When you put a home up for sale these days, you’re facing stiff competition. In most parts of the country, buyers are faced with huge numbers of homes for sale. Before asking strangers to trade hundreds of thousands of their hard-earned dollars for your little palace, make all the little repairs you’ve always meant to do but never had the time for.
These 10 basic repairs will help prepare your house for a buyer’s white-glove inspection:
Clear and caulk gutters. - On a dry day, climb up on a ladder and clear all the debris out of the gutters so water can flow freely. While you're up there, recaulk the gutter end caps, advises Hudson. Seamless gutters are finished at the ends with a cap that's crimped and caulked. Aging caulk allows leaks to drain water down your home's siding. Get started by drying the clean gutter; the drier the aluminum, the better caulk will bond to its surface, says Hudson. He recommends using flexible butyl caulk made for outdoor conditions. Its color doesn't matter, since you're caulking inside the gutter. Squeeze out a generous amount and use your finger to smear the stuff around inside the gutter cap seams. Don't worry about appearances, since no one will see your work.
Divorce your smoker and ship kitty to Siberia. - All right, just kidding. Sort of. The thing is, smells are a serious deal killer. When strangers enter a home, the first thing they notice is the smell. Don't even try hiding behind scented candles, potpourri and plug-in room fragrances. Buyers, ever suspicious to problems, catch a whiff of those and conclude that you're hiding something. In the kitchen and bathrooms, deep clean with bleach, then regrout tiles and recaulk cracks between sinks, tubs, toilets, counters and floors to seal out the moisture that encourages the growth of smelly mold, mildew and bacteria. If you've had smokers in the house, you've got extra work to do. To rid walls of smoke and nicotine film, some experts suggest washing the walls with cleaners using an alkaline builder, such as ammonia, and a glycol solvent (found at paint stores). Brake recommends painting an undercoat of Kilz primer onto clean, dry walls to seal in nicotine smells. Finish the job with a fresh coat of paint and change the furnace filter to further freshen the air in the house. Then, "send smokers down the street," says Brake. She's not kidding: Ban smoking, even in the garden, because the smell clings to porches, decks and clothing. Gardens lose their appeal when littered with cigarette butts. If possible, board your cat off-premises while you're showing your home; at minimum, clean the litter box daily.
Stop faucet drips. - A dripping faucet calls attention to itself, and it's not hard to fix. Shut off the water supply to the faucets by turning the valves under the sink to the right. Then, test the faucet to make sure you've shut the water off completely. While you're looking under the sink, check for moisture on the wall around the valves and on the floor of the sink cabinet. Also check the supply lines leading to the dishwasher and disposal. If those areas are wet, get a plumber. If you've got a newer, rotating, single-arm faucet (through which both hot and cold water run), note the brand and purchase a faucet rebuild kit (roughly $50) at the hardware store. Inside the faucet arm is a metal ball on a stem that lets the handle swivel while allowing water to flow in any direction. The kit contains the six to 12 parts most likely to fail, including that metal ball, O rings, springs and gaskets. The idea is to replace them all rather than trying to diagnose the exact source of the problem. Dismantle the faucet, laying the parts out in order on a paper towel. Snap a photo or draw a sketch to help you with reassembly. Replace the old parts, put the faucet back together and turn the water back on. For older faucets with independent hot and cold water faucets, shut off the water under the sink as before then dismantle each of the sink's faucets separately. Remove the washers (rings made of rubber, plastic or brass), put them in a plastic sandwich bag and bring them to the hardware store to find replacements. Reassemble the faucets and turn the water back on. If this seems like more trouble than you're willing to tackle, call a plumber. With no complications, a plumber can install the new parts in an hour, though most will bill you for an hour and a half minimum.