Posted on May 30th, 2018
We all know and love the feeling that comes with walking into a new house for the first time: Everything is clean, empty, and fresh, like a blank slate just waiting to receive our vision. If you’re in the process of selling your home, you’ll therefore want to make sure its new owner experiences this wonderful feeling, too. Thorough move-out cleaning is both the polite and professional thing to do and sometimes absolutely necessary: It’s not uncommon for house sale contracts to require cleanliness as part of the deal. If you agree to make sure your old house is clean as a whistle before its new owner moves in and fail to follow through, you might find yourself on the hook for extra funds. Don’t take the risk—follow the four rules of move-out cleaning discussed below:
4 Steps You Need to Take When Cleaning Your House for Sale
Start the cleaning process before you even put your house on the market
Move-out cleaning makes spring cleaning look like a quick wipe-down by comparison. The longer we live in a place, the more “stuff” we tend to accumulate, and because we’re so used to seeing it, we don’t realize how much clutter we have until we try to move it. As you can probably guess, if you cram both decluttering and cleaning into one or two last-minute sessions, your final results will suffer.
To reduce stress and ensure that you have enough time to clean your home thoroughly, we recommend you begin the decluttering process a few months before you actually put your house on the market. Go through everything you own and decide what you want to keep and what might be easier to replace. (Remember, the more you have to move, the more your move will cost. It therefore sometimes makes sense to get rid of old, worn household items and replace them with new models once you get settled in your next home.) You should also consider putting everything that isn’t absolutely necessary to your day-to-day routine in storage while you move. The less you have to “workaround” while you’re cleaning, the easier it will be to clean your home effectively.
Make a list of areas that will need “detail cleaning.”
Most of us struggle to take an objective look at very familiar surroundings and see small things that are amiss, like a bit of dust on top of ceiling fan blades. Whoever is buying your home will be seeing its interior for the first time, however, and they’ll be keeping a sharp eye out for problem areas. To make sure you don’t overlook anything, try copying down this list of all the things people commonly miss while cleaning:
- Light fixtures (especially the interiors of ceiling lights, which tend to collect a massive amount of dust).
- Light switches.
- Air vents and fans.
- Window screens. (To clean these properly, you should remove them from the windows and soak them in warm, soapy water before giving them a gentle scrub. Let them dry completely before replacing them to prevent mold growth.)
- The areas under appliances. (Don’t forget to clean the floor under your trash cans and the space behind your toilet, too.)
- The interiors of appliances—As in, you should also clean out the inside of your oven, washing machine, dishwasher, etc. if they’re included in the sale of your home.
- The moldings around walls, doors, windows, etc.
- Hidden storage areas (e.g., under the basement stairs). Many homeowners make the mistake of leaving personal items behind in storage areas they’ve long since forgotten about.
Finally, don’t forget to take absolutely everything that isn’t included in the sale of your home with you when you move. Some homeowners intentionally leave certain things behind thinking the new owner will get some use out of them. Shower curtains, for instance, along with trash cans and partially used cleaning products, are often left in place when they shouldn’t be. Even if these things seem useful to you, the new owner of your home might feel that leaving them in place is unhygienic.
Don’t forget to deodorize
Have you ever noticed that your house has a unique, familiar scent that literally makes it “smell like home”? Whether it’s the smell of spicy food, sports gear, your favorite air freshener, or pets, organic odors have a way of seeping into carpet and upholstery fibers. From there, they gradually permeate the air of a home. However, while this smell is usually either pleasant or barely noticeable to homeowners, it can present itself as a rank odor to strangers. Ergo, even if you don’t think your home smells, you should absolutely take the time to air it out. Applying baking soda to the carpets and furniture, letting it sit overnight, and then vacuuming it out is another good way to neutralize odors.
Hire a pro, even if you plan to do most of the cleaning yourself
Let’s face it: Unless you happen to be a professional cleaner yourself, you’re probably going to have a hard time creating a truly professional cleaning job. Some of the factors mentioned above—our tendency to automatically overlook familiar blemishes and filter out familiar smells—can make it all but impossible to clean our homes to meet the exacting standards of a stranger. Not only will a professional cleaner be able to catch anything you’ve missed, but they will also have access to professional equipment (like high-powered carpet and floor cleaning machines) that’s guaranteed to blast out odors and deep stains.
Remember: Moving is stressful enough without adding the task of trying to make your home look “like new” again all on your own. Do your best to get your home ready for sale—this will save you both time and money when working with a professional—but don’t go it alone. Following all of the advice above and hiring the right cleaner to assist you will let you move on with complete peace of mind.