Your Seasonal Maintenance Checklist for Empty Listings

This time of year, homeowners are looking to move before school starts, often leaving their listed homes empty. That means they tend to rely heavily on their real estate professionals to help oversee basic maintenance — yard, system tune-ups, etc. If this applies to you, make sure you’ve got things covered for your clients with this handy checklist:

Window that shows each season

In the summer:

- Arrange for the driveway, front walk, house and patio to be pressure-washed at the beginning of the season.

- Make sure the yard is mowed regularly and weeds are tended to as needed.

- Keep trees and bushes trimmed so buyers can see the house from the street.

- Have the windows cleaned inside and out.

- From time to time, open the windows to allow fresh air to circulate so the house smells fresh and not stagnant.

- Set the air conditioning at a moderate temperature to keep the house from freezing or getting damp and moldy.

In the fall:

- Keep an eye on the home’s weather stripping for cracks or tears and replace worn-out strips. This will keep out mold-producing moisture and prevent    critters from setting up shop.

- Ensure the gutters are cleaned to prevent water overflow and leaks.

- Arrange to have leaves raked, bagged and collected.

- Put a seasonal wreath or decoration on the front door.

In the winter:

- Keep the home warm enough to prevent frozen pipes. In especially harsh winter conditions, consider leaving faucets dripping slightly as an added precaution.

- Make sure gutters are clog-free, otherwise it can cause water to freeze and the gutters will tear away from the home.

- Keep walkways, sidewalks and other paths clear of snow and ice.

- Change out the front door decoration to be in keeping with the season.

- Be sure to turn up the heat the day before a showing, but not by much as sudden shifts in temperature can also damage pipes.

In the spring:

- Hire a service to add new colorful flowers and to keep up with the watering and deadheading throughout the season.

- Have a landscaping service put down mulch at least a few days before an open house so the smell fades before prospective buyers arrive.

- After any strong storm, inspect the yard and exterior of the house for any damage or downed tree limbs.

- Check for tripped breakers, which can happen because of power surges during an electrical storm.

- Examine the home from time to time for evidence of moisture problems like mold growth or leaking windows or ceilings after rainstorms.

Important items to check off your list, regardless of the season:

- Suggest that the homeowners let trusted neighbors know the home will be empty and instruct them on how to reach you in case of an emergency or if there is a nagging maintenance issue that needs attention.

- Even after mail delivery has ceased at the empty home, flyers, takeout menus or phonebooks can accumulate at the front door. Remind homeowners to enlist the help of neighbors to collect these items on a regular basis.

- When selling a vacant home, the probability of a home being vandalized, damaged, or broken into does increase. Help keep the property safe by recommending the homeowners install a timer on lights to give the appearance that the home is occupied.

- For added security, advise homeowners to install motion detectors or timers on outdoor lights as well.

- Explain the benefits of keeping some furniture and personal belongings in view of the street so the house doesn’t appear abandoned. Staging is important to attract buyers and deter would-be criminals, who seek out empty properties.

- Vacant homes can get dirty, too. Be sure rooms get a regular cleaning, with frequent dusting.

- Visit the home periodically to make sure there haven’t been any pests taking up residence. If you see evidence of that, arrange for an exterminator to come.

- If you or the homeowners will not be returning to the house for an extended period, consider unplugging appliances. This will save energy and help prevent dangerous short circuits.

- Slightly prop open freezer or fridge doors to prevent potential mold buildup.

- Before showings or open houses, run the water in all sinks, flush toilets, turn on showers, let tubs drain, and even run dishwashers and washing machines. This will help clear air from the pipes, flush out any stagnant debris and help you identify any issues with clogs or drips before potential buyers do.

- Cleaning and painting the front door is always a wise idea because buyers must linger at the door while the lockbox is being opened.

- Check the batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Determine if these units will automatically signal local authorities if the home is empty.

- Recommend that your home sellers add an American Home Shield® Real Estate Home Warranty to their listing. An AHS® Real Estate Home Warranty can help protect their budget while their home is on the market* when inevitable household breakdowns happen. It can also help mitigate unexpected issues from the home inspection to keep the sale on track.

Whatever the season, your clients will appreciate your attention to detail and dedication to getting their homes sold. With your expertise and this handy checklist, vacant listings won’t stay that way for long.

*Subject to $2,000 cap for all trades during listing period.

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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New Jersey Residents: The product being offered is a service contract and is separate and distinct from any product or service warranty which may be provided by the home builder or manufacturer.