Red flags for buyers: poor home maintenance

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ February 27, 2011

Do you think your home will catch the eye of a potential buyer in a challenging real estate market? Look again. Even if you've put money into home improvements in energy efficiency, plumbing, landscaping and fresh paint, your inattention to routine maintenance across the board can send out red flags to home shoppers. Real estate experts who stage homes always point out the need for curb appeal that sets a home apart from others for sale in the neighborhood. But in an especially tough economic climate, your house has to deliver on functionality, too.

"Financially Fit" writers at Yahoo now point out show stoppers that send savvy home buyers back to their cars in a New York minute. Hardly anyone these days shops for a home that used to be called a fixer-upper with so many good homes already on the table. Yahoo author Colleen Kane warns that if there's plenty of deficiencies--moldy roofs, choked gutters, cracked or peeling paint or runaway jungles in the yard--you can forget about selling your home.

Plumbing, energy efficiency and architectural concerns

When potential buyers have the pick of the litter, they're more attuned to potential drawbacks common to period or aging homes. For example, aging HVAC or plumbing systems that look the worse for wear send up warning flares. What's the condition of your current home wiring? Can your home support energy efficient appliances, computerized heating and cooling systems or other green improvements?

Many buyers are interested in "going green," but many would prefer "buying green." If you own a period or era home, buyers are especially concerned about the state of your roofing, siding and wiring. Should they worry about lead in the water lines or off-gassing paint and carpeting? Have you checked--or do you need testing--for asbestos or radon?

Regional fitness

If your home is in the South or southwestern United States, how well is it insulated against heat gain? Along the Atlantic coast, buyers look in the basement for water damage or rot. Do you run a dehumidifier in summer? Hanging up room deodorizers or lighting scented candles can give buyers the impression that you're covering up mold or mildew. If you're in the North, how healthy is your furnace?

True lack of original craftsmanship and proper maintenance can be masked by paint or window treatments, but wood rot, slanting floors, water damage, window condensation and termite damage tends to show itself despite your best cosmetic efforts. What can you fix or upgrade if you want to position your home for sale even a year from now?

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