Homeownership comes with maintenance. In fact, it can oftentimes be one of the key driving factors for one to consider selling a home, particularly in an area subject to second homes, as well as the high maintenance aspects of Teton Valley. From snow removal to home staining and constant deck refinishing, it isn’t always easy.
In past articles I have identified home upgrades that can help with resale value, but one of my most recent articles on the subject was way back in 2015. The cost of remodeling, additions and even maintenance was significantly lower back then. As a result, my (current) advice is typically to sell as-is without major upgrades because the return on investment can be so hard to achieve. In some events, I provide this same advice even for deferred maintenance, because the availability of contractors can be so limited that one might miss an opportune sale window by waiting for contractors.
Because of this, I can’t stress the importance of ongoing maintenance (and repairs) enough. Throughout my career in real estate I have witnessed so many circumstances where a seller concession was so much more than the collective maintenance would have been. The same goes for repairs. A small shower glass leak that continually pools water eventually finds its way to the subfloor, creates mold, requires tile replacement, etc. While this seems obvious, what we tend to forget about is the additional cost of a sales concession to satisfy a concerned buyer. We usually can’t remedy a bathroom overhaul during a contract period. As a result, buyers look for concessions in excess of the cost of repair, which honestly makes sense. They assume the liability of the repair, the risk of unseen damage, the organization and completion of the task and the inconvenience of it all until completed. There was a time through 2021 where sellers didn’t need to make concessions in order to finalize the sale, but the market has shifted, even if it hasn’t been as much with respect to values.
In addition to the concession needed to satisfy a buyer that is so often in excess of the cost of maintenance repair, the other obvious benefit of regular home maintenance and repair is how well a home shows during its time as a real estate listing. It’s amazing how much sooner offers are received, how much more buyers are willing to negotiate, and how fewer days on market accumulate with well-maintained homes in good order. While feng shui and declutter is important, the feeling of a well-maintained home is hard to beat.
With the above said, below is a list of home maintenance items I often see overlooked.
Nearly every home inspection report comes back with siding maintenance either desperately needed, or recommended. It’s easy to put this one off, year by year – particularly when you contact the local staining company of your choice each Spring, just to learn that they are booked through Fall. Make your appointments in the Winter, and get on the schedule early. The frequency of home staining can vary dramatically. I stain my full wraparound deck every other year, but only need to stain the exterior of my home about every 10 years. My home is mostly shaded, but receives heavy snow load on the decks that I clear after every storm with a snow blower. The lack of direct sunlight and wind-driven moisture provide shelter for my house, but most homes in Teton Valley are subject to high UV sunlight (something we sometimes miss) and wind that both drives moisture and dries siding. Stains with high transparency tend to need more frequent maintenance whereas opaque stains or paints usually don’t need refinishing quite as often. There’s a big argument between oil and water-based stains, but I’m not getting into that with this article. At any rate, once siding loses its protection layer, it doesn’t take long for warping, cupping, cracking and the loosening of fasteners to occur, only adding to the cost of the deferred maintenance.
Decks and Deck Railings
Same comments, above.
There’s no better time to take care of ice dams than in the Summer months when you can stand on your roof! You can read a recent article HERE.
Stone, Metal, Flashing
Stone or brick falling away from chimneys and homes are usually doing so for a reason. Finding the source of a water leak, bad flashing, etc. can save a major overhaul down the line.
Window seals often fail, and getting glass replaced can take months to find contractors, order glass and install. Waiting until you have a contract on your home puts you in the precarious position I described at the outset of the article. On a related side note, removing window screens during the Winter months is a great way to add longevity to them.
Driveway Sealing and Sidewalks
Sealing concrete is becoming ever more important with Idaho salting roads for Winter safety. This chemical compound rides with your car in the wheel wells and undercarriage, and melts away on your concrete drive creating “spalling”. Simply sealing concrete can help you avoid costly repairs. While asphalt tends to be more resilient in this area, it also requires sealing. Settling concrete walks are also relatively common in the area. Many foam injection companies have moved into the region, offering concrete leveling without the jackhammer. Leveling and sealing sidewalks so that you aren’t worrying about concessions (and trip hazards) down the line is an easy repair and offers great peace of mind.
Hardwood floor refinishing is another one of those services that can vastly improve value, but it requires scheduling far in advance of listing your home for sale.
Lawn & Sprinkler Maintenance
If you’ve ever noticed those hard water deposits on a few of your windows or the white “arcs” on the side of your house, a simple sprinkler adjustment can easily remedy the problem and save thousands in repairs. Similarly, weeding and grounds maintenance is a whole lot easier before it gets out of control.
Rodent and Pest Control
I’ve touched on this and past articles, but rodents and pests can wreak havoc on homes. Field mice can cause significant issues relative to home systems, particularly insulation in crawl spaces. Carpenter ants can do nearly as much damage as termites (which we generally don’t have) in this area, particularly with timber or log homes. Getting a handle on pest control at the outset is a must.
HVAC / Plumbing
Other overlooked maintenance items include furnace filters, house ventilation filters, dryer vent cleaning, electric heater register cleaning, water filtration replacement, HRV filter cleaning and more. If you aren’t capable or interested in maintaining these items, have it noted every time these home systems are serviced by a professional. If you are, a dry erase marker on your HVAC duct is a great indicator as to the last time all of these home systems were serviced. Buyers asking for concessions for these types of services (if they are not obviously maintained) is common.
Tile, Stone and Grout Sealing
Most tile does not require sealing, but stone and granite countertops as well as grout lines usually do. Most stone fabricators will tell you that the initial sealant on granite countertops is good for anywhere from 5 to 10 years, and grout can be sealed more frequently, even as much as annually depending on traffic patterns and use. This isn’t a fun task, but it’s something to consider.
Easy to forget surfaces such as the tops of cabinets and window tracks are much easier to keep clean if they are cleaned frequently. No, I don’t clean my window tracks every year, but I try to do it every other year if I can.
Each home is different, and each home requires a unique maintenance procedure. Keeping a notepad along with your other house service manuals and getting a feel for your investment can not only save costly repairs down the line, but also pay back in dividends when it comes time to sell.