STEP 2: & REFRESH & REPAIR

AUGUST 25, 2015

By Kelly Wurth

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Now that you have completed Step1:  Declutter & Depersonalize we need to move on to Step 2:  Refresh & Repair.  The first step to repair and refresh your home is to make a checklist of all the items, both interior and exterior, that need updating or fixing.  Think of anything that would bring about negative feelings if you saw it in a home you were looking to purchase.  When buyers see items that need to be repaired or refreshed all they see are dollar signs and wasted time.  Unless your home is in such a dilapidated state where it will be completely remodeled and possibly flipped then even the little things matter. 

To assist you in making your list I’m going to take you through some of the most important areas of your home and help you determine what may need to be repaired and refreshed.  I think it’s best to continue with our theme from Step 1: Declutter & Depersonalize by going room to room and making your list.  The same goes when you start making any DIY repairs.  If this is too much then at least consider sectioning your house off into areas.  It allows you to systematically move throughout your home, staying focused on each room and not get overwhelmed by your list.  Two other benefits are if you only have an evening or a few hours to work on home prep you can hopefully check an entire room off your list and secondly, this process allows you to continue to keep living in your home as you prepare it for resale because you won’t have tools, paint, caulk, etc. strewed about the home.  The last thing you want is to create more stress for yourself.  Keep the mess confined to one room at a time.  Let’s start on the exterior and work our way inside. 

Curb appeal, both in pictures and in person is key.  It could be the difference between someone looking at the interior or just skipping your home altogether.  The front of your home should provide a positive and pleasant first impression. 

General Repair List for Exterior

1.     Roof

Determine if there has been any recent damage due to storms or other acts of nature and assess the age of your roof.  If there has been damage you may be able to recoup repair costs from your homeowner’s insurance before selling.

2.     Siding, Trim & Shutters

Determine if wood siding, trim, or shutters need to be repainted due to fading or chipping.  Check to see if there are any signs of wood rot or termite infestation.  If siding is vinyl, fiber-cement or brick/stone are there any areas that need to be repaired.

3.     Windows

One simple cheap thing that can be done before putting your home on the market is cleaning your windows.  You’d be amazed at what a difference that can make.  Determine if any windows are cracked or leaking and need to be replaced or resealed.  If you have an older home you may also want to determine if installing more up-to-date energy efficient windows would be a good investment. 

4.     Exterior Doors

Determine if existing doors are secure, efficient and in proper working order. There is nothing worse than a drafty front door or a sliding glass door that sticks and is difficult to open.  Consider a moderately priced and energy efficient steel front door upgrade to enhance your home’s curb appeal and value.  If that’s too costly then simply consider a fresh coat of paint.  Ensure locks are operable and doorbell is working.

5.     Garage Doors

Consider installing a new garage door to improve not only the curb appeal of your home but insulation and energy efficiency. 

6.     Gutters

Cleaning your home’s gutters is another fairly cheap way to improve your home, especially if you do it yourself.  Ensure they are attached securely.

7.     Landscaping

A cheap way to refresh your home’s exterior is to buy some new flowers or plants for the current season, add some new mulch or stones around existing landscaping, remove any weeds, remove dead shrubs and trim bushes and hedges.  Reseed or add new sod to areas of the lawn that have died.  Keep the lawn mowed and neatly edged throughout the selling process. 

8.     Fence

Repair broken fences and paint or stain as necessary.

9.     Pavement

Four major areas of concern are driveway, steps or sidewalk up to your home, the front porch or entry and back patio.  Ensure that there are no major cracks that need to be repaired.  If any pavement is upheaving then you will definitely need to contact a professional to best determine how to resolve the issue.  The same goes for cracked and damaged outdoor patio or front porch tiles and stone. 

10. Decks

Should be power washed, stained or painted accordingly.

11. Pool

Obviously not everyone is lucky enough to have one of these in their backyard and no I’m not suggesting you need to put one in to sell your home, but if you do have one you need to ensure that the filters and pumps that assist in keeping your pool clean and functioning properly are in working order.  You should also check to ensure that your pool cover and the lining of your pool are in decent condition.  The same goes for hot tubs. 

That should cover the exterior so lets move inside and continue adding to your list.  First separate your list by room and check each room for any of the general issues I have listed below.  Following this process allows you to return to each room later and complete all necessary repairs for that room in one fell swoop.

