Get rid of those cobwebs, freshen up the paintwork, clean off those tiny fingermarks, dehumidify the basement, repair the leaky faucets, fix that hole in the roof and mend those cracks in the plaster. First impressions really do count. Prospective buyers are charmed, and then sold, by the taste, neatness and order of a home. Concentrate on the cosmetics, especially in the kitchens and bathrooms. In searching for homes, we have all been put off by dark, mouldy basements and dirty kitchens.
Go through each room in your house and again, use the "Checklist of Condition of House" to note items that should be looked after.
• Is the electric wiring safe and in good order? We do not suggest that you spend a massive amount of money on rewiring, but you must face the fact that unless a home has a modern electric service (with circuit breakers), you cannot ask top dollar.
• Do the water pipes leak? Are they in good condition? Leaky pipes and damp stains will reduce the value of a property, fix them and hide the evidence. Like a modern electric service, copper pipes are a must in top dollar properties.
• Are the floors level? Again, it is an expensive proposition to level floors and probably not necessary unless there is an obvious flaw that will put someone off.
• Are there cracks on the walls and ceilings? You should fix these. Remember, cracks in plaster are like wrinkles on a face, except in homes they cannot be explained away as laugh lines.
• Are the windows clean and in good repair? Is the paint around them chipped?
• Do doors stick? Do they close properly?
• Are the door handles loose and/or in poor condition?
• Is all the various trim in place? Did you replace the three-quarter-round wooden trim when you put down or pulled up broadloom?
• Are the kitchen counters, cupboards and sinks sparkling? Did you know that baking soda not only absorbs the rotten smells from the refrigerator but is a fabulous biodegradable cleaner for those hard to remove stains on formica kitchen counters?
• Is the kitchen floor in good condition? Some inexpensive but good-looking floorcovering can change the look of a kitchen dramatically.
• Are the oven and fridge clean?
• Are the appliances working?
• Can you resist the temptation to make deep-fried and other strong-smelling foods during the period in which you are selling your house? Celebrate with your favourite meal after the house is sold.
• Do the bathrooms look and smell hygienic? Here's another good place to use baking soda, plus that pine scented cleaner that leaves a room smelling clean.
• Are the light fixtures and switches working?
• Is the basement well-lit and clean? Does it smell fresh? Install a dehumidifier if there is any dampness at all, but switch it off during times that you are showing the house. The basement is another catch-all for too-small skates, ancient skis and toys the kids will never play with again — plan a garage sale!
• Is the furnace in good order?
• Is the laundry room tidy and functional? Machines that do the washing are seldom washed themselves. Apply a little tender loving care, especially if you wish to sell the appliances with the home.
• Are there stains on the broadloom? Rent a rug shampooer, or have it professionally cleaned, and make the kids do all their eating and drinking from then on at the kitchen table.
• Is the furniture dusty and stained? Those awful rings left by a glass bottom can be removed by mixing together toothpaste and our old friend baking soda. As a final touch, lemon oil works wonders.
• Is the wallpaper or paint peeling? Wallpaper and paint are always on sale somewhere. Choose colours and styles that will make the home look best. You may love black walls but would a prospective buyer? Neutral colours are safer. Pick up copies of home magazines and study what is in fashion before you choose patterns and colours. Ask a friend whose taste you admire to help, and do not be too adventurous.
• Are those white or beige sheers now grey?
• Are there piles of newspapers, kids' toys and books "conveniently" placed in every corner of the house? May as well pack up some stuff now, you are going to be moving soon!
• Are your closets neat and tidy? If you haven't worn it for years and you will never be that size again, your local charity is always ready to take it.
• Clear up the attic and other storage areas of the home.
• Have you cleaned up after your pets? Does your home smell of kitty litter? All you see is their sweet furry faces, but others will smell odours and notice the hairs on the broadloom and chesterfield. We do not suggest that you eliminate your four-legged friends, but do not let their presence put a damper on your sale.
• Have you examined your houseplants? Water them, trim them, or toss them out if they are beyond redemption. Buy some fresh flowers to give your decor life and colour.
• Try and make your home look as spacious as possible. Get rid of extra pieces of furniture and clutter. Store it, sell it or give it away!
• Is your house, clean, clean, clean? Get help here, too; hire a professional cleaner to thoroughly scour the whole house. The cost of this can be considered as an investment.
Try This Tip: Put on your coat and walk around the neighbourhood for at least twenty minutes. Then return to your home, pretending that you are a prospective buyer. Sniff the air as you walk around, open all the cupboards, be very critical. Make yourself face up to all those jobs that you have been putting off for ages. Better yet, ask a friend to take this tour with you and ask for their honest opinions.
The "Checklist of Condition of House" can help you to assess the needs of your property and prioritize the tasks. You can also use this list to assess the value of similar properties on the market. You will then have a clearer understanding of how the price has been determined.
Remember to sort out priorities. Do not overspend. Undertake major costly improvements only if you honestly believe you will recoup the cost when you sell the property. Make your house as clean, bright and spacious as possible without bankrupting yourself.