Pre-winter Home Maintenance

Fall may be the perfect time for you to enjoy outdoor activities, but this perfect weather will soon be gone. Take care of pre-winter home maintenance now, so you won’t have regrets later.

Don’t get lost in the perfect fall weather and put off pre-winter home maintenance this year, or you will regret it next spring. Follow these quick and easy home maintenance tips to prepare your house for the cold season ahead.

  1. Weatherproof windows and doors. Seal gaps larger than 1/8 inch around windows and doors to cut your winter heating bill by up to 15 percent. Use adhesive-backed closed-cell foam on windows and foam strips on the sides and top of doors, and install a door sweep on the bottom.
  2. Check your gutters. Make sure gutters are clean of debris and that water is properly directed out the downspout.
  3. Fix cracked concrete. Cracks in your driveway, walkway and steps are a safety issue, and will only worsen if water seeps into them and freezes in the winter. You can caulk and fix concrete if the area is clean and dry. For smaller cracks, squeeze acrylic latex concrete repair compound into the crack, smoothing excess with a putty knife. Use a vinyl concrete patching compound for larger cracks, and let it cure for one day before walking on it, three days before driving over it.
  4. Trees and power lines. Check trees around the house to make sure they are not threatening any power line wires.
  5. Check the roofing for cracks or missing shingles. Check asphalt for dry or curling shingles; wood for rot and splints; slate and tile for broken/missing pieces; and flat roofs for holes.
  6. Look around the attic space during daylight hours, with the lights turned off. Check for holes in the roofing and keep an eye out for animal activity or entry points for animals.
  7. If you have ceiling fans, change their rotation clockwise (by flicking a switch on the base) to push warm air down. Clean debris and dust from fan’s blades.
  8. Prepare your garden and planting beds. Mulch around your bulbs, shrubs, roses and trees to prevent any drastic changes in soil temperature from destroying the root systems of these plants.
  9. Take care of the lawn mower and garden tools. Run the gas out of the mower for storage, change the oil and check the spark plug. Clean garden tools and give them a light coat of oil to protect them from rust.
  10. Drain the water. If you live in a location where it freezes, drain the garden hose, coil it up and hang it up where it won’t freeze or crack. If you have a sprinkler system, drain it, and shut off the water to prevent pipes from freezing.

Water Quality Testing and Potability

Municipalities routinely check water supplies for water quality. If you have a private water supply, usually your own well, water quality testing will be up to you.

Many states require certain water tests on private well systems as part of the lending process when buying or selling a home.

Water that enters a private well system can pick up contaminates. The following are some common well water contaminates:

  • Improperly maintained septic system
  • Use of fertilizers/pesticides
  • Fuel spills
  • Industrial or commercial activity
  • Improper waste disposal

Some naturally occurring elements in the soil or rock may also leach into the groundwater and cause problems. Testing is the best way to determine the level of contaminants. Many are invisible to the naked eye and do not change the taste or appearance of the water.

Testing can determine whether levels of certain elements exceed state or federal standards. Two steps are required: First, water is collected from the property using specific gathering techniques and secured in the proper containers. From there, it is transported to a certified laboratory for testing. Once testing is completed, the client receives a written report outlining the significant findings.

No single water quality test can find all of the chemicals, bacteria or viruses that may be present in the water. Discuss with your inspector or the testing agency what tests you require.

How to Sell Your Home

When selling your home in a buyer’s market, getting an edge over the competition is important. The following tips may help you sell your home faster without having to compromise on price.

How to Sell Your Home

Perform Routine Maintenance

Exceed a buyer’s expectations from the beginning. Change your furnace filter. Replace burned-out light bulbs. Make sure hand and guardrails are securely mounted to prevent falls. Trim bushes and rake up leaves. Cut out dead foliage. All of these things will help reinforce the value of your home.
Research a Realtor or Agent

Interview more than one real estate agent. Consider the cost of services, length of contract and services offered to help you sell your home. Check references and associations if possible. Remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Envision Your Property Objectively

You’ve worked hard to make your house your home, but now you want someone else to see your house as their home. Chances are, their opinions regarding decorating, furnishings and the amazing beauty of your 3-year-old’s art on the refrigerator don’t run parallel to yours. To show off your home to its best advantage, buyers must be able to see themselves in your home. Make it easy for them by taking your Realtor’s suggestions regarding clutter, paint colors and cleanliness to provide a clean slate for the next owners.