General Repair List for Living Areas, Dining Room, Office, Bedrooms, Hallways, Finished Basements, etc.

1.     Interior Doors & Hardware

Repair any squeaking or sticking of doors.  Ensure bi-fold and pocket doors are still functioning properly on there tracks.  Tighten or replace loose doorknobs. 

2.     Trim

Over time painted trim around doors and floorboards can get pretty beat up making your home appear older and more used than new.  Before repainting, the one thing I always reach for first to try and clean up any marks on my trim and doors is the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cleaning Pads.  If that doesn’t do the trick or if you have deep nicks and scratches then you may consider a fresh coat of paint.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you know or can remember what color of paint was used.  In the past I have actually chipped off a piece of paint from the trim and had my local paint store do a color match.  Or you could try to remove a small piece of floorboard trim and take that in for a match. 

3.     Light fixtures

Ensure they are working properly and there are no cracks in any glass light fixtures.  Determine whether they are outdated enough to replace. 

4.     Walls

Ensure there are no damp patches, stained walls or ceilings.  If there are then call in a professional to assess that there are no real issues such as leaks or mold.  Assess any cracks in drywall or nail pops.  Major drywall cracks could mean issues with the structure or foundation of your home.  If cracks are ¼ inch or greater you will need to call in a professional to examine.  Checkout DIYNetwork.com for steps on how to repair any minor drywall damage.  Determine whether the room needs a fresh coat of paint.  You will want to do this if the paint color is not neutral enough to appeal to a buyer or if the walls look marked up or both.

5.     Flooring

Remember flooring choices can make or break a buyer’s decision.  

Assess whether your carpet and linoleum needs to be replaced or if a good cleaning will do the trick to get it looking like new.  The same goes for any tile and grout.  Depending on the age and condition of wood floors you will need to decide whether it’s worth the cost to have them refinished entirely replaced or just repaired.  To learn more about flooring options checkout HGTV.com's flooring buyers guide or BHG.com's list of flooring types.  You can often find great sales on tile to update a bathroom at your local hardware or flooring stores.

6.     Storage

It seems that homebuyers are always looking for more storage area.  One of the reasons they may be moving from their current home is because they are out of space.  As you assess your home think if there is any place where you could add more custom shelving or purchase shelving and install.  Great places for additional storage shelving or cubbies are laundry rooms, mudrooms, bathrooms, basements, garages and obviously closets.   

General Repair List for Kitchens and Bathrooms

 When adding to your list for your kitchen and bathrooms make sure to go through the general list above, plus the list below that is exclusively for kitchens and bathrooms.  There is a lot more to examine in these areas, but there is also a greater return on investments in these areas.  Buyers are always excited about updated kitchens and bathrooms.  If unsure on how a homebuyer will grade your kitchen or bathroom ask a trusted friend or your Realtor for their opinion. 

1.     Cabinets and hardware

Ensure cabinet doors and hardware are not loose and functioning properly.  If you are considering repainting cabinets solely because they look dirty, first try the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cleaning Pads for painted or enameled cabinets or a good wood cleaner for wood cabinets to remove any marks.  If you are considering repainting cabinets to upgrade and modernize the cabinets then you will need to decide whether this is something you feel like you can do on your own or you will need to hire a contractor.

2.     Faucets and Fixtures

Ensure that you have no leaking faucets, fixtures or plumbing throughout the home.  If any faucets or fixtures are extremely outdated consider upgrading.  Re-caulk any areas around tubs, showers, sinks, faucets and tile whether the caulk has peeled away and/or just to freshen up the look of the bathroom and fix caulk that has become dirty and stained.  Click the hyperlinks in the “Sinks” section below to read helpful information about kitchen and bathroom faucet upgrade options. 

3.     Backsplash & Wall Tiles

Tiles can make a huge impression on the look of your home in reference to cleanliness and whether or not it is updated.  If tiles are broken or cracked then they definitely need to be repaired or replaced.  Check out this article from ThisOldHouse.com to find out how.  The same goes for grout, if it is so stained that it cannot be cleaned that is a signal that it should be repaired or replaced.  To assist you here is a great article on grout from Lowes.com.  Whether or not to update old tile is a decision you will have to make based on cost or if it could possibly be a DIY project.  To get a better understanding of how updating tile can be a good return on your investment checkout Daltile.com's expert advice.

