Beyond Curb Appeal: Staging the Exterior of Your Home To Sell

They say first impressions are important – and the exterior of your home is the first thing potential buyers will see. That’s why staging the exterior of your home is just as important as staging the interior. Here is our project list for getting the outside of your house ready beyond just curb appeal.

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home: Repairs

The first thing you need to ask when getting your home ready to sell is if there are any obvious repairs that need to take place.  Walk around your house with a critical eye.  Look at the paint, trim, siding, roof, window casings, doors, foundation – is there anything that looks old, chipped, damaged or rough?

Sometimes when staging the exterior of your home it helps to stand back at the street and look from the point of view of a buyer that might be driving by.  What can they see?  Where are the rough spots? What are the best features of your home that you want to highlight?

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home: Pressure Wash Surfaces & Wash Windows

Homes collect dust, grime, dirt and pollution.  Your house may look like it needs a coat of exterior paint, but it *may* just be dirty!  When staging the exterior of your home, removing the layers of dirt from your house and driveway and walkways will make it look fresh and new again.

When staging the exterior of your home you should even look at cleaning any patio furniture and potted plants – they get dusty too.

You can DIY a pressure wash, but it might be worth your time to hire a professional.

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home: Fix Any Pet Damage

One important aspect of staging the exterior of your home is fix any damage caused by your dog!  You may love your dog – but the next owner of your house won’t want to deal with any yard problems.

Some things to look for:

  • Scratched fencing, scratched wood on the deck or scratches on the back door
  • Bare patches in your lawn or dead grass
  • Holes dug in the garden

Ideally, there should be no sign of your dog (or cat) when prospective buyers come to call.

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home:  Think Green

During the summer, greenery makes all the difference.  Make sure that the front lawn is green, weeded and trimmed.  Flower beds should  be manicured and freshly planted and weed-free.   No one wanted to move in and feel like they have instantly have weeding to do.  Finally, adding some potted plants to the porch is a nice touch and a way to go the extra mile.

 

Staging the Exterior of Your Home:  Little Touches

A few extra touches will make a BIG impact:

  • Replace or refresh the hardware on the door
  • Make sure that any fountains, fire pits or spot lights are turned on
  • Make sure that blinds or shads look clean and well cared for
  • Refresh your home address signage – make the numbers big and easy to see from the street
  • Leave your lights on at night – it allows people to drive by and see the house in its *ahem* best light in the evening

 

Some additional resources:

 

 

Three Questions to Ask A Contractor – Before Your Hire Them

Need a contractor?  Here are the 3 questions to ask a contractor BEFORE you sign a contract!

As a homeowner, hiring a contractor to do work on your home can be stressful and time consuming. A lot can go wrong. To help you, here are our top 3 questions to ask a contractor that you may not have considered.  These questions will help you save some time and energy in finding a contractor that is the best fit for you.

1.  Ask to talk to references

Our number one on the list of questions to ask a contractor is: Ask for references.  And reviews on Yelp or Houzz don’t count.  Ask to speak to someone on the phone that your contractor did work for in the past year.  A reputable contractor will be more than willing to let you talk to a satisfied customer.

Some things to discuss:

  • What type of work did this contractor do for you?
  • What was your experience with your contractor?  Did they deliver on the agreed upon work?
  • Were they able to stick to project timelines or did they communicate about any unanticipated delays?
  • Did they stick to the budget or discuss any unexpected expenditures or overtime?
  • How would you rate the quality of their work?
  • Would you hire them again?

While you are at it, you can ask to see photos, portfolios or do drive-bys (for exterior or landscaping) of their work.

 

2.  Ask About Payment

Another one of our questions to ask a contractor is all about the money.  Always get a clear (written!) answer on payment and the fee schedule.  It is good to get full clarity on payment BEFORE the work starts.

Some things to ask about:

  • Do you require a deposit?  How much
  • Who pays for materials and supplies?
  • When is final payment due?  Is it when you finish the work, within 30 days, etc.
  • How do you invoice? Is the invoice itemized?
  • What forms of payment do you accept?

Estimate vs. Quote?

Another question you will want to ask: Is this an estimate or is it a firm quote?  Keep in mind that an estimate is just a guess based on what they think a job might cost.  A firm quote is much more definite (assuming of course there are no major surprises or add-ons to the job).  Again, be sure to specify and get all quotes in writing.

 

3.  Ask to See Their Credentials

Another one of our questions to ask a contractor has to do with making sure they can safely provide you with the services you need.

Always ask for:

  • License and any certifications
  • Proof that they do background checks on their employees
  • Proof of insurance – you don’t want to be liable if someone is injured on your property
  • And if it is a major remodel you can even ask to be added as co-insured on their carrier

Remember, your contractor is going to be working in your home – you want to be sure that, like any guest, you feel comfortable with them being there.

 

Finally some resources:

If you have any thoughts on questions to ask a contractor, let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.