Limit Clutter

Stacks of papers, 40 pieces of a pottery collection stacked on a shelf, walls of family pictures and clothes baskets on the floor make rooms feel smaller. Of course, clutter is part of everyday life, but it usually isn’t part of “selling.” Enter a retail store and certain items are highlighted. Clothes are stacked with like items and in order of size. All of this is an attempt to attract a buyer.
To prepare your house for sale, remove all but a few pieces of a collection. Group odd numbers of decorative items. Vary the height of objects to add interest. Leave space on walls and refrigerators for potential buyers to imagine their own pictures in place.

The Home Inspection

Home inspections aren’t just for buyers. A prelisting inspection gives sellers the nuts and bolts details about the condition and functionality of hundreds of components within the home. The written report is a manual to use in completing inexpensive maintenance repairs and evidence of the efforts you’ve made to keep your home well-maintained to help build buyer confidence and trust. This can be the edge your home needs to sell quickly.

Scent of Cookies

Our sense of smell is directly related to the emotions we feel. That’s why the scent of fresh-baked cookies can make a house feel like a home. To save some time and money, you might try freezing a batch of your favorite drop cookies. Make the batter and drop cookies on a cookie sheet as usual and freeze solid. Once the dough is frozen, transfer the cookie dough to freezer-safe containers. Thaw for about 25 to 35 minutes and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets right before potential buyers arrive. Throw the parchment away to prevent a mess on your pans or in the sink.

Touch up Paint

Fresh paint is a fast easy way to update your home at any time. Consider toning down bright colors with neutrals and touching up trim and garage doors.

Increase Curb Appeal

First impressions are essential. Brighten up the exterior of the home with seasonal plants or decorations. Keep walkways and driveways clean and clear of trip hazards. Trim back bushes and other foliage that blocks the front door or porch.

Network

Your real estate agent will advertise your home. It’s all in their job. Still, it doesn’t hurt to use your own network as well. Tell family, friends and co-workers that you will be moving. You never know when someone you know might be in touch with the perfect buyer.

Get it Clean

If you do nothing else to prepare your home for sale, clean from top to bottom. Keep the lawn tidy and mowed if necessary, shovel walks in the winter, and wash your windows to allow natural light to show off your home to its best advantage. Keep bathrooms and showers sparkling. If you have small children, consider investing in some baskets with lids. Place one in each room for quick pickup of the day’s toys.

Preparing for Your Home Inspection

A home inspector looks at the exterior, interior, and major systems of a home.

Home inspectors are not required, nor advised to move items blocking access to areas that need to be inspected. Failure to provide access to these areas during the inspection can lead to incomplete results, call-backs, additional fees and a frustrated buyer. To make the process as smooth as possible, it’s important to provide clear, open access to the following:

  • Attic access doors, which may be in a closet, hallway or garage
  • Crawlspace access doors
  • Water meter and main water line
  • Hot water heater and surrounding area
  • Furnace and surrounding area
  • Air conditioning units and surrounding area
  • Main electrical panel
  • Electrical sub panels
  • Remove decorative items from doors and windows (including sun catchers, plants, etc.)
  • Kitchen countertops, oven and dishwasher
  • Foundation walls, especially the corners of the basement
  • Garage overhead and service doors

Provide a Safe Place for Pets

Whether a prospective buyer, home inspector, appraiser or real estate agent is coming into your home, it’s important to provide a safe place for pets. This may mean a sturdy, appropriately-sized kennel in the home. It can also mean taking the pet to a friend or relative they are comfortable with until things are more settled.

Please remember, many of these professionals will need to view both the interior and exterior of the home, so simply putting pets in an open yard is not enough.

Make Every Day Earth Day

The U.S. Department of Energy offers tips to save money and protect the environment through your everyday choices.

The U.S. Department of Energy offers an interactive way to learn how to save money and protect the environment through the choices you make every day. Visit http://www.energy.gov/energytips.htm for more information.