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After living in a home for a period of time, it's easy to become accustomed to the way it looks.  Even the most discerning people can easily overlook deferred maintenance items and/or clutter in their own home.  When you decide to put your home on the market, however, it is time to take a good, hard look at your house, and try to see it as others may see it.  There are a number of relatively simple and usually inexpensive things that can be done to help your home become more appealing to prospective home buyers, and consequently easier to sell and at the price that you want. 

CURB APPEAL

Many home buyers peruse neighborhoods looking at listed properties from outside the home before inquiring with the listing agent to show them the inside.  A first impression is very powerful and if the prospective buyer doesn't like the house from the outside, they probably won't inquire at all.  You'll never get a second chance to make that first impression.

In order to get prospective home buyers past your front door, you need to add some "curb appeal".  Here's a list of things that can be done that will help to give it some of that "curb appeal", as well as add value to your home.

 OUTSIDE MAINTENANCE

First of all, get rid of all of the "clutter".  Toys, bikes, garden tools, mowers, tractors, etc., store it all away.  If you don't have enough storage space on your property, for the time that you have your house on the market consider renting a small storage space.  Anything that you don't want anymore, have a yard sale or donate it.  If it's "junk", get rid of it.

Clean the exterior.  Wash off any dirt or stains from vinyl siding, brick or stone veneer, concrete patios and driveways.  Clean wood decks and re-seal if necessary.  Wash windows.  If you have outdoor pets, make sure that no waste is left in the lawn.

Scrape and paint those wood surfaces that are worn, peeling or cracking.  Dress up the front door with a fresh coat of paint and perhaps add a seasonal wreath.  Remember...Curb appeal.

Caulk any cracks around window and door frames, at the chimney/siding joint, etc.  Caulk/re-mortar/re-parge any cracks in the foundation.  Not only does this help with appeal value, it also has the practical benefit of keeping moisture out of your home.  For information about caulking, see http://www.onthehouse.com/wp/20021028 or http://www.ronhazelton.com/howto/caulking-tips-video.htm.
 
Caulk or re-mortar any cracks in sidewalks, and/or seal any cracks in asphalt driveways with sealant or "cold patch".  If any areas are "trip hazards", consider making more extensive repairs to remove "trip hazards". 

Clear your gutters and downspouts of debris (leaves, sticks, pine needles, etc.) that may block the flow of water from your roof to the ground area.   Although this effort may not be visible to prospective home buyers, it can prevent the possibility of a home buyer seeing rain gutters overflow on the off chance that they are viewing your home when it's raining. 
 
Re-grade/fill in any irregularities in the lawn such as holes, sudden dips, etc.  Ideally, the ground surrounding the house should slope gradually away from the house.  Fix/remedy any "safety hazards", such as drop offs of more than 30" from decks or retaining walls. 
 
Trim overgrown shrubbery.  Ideally, shrubs should not be right up against the house.  There should be at least about 1' of space between the house and any shrubs/trees.  Remove any dead or unappealing shrubbery or trees; consider removing some shrubs/trees if property looks overgrown.  Conversely, if property looks barren, consider adding some strategically placed shrubs, flowers or trees (weather permitting).
  
Fix or remove any broken fencing.  Remove any rotten landscaping timbers. 

INSIDE MAINTENANCE

  Clean everything in sight.  The kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms and general living spaces, and clean/test household appliances and equipment.  Don't forget to clean the grout at all tile locations.  No matter what physical condition the property is in, it should be clean, tidy and uncluttered. 

  You want buyers to view your home as their potential home. Therefore you want to downplay your personality and neutralize your decor.  Put away family photos, artwork, sports trophies, collectable items, knick-knacks, books and souvenirs.  Put them in a box or a rented storage area for a few months.  Then, it's always good to replace those personal items with a few neutral decorative touches throughout your home.   If there are things that you don't want or need anymore, have a yard sale or donate them.

  Buyers are impressed by space and light and are disappointed by cramped spaces.  Living and dining rooms, in particular, usually contain too many chairs and belongings.  In addition, too many heavy pieces of furniture make a room look and feel "crowded" to a buyer.  Try to open up your house.  Keep only enough furniture to enhance the space and show how the rooms can be used.  Put away any extra items like out-of-season clothing, extra linens and small appliances. Remove and temporarily store all unneeded items.
  
  Shampoo and deodorize all carpets, replace worn carpeting and polish all hardwood floors. 

  Wash walls and use a broom to clear cobwebs from the corners of all rooms and closets.   Wash all windows and clean the blinds or draperies. 
 
  Repair those small things now.  Tighten and polish hardware, repair leaky faucets, clean and re-grout tiles and replace any missing ones, caulk along tub bottoms or along shower enclosures.  Replace all broken/worn screens.   Repair all sticking doors and windows.

  Replace all burned out light bulbs.

  If you are a smoker... clean, prime and paint any nicotine stained walls and ceilings thoroughly and refrain from smoking in the home while it's on the market. 

  If you have indoor pets, consider "loaning" them to a good friend.  Not all prospective home buyers will be pet lovers.  At the very least, make sure that any litter boxes are kept immaculately clean.  Odors from cat litter are particularly offensive to many people.  
 
BASEMENT

  De-clutter and clean the basement.  If it's dark, try to lighten it up with additional lighting, light paint, etc.

  If the basement is damp, at the very least operate a de-humidifier.  Clean up any small areas of mold or mildew.  For more information, see http://www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldresources.html.  Check outside grading and downspouts to make sure rain is flowing away from foundation.  Cover any window wells with clear covers.
 
  If you have a serious water/moisture problem in the basement, consider hiring a qualified, basement waterproofing professional, prior to putting your home on the market.

  If the basement is unfinished, caulk or re-mortar any cracks or cavities in foundation walls.  Consider painting any unpainted block walls with a light color.
 
THE DAY OF THE SHOWING

  Before you leave, turn on all the lights, open all curtains and shutters to let in as much light as possible but screen out any unappealing views. Consider adding a nice "homey" smell by baking a batch of cookies or a cake just before the showing, or place a small amount of a subtle potpourri in a spot or two.  Don't overdue it with excessive amounts of deodorizer or strong potpourri or lots of burning candles, sometimes people may think something is being covered up.
 
GOING THE EXTRA MILE

  If you feel that you want to go yet further to prepare your home to sell, and further enhance its marketability, contact Peace of Mind Home Inspections to discuss getting a professional Pre-Listing/Pre-Selling Inspection for your home.  Call Mark at 301-514-8243.  


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