Cleaning Preserves Value

From walls to floors and cabinets to countertops, asset managers have to cover a lot of ground in order to make sure an REO property is clean and ready to sell.

It is a wise move for asset managers to give their real estate agents, brokers and service providers a guide to use when getting real estate-owned assets cleaned, according to CJ Gehlke, president and founder of REO Nationwide in Newport Beach, Calif.

Inside the home, take a close look at the kitchen. Remove the refrigerator if it is inoperable and not repairable. If operable, remove the kick plate at the bottom front of the refrigerator and remove and clean the defrost pan. Defrost the fridge, remove and clean all shelves, racks and drawers. After cleaning, reassemble the refrigerator, turn it on, setting the control at the warmest setting, REO Nationwide advises.

For drawers in the kitchen, empty and clean all stains and food particles by washing them with mild soap and warm water. Remove any worn paper lining. Wipe out drawers.

It is important to clean the interior of the dishwasher and remove any food particles. Clean the soap holder, racks and trays. Clean the exterior by wiping with mild soap and warm water.

Move down the hallway to the washer and dryer. Clean the interior thoroughly and include any filters. Remove all mineral and dried soap deposits from the top of the washer.

"For the furnace, remove and thoroughly clean or replace filter in the bottom of furnace. Clean all windows inside and out. Clean all screens. Vacuum Venetian blinds to remove dust and spots," says Ms. Gehlke. "Wipe the window sills to remove dust, spots or stains."

The walls and ceilings take up a great deal of time. Brush out all corners to remove any dust. Clean the ceiling surrounding all vents.

Inside the bathroom, make sure to clean all tile and shower doors to remove lime deposits and mildew. Scrub the tub as well as the shower and sinks.

"It is important to clean thoroughly any woodwork, including doors, door frames and baseboards."

Also, sweep and mop hardwood floors, title and linoleum. Don't forget to take care of the carpet. Remove stains and shampoo when this is requested.

Empty and clean shelves, drawers and closets thoroughly. Remove, clean and replace the light fixtures. All fixtures should have an operable 60-watt bulb in each socket, says Ms. Gehlke.

"If the house has a fireplace, clean it thoroughly to include ash compartment. Sweep, clean and remove all trash and debris from the back porch."

For garages and carports, remove all trash and debris, and sweep clean. Remove the oil and grease from floor of carport/garage and driveways. Vacuum any vents in the property and haul off items from the storage sheds and make sure to sweep this area clean. And of course, remove all items of personal property.

Property and REO assets need be prepared for unexpected weather disasters, which may irreparably damage the property and lower its market value. For example, don't leave the gas on in your REO assets unless it is critical to prevent freezing, according to tips from REO Nationwide. There is no one home to smell a leak, and there may be liability if someone tosses a cigarette the way of your home, and it goes up in flames.

Some insurance policies may not pay off in the case of a gas-leak-related fire if the asset has been vacant over three months.

As to general storm preparedness, the pre-storm season precautions include the following: Check the roof for leaks. Clean out the gutters and drainage areas. Trim trees and remove debris. Make sure the premises are secure.

"After the storm hits, take pictures of the damage, both to the house and its contents and for insurance claims. Check for structural damage. Cover broken windows. Cover broken windows and holes in roof or walls to prevent further damage," says Ms. Gehlke. "If the floor is damp, or the wiring has become wet, it is dangerous to touch the main switch box. Have the electricity turned off by the power company. On a fuse box, lower or pull lever to the 'OFF' position to shut off all electrical power."

On a cartridge-type box, pull out plastic boxes holding cartridge fuses to shut off the power. If a circuit breaker box has one or two main switches, flip them to shut off the power.

On other circuit breaker boxers, flip all switches to "OFF" to shut off the power completely.

If the smell of gas is noticeable, open the windows and shut off the main valve. Do not light a flame or turn any electrical power switch on or off as it can spark.

Do not use a phone. Leave at once and report the leak from a neighbor's phone. If the home uses LP gas, stay out of the basement; LP gas is heavier than air and sinks to a lower level.

The natural gas shutoff valve is on the meter intake pipe. Turn it to a horizontal position with a wrench.

"The bottled gas shutoff valve is generally a knob or lever on top of tank. Turn it clockwise. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, call a plumber. If the water pipes are damaged, contact the water company. Avoid water from the tap," she said.

To shut off the water, the outside shutoff valve in warm climate areas is often at the point where the water pipe enters the house. The basement shutoff valve is common in colder areas. It may be on a pipe or set into a wall. The fixture shutoff valve is under or next to the fixture. It lets you turn off broken or overflowing fixtures. Also, watch for stray/injured animals seeking shelter, she said. (c) 2008 Mortgage Servicing News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.mortgageservicingnews.com/ http://www.sourcemedia.com/

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