We all know the obvious things that damage property values, like a leaky roof or a lack of curb appeal. But there are cleaning mistakes that lower home values because they’re the result of neglect that potential buyers will have to pay to correct.
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.
Proper Cleaning Protects Your Home’s Value
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.
Home Maintenance Preserves Value
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 Floors 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.
Shampoo or steam clean carpets once or twice 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 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 helps with light debris, but if you have a busy household, those types of clothes aren’t up to the task. In fact, they may mar your floor’s finish since they essentially drag grit over the surface until you change to a clean cloth.
Vacuum hard floors or use a broom. Then mop them weekly, to get up any dried-on dirt or other residues. This homemade floor cleaner is suitable for all hard floors and doesn’t require rinsing to leave a streak-free shine.
2. Not Washing Windows Seasonally
Grimy windows can become permanently etched if not cleaned regularly. Window glass expands and contracts as temperatures change. Over time, the surface residue can become 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.
Try this homemade window and glass cleaner to cut through both city and suburban grime without leaving streaks.
3. Not Polishing Front Door Hardware
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 then rinse thoroughly to remove any residue.
- Remove mild tarnish and greasy spots using a toothbrush dipped in a paste made from 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.
4. Not Resealing Grout 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 the bathroom, mold and mildew can work their way into the grout and leave permanent stains. In the kitchen, grease and food splatters can do the same.
Grout sealer creates a non-porous coating to protect against stains. First, though, you need to clean the grout and get rid of any stains.
- For mild cleaning, try hot, soapy water and a soft-bristled brush.
- Clean greasy or discolored grout by spraying it directly with hydrogen peroxide then wiping it with a clean, damp cloth after a few minutes.
- For very tough grout stains, apply a paste of a few teaspoons of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, wait 5 minutes, then scrub with a toothbrush.
Fortunately, sealing grout takes a fraction of the time that cleaning stained grout does. So, once it’s clean, apply a sealer following the manufacturer’s instructions. Then reapply it annually to keep your grout looking new.
5. Not Cleaning Appliances Regularly
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. Should you ever decide to sell your home, you may have to replace all of your appliances if you want to compete on the market.
6. Using the Wrong Cleaning Products
It’s crucial to use the correct cleaning product for the surface and in the right amount. Using the wrong kind of cleaner on natural stone surfaces, for example, will permanent etch the surface. That’s why vinegar or other acidic cleaners should not be used on granite, marble, or stone.
Being heavy-handed with cleaning products can also cause permanent damage. Too much soap leaves a sticky residue that attracts dirt and, since dirt is abrasive, can ruin the finish of acrylic tubs, laminate countertops, and other surfaces.
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.
7. Not Cleaning Your HVAC Seasonally
A dirty HVAC system requires more energy to heat or cool your home than a clean one. Dirty systems also wear out faster.
If you eventually list your home for sale, buyers will want to see monthly utility bills as well as service records for your HVAC. Enormous energy bills from an improperly maintained system can turn off potential buyers — which means that the dirty system is costing you money yet again.
Over time, a dirty HVAC cycles more often, which leads to increased wear and tear on its parts and even system failure. Seasonal cleaning can help you avoid the expense of having to replace parts, or even your whole system, prematurely.
Keep your HVAC system 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 twice a year, at least, 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. Not Maintaining Proper 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.
- 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.)
If you find your home’s levels aren’t ideal, here are DIY steps to improve home humidity.
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.
A professional pest exterminator can eliminate infestations. But you need to take steps to keep them from returning, too.
- 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.
Proactive Cleaning Protects Value
Even if you currently have no plans to move, you never know what the future holds. A great job offer elsewhere, an ailing family member you want to live closer to, or having horrible neighbors move next door are just some of the things that cause people to relocate when they didn’t expect to.
Once you decide to sell, you’ll be busy looking for a new home, packing, and preparing to move. Your money’s going to be tied up making a down payment and maybe hiring movers, too. You may not be able to afford the cost and time involved in fixing things you’d neglected around your home.
To attract eager buyers ready to offer top dollar, your home needs to be move-in ready. The best way to accomplish that is by incorporating the nine solutions above to keep your home in good order. As a bonus, you’ll find it’s more pleasant to live in, too.