Is Your House Clean Enough to Pass a Buyer Inspection?

Life is messy. Although you will spend hours cleaning house before you list your home, chances are you’ll still have to do a little light housekeeping each time you schedule a showing or open house. But how clean is clean when interested buyers come knocking? Marcia Bennett always prided herself on maintaining a clean home. At least she did until she decided to sell it.

“Have you ever watched people walk through a house that they’re thinking about buying? They’re relentless. They search everywhere,” says Bennett. “Even if I wasn’t home during a showing, I’d notice an end table moved or something on a shelf that seemed out of place.”

Bennett, who listed and sold her home in Ocala, FL, in 2013 without an agent, says she was surprised at how vulnerable she felt when she began showing her home. Despite the scrutiny, Bennett eventually realized that she did the same thing whenever making a large purchase, whether it was a couch, a car or a house. “If you’re buying something used — and let’s face it, unless it was just built, a house is used — you’re going to give it a thorough inspection,” she says. “I think that a messy garage or a stained driveway gives off the wrong message. It makes people think you’re not really fond of your house in the first place, so why would they like it?”

Bennett says the selling process is all about making a connection with potential buyers. “It’s a major commitment. And if you’re selling your house, especially on your own, you want to make sure you make anyone who walks in feel like they’d be buying a house from someone who really loves that house, not someone who decided to put it on the market it so they could get rid of it,” she says.

That’s why Bennett decided to give her house a thorough cleaning inside and out. “I just went through it like I was possessed,” says Bennett. “I dusted top shelves I hadn’t touched in years. I cleaned out the bottom of cabinets, and my husband power-washed our garage floor and our driveway.”

And the results? “I think it made a tremendous difference,” says Bennett. “The house looked like it was sparkling from the inside. It smelled wonderful.”

Once the major house cleaning was finished, Bennett says it was easy to keep her home ready for a showing because she and her husband spent most of their time outside or on their lanai. “Once you do all the heavy lifting, it’s easy to go back and do a few things here and there,” Bennett says. “The hard part was getting it super clean. Once I did that, I felt like it was manageable. And I felt like it was a house I was proud of. And that’s what helped us eventually sell it — people saw how much pride we took in our home. That’s a powerful selling point.”

According to Bennett, it’s all about showing others how much affection you have for your house in the first place. “How clean your house is can be a pretty good indication of how much you care for it,” she says. “And you take care of the things you love.”

Staging what you can’t see can also influence a buyer’s first impression. Buyers sniff out attempts to cover smells with scented candles and wonder if you’re trying to disguise problems more ominous than just a slow-draining sink. When it’s time to tackle those spring cleaning projects you’ve been avoiding, consider using all-natural cleaning products when you prepare your home for a showing. Green cleaning solutions are a good alternative to overpowering smells of bleach and harsh cleansers.

We want to know: What are your best extreme cleaning tips?


17 Simple Green Cleaning Solutions

It’s time to tackle those spring cleaning projects you’ve been avoiding and celebrate Earth Day by using eco-friendly cleaning products when you prepare your home for a showing. We’ve shared green cleaning solutions on our blog before and were pleased to get so many comments with your go-to alternatives, like this tip from Seymour: “I use toothpaste to keep brass and metal fixtures sparkling clean. Toothpaste is really cheap compared to other metal polishers.” Here are our favorite all-natural cleaning solutions and recipes (and some of yours!).

1. Vinegar. Because vinegar is acidic, it’s a great cleaning agent. Here are five places you can use it in your home:

  • Make chrome sink and bath fixtures shine by removing lime buildup with a paste made from 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar.
  • Deodorize your kitchen drain by pouring down 1 cup of baking soda; then, pour down 1 cup of hot white distilled vinegar. Wait five minutes, then run hot water to rinse the drain.
  • Clean and deodorize a microwave by placing a mixture (in a microwave-safe bowl) of 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup water in the microwave and heating it until the mixture is boiling. Crusty food will come loose, and odors will be removed. Finish by wiping the microwave down with a clean, dry towel.
  • Get a clean, spotless shower by pouring vinegar into a spray bottle and spraying it all over your tub and tiles. Allow this to sit for 15 minutes, then wipe down the tub and rinse. For stubborn stains, try a mix of lemon juice, baking soda and vinegar. Work the paste over the stains with a sponge, then rinse.
  • To clean and rejuvenate wood cabinets, try a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. Use a sponge to remove grease and buildup. (Avoid using steel wool or scrub brushes since they can damage the wood finish.) A paste of water and baking soda can be applied to remove any stubborn stains. To restore shine, try a mix of 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 cup vinegar. Using a spray bottle, spray your cabinets with the solution and buff with a soft cloth.

“You just can’t go past white vinegar on stainless steel — it cleans and shines beautifully and will help to leave a great impression on prospective buyers.” —Jonathan

2. Baking soda. Baking soda is another great natural product that is probably in products you already use, like kitty litter, deodorant and laundry detergent. Here are four new tips for using baking soda to keep your home  clean and smelling fresh:

  • Sprinkle the bottom of your garbage can with baking soda to deodorize it. You can also sprinkle it in the bottom of every new bag you put in to keep each new load of garbage from getting too smelly.
  • Clean silver using a paste made from three parts baking soda and one part water. Rub the paste onto each piece of silver, then rinse with warm water and dry with a clean, soft cloth.
  • Clean kids’ toys with a mixture of 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 quart warm water. Submerge the toys in this mixture, then rinse them with clean water and dry with a clean cloth.
  • To clean and deodorize your microwavable food containers, rinse them out with a solution of one part water and one part baking soda.

“My bathroom must-haves for cleaning are baking soda and vinegar. They’re cheap, readily available and they do the work.” —Melanie

3. Lemon juice. High in citric acid and low in pH, lemon juice is one of the best natural cleaners around. As an added bonus, lemon juice smells fresh. Here are four wonderful ways lemon juice can clean and brighten your home.

  • Use diluted lemon juice to cleans stains from, and kill bacteria on, cutting boards. Rub the lemon juice into the stains and watch as they disappear. Tough stains might need to sit overnight.
  • Make an even more powerful degreaser out of your dish soap with the addition of few drops of lemon juice.
  • Put a mixture of water and 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice into a spray bottle, and use it to wash windows and clean mirrors.
  • Rub half of a cut lemon on shower doors to get rid of hard water stains.

4. Salt. Not only is salt an excellent scouring agent, but it also works as a catalyst that improves and accelerates the effectiveness of other cleaning agents (like vinegar). We’ve compiled four unusual places salt can work for you:

  • Get a slow drain moving again by pouring down 1/2 cup salt and following with a quart of hot water. Repeat if necessary.
  • Clean cast iron pans by sprinkling salt in the bottom and scrubbing with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Rub down white wicker furniture with a saltwater solution, and let it dry in the sun to keep the wicker from yellowing.
  • Remove ring stains left by beverage glasses on tables by making a paste of vegetable oil and salt and rubbing the stains gently with the paste. Let the paste sit for an hour or so, then wipe it off.

What green/eco-friendly cleaning solutions do you use and love? We want tips!