Curb appeal is real estate talk for the initial appearance, and the impression it makes, of the house as seen from the road. It is what the buyer sees and feels as she parks her car across the street, crosses the road, strolls up the front walkway and pauses to knock on the door. Curb appeal includes the overall neighborhood, the house’s location on the block, condition of landscaping, the overall look of the house and attention to details.
Improvements You Can Make
Most real estate experts agree that the most important steps to take in preparing a house to be put on the market include fix the driveway, landscape the yard, paint the exterior, and paint or replace the front door. For those with little spare time, it may be worth the money to hire a maintenance service to shape up your yard and keep it maintained as long as your house is on the market.
Improving the appearance of the driveway can be as easy and inexpensive as cleaning up oil spills, pressure washing to remove mildew or moving extra cars to another location. For damaged driveways, excessive cracks may be more unsightly if they are filled with patches. In this case, resurfacing the driveway may be necessary.
Landscaping and lawn maintenance create the backdrop for the house. Like the scenery in a play production, it showcases the main attraction. In his book, Sell It Yourself, Ralph Roberts vividly describes the ideal lawn. "You want your yard to look like a golf course fairway-lush, green and meticulously maintained." This requires filling bare spots with grass plugs or sod, applying fertilizer and bug killer and regularly watering the lawn.
Add some color with a flowerbed or two of various annuals. A newly mowed and edged lawn accented with flowers makes a good first impression. The yard should look clean and green...with a few splashes of color.
Of course, once the lawn is golf course quality, you don’t want to spoil the effect with a cluttered yard. Neatly trim bushes and hedges so they accent the yard. Keep leaves raked and walkways swept daily. Trash cans, hoses, yard tools and toys should be stored in the garage or a shed.
Want the most dramatic improvement in appearance for the best value? Paint the exterior of your house, including trim, window frames, shutters, gutters and downspouts, mailbox and front door. Opt for neutral shades of white, light gray, or pale beige. If the existing paint on the outer walls is in good shape, consider touching up everything else in the list. This will make the house look brighter.
The front door is the transition area At its best, it carries the pleasant look of the lawn-and the opinion of the buyer-over the threshold of the house. At worst, it undoes everything you achieved with the lawn and casts pallor on the rest of the house. The buyer won’t miss the entryway, so the seller must not overlook it. Pressure clean the front steps, railings, and door. Clean out light fixtures, replace burned out bulbs and fix the broken doorbell. If the door is solid and in good working condition, give it a fresh coat of paint. If it is damaged, cheaply made or otherwise unsightly, invest in a new, hardwood door. When this is done, add the final touch to the threshold: A brand new doormat. After all, with all the work you just finished doing to spruce up the place, you want buyers to feel welcome.
Spend a Little, Get a Lot
Check out these tips that will spruce up your home and keep costs down.
- Don’t have the time to keep the house clean? Consider hiring a cleaning service to keep your house in shape while it is on the market.
- If your wall to wall carpet looks fine except for a couple of worn spots, have it professionally cleaned and cover the imperfect areas with small rugs.
- Make sure stairways are safe by freeing them of toys or slippery mats, securing the handrail and installing good lighting.
- If possible, plan to put your home on the market during peak real estate periods - spring and autumn.
- Adding closet organizers, building shelves and adding rooms are not cost effective and won’t add to the sale price of the house.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to call professional painters because their schedules may be filled. Hire them as soon as you make the decision to sell.
- Keep your lawn looking thick and green by fertilizing during the appropriate season.