Home Improvement

Outside Maintenance Checklist For Sellers - Curb Appeal (Part 2)

Exterior View Of A HomeIn our prior post focused on the exterior of the home, we covered 17 items on a 30 day list of maintenance tasks associated with the front of your home and the roofline. To fully maximize your home’s exterior curb appeal, however, the side view and backyard must not be ignored. In this post, we'll offer you the remaining tasks for a month's worth of daily maintenance tasks for exterior curb appeal.

Walking the exterior (the side view)

Buyers interested in a home with a yard are likely to walk the exterior of the property. Give proper attention to the home from every angle.

18. Lawn: Seed or patch scant areas and ensure the lawn is well manicured and cleanly edged in spring, summer or fall. If it’s winter, clear snow and ice to expose dry pavement for safety, and sweep away remnants of salt and sand. Neatness counts!

19. Banish the tools of labor: While your yard should look like an oasis, you don’t want buyers to see the evidence of all the work  involved. Remove and neatly store hoses, rakes and garden tools out of sight. 

20. Critters: Nature lover or no, it’s best to keep wildlife away from property you’re trying to sell. Remove bird feeders to minimize rodents.

21. Fence: If your property has a fence, walk the perimeter with a critical eye. Replace any damaged areas and freshen up paint if needed. Lubricate gate hardware so it operates easily. Since a possible buyer will pause to open the date, be sure that the area around the gate is neat and well-kept.

22. Trim and window sills: Wood rots over time and must be replaced. In particular, look out for spongy window skills and peeling paint and replace trim with new wood or fabricated wood.

23. Windows: Realtors agree that sparkling windows (in and out) are a basic must for selling a home. If you don’t want to climb ladders or hire a window washer for the exterior, keep both feet safely on the ground with cleaning products that attach to your garden hose.

The backyard: An oasis or a hiding spot?

An inviting backyard can help a possible buyer visualize themselves in your home. Maximize your assets with a backyard cleanup.

24. Deck or patio: Brighten up your deck with a pressure wash for the flooring and rails. If you have a patio, the paver stones benefit from a power wash to remove dirt, moss and growth.

25. Outdoor furniture: Remove any furniture that’s worn, faded or mismatched, and keep the space neat and uncrowded.

26. Grill: Cover the grill and remove any grilling utensils or cleaning tools.

27. Back door, side door or sliding doors: Give all exterior doors the same attention as the front entry door – clean, polish hardware and make the glass sparkle!

28. Lighting: Be sure it’s in working order and clean or replace any pitted or unsightly fixtures.

29. Bulkhead: If your basement has a bulkhead, lubricate the mechanism so it opens smoothly.

30. Poop matters: While over 50% of Massachusetts homes include a dog (source: Dogtime), you don’t want a potential buyer to step in the evidence of yours. Be sure you’ve cleaned up after your dog and store the pooper scooper away with the garden and yard supplies.

The key to tackling any big job is to chip away at small tasks. Tackle one item on this list each day to get your home sales-ready! If you need help with specialists to help you through the process, contact us or see our preferred vendors listings.

 

The Outside Matters: A Calendar to Serious Curb Appeal

CalendarIt’s no big deal ... just a bit of peeling trim, slightly tarnished door hinges or a few chipped paver stones on the walkway. Seeing them daily, it’s easy to stop noticing the little blemishes around your home. But an interested buyer is not only likely to notice the little things, but also to make the leap to presume that your home is not well maintained.

As well-documented on television shows like Property Brothers and Love It Or List It, readying your home to sell at a great price is a substantial endeavor. Cleanup, purging and staging efforts are not limited to the interior of the home.

Prospective buyers approaching your home from the street take in your property in a sweeping glance. And then? They judge it … promising or underwhelming, impressive or disappointing.

Over a series of posts, we’re providing a month’s worth of maintenance tasks to maximize your home’s exterior curb appeal. Check off one daily and your home will show beautifully.

First impressions are lasting (the street view)

As your home’s possible new owners emerge from their car and approach the front door, there are dozens of ways you can impress – or disappoint.

