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8 Spring Home Improvements

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As spring approaches, so does the ideal home selling season. The period right after the cold starts to wane and before the market starts to pick up is the perfect opportunity to prepare your home for staging and open houses, while adding some value to your property.

Starting on the outside and moving in, I'll help you take a look at the top 8 ways to spruce up your home this spring. As always, feel free to ask any questions.

Give Your Green Thumb A Workout

Landscaping is a vital part of your home's curb appeal. What is or isn't on your lawn can make a big difference in a sale, so make sure not to neglect it.

A lot of debris will be left by winter winds and rain, so start with a good raking. Clean up branches, pine cones, leaves, and watch out for animal droppings. Trim any overgrown trees or bushes, especially ones that are encroaching on the house. Pull the weeds and any dead or struggling plants and flowers, then fill in the blank spots with new plants and decorative items (rocks or pots are a good choice). If you have a water feature, clean out any algae and ensure the filters are clean. Give the grass a neat trim with the lawnmower when you're done.

Speaking of new plants, spring is a great time to implement some low-maintenance landscaping for your home. Research local flowers and shrubs, pick out a few that don't need much care, and consider how they might frame your property. You might even consider planting an evergreen tree on the windward side of your house.

If you know your lawn struggles with brown or bald patches, ask your local nursery about the best way to fertilize it, and whether sod or turf grasses might be a better choice. And don't forget to mulch the garden!

Perk Up The Patio

Decks and patios create the illusion of extra backyard space on a property and can raise your home's value significantly. If you don't have one, consider getting a small one installed. If you do, keep it in good condition.

Rent a power washer and give your walkways, deck, or patio a scrubbing to make wood and stone look like new again. Replace any chipped or broken bricks or planks. Check that all your lawn furniture matches and is in presentable shape, without stains or faded upholstery. If your fence is sagging or looking dated, repair it, replace it, or remove it.

If you have a messy shed or garage, organize it — buyers will often peek inside, and cluttered spaces look smaller. If you have children or a messy hobby, pick up and put away any toys or tools. Keep dated appliances like dented BBQs and rusty plant trellises out of sight. Finally, check that your exterior faucets are all in working order, with no leaks.

Give Your Exterior A Makeover

Cosmetic changes to your house exterior can make a surprisingly big difference in your selling price. Replacing the front door and updating the garage door can make an older house look more recent. New vinyl siding and vinyl windows improve your house's appearance and can increase your energy savings by a significant amount.

Spring is also the best time to have an exterior paint job done, so long as the weather cooperates. Drier, mild temperatures with low winds result in the perfect paint finish. Make sure to have the wood underneath inspected for rot and termites before you paint, and try to choose a light colour that will take less damage from sunlight and help your home stay cool in the summer.

All of these updates have the added benefit of high selling value for relatively low cost, especially compared to interior upgrades, so don't hesitate to get them done!

Inspect The Basement

Once your exterior work is done, it's time to move inside — and downstairs. Basements can hide all kinds of snags for a sale, but they can also be full of opportunity if you take the time and money to have them inspected properly. Look for contractors who have been in the business for a while and have a history of high-quality waterproofing work. If you need a hand, I or your REALTOR® of choice will usually know a few we can recommend.

First, check for signs of dampness in your basement. If you find any, determine whether it's from a leak or condensation with a bit of aluminum foil. Tape the foil over any damp spots and leave them for 24 hours, then check which side of the foil is beaded with moisture: if it's the side away from the wall, it's condensation; if the side towards the wall is wet, you have a leak or seepage. Condensation can be fixed with a good dehumidifier or basement vent, but a leak should be seen to professionally.

Next check your appliances, drains, and any basement plumbing to ensure they're functioning properly and in good repair, with no leaks or backups. Feel your water heater and pipes for heat loss, and add in a little insulation if needed. Keep an eye out for cracks, mold, and water damage — they can be costly if they're found during the home inspection stage of a sale.

If you come across a big water problem that's just too costly to fix at the source, have a drain and/or a sump pump installed instead: it will help control flooding and the new owners will thank you for it.

