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Sep. 22, 2017
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Tips for keeping lake property values high

By Bev Knight

You’ve probably heard that it has become a seller’s real estate market in parts of metro Atlanta. That means that the demand for homes exceeds the supply; so, sellers have more influence over the transaction, especially when it comes to price. On the lake, that’s certainly true in the lower price points, less so in the luxury market. But, we’ve definitely seen improvement all around. It’s important to note that the industry has changed since the last significant seller’s market. Buyers have vivid memories of the recession when homeowners found themselves profoundly upside down in their home values. They are much more savvy buyers thanks to the wealth of information on the internet, and they are very careful not to pay too much for a home. So, there are new considerations for selling a house in a seller’s market.
 
In the old days, a seller’s market meant you didn’t have to do much to get your house sold. It could be outdated with deferred maintenance. These days, you can still sell fixer-uppers, but you will get rock bottom prices for them. If you have a magnificent lake lot with deep water and stellar views, sometimes you can get away with problematic homes. But for the rest of us, it pays to maintain your home to the norms in this market. 
 
You don’t want to wait until right before you sell your house to do these tasks. It will be overwhelming and expensive, not to mention time-consuming. It’s best to try to do something every year to keep your home’s value as high as possible. Since the lake season is winding down, this is a good time to work on these projects. Here are five projects you can do to help you keep the value of your home.
 
Outside - The exterior of your home will be the future buyer’s first impression, so you want to keep it looking fresh and loved. A lot of people ignore landscaping, and that is a mistake. Bushes that grow above the window sills are a definite indicator that the home is older. At the very least, keep the bushes trimmed and remove dead plants. If you can, try to update the landscape design every five years or so. Keep in mind that even though “clean lines” are all the rage in architecture, they are not in style for landscaping. More natural curved borders are more visually appealing. 
 
In addition, keep an eye on the wood trim surrounding your windows and doors. This is hot, humid Georgia, and one of the most common complaints on a home inspection is rotted exterior wood. If you let it go, moisture will eventually get into your walls and may cause a mold problem. Replacing rotted wood is probably less expensive than you might think, and it will save you headaches to keep it up.
 
Another common finding on inspection reports is a crumbling driveway. Most driveways have cracks, but if the broken concrete is separating from the rest of the drive, you may want to budget for replacing that section of driveway. 
 
Inside – There are several observations that scream “old house.” Water stains are the kiss of death, even if the leak has been repaired. Make sure the leak is fixed, paint the affected area with Kilz or some equivalent, then repaint the area. Water problems scare buyers away almost 100 percent of the time. This is even true in unfinished basements. 
 
Another deal killer is mold which is often preventable. First, you need to make sure your home is water tight so mold has no moisture to facilitate its growth. In the shower, make sure your grout is sealed because that’s a prime location for growth. Check under sinks for minor leaks, and keep an eye on your basement. You don’t have to have an active leak to have mold in damp, humid areas. It is especially a problem for owners with vacation lake homes where they aren’t there much and there’s minimal air circulation. A dehumidifier will help. Products like Damp Rid are also useful. Our favorite mold killer is Home Armor available at hardware stores, but a simple bleach spray may take care of it. A little early maintenance can help you avoid mold remediation which can be thousands of dollars. Plus, it’s your home and you want it to be a healthy environment whether you’re selling or not.
 
Another tip, which is very inexpensive, is to pay attention to the little things that show the age of a house. Basically, what make this house look like it’s not new construction. For example, clean the dust from your vents. Take the vent panel off with a screw driver, then clean it thoroughly. If they’re really old, a quick coat of spray paint will freshen them. Likewise, clean your light switch plate and the surrounding walls. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser makes this a 60-second job. It works great.

If you are like most people, the trim around your doors is a little banged up. Touch it up with trim paint to make it look newer. The state of your sheetrock will be important to buyers. If it is cracked, they often assume there is a foundation problem. If there is major damage, get a professional to repair it. Your painter can probably do this for you. But if there are minor cracks, you can fix them yourself. There’s a great little gizmo available at the big box hardware stores or Amazon called a Dap Stick. It looks like a glue stick with a flat spreader for a lid. You run the stick across the crack to apply the sealant, then spread it flat with the spreader. It couldn’t be easier, and you may not even have to sand before you paint it.
 
Windows – Today’s double-paned windows have a seal that keeps the unit’s insulating qualities intact. If that seal is broken, the effectiveness of the window is compromised, and home inspectors will flag it every time. Often, it is time that breaks the seal, but it can also be cause by a pressure wash that is too powerful. So, be sure your pressure washer cranks down the pressure for the windows to avoid this problem. When you sell your house, buyers will usually ask that these compromised windows be replaced. So as you think about your maintenance plan, budget for these fixes. If you are thinking more long term and have the budget, windows with wood frames are becoming much less common because of the wood rot. For a while, vinyl windows were used instead. Today, fiberglass windows have been found to be even more reliable, so savvy builders are turning to that product. Talk to your builder about the best choice for your house.
 
Long-term Care – There are quite a few long-term maintenance issues that come up in a home inspection. For example, if you live on the lake, there is a pretty good chance you have had critters in your attic. You probably had that taken care of, but did you clean up the droppings? An inspector will note the presence of that feces and recommend having pest remediation which is very expensive. Don’t worry that you have to disclose that you’ve had pests because almost everyone on the lake has. But, do clean up the evidence to save future hassles, not to mention that it is unsanitary and potentially unhealthy.
 
Is your roof well-maintained? Most inspectors will go up on the roof to check it out, and they almost always find something wrong. If your roof has damage, here’s something to consider. Most insurance companies will not cover a new roof unless it has hail damage. There may be a time limit on that, but we HAVE had a hail storm in this area this past year. You will have to provide a date for the storm which you can find on the internet. It doesn’t cost you anything to ask, and you might end up with a new roof paid by insurance.
 
Front Door – Chances are you enter your house through the garage and never see your front door. However, your future buyers (and current visitors) will come through the front, so make sure it looks well-maintained. It is very common for sellers to have a faded or marred front door which taints the first impression for any buyer. Keep it looking nice.
 
Dock and Path – Last but not least, keep your dock in decent shape. That means the wood should be sealed regularly so it doesn’t rot. If you have rotted wood, replace it. It’s a safety hazard for you and your family, and it is a negative for a buyer. By the same token, keep your dock path clear. The Corps does allow you to maintain your path including overhanging tree limbs. You can find their guidelines by searching for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lanier.
 
It pays to try to keep up these minor elements that make up your lake house. It will make is easier to sell in the future, but it will also make it more pleasant for you and your family today.
Bev Knight is lead agent for The Good Life Group, Lake Lanier specialists with Keller Williams Lanier Partners. In the past two years her team has sold over $70 million in real estate, mostly on the lake. You can reach her through her website, www.HousesOnLanier.net.

Posted online 8/30/17
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