  1. Mailbox and post: Assess your mailbox with a critical eye: Does it need to be cleaned or replaced? Is the house number faded or worn? Would the post benefit from fresh paint or should it be upgraded?
  2. Driveway: Fill driveway cracks and re-seal the driveway.
  3. Front walkway: Is there moss or growth between your paver stones leading to the front door? Remedy with a power washing -- and keep moss from coming back with a product like Wet & Forget.
  4.  A well-lit view: If you have walkway lighting, is it in good working condition? Replace any burned-out bulbs or broken fixtures.
  5. Yard décor: Different strokes for different folks. Though you may be partial to garden gnomes, holiday flags and birdbaths, they’re a matter of personal taste. Best to pack these goodies away for your next home.
  6. Front steps: As the potential buyer grasps the railing, will he note that the paint is peeling? Check it yourself and take action before putting your home on the market.
  7. Storm door: If you have a glass storm door, make sure it sparkles with a weekly vinegar and water cleaning inside and out.
  8. Exterior entry: Lots of opportunities here! First, vacuum the exterior door and trim carefully to remove loose debris and cobwebs. Then wash both the glass and the surface of the door thoroughly.
  9. Front door: If your metal door has oxidized, restore the luster with a product like Everbrite
  10. Fixtures: Since they’re exposed to the elements, more than likely your door knob, door knocker and doorbell need some love. Exterior light fixtures can pit over time; replace if needed or spruce them up with a cleaning and some polish.
  11. Door mat: Yes, it’s just for wiping off snow, leaves and mud, but a new doormat is a must if yours isn’t in pristine condition. 
  12. Garage: If your home has a garage, make it an asset. Lubricate the door opening mechanisms so they operate smoothly and without excessive noise.

Up, up (but hopefully not away!)

Approaching your home on foot, cast a look upward for a bird’s eye view. Consider the following potential concerns from a prospective buyer.

  1. Roof: Snow-packed roofs in winter can melt to an ugly surprise in March. A moldy roof sets off alarm bells for buyers; quell their concerns with a pressure washing.
  2. Evidence of Christmas past: Remove and dispose of remnants of holiday lights, wreath hooks and faded decorations.  
  3. Gutters: The downside of our colorful autumn leaves in New England is that many end up in the gutters. A gutter cleanout takes a professional about 15 minutes – and helps maintain your home’s  condition. Banish debris-filled gutters with an annual cleanout.
  4. Overgrown trees: Remove any dead tree limbs and trim overgrown shrubbery.
  5. Shutters: Are yours in good condition? Repair, pressure wash or paint as needed.

Start chipping away and soon enough your home will start to display some serious curb appeal.  And stay tuned for more ... in Curb Appeal Part 2 we'll offer some great tips for tackling the side view and backyard. Check back often or follow us on Facebook to be sure you don't miss it. 

Think Big: 7 Home Staging Secrets to Make a Small Living Room Look Huge

Staging DesignWhen it comes to home staging, the golden rule is make your space look bigger to would-be buyers. And perhaps nowhere is that concept more vitally important than in the living room — the place where homeowners tend to spend most of their time entertaining and relaxing, and where potential buyers will be placing extra scrutiny.

But you don't have to knock down walls or spend a small fortune to make your space look big. Fortunately, there are a few quick and relatively affordable ways to maximize your living room's first impression, even when the square footage is lacking.

1) Don't leave your living room empty

It might seem counterintuitive, but an empty room gives buyers no point of Minimalist Stagingreference for size. Staging rooms helps establish a room's size and enable a buyer to visualize how they can arrange their own furniture.

But don't just shove some furniture in the living room and call it a day. There's actually a science to arranging your stuff in a way that makes the room feel bigger.

Most buyers scan a room from left to right upon entry. If you place the tallest piece of furniture in the far left corner, the room will appear larger than if that same piece of furniture is closer to the entry. When a large or tall piece of furniture is near an entryway or door, it tricks the eye into thinking a space is smaller than it is, so keep taller items in corners -- or eliminate them altogether.

2) Carefully consider your seating scheme

Choose a focal point—a fireplace or windows with a view are the common choices, but yours may be a great piece of art or a family heirloom — and position your seating arrangement around it. Keep in mind that you want prospective buyers to imagine themselves actually living in and using your space, so your seating concept should encourage relaxation and conversation.

Living in the space also means carefully considering the circulation flow of your rooms. Make sure there aren’t large pieces of furniture in walking paths.


3) Scale down your furniture

Even if it's high-end and tastefully decorated, you never want to fill your small space with a Scale down furnituretruckload of huge stuff; you'll dwarf the space.

Choose smaller scale furniture to leave more white space, which will make the room seem larger. Select light pieces in materials like wicker or rattan (both of which are typically in high supply at retailers such as HomeGoods and Marshalls).

