This is a guide created to help homeowners in your neighborhood increase and maintain the value of their homes, now and into the future. Home ownership is a journey and I realize that because I too am a homeowner. Building wealth and leaving a legacy has been a part of our family tradition, a habit formed thanks to my dad. As a real estate professional who has always served this community, and as a neighbor who cares, I wanted to share some professional tips on ways to preserve the value of your house and enhance your home too.
Clients often make improvements to their homes in anticipation of selling it or to get it “ready to sell.” While sprucing things up for sale is a great idea, I always wonder why we don’t do some of these things beforehand. This would allow us and our loved ones to enjoy the upgrades, the fresh paint, the remodel. Things that erode value of your home at the time of sale are frequently things that should have been done over time, in a planned manner, so that your family could enjoy it also.
The old adage ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ doesn’t apply to your home, and there are a few critical areas are ignored until it’s too late. A little preventative maintenance or planned upgrading can add value and safety, and enhance the living experience for your family at home.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 ways you can maintain and enjoy your home:
1. Structural Issues
There is nothing more important than the structural integrity of your home. Issues with home foundations continue to be one of the largest and most unavoidable deficiencies in sale transactions. They can also be very expensive to repair. Be mindful of evidence of structural compromise, like large cracks in unusual areas, slants and bends in flooring, doors and windows that no longer open and close, exterior cracks in sidewalks and concrete, and slanting or collapsing retaining walls can all be indications of a structural problem that maybe structural.
2. Electrical System Maintenance and Upgrades
Just because it works doesn’t mean your electrical system is update-to-date or even to code. Many homeowners are living in homes without proper grounding and without ground-fault interrupter outlets for safety. Moreover, many people are used to operating with less than sufficient power systems for current day use. This is unacceptable when a new buyer looks at your home and considers paying top dollar. Always consider safety first. Have a licensed electrician give your systems a thorough inspection so that they can examine your current wiring, your attic and crawl space for open junction boxes, and your electrical panel for proper labeling, piggyback wiring, and capacity. Although a whole home re-wire may be outside of your budget, planning ahead can make this type of upgrade manageable.
You may also want to consider upgrading your lighting, as high value features include recessed lights with dimmer control, halogen or fluorescent lighting, exterior motion detecting lights, and walkway and landscape/exterior home lighting.
3. Plumbing Systems
Don’t wait for the toilet to back up to inspect your sewer line, your main water line, and your pipe system. Many homes in your neighborhood were built in the early forties, and those galvanized pipes are aged and worn even if they haven’t started leaking yet. If you wait to fix issues as they break, your system will become a mismatched collection of galvanized and copper pipes. If your galvanized pipes are in good condition, though, you can add to their use life by investing in a water softening system, as certain areas are renowned for their hard water. If you have a piece-meal plumbing system, be sure your licensed plumber used the proper connection between the galvanized pipe and the copper pipe. This is one of the most common issues identified by home inspections, which frequently result in a decreased sale value.
4. Roofing Systems
Yes, you should actually have your roof inspected occasionally, even if there is no clear leak. Think about it, it makes no sense to wait until your roof actually leaks before maintaining the primary protective layer of your home. Most roofs have a 10-20 or 30-year life, so if your roof is ten years old, invest in a roof inspection just to be safe. If your roof has damage, you may not need a new roof, or you may simply need to repair certain areas that have been worn down. Flashing, venting, and other aspects of the roof often wear out faster than the actual roofing material, so periodic maintenance is important to increase your roof’s lifespan. It’s always surprising to see just how many roofs are improperly installed. These defects may not result in a leak, but they can cause unnecessary wear and tear on your roof systems, or allow for small problems to escalate during a particularly rainy or windy season. If and when you do sell your home, a home inspection will reveal these problems when you are at a vulnerable stage. As you can see, it’s best to handle these maintenance items on your own terms.
5. Termite and Wood Damage
If your home has any wood in its structure, you could have termites. If your home is not floating and has almost any contact with dirt (yes, that stuff homes are built on), you could have subterranean termites. The list goes on and on. The interesting thing about termites, though, is that you normally don’t see them. Unlike ants, spiders, and other creepy crawlies, they don’t walk across the floor screaming “squash me!”
Occasionally, you may see a swarm, which is when you find a lot of dead termites on the floor, normally near a window. Subterranean termites swarm to mates as the weather begins to warm. It lasts about 30-40 minutes until they eventually die of dehydration. You find them near your windows because they are looking to get out and find soil where they can re-hydrate.
If the thought of a termite swarm isn’t enough to make you think twice about getting treatment for all wood-destroying pests and organisms, consider the long term damage to your home. Most buyers will conduct a termite inspection and, more often than not, it will result in an estimate to correct the infestation and repair wood damage that can cost you anywhere from $1,500 to tens of thousands of dollars. Most termite companies will do a free termite inspection for home owners, while others will charge as little as $100.
Paint is one of the most obvious and popular home upgrades. It is the lipstick of the home remodeling industry. However, I’d argue that paint is more than just color. The quality of your paint and the quality of its application is just as important. Countless homeowners invest in painting their home but then decide not to use a professional service because they feel it’s a DIY project. Remember, just because you can do something does not mean that you should do it. Proper preparation of the surfaces, priming, and patching will impact the end result.
Unless you are painting simply to make the sale, choose a color that you like but be mindful of how it will hold up in intense weather conditions. Inspect your home for peeling paint, wood damage that has impacted your paint, and fading of color on the main walls or on the trim.
7. Energy-Efficient Upgrades
The most common energy-efficient upgrades are:
- Heating systems
- Water-saving fixtures
- New windows and energy-saving window coverings
- Solar panels
- Energy-efficient lighting (bulbs and timers)
- Weather strip for windows, doors and skylights
- Energy-efficient appliances
- Electric vehicle charging stations
- Automatic thermostat control
- Drought-resistant landscaping or water-saving irrigation systems
New buyers are often millennial or younger, and they fully appreciate energy-efficient upgrades.
8. Security and Smart Home Features
A year ago, I wouldn’t have discussed these two topics in the same paragraph, but now security features and smart home features go hand in hand. Whether or not crime is an issue in your neighborhood, technology has made security systems extremely feature rich for a very low cost. Many home security systems can be installed by the owner without the assistance of a technician. The most popular features are door and window security, interior and exterior cameras, access control, thermostat control, lighting control, and audio/visual system control and management. These systems add convenience for the homeowner and are high value enhancements in the event of a sale.
9.Chimney Maintenance and Inspection
Although having a fireplace in your home can be a gorgeous feature, it does come with its own set of challenges. An annual chimney cleaning involves removing soot, blockages, and built-up creosote from your chimney system. If you don’t clean your chimney regularly, you run the risk of a far less efficient system and a chimney fire. Be sure to book your chimney cleaning and inspection once per year so that you can enjoy many more cozy nights by the fire in the future.
10.Government-Required Retrofit Items
State and local ordinances require homeowners to make certain upgrades before they can legally close escrow. These upgrades are generally geared towards making homes and communities safer. Hint, hint—you would want these features in your home even if you are not selling it! The most common features required by state law are working smoke detectors (hard-wired with a 10 year back up battery) in or near every bedroom, carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of a home, a seismic shut off valve installed with a permit, and your water heater should be properly strapped and braced. Los Angeles City requires that all kitchen and bathroom fixtures are water-conserving low-flow fixtures unless an exemption is secured.
I hope you enjoy the information in this article and I invite you to share your home improvement successes on my Facebook page too! Contact me for a complimentary valuation of your property.