We all know that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and that adage holds particularly true in real estate.
But it’s not just a shiny kitchen and clean closets that will catch their fancy.
“If the outside of your home is unflattering, dated or in disrepair, potential buyers may drive right by without even stopping to look at the inside,” said Dina Gibbons, home and garden design expert at Rubberecycle, a manufacturer of recycled rubber mulch.
Why is curb appeal so important? It boils down to pride of ownership, says Diana George, founder of Vault Realty Group, in Oakland, CA.
“If a home doesn’t sparkle on the outside, it leads would-be buyers to wonder about the condition of bigger-ticket items such as the roof, foundation, plumbing and electrical elements,” George said.
In fact, improving the curb appeal of your home can add up to 17 percent to the value of your home, according to researchers at Texas Tech University.
The first step is to imagine yourself as the buyer, says Craig Jenkins-Sutton, president of Topiarius, a Chicago landscape design firm.
“Walk around the perimeter of your home with a critical eye and note anything you anticipate a prospect might notice,” said Jenkins-Sutton.
Here are six areas where you should pay special attention.
1. Come clean.
Sometimes what the exterior of your home needs most is a just a simple yet thorough scrub down to make it sparkle,” said Bryn Huntpalmer, who writes home improvement guides for Austin, Texas-based website Modernize.
She recommends using a long-handled brush to scrub the siding and garage doors, or renting a power washer to tackle more difficult grunge. Don’t neglect windows and screens, too.
2. Get your mind in the gutter.
“Plugged gutters shout ‘poor home maintenance,’ and can lead to long-term problems with the home,” said Gibbons.
Clean out the leaves and muck and make sure gutters aren’t missing or damaged.
“Many buyers are warned to look for this telltale sign and avoid a home that hasn’t had gutter upkeep,” Gibbons said.
3. Make your front porch welcoming.
Even if you don’t want to undertake a complete home painting project, you can brighten up your home’s exterior by painting the front door for a pop of color. Take a look online for some of the trendier door colors such as canary yellow, kelly green, and shiny black, says Gibbons. You also might consider changing out your address numbers and even your mailbox. Finally, add a bright chair, cushions or other piece of furniture and a fresh doormat to make your front porch even more inviting. And don’t forget to make sure your doorbell is working.
4. Shine a light on it.
Exterior lighting is an easy and cost-effective way to add beauty and security to your home, says Gibbons.
“Not only does it highlight your beautiful landscaping and all the upgrades you’ve made to your house, but it also enhances the photos a Realtor will take to market your home,” Gibbons said.
Consider adding lighting to the landscaping and walkway, a hanging pendant light to the front doorway and additional lighting near the garage. As always, check all the bulbs to make sure they are in working condition.
5. Update your landscaping.
The importance of good landscaping cannot be overstated when it comes to curb appeal and home sales. According to a survey by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, 84 percent of adults say that the quality of a home’s landscape and yard would affect their decision purchase a home.
Add color to your landscape with flowers, which are a great way to infuse color into your landscape, according to Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
“Some of the best flowering shrubs for spring and summer include Cornelian cherry, lilac, sweetshrub, potentilla and smokebush,” Henriksen said.
Make sure your garden is well tended with frequent maintenance, include pruning trees and shrubs, weeding and adding mulch to flower beds and making sure lawns are freshly mowed.
Want to go the extra mile? Jenkins-Sutton recommends spending a little extra on permanent plant containers to help set your property apart.
“A poured-in-place concrete planter is more architecturally appealing to the eye,” Jenkins-Sutton said.
Another amenity to consider are vegetable boxes and gardens.
“Baby boomers and millennials in particular are impressed when a vegetable box is already installed in the back or front yards,” George said.
6. Replace your garage door.
Upgrade the stock garage door with a more attractive option, says Connor Roberson of Charlotte, NC-based A plus Garage Doors. Believe it or not, a garage door replacement will recoup 91.5% of its cost according to Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost Vs. Value report, which compares investment to resale value.
“Especially when a garage door faces the street, it can either be a huge selling point or a major eyesore,” said Roberson.
In addition to aesthetics, improvements in modern garage doors mean that the new door may be quieter and more energy efficient, and even controlled from a smartphone. If you can’t upgrade your whole door, consider new paint or hardware, Roberson adds.