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Preparing A House For Sale

Preparing a house for sale includes proper maintenance. Although maintaining the family car has become second nature to most people, too few Homeowners properly maintain their homes. A house is the largest investment most people ever make, and in order to protect that investment, it requires proper maintenance. Routine maintenance prolongs the useful lives of the systems in a house and identifies problems before they turn into costly repairs. When it is time to buy, the question most Buyers ask is, "Has the home been well maintained?"

When a home is put on the market, the listing Realtor may recommend the Seller make some cosmetic improvements. These improvements could be anything from minor cosmetic updates, to professionally staging the home to help it sell better. The other side of the equation addresses the maintenance of the home. Houses that are not well maintained may contain construction deficiencies, deterioration from aging, or improper Homeowner repairs and improvements. Often the problems are minor and can be corrected with little or no cost. Sometimes they are major and costly to correct.

What characterizes a home that is defined as well maintained? The following is an abbreviated list of things a Homeowner can do to properly maintain a home and prepare it for sale.


Driveway and walks: Repair cracks and seal surfaces of asphalt drives. Deck: maintain the finish and check for decay. There should be flashing between the deck and the house. Grading: soil should be properly pitched away from the house. Roof: shingles and flashing in good condition. Proper attic ventilation. Add soffit vents if necessary. Chimney: repair damaged brick and mortar. Gutters: clean and extend downspouts away for the house. Wall covering: maintain paint and repair/replace damaged areas. Repair loose and missing mortar in brick. Trim: paint. Windows: paint. Repair/replace any decayed windows. Trees/bushes: trim away from the roof and house.


Maintain the overhead door and make sure auto/reverse feature is operational.


Check for leaks and stains and make repairs as required. Maintain proper insulation and ventilation. Soffit vents must allow air to flow through. Bath fans should vent to the exterior.


Paint and repair cracks and stains making sure the cause of the problem has been corrected. All windows and doors should be operable. Touch up or re-do the interior finish. Stairway handrails in place and secure. Make sure smoke detectors are properly located and are operable. Clean fireplace and flue(s). Repair cracked firebrick and dampers.

Kitchen & Laundry

All appliances should be clean and operable. Make sure doors/drawers are operable. Check under the sink and repair any leaks. Gas lines to ranges and dryers should be the approved type. Laundry sinks and exterior hose faucets need backflow preventers installed. Clean the dryer vent line.


Water damage is common in bathrooms. Check the toilet and flooring around it. The toilet should have an anti-siphon ballcock. Check under the sink and repair leaks in valves or the trap. Tile in shower areas should be sound with tight grout joints and all corners caulked. Check for damage and soft spots both inside and outside the shower areas.


Check exterior walls, baseboards, and under the carpet for evidence of water. If evidence is found, repair the interior damage, improve the exterior grading, and add gutters and downspouts as required. Repair cracks in exposed foundation walls. Check sump pump operation and make sure it discharges to the exterior.


Check outlets for proper installation-use an electrical tester. Repair improper wiring. Outlets, switches, and junction boxes should be covered. If evidence of improper wiring is observed, ask an electrician to make repairs. Homeowner wiring is one of the most common defects found during an inspection. Extension cord wiring should be removed. Outlets should be installed next to appliances such as water softeners, sump pumps, and ceiling lights. Consider upgrading old 60 amp panels. Some insurance companies now require a minimum of 100 amps. Make sure the system is grounded and there is a bonding jumper around the water meter.


Check water heater (vent, PTR valve, and proper discharge pipe). Check for properly installed gas or electrical lines. Check for leaks in supply and drain lines. All abandoned openings should be properly capped. Consider labeling all valves. Install backflow valves on laundry sink and exterior hose faucets. Check water pressure and consider replacing old galvanized lines if necessary.

Heating & Air Conditioning

Service and clean furnaces and boilers. Request service person to leave a safety tag on the unit. Change filters. Level the exterior AC compressor/condenser.

This is only a partial list, but it is a general guideline to a well maintained home. People love to buy a house that has been well maintained and is clean.

Disclosure is also very important. Buyers generally have no issue with a problem that is disclosed and has been corrected. However, if undisclosed problems are discovered during an inspection, Buyers become very suspicious of other potentially undisclosed items.

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