Whether you just bought your home or you’re getting ready to sell, avoid these cleaning mistakes that will lower your home’s value.
Some things that damage property values like a leaky roof or a lack of curb appeal are obvious. But there are cleaning mistakes that can lower your home’s value, too. Some are just the result of not knowing how to clean things, which leads to stubborn stains that take time and effort to deal with. Other cleaning mistakes actually cause damage to your home and cost a lot of money to fix.
How Cleaning Protects Your Home’s Value
It’s never too early to address these things. Ideally, you’d start as soon as you buy a house. But, if you’ve been living in your home for a while, it’s smart to adapt your housekeeping routine now to keep things from getting worse.
Someday, You’ll Most Likely Move
Unless you’re living in your “forever home,” there will come a time when you’ll put your house on the market. Homeowners often figure they’ll catch up on home maintenance problems and repairs before selling. But, by the time you’ve decided to relocate, you’ll also be busy saving up and preparing for your move.
What Most Home Buyers Want
People often claim it’s a waste of time to make repairs, update fixtures and appliances, and gussy up their homes before selling. Potential buyers, they rationalize, will want to “put their personal stamp” on things.
In reality — aside from one type of potential buyer — most people want to purchase a move-in-ready home. They’re spending an enormous amount of money on a down-payment and moving costs, so they don’t want the expense of fixing up their new place right away, too.
Selling “As-Is” Costs You Money
The only potential buyers who don’t care if a home has been neglected are those who earn a living by flipping houses. Know what they look for? A home that’s undervalued but only in need of minor repairs, inexpensive cosmetic changes, and a good cleaning. That’s how they make their profit: buying low, making small changes, and selling high.
Cleaning Mistakes That Lower Home Value
If you want top dollar for your home, you need it to be in top shape when you list it. Otherwise, you’re just giving money away.
1. Not Cleaning Your Floor Often Enough
Roughly 80% of the stuff you vacuum from your floors consists of dirt or other things tracked in from outside. That debris will permanently damage your flooring if you let it.
When carpeted floors aren’t vacuumed often enough, dirt gets embedded in the carpet and padding. Eventually, the grime bonds with the fibers, and even professional carpet cleaning won’t get it out. To keep your carpets in top shape, vacuum wall to wall in each room weekly, and go over the high-traffic areas near entrances one or two more times during the week.
Be sure you are vacuuming the right way, too. Shampoo or steam clean carpets at least once a year, too, after a thorough vacuuming that includes cleaning beneath and behind furniture. Here’s how to steam-clean carpets yourself, or you can hire a professional to do it.
Dirt and dust are abrasive and can leave fine scratches on the surface of your hard flooring. Over time, this leads to a dull, worn-out look. Dry-mopping with a Swiffer or microfiber cloth is okay for dust, but if you have a busy household, they aren’t up to the task. In fact, dry Swiffers can harm your floor’s finish since they essentially drag grit over the surface until you change to a clean cloth.
Vacuum or sweep hard floors wall-to-wall every week, and repeat every other day in high-traffic areas. (For kitchens, you might want to increase this to every day.) Then mop them weekly to get up any dried-on dirt or other residues. This homemade floor cleaner cleans all types of hard floors and doesn’t require rinsing to leave a streak-free shine.
2. Putting off Window Washing
Grimy windows can become permanently etched if not cleaned regularly. That’s because the window glass expands and contracts as temperatures change. Over time, that movement can trap grit, so surface residue becomes permanent.
- In cities or areas with significant air pollution, falling rainwater collects particles on its way down and deposits them on your glass.
- In the suburbs, a lawn sprinkler hitting your window can cause the same problem due to mineral deposits in the water.
Washing windows at least once each season helps prevent permanent damage. It also improves your home’s curb appeal, makes your place look tidier in general, and allows in more natural light. Cleaning your windows doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. Follow these tips to wash windows without leaving streaks, and you can do each one in just a couple of minutes.
3. Not Cleaning These Parts
Nothing says “nice place” to potential buyers like the brilliant gleam of a polished door knocker, handle, and kickplate. If ignored, those fixtures will corrode and can become permanently damaged. To keep door hardware in good shape, clean it monthly.
- Dust, then wash your door’s fixtures with soapy water and rinse thoroughly to remove any residue.
- Remove mild tarnish and greasy spots using a toothbrush dipped in a paste of baking soda and water. Rinse well and immediately dry the area.