Lastly, take a look at your furnace. The majority of furnaces in Canada are forced air and run off of either oil or gas, typically in the mid-efficiency range for energy usage. Upgrading to a high-efficiency furnace, or adding efficiency to your existing system, can save owners money in the long run and earn you rebates from BC Hydro or FortisBC.

But whether you upgrade or not, don't forget to clean your furnace's air filter. A clogged filter that's been running all winter can make your furnace work harder, as well as releasing dust and contaminants back into your home's air. Regular filters should be checked and cleaned every month — or if you're in favour of less work, higher-quality HEPA filters that need less changing can be purchased for only a little more money.

Make The Most Of Your Space

While you're in the basement, take a look around and gauge your space. Increasing the usable  amount of space or finished square footage in a home is a reliable way to up your price range, and your real estate agent can give you estimate of how much it might add.

Some great candidates for space expansion include unfinished basements, attics, storage and large closets, and add-ons such as suites or additional rooms. They can be converted into bedrooms, offices, dens and more, at a cost that is very likely to be less than the end value. You might even have the opportunity to turn your home into a potential revenue property.

Another space that can get you great bang for your buck is bathroom improvements. Even small bathroom upgrades have proven to be a big return on investment, from cleaning the grout to replacing the countertops and toilet.

Keep The Heat In

Once you're sure your heat is working properly and you've checked all the rooms it's routing to, it's time to make sure it stays in the house — and out during the summer months.

Insulation and leak sealing is vital to the comfort of any home, not to mention your energy bills. A standard energy audit can help you pinpoint the areas in most need of improvement, whether that happens to be applying new caulking or insulating a crawlspace. If you're unsure of your home's insulation quality, check with your real estate agent. We'll be able to help you out.

Get creative with your energy efficiency. Check out an energy kit from the library to help detect drafts. If you can't afford to upgrade your windows, hang thick curtains that prevent the loss or gain of heat from outdoors. Make door draft stoppers out of (clean) socks filled with rice or kitty litter.

If your home has a wood-burning fireplace, you might want to consider replacing it with a gas or electric equivalent. Wood fireplaces are charming, but they increase even the tiniest drafts, pollute both indoor and outdoor air quality, and are very inefficient. If your fireplace or chimney are in poor repair, they could even fail a home inspection and cost you a sale.

Freshen Up Appearances

You don't need to repaint your whole house or replace all your furniture to get it spruced up. Simpler solutions can have rooms looking like new.

For paint, consider lower-scale options. One or two rooms might be worth repainting if they have a lot of scuffs or don't mesh with other colours in the house. If all the rooms in your house are the same colour, picking one to paint as an accent room can also be a good idea.

Worn furniture and draperies can be cleaned, reupholstered, or even put into storage to make rooms appear larger with more space. Rearrange what's left to best show off the size and layout of your rooms: Move sofas so that sun-faded spots are less obvious. Keep flat surfaces like tables and bookcases away from doorways, where they'll accumulate clutter. Make dressers do double duty holding items like DVDs or silverware. In small rooms, clear out excess furniture and carefully plan your storage and shelving. For medium rooms, "float" furniture out from the wall to make the space feel bigger than it actually is. And in large rooms, divide the area into multi-purpose spaces, like a TV area and kids' play area for a living room.

If you have a bit of extra budget, match the appliances and finishings in rooms like the kitchen and bathroom. A unified appearance can make those spaces look professionally done.

Replace any flooring rugs or carpets that can't be saved by a good cleaning, with laminate or hardwood if you can afford it. Even a couple of rooms of new hardwood flooring can significantly increase the value of your home.

Don't Forget To Clean

Last of all, remember to clean! When your home is staged for viewing it's important to keep it as clean as possible for the entire selling process. Pick a sunny weekend day if you can, open the windows, pick up clutter, dust, vacuum, and scrub. Take drawers and linens outside and lay them on tarps in the sun to air out. Clean the windows, and your mirrors and fixtures. Take out the garbage, clean up pet areas, organize your closets — buyers often look in them! — and box and store anything you aren't using.

Do a quick run of the house and pick up any stray items before every home showing or before taking property photos. All of this will help present an attractive home  that invites buyers to imagine themselves living there.

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