Beware not to go overboard with the tiny pieces. Too many can make a room look cluttered and therefore -- smaller. Less is more here, folks.

4) Build around your largest piece — and edit ruthlessly

large piece of furnitureMaking the most of a small space can be difficult. Start by assessing the room for your largest piece (likely your sofa), and judge every other item in the room against it.

Ask yourself, "Does this item serve a purpose, either functional or decorative?" If you can’t come up with an answer immediately, it’s not worth keeping.

While you're at it, ditch bold, busy pieces of artwork for more neutral, unobtrusive prints, and get rid of the family photos on the mantel. Remember: The goal is for your space — not your stuff — to do the talking.

Pro stagers also nearly universally recommend ditching TV sets, which occupy a lot of visual real estate. The only exception? A wall-mounted, flat-screen TV that's appropriately sized to the room (that's the kicker).

5) Balance color

You don't need to slather your walls in an uninspiring, institution-evoking white. Red rug white couch designYou can have some fun with color. But you'll need to follow some basic rules to avoid overwhelming the space.

First, and perhaps the most obvious, you'll want to nix dark or bold paint colors, which make cramped spaces feel tighter. 

Brighter colors should be used in limited amounts and repeated for balance. If the rug is red and everything else in the room is various neutral shades, include red in the pillows or accessories.

For ceiling colors, choose a shade that's lighter than your walls to create the impression of openness. And for extra credit, match your wall color to larger (lighter-hued) pieces of furniture.

6) Choose the right materialsmetal and glass furnishings

Choose furnishings and accent pieces crafted of materials like glass and metal, which reflect light and feel more airy. They give a greater sense of space than dark and bulky wood pieces.

Replace heavy bookshelves with floating shelves instead (like these from Ikea). Then, declutter their contents by at least 60%.

 

 

7) Lighten upLiving Room With Natural Lighting

An abundance of natural light tricks the eye into thinking a space is larger. To maximize light, keep your window treatments minimal with a simple pleated shade for privacy. Choose lightweight, airy fabric curtains, such as voile or linen and mount the rod as close to the ceiling as possible to create the illusion of height.

If your rooms don't have a lot of natural light, hang mirrors to reflect the light you have.

When selling your home, first impressions are everything. Although staging can be tricky, when done right a small space can appear bigger and more appealing to prospective buyers.

Need help getting your home ready to sell? See our home selling tips or call us at 978 664-3700. We're happy to help.

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Pro Tips to Protect Your Home from Snow and Ice

Let’s face it, winter in New England can be brutal. With blizzards, nor’easters and freezing temperatures, this time of year is tough not only on you, but on your home too. Safeguard your home and property from snow, ice and cold temperatures by heeding these winter weather precautions.

Avoid Ice Dams – Tips from The Spruce

  • Keep gutters and downspouts free of dirt and debris.
  • Use a roof rake to remove the lower four feet of snow from the roof edge (rake carefully so you don’t damage the shingles).
  • Eliminate additional heat in the attic by ensuring that recessed lights and duct work are properly insulated.

Dodge Frozen Pipes – Tips from Bob Vila

  • First and foremost, never turn the heat off if you leave the house for an extended period of time. Bob Vila suggests leaving the temperature set to 55°F.
  • When temperatures are below freezing, relieve pressure and keep the water flowing by turning faucets on just enough to drip.
  • Pipes located near the garage are more vulnerable to colder temperatures, so be sure to keep garage doors closed.  

Protect Trees and Shrubs – Tips from Better Homes and Gardens

  • Resist the urge to shake snow and ice off tree branches – this can cause limbs to break. Instead, prop up branches with stakes to avoid breakage.
  • Consider wrapping shrubs and trees with burlap or canvas to serve as a wind barrier (and for those near paved areas, to protect from salt damage).
  • Use mulch to protect tree roots and soil from extreme temperatures.

Steer Clear of Damage to Your Driveway and Walkway – Tips from This Old House

  • Take it easy with the shovel. Aggressive shoveling can cause asphalt to chip.
  • Rock salt can cause damage to concrete; to avoid corrosion, use calcium chloride instead.
  • Gravel driveways and walkways are tricky. Keep shovels and snow blower blades at least one inch off the ground to avoid disturbing the stone.

