Dear Angie: Our 32-year-old house needs so much maintenance and updating inside and out that it's difficult to know to where to begin and end. We need more than home staging. We need a master plan to adequately address needs without spending more money than would be wise. Are there any consultant services available to address this need? Would a real estate agent be the best bet? — Lou R., Murrysville, Pa.
Dear Lou: It depends on what you want to do with your house. Do you want to sell it, or do you want to remain in the home? That decision is likely to affect whom you hire and for what.
If you plan to sell the house, then a reputable real estate agent with a good history should be able to help you address major issues that could hinder the sale. Undoubtedly, at some point, the agent should bring in an independent home inspector for a pre-listing inspection to look at the house's structural integrity, roof, plumbing, electrical and other major components, including the heating and cooling system. A home inspector can help you prioritize what needs to be addressed. Plus, if you make improvements before listing the house, it can cost you less because you can select the products in the price range you want. Even better, you get to enjoy the improvements while you live in the house; and when you do put it on the market, it should sell quicker.
Once any necessary repairs identified by the home inspector are made, bringing in a home stager to prepare the home for sale is a great step to move it quickly. With so many houses for sale — and many already deeply discounted — the value of one that looks clean, is in good condition and is move-in ready is at an all-time high. A stager can help you make the home look "sell ready."
If you don't plan to sell your home, then a preventive-maintenance inspection from a qualified home inspector could be all you need to tackle your to-do list. A home inspector also can help you identify which permits are required for specific projects. Home inspections typically cost $200 to $400. Many inspectors provide the reports the same day as inspections. It should be thorough and easy to understand, and it should include the findings specific to your house.
Of course, you'll want to check the credentials of anyone you hire. Always check the company's reputation and ask for proof of licensure and insurance.