Half the world is populated by unplanned pregnancies and half the real estate market is fueled by folks who weren’t expecting to sell.
Many of the homes that are going to sell over the winter aren’t even a twinkle in their owner’s eyes right now. That’s the thing about unexpected circumstances - they are unexpected. And here’s the thing: if, after this glorious fall is over, you end up having to sell, whatever the condition of your home’s exterior is the condition of your home’s exterior, and its perceived value will take a hit in direct proportion to the amount of exterior maintenance deferred.
The reality is that people tend to think that how you do anything is how you do everything, so deferred exterior maintenance casts a shadow over your home’s maintenance in general and places a heavier burden on your home’s interior aesthetic and condition to impress.
The other negative is that buyers have a tendency to overestimate how much it will cost for them to undertake repairs/upgrades and, and top of that, often feel that they ought to receive a financial incentive for the inconvenience of having to take this on.
We’ve got a few beautiful days left before the weather takes a permanent turn to colder temperatures, so any time you have to put toward the maintenance of your home right now is best spent on those exterior maintenance tasks involving water, paint or stain.
One way to create your master to-do list is to treat your home like a prospective buyer would and conduct an exterior audit.
Walk the Exterior of Your Home Like a Buyer
I ask all of my buying clients to dress warmly in the cooler months because I begin every viewing appointment with an exterior audit – we don’t want to encounter the charms of the interior with rose-colored glasses on with respect to its exterior.
The exterior of a home is its first line of defence against the elements (read: water) and one of the places where maintenance can only be deferred for so long. Ever wonder how houses become tear-downs? Three words: deferred exterior maintenance.
Generally speaking, the point of the buyer’s exterior audit is to:
assess the level of maintenance implicit in a home’s exterior finishes,
assess the current condition of these finishes,
assess the condition of all other exterior elements,
determine the priority order in addressing any deferred maintenance/desired upgrading, and
determine the budgeting that will be required in order to maintain/upgrade the exterior immediately and over time.
Here’s what we’re looking for:
Of all of the exterior finishes, wood is hands down the most vulnerable to water. Wooden siding, trim, soffits and fascia are by no means a deal breaker for buyers but when we find these needing a good scrape and paint (or worse) it works against the perceived value of the home in two ways - not only does it mean that work must be undertaken immediately upon possession, but it also shines a spotlight on the fact that the exterior is going to be an ongoing cost and inconvenience as well as an eventual costly upgrade.
Next we look at the condition of the shingles and estimate how much life they have left in them. This allows us to estimate how much time the buyer will have to save for their replacement. We will also be looking for any evidence of water damming and rotting roof decking as well as assess the condition of the chimney and take note of roof vents.
The foundation is the area we approach with the most trepidation. We are looking for any cracking and how it has been remedied (or not) as well as any evidence of caving or bulging. We also take note of large trees which are close to the foundation and whose root systems could be a threat to the integrity of the foundation.
Integral to our assessment of the foundation, is our assessment of the property’s water management.
This is arguably the easiest aspect of exterior maintenance for home owners to take care of on their own but you might be surprised at how rarely I come across properties that are well cared for in this way. (I know it never crossed my mind when I was a homeowner, so no judgement here.)
We are looking for:
extensions on the eavestroughs,
evidence of overspill on the eavestroughs (indicating that the eavestroughs are plugged),
evidence of water damage in any form (ie discolored stucco), and
grading around the periphery of the foundation.
Any structures that butt up against the foundation - like sheds and decks, for example - are cause for closer inspection because even homeowners who are careful to maintain the proper grading everywhere else often forget to deal with it in areas that aren’t readily visible.
The best way to assess water flow on your property is to play detective the next time it rains. Gear up and walk the exterior of your home, observing where water is flowing and pooling - you’ll see right away what needs to be done.
Under this category we stuff everything else, including the condition of the driveway, sidewalks, stairs, fences, decks, patios, exterior doors and windows.
6. Outside in
Finally, anything that grabs our attention on the exterior, we look for evidence of on the inside.
Up next: “May you roast in hell if you are a bad person.” Yup, this is what one elderly homeowner said to me as she was signing the listing agreement. I was not offended. This was going to be the very last time she was going to sell a home and the money she realized from the sale was the last large sum she was ever going to be able to lean on to feel safe with money in this world. I needed to account for every dollar I was suggesting she spend, for the price range I was suggesting her property fell into and account for what she was going to end up paying in real estate commission.
Real estate is an emotional business and even moves that are planned for and wanted are stressful. In my next article, I’m going to steer through some of the tricky waters surrounding money and real estate.