4.     Countertops

Ensure they are not stained or severely scratched.  Check out CountertopGuides.com to research the latest kitchen and bathroom countertop options and determine if yours are worth upgrading.  Remember countertops, especially in the kitchen, can make or break a buyer’s decision.  

5.     Sinks

To upgrade or not to upgrade that is the question.  Here is an excellent guide from Lowes.com to help you better understand bathroom sink options from installation type to materials.  For kitchens here is a great guide from ThisOldHouse.com providing details about mounting and material options. 

6.     Kitchen Only

In reference to appliances there are a lot of things to consider as it’s not only about the look and finish of the appliances but also about the functionality and efficiency.  For some advice on making this decision checkout FootHillsListings.com.  For information about what other kitchen updates will pay-off checkout HGTV.com's “Remodeling a Kitchen for Resale”. 

The only other thing I would consider is in reference to small kitchens.  If there is a breakfast nook adjacent to a small kitchen try utilizing the same paint color throughout the two rooms to make it feel like one large space verses two small ones. 

7.     Bathroom Only

You may not want to update a shower door, but at a minimum it should be functioning properly.  Constantly running toilets should be repaired.  Toilet seats should be unstained and secure to the toilet.  Otherwise replacing the toilet seat needs to be on your list as a cheap upgrade.  If exhaust fans are extremely noisy and cannot be repaired they need to be replaced. 

General Repair List for Utility Areas & Unfinished Basements

1.     HVAC

Assess the function of your furnace and air conditioner.  Even if they are working properly it may be a good idea to have them serviced and cleaned if it has been a long period of time since this was last done.  Ensure thermostats, humidifiers and HVAC Zone systems are in good working order.  Change filters on furnace and humidifier as needed.  Consider upgrading to more efficient systems if they are extremely old. 

2.     Sump Pump

Ensure sump pump is working properly. 

3.     Water Systems

Assess the function of water heaters, water softeners and water filtration systems. 

4.     Concrete Walls and Foundation

Ensure there are no major cracks in concrete floors or foundation.  To determine the severity of any foundation cracks and the condition of your foundation checkout this article at HouseLogic.com.  To repair minor cracks in concrete walls checkout ThisOldHouse.com and for cracks in concrete floors checkout another article at ThisOldHouse.com

Prioritize Your List - Determine Your Budget & Repair Estimates

Once you’ve made your list you need to review it and start prioritizing.  The best ways to prioritize your list is by budget and the value of return you will receive for your repair/refresh investment once the home is sold.  Once you’ve decided on the budget you are willing to spend you need to determine how much the home repairs on your list will cost.  This is a great time to call on your friends and family to see what skills they have and if they would be willing to assist you in some repairs.  Determine which repairs you, a friend or family member can do on your own then add an associated cost for the required materials.  Not sure if you can DIY it?  Check out the How-To Library at DIYNetwork.com or the Project How-To page at DIYorNot.com

To assist you with estimating project costs one great tool I have found is Homewyse.com.  You can get cost estimates for just materials or typical home maintenance or installation projects.  They even have a mobile app!  If you feel like you need a professional estimate for the repairs contact your Realtor and get a list of reputable contractors who can help you get your home into tip-top condition.  Your Realtor will be happy that you are engaging them early in your home selling process.  If you don’t have a Realtor yet then get online and try HomeAdvisor.com or AngiesList.com to find local, reliable contractors.  Lastly, contact and schedule times for the contractors to assess the repairs and provide estimates. 

Best Projects for Great Return on Investment

Now that you have a list of all items that need to be repaired and refreshed with associated costs you need to determine which of these will provide the best return on investment.  To do this you can contact your Realtor and discuss your possible repairs.  Realtors typically have a good sense of how home improvements affect the sale price of your home and what buyers are looking for in your area in the current market.  Another great tool to determine return on investment is Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report.

Let's Get Started!

One last tip for when you start your repairs. Find an old laundry basket or decent sized tote to carry around all your basic tools and supplies you will need.  That way you can keep everything in one place as much as possible and not waste time looking for that missing screwdriver.  Below is a list of general items to get you started.

1.     Hammer

2.     One flathead screwdriver and one Phillips screwdriver

3.     Sand paper of varying grades

4.     Loaded caulk gun

5.     Utility knife

6.     Putty knife

7.     Drywall compound

8.     DW-40

9.     Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cleaning Pad

10. Roll of paper towels or rag to clean up messes

 

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