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A Guide to Preparing Your House for Sale

If you plan to sell your home soon and want to fetch the best possible price, you need to evaluate its condition. It's likely that your house has endured some wear and tear over time, and issues that you've grown accustomed to, such as a creaky floorboard or a sticky door, may not appeal to potential buyers. With plenty of other housing options available, it's important to prepare your property so that it stands out from the competition. Here's a guide on how to ensure your house is ready to sell and some upgrades and fixes that can pay off when you receive an offer.

Assessing the Age of Your Home's Components

While your home may appear appealing at first glance, astute buyers will inquire about the age of various features, prompting you to gather relevant documentation to prepare your house for sale.

If you recently purchased your home, check your property records or seller's disclosure for information on the age or latest repair of significant components such as the roof, HVAC system, water heater, and gutters. Alternatively, you can refer to your maintenance records or receipts.

The lifespan of different items varies depending on several factors, such as the model and maintenance history. However, the National Association of Home Builders provides estimates of the average lifespan for various features. For example:

  • Wood shingle and shake roof: 15 to 30 years

  • Central air-conditioning unit: 15 years

  • Electric water heater: 14 years

  • Gutters: 30 years

Conducting Your Own Walk-Through

Embrace your inner Sherlock Holmes and go through each room in your house with a fine-tooth comb. Look for signs of damage that could potentially reduce its value. Pay particular attention to these common problem areas:

  • Wood rot around the outside door frames, window ledges, and garage doors, as condensation and rain can weaken and rot these areas.

  • Water stains on the ceiling or near doors and windows, which could indicate a leaky roof or rain seeping in from outside.

  • Leaks under sinks or around toilets.

  • Bulges under carpet or discoloration on hardwood floors, which could indicate flooding problems or an uneven foundation.

Once you've identified any issues, test the functionality of each room. Look for visible cracks on walls and floors, doors that don't shut correctly, or broken handles on cabinets. According to Crouch, anything that doesn't work perfectly should be repaired. Don't forget to inspect the outside of your property as well.

"A lot of sellers skip the outside, but it is so important. That is where buyers will make their first impression," says Darbi McGlone, a real estate agent with Jim Talbot Real Estate in Baton Rouge, LA.

Since you may be accustomed to some of the "little quirks" in your home, it's a good idea to get your real estate agent's opinion on what needs to be fixed.

It's worth considering a pre-inspection

After completing your own walk-though, it may be beneficial to have a professional perform a secondary inspection before deciding to sell. A trained eye can detect flaws you may have overlooked due to familiarity or ignorance of potential issues. Consider hiring a real estate agent or home inspector to perform a pre-inspection to identify problems ranging from faulty wiring to outdated plumbing.

While the cost of a home inspection varies, most people spend between $300 to $500. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors® is a helpful resource for finding a home inspector in your area. Although it may require an investment, it offers the reassurance of knowing you won’t face any unpleasant surprises in the future. In fact, having a pre-inspection report available to present to potential buyers can instil confidence and prevent any unforeseen issues as you move forward in the selling process.

Consider these renovations before putting your house on the market.

After identifying areas of your house that require repairs or upgrades, it's time to determine where to allocate some funds. Remember, you don't have to do everything before listing your property for sale. While the idea of renovating a house you're going to sell might not be enticing, certain improvements can give you a competitive advantage, resulting in more and better offers. Keep in mind that real estate is an investment.

However, it's not enough to concentrate on obvious cosmetic improvements like installing new cabinets in the kitchen. Most buyers want to personalize their living space, so investing in these cosmetic fixes might not translate to a higher sale price. Instead, focus on fix-its that are less susceptible to personal preferences but are critical to a home's functionality and safety.

For instance, upgrading hardwood floors yields the highest return on investment compared to any other home improvement project, according to a study by the National Association of Realtors®. Other highly rated upgrades include new insulation and roof replacement. Who wouldn't want to know that they have a sturdy roof over their head?

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