrown landscaping, urine stains all over the lawn, etc. The carpeting should be shampooed and the walls painted where necessary. And remember, typically home buyers like to put their own personal touch in kitchens, baths and other habitable areas of the house. So unless your kitchen is a real disaster, just make sure it is clean and functional.