Seattle Sellers: Prepare the Interior of your Home for Sale: Part II
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Make sure the systems or mechanics of your home are working properly.
If you've already addressed the issues you may have with your exterior and also done one walk through of your home noting the small problems you may have with your doors, windows, electrical outlets and switches, and plumbing fixtures, it's time to dig a little deeper and look into the systems or the mechanics of your home.
In most homes you will find the mechanical room in the basement, garage, or other convenient but out of the way place. Some times these things are in the attic or crawl space, and sometimes, like with electric baseboard heat, you may not find anything. But we'll cover that.
When you go to the mechanical room or area of your house where the furnace is, take a look around. Is there going to be enough room there, or in your garage to store 50 boxes of "stuff" that you're not going to need while your home is on the market, or are you going to have to rent a storage locker, or contract for a POD or other storage container that will be moved off site during the listing? I'll bet you have 15 to 20 boxes already packed by now and they are starting to get in the way. Think about it. What are you going to do with them?
Assuming you have a forced air furnace or boiler, fired either by gas, oil or electricity, look for a sticker on the furnace for the "service record." If it hasn't been serviced within the last 12 months, write it down. Oil furnaces should be serviced every year to change the filter and the nozzle. Gas furnaces should be serviced every couple of years to make sure they are clean and burning efficiently. I don't know much about servicing electric furnaces. Use your own judgment. No inspector will miss the service record on the furnace or boiler, so you might as well get it taken care of now.
If you have electric baseboard heat or in-wall heaters, go to each room and turn the heat way up to make sure each unit is working. Make sure they are not discolored from excessive heat and make sure they aren't blocked by beds, curtains, other furniture, a pile of kids' toys, or any of those boxes you've been filling. As long as they are working, you are good to go. There are some types of heaters that have been recalled because of fire hazard. If in doubt, Google the brand name with the word "recall."
Check the water heater. Is it strapped to the wall to prevent it from coming loose in an earthquake? Is it more than 10 years old? It is slightly wet underneath the water heater, but no apparent leaks around the pipe fittings? When in doubt, write it down.
While you are checking the water heater piping, move along and check the other plumbing pipes in the area. By now you should be able to spot anything that just doesn't look right. Is all of your piping the same type or do you have mixed galvanized, copper and/or plastic? Write it down.
Look around for the electrical service panel. If it's a fuse box, write it down. If it's breakers, and you haven't had any problems, you are probably just fine. There are a few brands of panels from the 60's and 70's that have had some problems.
Depending on how many electrical problems you noted throughout the house and what you've seen now, you might want to call an electrician. Ask for a bid to replace the old fuse panel, if that's what you have, and also to fix the few minor things you have noted. Also ask the electrician if you have any knob and tube wiring in the house. Knob and tube was the original wiring in most pre 1950 homes. Some insurances will balk and providing insurance for the new owner. You'll have some good information, and even if you don't repair these things, you'll know what it might cost if the buyer asks for it to be done.
Okay, you called the electrician and you might as well call the plumber and the heating and air conditioning guy, too. Get bids.
Remember that you will have to fill out a disclosure form concerning what you know to be wrong with your property, and by now you know a lot more than you did before. There is a difference between something being a hazard, something being old (but still functioning) and something being broken. These are concepts for you to deal with. I recommend fixing the things that you can afford to fix and disclosing the things that you would like to be told about, if you were buying the house. This is not advice from an attorney. I'm not an attorney. The disclosure document is an extremely important one in the transfer of property.
You may think this will be a lot of work, but once you get started you will probably be surprised at how little work your home actually needs. In the next article we'll tackle the cosmetics of your home, the easy, no brainer stuff that almost everyone takes a stab at before they put their home on the market.