Spring has sprung. And with it comes a positive prediction for home sellers in the greater Seattle area. With inventory down and homes without third party liens harder to find, this Spring is shaping up to be great for sellers in our region.
The sun is shining and all of your homes flaws stand out. What do you need to do to prepare your home for the market? Can you do it in a sustainable way? Here are some tips, tricks and ideas from an Accredited Staging Professional and Real Estate Broker with over 22 years experience in the greater Seattle area.
- Does your house need interior paint? Consider using non-toxic paint. Interior house paints — whose ingredients can include solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — are among the main culprits that lead to poor indoor air quality. The smell of a freshly painted room may dissipate within days, but the off-gas release of that paint can contribute to the indoor air pollution for up to five more years. Here are some eco friendly options:
- The first option is the so-called Zero-VOC paints. These paints provide the closest substitution to regular paints and are available in a wide range of colors in flat, satin and glossy finishes. They are easy to apply and durable. They are also sold in most major paint supply stores and home improvement centers. Keep in mind though, that with this alternative, lighter shades of paint produce fewer VOC emissions than darker/deeper colors.
- The second option are clay paints. They are all natural but I don’t recommend them for most homes since once applied, the walls cannot be washed, scrubbed or wiped. Not very practical for most of us, IMO.
- The third choice are milk paints. In addition to being completely biodegradable, milk paint also helps clean the air inside your home by absorbing carbon dioxide – an unexpected but nice side effect. This paint is sold in a powdered form that must be mixed before using. It is available in a very limited selection of colors and when dry, it may give your walls an uneven, mottled faux-finish look.
- The first impression is the most important. How is your curb appeal? It’s easy to spruce up your yard naturally. Weeds are easily pulled by hand when the ground is wet in the Spring. Apply a natural lawn food to green up your grass and keep it mowed and edged. Avoid toxic products like Roundup, Weed and Feed, and fake mulch. If you need to kill some pesky weeds, try agricultural strength vinegar. It works great! Do you need to add a few plants and shrubs? Consider your passive solar when doing so. Plan your landscaping to take advantage of the sun. Plant regional plants to cut down on watering. Ask yourself if your landscaping attracts beneficial wildlife. Create outdoor spaces using recycled products.
- Clutter has to go. With some planning, you can de-clutter your house in a sustainable way. The best way is to make a list with categories: donate, recycle, sell, throw away (as little as possible since it ends up in the landfill). Look at each room with a critical eye. What are all those stacks of magazines doing? Take them to your gym or office to share. If you can’t share them, at least recycle them. Where did all these clothes come from? Go through your clothes and take trendy ones to your local consignment store. Donate the rest to great local organizations like Children’s Hospital thrift stores located throughout our region. A good rule is if you have not used it in the past year, pass it on. Freecycle Network is a great way to share your stuff. Go through your cupboards and closets and do what I like to call, a pre-pack. Since you will be moving anyway, why not start packing now to give your cupboards and closets a more spacious look and feel. Stack boxes neatly along a wall of the garage or in some other spot that does not interfere with the flow of the house.
- Now it’s time for a deep cleaning. The dust, dirt and grime are probably at their peak after a long winter indoors. Many homeowners have good intentions when they don their rubber gloves and proceed to douse every surface with pine or lemon scented cleaners. But a truly clean home, one that’s fresh and free of toxins, should not have any chemical or artificial smell to it. Did you know that terpenes, chemicals used to give pine and lemon scented cleaners their smell, can react with ozone to produce toxic compounds, including formaldehyde? I could go on and on with data showing how many ordinary cleaning solutions contain lots of harmful ingredients that can damage the environment not to mention your health and the health of your family. So, what is one to do? Here are some safe and natural cleaning alternatives:
- Baking Soda: A natural deodorizer and cleanser, sprinkle it on drains, bathtubs and kitchen counters, or mix it with water to form a scrubbing paste. You can also sprinkle it on carpets and upholstery, wait 15 minutes or so, then vacuum off for natural deodorizing. Baking soda even works as an oven cleaner – sprinkle the bottom of your oven with a little water, then generous amounts of baking soda. Let it sit overnight before wiping clean.
- Vinegar: Use white vinegar to clean windows, mirrors and counters, or mix it with castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and water as an excellent floor or bathroom cleaner. You can also mix apple cider vinegar with baking soda for a simple drain cleaner. Vinegar also cuts grease, and setting out a bowl in your kitchen will help absorb food odors.
- Lemon Juice: You can use this like you would vinegar. Lemon juice works really well for removing hard water deposits and tarnish on silver.
- Coarse Salt: A great option when you need a cleaner with scrubbing power. Mix salt and vinegar for an all purpose surface cleanser.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Use it to disinfect cutting boards or toothbrushes or to remove stubborn stains (like blood) and whiten laundry.
- Vodka: Yes it is for making drinks but it’s also a great disinfectant that you can also use to freshen upholstery. Spritz it on lightly.
- Essential Oils: You can mix natural antiseptic cleaners using water and a few drops of essential oils, like grapefruit seed extract, clove or tea tree. Tea tree oil is particularly effective against mold and mildew, something all of our region has to watch after such a rainy start to Spring. Filling a spray bottle with water and your favorite scented essential oil (I love lavender) is a simple recipe for air fresheners.
I hope these natural recipes and tips help you keep your home healthy and clean. Share your favorite natural cleaning tips and tricks. If I receive at least 5 tips, I will pick a winner from a hat and send them a $10 Starbucks card.