That's what they say about first impressions. Now, take a look at your house as if you were a buyer. With a critical eye, examine your home from outside and inside. Bring along a pad of paper and take notes! Determine what can be solved by a simple cleaning and what needs professional attention and repair. Your list should also include problems that are immediately evident and underlying problems you know of, like a leaky basement.
Let's start with the exterior of your home. Think of what you would like to see when you're viewing a home, or better still what you wouldn't like to see -- cluttered yard, weeds crowding the garden, loose or dangling exterior features (like a broken door), paint peeling, broken fence, or an oil-stained, damaged driveway.
Get out your ladder and inspect the roof. Are the shingles in good shape, are the gutters in good condition and free of debris? You may wish to trim back any trees or shrubs that are leaning on your roof or drainage system.
Take a good, objective look at the outside. Would what you're facing invite you to explore further or make you ready to leave?
Simply having the lawn mowed or the driveway shoveled in the winter will make a better impression. Also, remove any "cutesy" lawn decorations that may have home viewers rolling their eyes. And trim any overgrown shrubs or hedges. If you have a sizable property, you may also wish to hire a professional to weed and feed your lawn.
Flowers are a very effective way of adding colour and warmth to your home. If you're selling during the spring, plant flowers to make the property colourful and inviting. A bouquet or two in your house also adds a nice touch.
The Next Step
You're in the home. Your five senses are alert. Is what you see clean and organized? Is there an odour? Old shoes? Stale cooking? Garbage? Pets? If there is, it could be a deterrent to potential purchases. Bake cookies or simmer potpourri before your home is shown to give your place a comforting smell. Also, clean your carpets and air out your home.
And speaking of carpets, cleaning them is fairly inexpensive. Without the grit, and with the carpet pile looking fresh, your home takes on a new appearance. While you're at it, take a broom around and brush your walls and light fixtures to remove any cobwebs.
Work your way from the ground up. Wash the walls or repaint soiled areas. Touch up chips or plaster nicks. If you've used severe designs or dark colours on your walls, you may wish to repaint your home so that has a more neutral move-in appearance. Also check the ceiling and plaster and repaint it white if necessary.
Clean and Shine
Put extra emphasis on your kitchen and bathroom. Replace moldy shower curtains and clean mold and mildew off of bathroom tiles. Caulk if necessary. Repair leaky faucets and replace cracked toilet seats. Ensure that the toilet flushes properly. Make certain that the drains are unclogged. Everything should sparkle -- faucets, floors, counters, mirrors. What can be cleaned, should be!
In the kitchen, clean the stove and refrigerator, organize the cupboards and wash the floor. Make certain your appliances work. Wipe the walls, touch-up paint or re-stick wall paper if necessary. Clean the sink and ensure that it drains properly and the faucet doesn't leak. (When your home is shown, make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink and don't forget to take out garbage out!)
Check All Floors and Stairs
Replace missing or damaged tiles. Is there any wood rot? Do the floors look clean? Does the wood need a good sanding and varnishing? Does the floor squeak? (There's a new device on the market that enables you to invisibly fix your squeaky floor right through the carpet. Ask your hardware retailer for details.)
Are your stairs creaky? Are the handrails loose? Are there any missing pieces?
Examine All Doors and Windows
That means all interior and exterior doors. Look for structural or surface damage. Do the doors need repainting? Do the hinges squeak? Are the door knobs worn - and do they work?
Are the windows drafty or are they properly caulked? Are they easy to open? Are they clean? It goes without saying that all window panes should be crystal clear and unbroken.
Take a Good Look At the Basement
If it is finished, make sure that it is as spotless as the rest of your home. If it is used as a storage area, eliminate the clutter and organize all boxes. (This will also help you with the move!) Check for any signs of dampness.
Have the Plumbing and Electricity Checked
Are there leaky pipes or electrical outlets that don't work? Have them repaired before you put your home on the market. Also, it's a good idea to replace any broken switch or outlet covers and match switches and covers to the room décor.
Make Sure the Furnace and Air Conditioner Work
Replace the furnace filter and have the furnace and air conditioner professionally serviced.
Don't Just Hide Clutter
Buyers will look everywhere -- into cabinets, under carpets, inside closets. (You think you had it bad with nosy relatives poking around!) Plus, a clean house gives the impression of being larger.
Home Inspection Checklist
Make notes on what needs minor clean up and what needs a major repair. Evaluate your home as if you were a potential buyer, so the key is to be honest with yourself!