Selling your Silicon Valley home? Fix it first - image with nice house and advice to sellersSelling your Silicon Valley home this year? At the top of your to do list should be decluttering and fixing the home and yard. These basics are extremely important because they give home buyers confidence, and confident buyers write stronger offers with higher prices. When you do the work upfront, your future home buyers will be far more comfortable with an As Is sale, and you are more likely to get top dollar for your home.

Starting point: a list of what needs to be fixed

The first and most important thing if you’ll be Selling your Silicon Valley home is to go through your property – both interior and exterior – and get everything into good working order.  This may seem intuitively obvious but it doesn’t always happen.  Once I assisted some buyers with a home in which one of the bathrooms was not fully usable.  The owners just used other bathrooms but to the buyers it raised an enormous red flag and a ton of questions: when did it break? why didn’t you fix it? what’s the cost? are the sellers just hiding something?  This is a typical reaction when there’s deferred maintenance, particularly in a kitchen or bathroom. It happens in condos, townhouses, single family homes and even luxury homes.  But if you’re selling, don’t do it: get your repairs done first and foremost.

Exterior of the home

  1. Grab a clipboard or notepad, a paper and pen and walk around the exterior of your home.  Look for things which don’t work, need cleaning or otherwise need repair.
  2. Check the paint, windows, screens, downspouts, spigots, doorbell, front door, mailbox, door hardware etc. (Wood on the outside of the home tends to need painting every 5 years, by the way.)
  3. Is the house dirty or dusty? Consider power washing (close to when your home will go on the market).
  4. Are there stucco cracks or wood damage to the outside of the home (siding or under the eaves)?
  5. How are the sidewalk, the walkways, patio, or deck? Look for trip hazards.
  6. Exterior lighting – do the lights come on as expected?
  7. Sprinklers – are they working as needed?
  8. Are your downspouts extended so that water flows away from your home when it rains?
  9. Are your gutters cleaned out?
  10. Lawn and landscaping: is there a need for re-seeding, planting annuals?  Are the trees and bushes in need of a trim? You do not want trees hanging over the roof for many reasons, and bushes and other vegetation should not obscure windows as you want as much natural light to flow into the home as possible.

Interior of the home

  1. Do the same indoors.  Going room by room, check light switches, faucets, fans, windows, doors.  Do the doors rub or not close? Have the door glides disappeared?  Do the window shades open and close as designed?
  2. Do all appliances work well? Think bathroom fans (ok or noisy?), water heater, furnace, A/C, oven, stove etc. If your furnace hasn’t been serviced recently, now’s a good time to do it!
  3. Have you cleaned the dryer vent recently? (Fires can happen due to an accumulation of lint there.)
  4. Do you have the required carbon monoxide and smoke detectors?
  5. Are there cracks in the walls that should be patched and repainted? (You will need to disclose this later, but it is visually much nicer for them to be fixed.)
  6. If your home has a crawl space, check to see if it’s damp there – if so, see what can be done to fix it (often it’s a matter of adding extenders to the downspouts).
  7. If you have carpeting, does it need washing? Or replacing?
  8. If you have a fireplace, has it been cleaned lately? Does the damper open and close properly?
  9. Write down anything which needs attention, especially if it’s safety related.  Don’t forget the garage, either.

Once you’ve caught up on your maintenance items, you can declutter, and then you can have pre-sale inspections done.  The home inspector may find more items that need repairing or replacing.  Take care of these, as is practical, prior to getting your home on the market. (Your listing agent can help you to find a good set of inspectors.)

In escrow, the best surprise is no surprise

One of the worst things which can happen after a buyer is in contract to purchase your home is a big surprise.  If they read your disclosures and inspections before writing the offer and then discover something amiss once they’re in escrow, it will raise all kinds of fear, uncertainty and doubt.  You may even lose their trust as they wonder if you were simply trying to avoid disclosing something. So if there’s something you are not going to repair, for whatever reason, it is imperative that you disclose this carefully and thoroughly and upfront.

Buyers would much rather have full disclosure of every defect upfront, with as many details as possible, then to worry that once they move in there will be more unpleasant surprises.  Ideally, there would be only past repairs to disclose (yes, if it was broken and you fixed it, you still must disclose both of those facts), but buyers can be very forgiving of non-working items if they are given a lot of info about it upfront. It’s like the old tag line from Holiday Inn: “The best surprise is no surprise”.

Want to sell your Silicon Valley home in the new year?  Start getting it into good shape now.  Take notes on everything and be prepared to share that information.  Your home’s buyers will be more confident, the escrow will be smoother and the chances of the sale falling apart will greatly diminish because you did your work upfront and were transparent about it.