GETTING THE HIGHEST PRICE STARTS WITH CLEANING

You’ve made the decision it’s time to sell your home. You’ve hired a Realtor to advance this cause and now you have to prepare your home for sale (Contact Tim Here). There are several things you can do to get more money that don’t cost a lot of money, but none are more important than cleaning.

This may sound ridiculously obvious so let me elaborate. When I mean clean, I mean really clean. To a buyer, clean tells them the seller has taken pride in their home and if they’ve done a great job of keeping it clean, perhaps they’ve also done a great job with the maintenance of the home. Living Room 2Clean also means they can move right in. Upgrades, no upgrades, if it’s clean, they can move in. If the home isn’t clean no one is moving in; not until it’s been cleaned. This takes time and time is money; your money, money that you leave on the table because the home wasn’t clean enough. So here are some tips about cleaning.Take a granite counter for example. If you have expensive granite counters, don’t ignore them. They should never be sticky or gritty. If you have granite counters, wipe them down with a clean sponge or cloth and then dry them. Then use a product like Granite Gold to really polish them up. A clean granite counter should feel smooth and polished to the touch and when you look at it in the light from a low angle, you shouldn’t see any wipe marks. Make sure you feel under the bullnose too. This is where sticky likes to hide and your buyer will notice it. If you have tile, attack the grout. For some kitchens you will need to bring in outside help in the form of steam cleaning. This is a process much like carpet cleaning, where a hand held steam cleaner injects hot cleaning solution and then extracts the dirt and soap out of the grout. This will make your gray and dark grout, sparkle like new. It’s really quite remarkable. The hardest part of this process is finding the company that does it. It works on the nastiest kitchen grease or shower mold. This also works wonders on your tile floors where repeated mopping and kitchen grease has embedded grime and darkness into your grout. Steaming will make it sparkle! And don’t forget to re-caulk afterwards. The caulk that came with your home 15 years ago has long since dried and separated. In a shower it turns pink or has irremovable black spots. Get a razor blade and a tube of white latex caulk. Cut out the old and squeeze a nice even bead around your sink and toilet base, wipe away with a damp towel. In the shower use clear silicone. Not handy enough? No problem! A handyman can knock it out in no time for cheap and man will your bathroom thank you and so will your buyers.

Speaking of grease, take a look at your stove vent hood. Odds are you’ve not cleaned the underneath nor the wire filters recently, most of us don’t. But every time you turn on your hood, air, dust and grease are passing through those filters. Put them in the dishwasher along with you metal cooktop grates and wash them. If they don’t come clean, consider buying new ones, they’re not expensive and it makes a world of difference for both sight and smell. If you have the old style, non-sealed burners, another part you might consider replacing is the tin pans under the grill; a clean piece of foil is lame, don’t do it. Take that a step further, look at your oven racks. If you’ve used the self-cleaning feature with the racks in, the stainless steel shine will have come off and they’ll be difficult to slide and may even look a little dusty or rusty. If this is the case, buy new ones. They’re not super expensive and can make your oven look a lot newer inside. I’m not making this up, buyers look at this stuff and the nicer every detail looks, the more move-in ready your home appears. That has real value to a potential buyer and they will pay extra for it.

One area that’s missed a lot is the outlets and switch plates… I have a seller right now that has the cleanest home on the planet. I mean to tell you, her home is clean. (See for yourself.) One of her tricks is Clorox wipes. She uses these on her switches and outlets. If you take a moment and look at the tops your switch plate covers and the switches themselves, you will probably see a small line of dark dust. You should clean this. Try a dry brush first and see if that does it and then go with the wet clean, it’s a little easier if you get the first layer off before using the wipes. Here’s the thing, often when you turn the switch on to clean, you don’t notice the dust. That’s because it’s usually in the off position for most of the day’s hours so the top of the actual switch gets dusty but when you flip the switch on, you can’t see it anymore. I like to say that the way you can tell a really clean home is by the switches and plate covers.

Every Realtor will tell you to have your windows and screens done, but don’t forget the tracks. This is especially true for lower windows that sometimes get hit by outside sprinklers. The dust in the tracks becomes like a grimy, gritty sludge and if you have a dog, it will often have dog hair in there too. Totally gross and you may have never even noticed it! This is some tedious work, but do it and it will mean more money in your pocket.