- Polish fixtures with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. If they are severely tarnished, use a commercial cleaner designed to polish and protect the type of metal used in your door’s hardware. (Here’s how to clean brass door hardware and keep it shiny.)
4. Not Resealing Regularly
Although tile is a resilient surface that resists grime, the grout used to fasten tiles in place is easily stained. That’s because, unlike tile, grout is porous. In your bathroom, mold and mildew can work their way into the grout and leave permanent stains. In your kitchen, grease and food splatters can do the same.
Unsealed grout also absorbs moisture then dries out, a process that weakens it. If ignored long enough, your grout will begin to crack and fall out, which means you’ll have to chisel all of it out and regrout the surface. It’s much easier and a lot faster to apply a sealer once a year. Clean your grout first to remove stains, then follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
5. Not Deep Cleaning the Expensive Stuff
Make a point of deep-cleaning your appliances at least twice a year. Dirty appliances use more energy to do their job. A refrigerator with dirty coils, for example, has to run longer because the debris insulates the coils rather than allowing them to diffuse heat and keep your food cold.
Even if you aren’t bothered by the splatters coating your built-in microwave or the baked-on grease in your oven, future buyers will be. So, brush up on how to clean your home’s appliances and follow the recommended schedule.
6. Falling for Some Cleaning Hacks
Pinterest is full of all sorts of cleaning hacks. Many of them are dangerous not only to your health but also to your home’s surfaces. Using the wrong kind of cleaner can permanently weaken, bleach, pit, or etch a surface. For example, the “cleaning hack” that suggests using a toilet bowl cleaning gel on your floor can damage laminate or vinyl surfaces. Whoever came up with it got to go viral at other peoples’ expense.
Being heavy-handed with cleaning products can also cause permanent damage. Using too much soap, for instance, will leave a sticky residue that attracts dirt. Adding too much vinegar to cleaners, rather than following the homemade cleaner recipe precisely, is just as bad.
To avoid problems, always read the labels of commercial cleaning products to ensure they’re safe for your intended use. Be wary of “cleaning hacks” that recommend using a product for a purpose not specified on the label. If you’re determined to try the hack, spot test it first in an inconspicuous area to make sure it’s safe. And follow cleaning recipes as written rather than “eyeballing” measurements.
7. Not Scheduling This Annual Maintenance
If you eventually list your home for sale, buyers will want to see monthly utility bills as well as service records for your HVAC. A dirty system will lead to higher bills that can turn off potential buyers. A dirty HVAC also wears out faster, so keep yours in good shape with regular maintenance:
- Change filters at least once each season — monthly if you have pets or allergies.
- Clean your air ducts and floor registers at least twice a year so your system isn’t circulating debris.
- Have your entire system serviced in Spring and Winter by a professional. They’ll clean the parts, including the outdoor condenser, and can identify the signs of small problems before they become big ones.
8. Incorrect Home Humidity
The proper relative indoor humidity is 40-50%. Get an inexpensive hygrometer at your local hardware store, and monitor your home’s humidity levels year-round. The wrong levels can cause all sorts of problems for your home and health.
- Too much indoor humidity causes condensation on windows that damages their frames and sills, swollen doors that don’t open easily, wood rot, and even mildew in your carpet.
- Too little humidity causes interior paint to crack or flake, hardwood floors to dry out and crack, the wallpaper will start peeling, and gaps will develop between walls and trim. (You’ll also get more sore throats, coughs, and other illnesses.)
9. Ignoring Signs of Pests
If you’ve noticed cockroaches, silverfish, or rodents, a home inspector will find evidence of them even if you manage to clean up their traces before potential buyers visit. Preventing household pests is an ongoing process in most homes.
- Empty the kitchen trash nightly.
- Don’t allow piles of newspapers or boxes to build up.
- Store dry goods in airtight containers, even in your pantry.
- Never leave food sitting out on your counter.
- Inspect windows and doors regularly for signs of gaps or cracks, and immediately caulk any you find.
Stay On Top of Home Maintenance
Even if you currently have no plans to move, you never know what the future holds. Once you decide to sell, your money’s going to be tied up making a down payment on a new home and maybe hiring movers, too. To attract eager buyers ready to offer top dollar, your home needs to be move-in ready.
Establishing a good cleaning routine now will help protect the value of your home. First, find out how often everything in your home needs to be cleaned, then establish a routine that lets you stay on top of messes, so you don’t have to pay to fix them.
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