Homes that do not look cared for and well maintained tend to sell for less. So you get your asking price, you can do some basic, simple things to make your home look inviting and livable.  

Safety first!

Before you do anything in the house, please put a flyer or stickers on your glass patio doors to keep people from walking through the glass. There have been too many cases of children and even adults running into them and sustaining moderate to severe cuts about their body.

Power washing tips:

  • Do not power wash your double-pane windows because it ruins the seals and your windows will look cloudy.
  • Do not power wash your sill vent screens which lie at the foundation walls. Termite and property inspectors will report moisture problems if they see water wetness.
  • Do not power wash under roof shingles or shakes. Water will get into your attics and ceilings, and this is a headache you do not want to deal with.

How to avoid an expensive electrician’s visit:

  • To avoid an unnecessary electrician visit, replace all light bulbs that do not work; Your home inspector will take note of any non-working light bulbs and you will have to get an electrician if he recommends this. Keeping your safety in mind, always use the proper equipment to reach the bulb.
  • New outlets look great to potential buyers. If you have the old two-prong type of outlet, put a three-prong grounded outlet on it, but only if it is wired for a three-prong. If you replace it when it is not appropriate, the home inspector will make you change it back to a two-prong. An exception to this is two-prong outlets above the kitchen countertops or in a bathroom, wet bar, or other water service area. In this case it is recommended to change it to a GFCI protected outlet. Even if the circuit is ungrounded the GFCI is considered a safety upgrade. GFCI’s are recommended at all water service areas (but not at refrigerators).
  • If you are going to change the outlets in a room that do not have a built-in lighting fixture, one of the old outlets has probably been modified so it is controlled by a wall switch. The new outlet has to be modified and wired in the same way or the switch will not work. Please note there must be a source of electrical light in the room.
  • Replace all defective smoke alarms, whether they are yellow or broken. The NFPA requires changing them every ten years. A hard-wired detector has to be replaced with a hard wired detector.
  • You need a smoke alarm outside the entrance to all sleeping areas, and on each level (regardless of the bedroom’s presence; basement is considered a level). You should have one smoke alarm in every bedroom, if improvements to the house exceed $1,000. You cannot have too many alarms. Please note the City of Palo Alto has new requirements for the installation of dual sensor photoelectric/ionization smoke alarms at the time of title transfer if new alarms are installed or if the existing alarms are more than ten years old.
  • As of July 2011 a carbon monoxide detector is required by law in every single family home in California.


  • If the water heater has no straps, only one strap, loose straps, the straps are not metal, they are old perforated plumbing tape straps, or the water heater is a few inches away from the wall, you need to have it strapped and braced, or blocked. Remember, State Architect recommends a third strap at mid-height of the water heater if it is more than a 52-gallon tank.
  • Fix all plumbing which is leaking or dripping.

Furnace inspectors are important:

  • If the furnace is more than 10 or 20 years old, have PG&E check it out for free (except in Palo Alto). 1-800-PGE-5000.
  • Most inspectors recommend having radiant heat systems examined by experts. If you have radiant heat and a boiler, experts like William Lipp (650-327-1943) usually need to have the system off for at least 24 hours so they can start it from room temperature. If you’re in a time crunch, you need to plan ahead.
  • A clean furnace filter is impressive to realtors and buyers.
  • One very important tip is if you see a shiny yellow brass gas connector routed through the side of an old furnace, they are considered unsafe. They have not been used in 20 years and they are not intended to last a lifetime.

Your kitchen is the meeting place of your house:

  • Check your dishwasher air gap valve on top of the sink. If you see water flowing out of the air gap valve, it usually means there is a blockage in the hose between the dishwasher and the disposal.
  • Inspect your caulk and grout and if there is any discoloration or mold, get a professional to replace it.
  • If you do not have any GFCI outlets above the counters in the kitchen that are within six feet of the sink (current code requires all receptacles along the countertop and at the islands to be GFCI protected), you need to replace them. They run about $20 apiece plus installation.
  • Ensure your kitchen appliances are in good working order.

Shiny bathrooms sell houses:

  • Give your shower glass a good cleaning to expose the safety glass marks – it might make the difference between an inspector saying the shower has safety glass or recommending further evaluation.
  • Realtors and buyers love to see new caulk or grout around showers.
  • Even if your bathroom is not brand new, you should make sure it sparkles and smells nice – lighting a scented candle before you show your house would add a nice touch.

Interior tips:

  • A fresh coat of paint in a neutral color will make your walls look brand new and it will be easy for the buyer to paint over when they move in.
  • Replacing old carpets with new neutral colored carpeting is a must.
  • If you have lived in your house for 20 years and there is a water stain on the garage ceiling that never changed in several years, there is something you can do to fix that up by priming and painting over it or leaving it so the inspectors recommend further evaluation.
  • Here’s a quick and easy fix for a door that tends to open or close by itself. You or your handyman can take out one of the hinge pins and bend it slightly, put it back in the hinge, and the added resistance should allow the door to remain in place.
  • Pet doors in the fire door between the house and the garage are a no-no. If the door is not self-closing and latching, that is a no-no as well.

Curb Appeal:

  • Do not over water your lawn because it may cause excessive moisture in your foundation.
  • The first thing your prospective buyer will see is how well manicured your lawn is and if you have trash lying around.
  • If your lawn is looking a little worn, reseeding it and fertilizing it would be advised. Lush green grass looks rich.
  • Plant flowers to add that touch of ‘home’ for your buyer.

Which smoke alarm will kill you or save your life? Click here to find out!

About Me

Andrew Kutsenda

Contact me with any questions regarding buying or selling your home! [email protected] BRE #01965635 Alain Pinel Realtors - President’s Club
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