On the topic of dust, be sure you dust your light fixtures, ceiling fan blades, tops of your door jams and behind things like plants, TV’s, pictures and inside bathroom drawers and medicine cabinets. Hair in the brush drawer is not saying “Buy me” to any prospective buyer and neither is a rusty old medicine cabinet. You can easily replace a medicine cabinet. “Whoa” you say, “Really?” Yes really. If you think for one minute that not doing this won’t enhance your home, then you really need to do it because if you don’t think it matters, you’ve never done it. It matters! Remember, the thinking is, if you’ve got a super clean home then you probably have maintained the integral components of the home too, like A/C and roof. When a home looks neglected on the cleaning, it often portends to other neglect that will cost the future homeowner big money down the road. Remove this potential objection and you’ll sell faster and net more money.

Shower doors and enclosures are often a problem. This can be a little tricky if you have really hard water. Calcium deposits can be impossible to clean and can even etch your enclosure. This means you may need to buy a new glass enclosure. This can cost $1,000 or more, but we’re talking about relatively small money in the big picture and if a buyer looks at your nasty shower door hinges, their immediate reaction is going to be “I need to remodel the bath.” Cha-Ching! They’ll want a big remodel discount off your price. That’s not to say that if your bath needs to be remodeled a new shower door or enclosure is going to save the day, but if your bath is in otherwise decent shape and just the corners are gross and the glass has impossible to clean calcium, spend the money and get new glass. $1,000 out of pocket to potentially make thousands is money well spent.

Carpet cleaning, carpet stretching, carpet patching. If you can’t afford new carpet or just won’t do it and assuming it’s not entirely hideous (in which case replace it no matter what!) at least have it professionally cleaned and if it’s buckling, have it stretched. By the way, if there’s a stain, get a carpet guy to cut a piece from somewhere and patch it in. Many times you can “steal” from one room or closet and use that to patch with, while buying a new bit to put in its place. You can always find a little remnant for an out of the way closet that no one will notice if the carpet is just a little different. But an ink, bleach or pet stain in an obvious place is going to cost you. So if you won’t replace, at least patch.

Pets. Oh how we love our pets, but pets smell. Make sure you bathe your pets and then go buy them new pet beds, toys and blankets. BluzySo often I walk into a home and it’s Dog City. The house is clean but the dog bed reeks of stinky dog and it makes the whole house smell. Buy them a nice new cedar filled bed and you’ll thank me for it. Heck, so will your dog. Same for cat box. Clean your cat box daily and change the litter often. Even if you’ve got the battery powered, cover kind of box and clumpy litter that lasts a generation without changing, change it anyway! By the way, don’t forget about the land mines in the back yard. Don’t wait four days and do a bulk yard pick up or wait for the gardener to do it. Your buyer is going to walk into your back yard and if it’s gross it reflects negatively on your home and you. Worse, what if they step in it and track dog poo onto your carpets. Yikes! And don’t forget to sweep regularly especially along the wall and in corners where pet hair gathers.

Finally about smell, don’t get plug ins and be very careful about infusers. You don’t want to over power the room. The buyer will immediately be turned off and assume you are hiding cigarette smoking or pet odors. Instead pick up some pleasant smelling potpourri. Subtlety is key when battling odor.

I could go on and on about cleaning tricks and tips, but I think you get the idea. Cleaning is the least expensive and best thing you can do when preparing your home for sale. Take the time and do it right and be thorough. If need be hire someone to do it for you. You don’t want a little cleaning to stand between you and the maximum sale proceeds you’re entitled to, but failure to clean properly will do just that.

About Tim Freund

Tim Freund has been a licensed real estate agent/broker since 1990. He spent 14 years as a new home sales rep, ran his own boutique resale brokerage for 5 years and is currently an Estates Director for Dilbeck Estates/Christie's International Estates in Westlake Village, Ca. Tim is a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), an Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR), a Corporate Mobilty Specialist (CMS) and a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES). Tim has successfully negotiated a loan modification for a client and is a professional short sale negotiator. Tim has been married 28 years, has 2 children, is a native Californian and has been a resident of the Conejo Valley since 1991.
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