More Snow and Ice Must-Do’s

  • Snow, mud and ice melt can really do a number on hardwood floors. Protect your floors with doormats both inside and outside, and use a waterproof tray for wet footwear.
  • Clearing outside vents of snow and ice after a big storm should be a top priority - and make sure carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working.  
  • Save your front yard from being torn up by the snow plow by installing snow markers along your property line before the ground freezes.

Unfortunately, New England winters can take a toll on your home, but taking the proper measures before, during and after a big snow storm or a deep freeze can help evade major damage.

Don't Get Trapped! How to Spot Pests and Rodents Before You Buy That Home

Mouse TrapYour idea of a dream home probably doesn’t include mice scurrying around your kitchen cabinets or tribes of ants playing hide and seek in your bathroom. But sadly, just because you don’t see any critters during an open house doesn’t mean they’re not there.

The best approach to identify potential pest issues is to hire a professional. But if you’re not ready to shell out the extra money for that just yet, you can still protect yourself against future creepy-crawly surprises.

But brace yourself: You're going to have to play a spine-tingling game of “I Spy” during your next tour of the home - looking for pest droppings, casings, and wings.

Here are the telltale signs of vermin you need to keep an eye out for before you sign on the dotted line.

Rodents

Why you should care: When they’re helping Cinderella sew a dress, rats and mice are helpful and kind. In real life, they spread ticks and fleas. In the case of rats, disease too. Plus, they leave droppings everywhere. 

What you should look for: The most obvious sign is scratching noises coming from under the floor or behind the walls. But rats are nocturnal; depending on when you tour your prospective dream home, you might not hear a peep. And while chipmunks are adorable from afar, they can wreak havoc on your electrical wiring when they’re living in your walls.

What's a home buyer to do, then?

Rodents nest, so check small, dark crevices of the home such as cabinets, pantries, or storage rooms for signs of them, including shredded paper or fabric.

Check for dirt, grease, or small holes in baseboards. (A small rat can squeeze through a hole that’s no bigger than a quarter.)

And pay attention to how stuffy it feels inside the home—food attracts rodents, but so does humidity.

Bugs and insects

Why you should care: First off, they’re a nuisance. Moths, for instance, will devour your clothes, bedding, and furniture. Others are serious health hazards. Cockroaches top the list with gastrointestinal and respiratory illness. They can even trigger asthma attacks in some people. They're also hard to get rid of.

What you should look for: The bugs themselves will be the clearest sign. No signs of a swarm? You should also be on the lookout for dead bugs and bug parts, holes in packages, and openings in the home that bugs may creep through from the outside.

Termites

Why you should care: If a colony’s been happily living in your would-be house for some time, your foundation may be at risk. In fact, termites cost Americans $5 billion in repairs each year, according to Orkin. (And what's even scarier? Many insurance companies don’t cover termite-related damage.)

What you should look for: Visible clusters of termites and mud tunnels in the foundation. Pay special attention to any wood in the home, noting whether floors are sagging, wood has visible holes, or it sounds hollow when you knock on it.

Bedbugs

Why you should care: Bedbugs have elongated beaks (!) that they use to jab into your skin to extract blood, which they then gulp down. For most people, that's plenty reason to avoid them. Revulsion factor aside, they’re also ridiculously difficult to obliterate. If you’ve walked through a home that you suspect has bedbugs, you’ll need to obsessively check your clothing and bag for any signs of the critters, then wash everything ASAP in very hot water.

Professional bedbug removal can set you back as much as $1,500.

What you should look for: Any rust-colored stains on furniture or bedding are serious red flags, Bridges warns. (This isn’t human blood, FYI. It’s bedbug feces. Gross, right?) If you’re eagle-eyed, you may also spot tiny cream-colored eggs in the nooks and crannies of beds or other furniture.

Is there any type of pest infestation that’s a deal breaker?

The answer to that question depends on the pest, how much damage is already present that you are willing to repair, and your tolerance for the pests.

In some cases, it may not be worth the extra money you’ll have to shell out to treat the problem or repair the damage.

For example, getting rid of pest problems and keeping them out will usually require an ongoing pest control service. Unless your heart is really set on a home, it might be wiser to keep looking.

If you can’t decide whether you should make an offer or walk away, call a pest professional. Ask the pro to evaluate the infestation in person and give you an unvarnished opinion on what can be done and how long it’ll take.

Need referrals to trusted contractors to evaluate a potential home? Contact us for a referral.