Curb appeal is the first thing that potential buyers notice as they drive up to a home. Whether it’s a well-manicured lawn, flowerpots on the front porch or updated light fixtures, experts say these touches can make all the difference.
“Curb appeal is the first impression,” said Holly Connaker, a Realtor at Coldwell Banker Burnet’s office in Plymouth, MN. “Buyers have to say, ‘Oh yeah, I want to come home to this every day.’”
And you’ve got to grab their attention quickly.
“Buyers typically make up their mind within three minutes of walking into the house. And you’re not going to get them in the house if they don’t like how it looks from the outside,” said Elizabeth Weintraub, broker associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, CA. “I’ve had some people who just refuse to go into a home.”
Tackling the maintenance
Curb appeal is so important that Realtors rated exterior projects as the most valuable home improvement projects in the 2014 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. While these include big-ticket undertakings like window and siding replacements, sometimes the exterior doesn’t need a major overhaul — just some sprucing up — and there are simple things that you can do. For most sellers, Connaker encourages starting to make improvements a month or two before your house goes on the market.
First, she said, power-wash the home’s exterior to get rid of dirt, dust and cobwebs, and clean all of the windows inside and out. Also, remember to clean out the gutters, repaint chipping or peeling paint, and replace any broken roof shingles.
“You have to make sure you’re doing your deferred maintenance,” Connaker said.
“Walk around the home and see if things need to be painted or touched up or a little crack is starting, and make a list,” Weintraub said. “Buyers will incredibly penalize you because of something that wasn’t done. You really want to take away anything that gives them a feeling that the home was not maintained well.”
Weintraub also suggests replacing outdated exterior light fixtures, a relatively inexpensive step that can make an immediate difference.
Tending to the yard
Connaker said you should hire a professional to manage plants, trees and shrubs, or do the yard work yourself but seek advice from a greenhouse or landscaper.
First and foremost, trim bushes and trees that are blocking the view of your house, Weintraub said. “Your house can’t be hidden. That’s going to look terrible in a [listing] photo,” she said.
Next, a well-manicured lawn goes a long way, so make sure the grass is trimmed and edged. If you already have a garden, spruce it up by pulling weeds and replacing dead plants. Connaker suggests planting hostas or other hearty plants for fullness and ground cover, investing in colorful flowers and adding a new layer of mulch in garden beds.
“Mulch is an inexpensive way to freshen up the yard,” said Connaker, noting that cities sometimes give away mulch.
Also, for a quick and easy pop of color, use potted flowers or window flower boxes.
Sometimes, Connaker uses photos and images for clients getting ready to show their home. “It’s hard for them to visualize what it needs to look like,” she says. “I use a variety of websites like Houzz and Pinterest where you can get wonderful ideas.”
Hiring a professional landscaper
“If homeowners want curb appeal, I would draw up a design,” said Amy Kruse, owner of Outside Dreams Landscape Design & Construction in Highlands Ranch, CO. “Everything depends on budget, obviously, but there are some simple things you can do, especially in the front yard.”
First, she said, make it low-maintenance, as that’s what homebuyers want. Second, look for contrast.
“A lot of times when you drive up to a house, there’s no contrast,” Kruse said. “Tan rock and tan brick — everything is pretty dull. What I suggest is bring in some shredded cedar mulch; it’s going to pop with the green plants.”
Curb appeal can be the difference between buyers feeling favorably as they walk up the steps or simply turning their minds off to the home, Weintraub said.
“If there’s something on the exterior that’s negative to them, that’s going to be foremost on their mind when they walk into the house, and it may not leave them regardless of how pretty the interior is,” she said.
Photo of yard courtesy of Lowes.com