Yikes… it was a rough winter, and maybe the spring-cleaning memo got lost in the mail. Now it’s time to put your home on the market, but if you leave it unmaintained and unkempt, you’ll never impress potential buyers.
So, where should you start?
We interviewed some of the top real estate agents about what buyers look for when they’re shopping for homes and found out everything we could about how to whip your home back into shape this summer.
Here’s your essential summer home maintenance checklist.
Your Quick and Handy Summer Home Maintenance Checklist
We asked top agents what sellers should do to prepare their house for resale and studied market research to conclude what projects will provide the highest return on investment if you’re planning to sell your home this summer or fall.
Consistently, the top real estate agents recommended the following 15 simple home maintenance tasks:
- Pressure wash the outside of the home.
- Landscape, landscape, landscape!
- Put on a fresh coat of paint around the outside of the house.
- Upgrade or refresh siding and shutters.
- Trim anything that’s overgrown.
- Kill the bugs.
- Clean and fix up your gutters.
- Fix up your fence.
- Keep your trees in check.
- Stage your outdoor furniture.
- Add beautiful plants and flowers.
- Paint the walls inside your house a warm neutral color.
- Bring in the natural light.
- Replace any tarnished hardware (or polish it.)
- Walk around and do some quick touch up home improvements.
Let’s dig into each item on your summer home maintenance checklist:
1. Pressure wash the outside of the home.
The first thing buyers notice is the exterior of a house. The National Association of Realtors concluded in a study that 99% of Realtors working with sellers believe curb appeal is important for attracting buyers. A murky walkway could send buyers running for the hills before they even get to the front door.
“If the driveway is stained or the decks in the backyard, pressure washing is not that expensive and it’ll give it a really fresh look,” says Carol Wolfe, who ranks in the top 1% of real estate agents in Los Angeles. Rent a pressure washer at your local home improvement store to make walkways, patios, decks, and driveways look brand new.
2. Landscape, landscape, landscape!
Proper landscaping is a major factor in considering a home’s curb appeal. It’s one of the first things potential buyers see and could add 5 to 15% to your home’s overall value, according to studies conducted by Better Homes and Gardens.
Regarding a Remodeling Impact Survey by the National Association of Realtors in 2016, the biggest returns on cost for outdoor upgrades are upgrading with seed lawn at 417%, standard lawn care at 303%, and upgrading with sod lawn at 143%.
While it’s important to create beautiful landscaping to complement the home, it’s also crucial not to overdo it.
“I tell sellers the same thing every time I meet with them. We’re trying to go for clean, neutral, and fresh,” says Brendan Bartic, a Denver real estate agent who ranks #15 of 14,307 agents. He adds, “What we’re trying to do is make a clear, neutral landscape so the home will appeal to anybody from the outside and make them feel like they can make it what they want,” also noting that 99% of the time, he’ll have them replace the welcome mat as well.
3. Put a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the house.
“When they walk through the front door, what can never have entered their mind is, O-M-G. I wonder what else is wrong with this house,” says Peter G. Clark, a Certified Luxury Homes Marketing Specialist and top 3% ranked real estate agent in Portland.
Hiring a professional to repaint your home could cost anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000, depending on the number of stories and square footage. Other variables like the type of siding and quality of paint can affect the cost as well. Some things you can control, though, are the type and color of the paint. Be sure to choose a color that will sell your home.
Also, consider paints that will provide durability and resistance in order to maintain the exterior quality, without exceeding your budget.
4. Upgrade or refresh siding and shutters.
The exterior of your home is the first thing buyers see. Some buyers will make their decision immediately based on the curb appeal, before even stepping foot inside. Replace any weathering siding or brighten up shutters to get buyers through the door.
According to a Cost vs. Value Report by the National Association of Realtors, upgrading siding and adding new shutters to your home can recoup up to 70% of the cost at resale.
5. Trim anything that’s overgrown.
Nothing says, “Stay away from me,” like out of control vines and weeds. Cut down the overgrown jungle in the untouched area of your yard to show exactly how much outdoor space you’re selling. With a few basic yard tools, you can make your yard look fresh from the grass to the trees. Take on the challenge yourself, or for yards that are too out of control, consult a professional.
6. Kill the bugs.
Buyers look for homes that have yards they’ll want to spend time in. If they step into a yard that is swarming with bugs, they’ll lose interest in the home. Plus, vector-borne illnesses, illnesses carried by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, have doubled in the United States since 2004, according to a recent report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So, stop those blood-sucking bugs from being money-suckers as well!
To maintain a yard that will sell in warm, moist climates, control the growth of bugs that peak in population during summer months. A quick spritz of outdoor bug spray around your yard will keep buyers from running for cover.
7. Clean up and fix your gutters.
Gutters can trap dirt, leaves, twigs, and water during a storm or heavy rain. There may even be some critters hanging out in your gutters—and those definitely don’t come with the house! Get a ladder and carefully clean out your gutters to avoid issues with drainage in the future. You’ll need a sturdy ladder, outdoor garden gloves, and a hose.
- Carefully climb up to the gutters and remove the cover.
- Use a tool or your hands to scoop out debris.
- Flush the gutter with water and check for any leaks.
- Locate the drainage spouts to make sure the gutter isn’t clogged.
- Remove clogs by sticking the hose up the spout until the clog loosens.