The Spring Home Maintenance Checklist You Need Today

Don’t just spring clean… Get going on your spring home maintenance today!

Spring is in the air and that means that you’re probably thinking about spring cleaning.  Hold on though! You also need to be thinking about some key spring home maintenance items as well! Doing these 8 things at least once a year will save you time, money, and a big headache down the road.  The goal is to prevent things from going wrong or catching little problems early BEFORE they become major problems.

We created a handy check list of 8 spring maintenance items you should be checking every year.  As a matter of fact, you can probably get these done in one weekend and then you don’t have to worry!

 

1.  Check your gutters and down spouts

Gutters and down spouts get all clogged up over the winter with leaves and debris.  Get up on a ladder every spring and clear that gunk out.  It will save you leaks, breaks, pools of stagnant water and a big repair bill.

2.  Inspect your roof

Most roofs will last around 12-25+ years (depending on the material) IF, and only if they are inspected regularly and repaired.  While you’re up on the ladder cleaning your gutters and drain spouts, take a moment and climb up on your roof.  Look for loose roofing, pooled water, or curling shingles.

It can be very affordable to repair your roof regularly.  If your roof ends up leaking during those springtime showers, it can cost you thousands in damages PLUS the money to repair or get a new roof.

It’s a good idea to check your roof both in the spring and the fall. Just to be safe.

3.  Check seals on windows and doors

Check and repair any seals on window sills, door sills, and thresholds.  Look for damaged or peeling caulk, splinters, loose panes and gaps.  While you are at it, check and repair any screens – you’ll be glad to be able to open those windows and air out your home without bugs getting in!  Here is a handy guide for how to caulk your windows.

 

4. Give some love to your deck

Already planning the first BBQ of the season?  Better get that deck ready.  Just like your roof, you want to inspect it every spring.  Look for cracks, greying wood, loose joints and water seeping in.  Every 3-5 years you’ll want to stain and seal your deck to keep it from weathering.  A final step?  Give it a good pressure wash to get it ready for that backyard party!

5.  Filter out those dirty filters

Guys. HVAC filters get D.I.R.T.Y.  They collect dust, pollen, pet hair and dirt.  And then recirculate all those things back through your house if you don’t clean or replace them regularly.  This is something you’ll want to check several times a year.

 

6.  Don’t forget about your dryer and refrigerator

When doing spring home maintenance, don’t forget to check your dryer vent.  It gets clogged up and makes your dryer work that much harder.  Which makes your electricity bill go up.

And while you’re at it, check your refrigerator coils.  Chances are they need a good vacuum.  Not only are they really gross when they are covered in dust, they also make your fridge less efficient.

 

7.  Drain that water heater

Your water heater should be 100% drained a couple of times a year.  The reason?  All kinds of minerals and sediment build up in the bottom.  Which equals corrosion and water that doesn’t heat as fast as you’d like.

 

8.  Test your smoke detectors

This spring home maintenance item can literally save your life.  Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and put fresh batteries in.  While you’re at it why not make sure that your family knows what to do when an alarm goes off.  A household fire drill goes a long way.

Need a hand?

Check out our list of trusted vendors, contractors, supplier and all around handy types who can help you if you run into problems (or they can just take care of this stuff for you).  They’ll give you a hand with the whole spring home maintenance thing!

Staging with Nicole

In this video we have Nicole Kampenhout of Nicole and Company showing us how she would stage our dining room. Everything she uses are items that we had already. Virtually all of our listings we have a stager come out and make suggestions or changes in order to get the best experiance for the soon to be buyer. We have found that Buyers buy on emotion and then justify the price. Nicole, helps us create that emotional experiance for the buyers.

 

Before / After Photos

Dirty Movies and Buying Houses

When buying a used car unless you are a mechanic, it is a good idea to take it to a mechanic and have them take a look,  “under the hood”. When it comes to buying an older home you should always be sure of what you are buying. Of course you can’t, put a home up on a car lift and take a look, but there are a lot things you can look for. Some of those things, could be lead paint, mold, meth, electrical, structural issues, roof issues, the list is large and important. An ofter forgotten or neglected inspection is of the sewer line.

If you have ever seen a sewer line replaced, it isn’t pretty. Usually, it involves digging an enormous trench across your front yard and tearing up the sidewalk and partially into the street. The costs very, but here locally it is between $13,000 – $17,000. For all of our clients who are buying homes, we recommend having a plumber “scope” or camera the sewer line prior to buying the home. The plumber will usually find a clean-out in the main sewer line in the basement, or run the camera from the main line on the roof, or remove a toilet and scope from there. The camera is inserted into the pipe and pushed through the sewer line on a cable with the goal of getting to the main sewer line in the street. The plumber has a recording device that records what he sees and usually the camera will have a distance gauge that shows up on the screen so he knows how far into the pipe the camera is.

