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Sellers’ Preparation Checklist

House Exterior


  • Remove soil or mulch from contact with siding. Six or more inches of clearance is best.

  • Clean out dirty gutters and any debris from the roof.

  • Check to make sure all water from downspouts, sump pump, condensation and basement entry drains is diverted away from the house.

  • Trim trees, roots, and bushes back from the foundation, roof, siding and chimney.

  • Paint weathered exterior wood and caulk around the trim, chimney, windows and doors.

  • Repair any failing mortar in brick or block.

  • Remove wood and/or firewood from any contact with the house.

  • Caulk all exterior wall penetrations.


Basement, Crawl Spaces and Attics


  • Check to ensure that the crawl space is dry and install a proper vapor barrier if necessary.

  • Remove paints, solvents, gas, wood and similar materials from crawl space, basement, attic and porch.

  • Update attic ventilation if none is present.

  • If windows are at or below grade, install window wells and covers.


Doors and Window


  • Ensure that all doors and windows are in proper operating condition, including repairing or replacing any cracked windowpanes.


House Interior


  • Clean or replace heating and cooling filters, clean dirty air returns and plenum.

  • Test all smoke detectors to ensure that they are working.

  • Have the chimney, fireplace or wood stove serviced and provide the buyer with a copy of the cleaning record.

  • Replace any burned out light bulbs.

  • Have clear access to attic, crawl space, heating system, garage and other areas that will need to be inspected.

  • If the house is vacant, make sure all utilities are turned on. This includes water, electricity, furnace, A/C and the water heater.

  • Ensure ready access to all rooms and crawl spaces. Clear all furniture, boxes, clothes, toys and other personal items that may block access to the furnace, water heater and electrical panel.


Kitchen and Bathrooms


  • Ensure that all plumbing fixtures such as the toilet, tub, shower, and sinks are in proper working condition. Fix any leaks and caulk around fixtures if necessary.

  • Ensure GFCI receptacles are functional.

  • Check bath vents to see if they are properly vented and in working condition.

  • Clear out areas under sinks so they can be inspected.

How to Get Your Home Ready for an Open House: Security Edition

Holding an open house is an act of faith. You clean, declutter, and prepare your home to look its best, hoping at least one of the visitors will fall in love enough to make an offer, preferably all-cash. At the same time, open houses are invitations to strangers to walk among your most prized possessions, often with only a single real estate agent present—and so there are very real security concerns, for agents and homeowners alike.

At least 40% of the agents surveyed by the National Association of Realtors® for its 2015 Member Safety Report say they have experienced a situation that made them fear for their personal safety: Vacant houses, model homes, properties in remote areas, and open houses all caused trepidation. The study found that many now carry weapons for self-defense—no wonder when agents have been killed in the past.
For homeowners, however, self-defense takes place long before strangers show up at the door—and start looking in the refrigerator, the cabinets, the pantry. (A Maryland woman recently went to jail for stealing jewelry from open houses.) You probably know to lock up or take away valuables, but here are a few more things to remember:


Say ‘No’ to drugs


Remove all prescription drugs from your medicine cabinet, even the ones you think are harmless. There are so many tales of open house visitors rifling through medicine cabinets and taking a few pills, or even whole bottles. In comments on our site, a user calling himself Larry Kean described this very thing, saying people are looking for “abusable” drugs. Likewise, another user, Rose Eneri, wrote that her friend “found a guy looking through her medicine cabinet” at an open house: “Easy pickings for a drug addict or dealer.”


Control your remotes


Most people don’t think about the extra garage remote they leave dangling from a hook near the back door. It’s small and easy to slip into a pocket, so take it with you when you leave for the open house. One commenter wrote that an open house visitor may have taken the garage remote, then returned later to steal the homeowner’s Lexus! All keys, remotes, and fobs should either be locked away or in your pocket.

File this under ‘Lock & Key’


There’s a trend in home office decor to make file cabinets pretty and portable—but portability and security are not always compatible. Buy a heavy, nonrolling commercial-grade filing cabinet that locks—and into it put your important documents: birth and marriage certificates, financial statements, basically any legal, medical, or personal information you wouldn’t want falling into someone else’s hands. Identity theft is real and should be taken seriously.


What about my 50-inch flat-screen?


While it’s unlikely that anyone could walk out of your open house with your TV or other large electronics, they could come back for it. That’s why the next item is so important:


It ain’t over till you check your doors & windows


While agents will go through to make sure all lights are off and the house is in good condition after an open house, they might not check the doors. Unscrupulous people have been known to unlock a window or basement door with the thought of returning later. After the open house, walk through your house and check every window (even on the second floor), gate, and door to be certain that they’re all locked.

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