- Make sure all gutters are attached tightly.
If you notice a leak in your gutters, contact a professional.
8. Fix up your fence.
Buyers with kids and pets don’t want to take on the extra expenses of adding or replacing a fence, so a beat up fence could turn them away. Check your fence for any holes, potential rotting, or insect damage. Fix any loose screws or nails in need of replacement. A coat of stain or paint will make a fence look top-of-the-line.
9. Keep your trees in check.
With a backyard full of trees, it’s important to consider removing overgrown branches or cutting down trees completely. Take a good look at each tree. If you notice mushrooms or any other fungi growing on the trunk, it could be a sign that the tree is decaying. If branches fall off a tree in a storm, it could mean a bigger problem as well. Get in touch with a local arborist to have your trees inspected if you suspect a problem. Remember these things when speaking to a tree expert:
- Get an estimate first.
- Always get a second opinion, especially if their price is out of your budget.
- Ask what the price would be during the offseason. Most people hire tree professionals between the months of May and October, so if you aren’t planning on listing your house until next spring, consider saving money by taking care of trees in the winter instead.
- Ask each tree expert if they are certified. Don’t hire them if they aren’t.
- Don’t let someone “top” your tree. It’s no longer considered acceptable tree care as it damages the tree and could become dangerous in the future.
10. Stage your outdoor furniture.
According to a national survey by Taylor Morrison, a leading national home builder and developer, more than half (56%) of homebuyers surveyed would be willing to sacrifice house size for a larger yard.
“Demand for more elaborate exterior space continues to rise and blending indoor-outdoor living to address customer preferences is critical to our success,” said Sheryl Palmer, the Taylor Morrison chairman, president, and chief executive officer.
So, throw out the rusty patio chairs you’ve had since you moved in and take a quick trip to Home Depot to transform your patio or deck. Incorporate simple furniture and fun decorations to create a comfy outdoor living area that buyers love. Potted plants placed throughout will create the perfect sanctuary for friends and families to gather, showing buyers that your house is a perfect home for gatherings.
“If you don’t have pads, get colorful pads to put on the patio furniture. Clean everything off,” says Wolfe. “Sometimes, as part of staging, we’ll have the patio table set with colorful serving pieces and dishes for a summer party so people can envision enjoying themselves in the summer in their new house.”
11. Add beautiful plants and flowers.
Plants are a fun backyard element that will attract buyers with a love for nature. Add colorful, full-grown plants to create completeness that buyers will love. This is an easy task that brightens up a yard and doesn’t require a professional, according to Wolfe. “You can go to any local nursery or Home Depot or Target and buy pots. This is the time of year you’re going to find things like already planted flowers,” she says.
Here are some “can’t-kill” flowers that are sure to be lively and lovely in a garden or outdoor pots:
- Snapdragons (These attract butterflies!)
12. Paint the walls inside your house a neutral color.
Strip off the wallpaper that’s been around since your first child was born and refresh your home with a light, neutral paint. Our research of the psychological effects of color shows that, although grey is a trendy color right now, more people prefer neutral beige or white walls in potential homes.
“A can of paint goes a long way,” says a top 4% Burlingame, California, real estate agent, Pam Zaragoza. And most real estate agents that we speak to agree. Wolfe suggested, “Say they have wallpaper or something that’s really dated, sometimes just removing that and painting with a fresh coat of white paint could make a big difference in how a room looks.”
13. Bring in the natural light.
- Clean windows on inside and outside.
- Let in natural light by replacing old blinds.
- Replace curtains and window treatments with light, neutral colors.
- Consider adding or updating ceiling fans.
- Eliminate unnecessary clutter.
- Get rid of large, bulky furniture.
- Take out dark furniture and decor.
14. Replace any tarnished hardware (or polish it).
Swap out decade-old hardware for a simple but effective upgrade in home aesthetics. Tapping into modern design trends, matte black doorknobs throughout the house and stainless steel or brass handles in the kitchen will attract buyers with an eye for modern details. Mixed metals are trending in interior design.
So, pay attention to your knobs!
“The doorknob itself is the first thing people interact with. So you’ll see a lot of homes that have rusted doorknobs or it’s really hard for the key to work,” said Bartic. “Whatever the situation, those are things that you want to make sure are corrected.”
15. Walk around and do some quick touch-up home improvements.
Nothing makes a house feel old like wiggly handles and squeaky doors. With a can of WD-40 and a screwdriver, you can instantly wipe years off your home. You may be surprised at the things you’ve been living with.
“After years people just get used to that one cabinet knob that falls off,” says Bartic. “What you think is a $10 fix, buyers will think is a $500 fix and they’re going to reflect that when they go to make the offer.”
It’s time to tackle these tiny but bothersome flaws. Do a full walkthrough of your home and check for squeaky hinges, loose knobs, and burnt out bulbs.
Your Home’s Best Shot to Sell This Summer
This home maintenance checklist is backed by the recommendations of some of the top real estate agents in the country, and we cover a lot of ground. If you complete all 15 items on this list, you’ll check off just about every nitpick a buyer might have as they tour your next open house.
But at the end of the day, your house is unique and will have specific issues to tackle that an article like this can’t possibly address.
Talk to a top real estate agent in your area and have them put together a customized home maintenance checklist for you to work through this summer.
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