There is nothing glamorous in sewer pipes. Usually, they are full of toilet paper and other debris. What the plumber is looking for are things like cracks in the pipe, bellies in the pipe, and places where the pipes have slipped at the connections. These are all signs of future problems. Sometimes, the debris can mask other problems or look like problems that aren’t really a problem. In those cases it is best to have the line jetted by the plumber and then camera the line again. Many times, we have had the line cleaned out and what we thought was a problem was a crack in the pipe was nothing more than some old debris.

The cost varies between plumbers, but to camera the line it is usually about $200. To jet and clean out the line can be another $200-$300 dollars. So, the process isn’t cheap, but it is worth the piece of mind knowing your sewer is alright. Most homeowner insurance companies do not cover the main sewer drain. Some 3rd party companies do. Here in Salt Lake City, we have a company that covers the cost of replacement for around $7 a month. This can be a good deal if you end up seeing the possibility of a future problem, but can’t get it fixed when first buying the home.

Here are a couple of “dirty movies” showing a before and after clean-out of the same drain. When we saw the first video, we were sure that there was a problem with the sewer, but after cleaning it out, it was actually in really good shape.

Original Scope

Post Cleaning of Sewer

1912 – A Vintage House

Want to remodel that vintage home?

How much ‘fixing’ are you really prepared to do? The romanticism behind reinvigorating the forgotten can be for some an insatiable lust. We would know. We have bought and remodeled 20 homes in the last 15 years. Now most of these homes were “flips” but a few of them were labors of love that we lived in for years. The majority of these fixers were built between 1920 and 1960, with a few newer duplexes mixed in for good measure. The biggest exception to that would be our most recent home being our oldest, built in 1912. It took the entire summer and some of the fall of 2016 for the major renovations, but here we are in summer of 2017 and still making changes. This one falls under the labor of love category. Read more about it in our upcoming book 19 Houses, coming out this fall! 

When buying any home you should always make sure to do your due diligence and get all the inspections you need and make sure you’re ready for this massive investment. For older homes, unless they’ve already been renovated, inspections are more of a starting point or just a good idea as to what you’re about to dive into. Usually it’s not so much as to “if” it breaks, as “when” it breaks or “how many times has it already been fixed.” When you buy an older home you normally get older technology, appliances, fixtures, and so on. Our 1912 home came with a few big surprises that required a decent amount of time and money to deal with. When your home is over 100 be prepared. Even though the headaches and late nights tend to lead to gray hairs in the end we love to remodel. It’s just one of those Love / Hate relationships. 

Now, I’m not saying “don’t buy that old house” (unless I want it, then yea you don’t want that one, it’s ugly), I would just recommend being well prepared.

Here are 5 Tips to get started:

#1 Have a large contingency plan in your budget. Once you start making small changes, they can turn into large changes quickly. We usually estimate all the known costs and add 30% for things we don’t know about. 

#2  Hire the right people. (our vendor list) Contractors come in many shapes, sizes, and experience. Many contractors may say they understand old homes, but they don’t. Ask for references and examples and hopefully pictures of their work. Keep in mind, that the best contractor for your project may not be the least or most expensive. Get multiple bids, and let them know you are getting multiple bids. 

#3  Styles change, be prepared.  It might be trendy to have a red kitchen cabinets (it’s not by the way), but will it stand the test of time? If you decide to go with current trends be prepared to change it in the next 5-10 years. We always try to add a bit of modern style with the classic looks that will stand the test of time. For example, our new kitchen has very modern blue glass tile backsplash with a classic style of cabinets. When, not if, the tile goes out of style we can replace it for a few hundred dollars. The cabinets, not so easy to replace. 

#4  Fix it right not cheap.  Sure, it can be less expensive to replace only part of the plumbing, but that doesn’t mean you should. Some things are best to fix it all upfront rather than just in pieces. Plumbing is a good example. You remodel the kitchen, but only replace part of the plumbing. At some point, the old pipes will burst and ruin your new kitchen. It may cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars (depending on the house) extra to replace the pipes when your kitchen is gutted. Now, since you cheaped out you get to replace the plumbing, kitchen floor, and possibly your cabinets. 

#5 Start up and work down. It is really tempting to start painting and getting your new appliances. Don’t do it, don’t give in. This isn’t HGTV. Start your remodel with the roof (if needed) and work your way down. After up to down, work inside out. Meaning, replace what needs to be replaced inside the walls. This could be structural fixes, plumbing, wiring etc. Then, you can start to put it all back together. If you are doing a kitchen, the very last thing you do is the appliances. If they are on the site before it is finished, they are always in the way and become tool storage for contractors. We had a worker drop a huge drill on our stove and completely destroy the control mechanism. That was a $350 lesson.

The list really goes on and there many blogs (more on our blog as well) , books, shows and articles that you can research to better prepare yourself. We will soon release a book of our own that dives further into our homebuyer experiences but until then, give us a call or send us an email if you have any questions or just want to know more.