Cara Ameer, a top-producing broker associate from Northeast Florida, writes about working with buyers and sellers, sticky situations and real estate marketing in her regular Inman column that publishes every other Wednesday.
Pressure washing — check. Window cleaning — check. All light bulbs working and smoke detectors functional — check. Landscaping trimmed and front door painted — check. What else could sellers possibly need to do to get a home ready to fly off the market?
If you want your sellers to crank things up a notch for a speedy sale, advise them to tackle these eight tasks that’ll have buyers racing to put in an offer:
1. Caulk and regrout
Take a look at all of the baseboards and moldings throughout the house. Are there any areas in need of caulking? Examine areas around bathtubs and showers as well. When was the last time these had any touch-ups with caulking or regrouting?
This is the time to freshen up these areas to keep them looking well maintained.
When was the last time the refrigerator was cleaned out and wiped down? What about the oven? Give those appliances a deep cleaning inside and out.
Buyers will be opening that oven door and peeking in the dishwasher. Nothing is more of a turnoff than seeing burnt remnants of Thanksgiving dinner or baked items from long ago. Ditto for a dishwasher full of hard water stains or worn elements.
3. Sprinkler system
Now is the time to check the system and how it is running. Are there any sprinkler heads hitting the house that need to be adjusted? Any components broken and in need of replacement?
Lawn mowers and weed whackers can unknowingly damage these parts, so it is best to check if all is functioning properly.
4. Chimney and fireplace
It can be easy to overlook this one. Whether you have used the fireplace occasionally or regularly over the years, it’s always a good idea to have the chimney swept and the flue checked.
If there is a pile of soot from fires five holiday seasons ago, it would be wise to have all of that cleaned out. With winter around the corner in many parts of the country, along with the holidays, there will be buyers who will be seeking homes with cozy fireplaces where they can hang stockings and roast marshmallows.
5. Window treatments and window sills
This one is easy to forget because beyond opening and closing the blinds or curtains, most people don’t do much with these on a daily basis. When it comes to cleaning, I’m not talking about pushing the dust around and calling it day, but truly vacuuming and wiping down the blinds or shutters so they are free of dust, debris and dead bugs.
Window sills should also be checked for peeling paint, discoloration and moisture stains. No matter what kind of window coverings you have, check to make sure they are operational and functioning properly.
Buyers will not only open and close blinds but also pull them up and down. If you have electronically controlled shades, make sure the controls are accessible and that the batteries work.
Curtains can accumulate dust from blocking the sun, so it is a good idea to have these washed or professionally cleaned as needed, and don’t forget to clean the curtain rods. If they have seen better days, consider updating them for a more current look.
Remember, the home inspector will need to operate all window coverings as well as open them to check the windows. Be extra careful with vertical blinds — it doesn’t take much to have a loose blind (or two or three) fly off the track while a potential buyer pushes them back from the sliding glass door so they can check out the backyard. Ditto for blinds that once pulled up won’t go back down — and also for the wands that fall off while trying to open them.
Speaking of windows, do all of the windows have screens, or are they supposed to? Accounting for screens can often be a fire drill that comes up during the final walk-through. It is something sellers often forget to address in the chaos of finalizing an offer and moving, and buyers wonder about during the final walkthrough.
Are there any missing screens that need to be replaced? Are the screens in good condition or in need of repair? Now is the time to do an assessment and address accordingly, before the house goes on the market.
7. Attic check
When was the last time you ventured up there? You would be amazed at what is often left behind or forgotten on the day a seller is moving out — golf clubs, treasured holiday decorations or other heirlooms. There is often unwanted stuff as well.
Take care of clearing this space out now so you won’t forget to later. Once a buyer is found for the home, things tend to go in fast-forward (or at least it seems that way). With so many things coming at sellers — inspections, repairs, packing and moving — it can be easy to leave things in the attic behind.
And while you are up there, check for any missing or loose insulation.
And last but not least, putting a home on the market means there will be many visitors during showings, open houses and agent previews. Make sure your homeowner’s insurance is up to date, and take steps to make your driveway, walkways and home safe and easy to navigate.
If there are sunken living rooms or steps down into an area, place signs reminding visitors of this. Make sure lighting is bright and accessible. Fix any loose pavers, raised or buckling concrete and sidewalks that could pose a trip risk.
Make sure there are plenty of doormats for buyers to wipe their feet and caution if any floors are slippery. Ask buyers to remove shoes when showing, particularly when it rains outside, to avoid potential slip and falls.
Finally, remove and secure any valuable items and prescription medications before showings, or consider storing them offsite altogether. Any special collections of prized spirits and wine should also be secured. Thefts during open houses are not completely uncommon.
While the prep-for-sale list can seem endless, taking these steps now will ensure a smoother transaction and closing process in the end for everyone involved.