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Optimizing Curb Appeal

Many buyers form an opinion of whether or not they are interested in a home before ever stepping through the front door. Your home’s curb appeal is your first, and best, chance to make a good first impression on the buyer. You may have spent a lot of time and money updating the interior, but if the exterior of your home screams “help!” you’ve already lost the sale.

This may not be as exciting as getting the interior in tip-top shape, but it’s possibly even more important. Landscaping, physical exterior, and the facade of your home are all important factors that have to be considered, and are vital to selling your home for your asking price.


When it comes time to sell your home, use curb appeal to your advantage to get your asking price. By presenting a beautiful home, inside and out, you’ll close the deal in no time.

It is written in Proverbs that “first impressions are the most lasting.” Apply Andrew Grant’s quote that “you never get a second chance to make a great first impression” on the presentation of your home for sale, and you have some powerful food for thought. There is only a seven-second window to make a brilliant impression on your potential buyers. When they pull up to the property, buyers are busy looking down (at the grass), at eye level (at the shutters and paint), and up (at the roof) to formulate their first impression.

A manicured lawn with thriving trees and bushes, plants on the porch, flowers blooming in the garden, fresh mulch, and updated shrubs are all easy and relatively inexpensive investments that pay off big in the end.

On the other hand, if a potential buyer is greeted by dying grass, wilting flowers, overgrown and out-of-control weeds everywhere, chipping paint, and a roof that looks like it’s about to collapse, they may just keep on driving. Buyers don’t want to have to come out of pocket after they make a purchase unless they’re getting a great deal. The more they estimate that they will have to put into the property after the purchase, the lower their offer will be, if at all.

Attractive photos showcasing great curb appeal will generate enthusiasm to see the property and prompt potential buyers to make an appointment with you or your real estate agent to tour the home. More about photographs later.


Potential buyers will drive by your home or park out front to decide if they want to contact you for an appointment. This is where the devil is in the details. Just like you have to keep your house show-ready clean at all times, the same applies to the outside. Keep your yard cut, trees pruned, hedges trimmed, garden weeded, etc. Keep the garage door down when your house is on the market, and wash the windows and make sure that any chipping paint is repaired.


If the pathway to your front door is an ambassador to your home, the front door is your welcoming committee. Make the short walk a magical, appealing journey that promises unlimited possibilities for excited buyer-to-be.

If the walkway to your home is a straight line from the sidewalk to the front yard, decorate the lane with plant groupings in vibrant colors in flower pots or beds. Add curious boulders and interesting trees to charm your guests, but be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want to create clutter.

For a more contemporary look, a wooden walkway made of cedar, redwood, cypress, or teak constructed with weather-resistant wood is a beautiful option, and is easy to stain and seal once a year.

Whatever the building material, keep the pathway manicured with regular edging. Ensure no weeds or overgrowth infiltrate, especially around the concrete or wood itself.

Adhere to the “less is more” discipline. Go easy on the decorations and lawn ornaments. A tasteful welcome sign is appropriate, but forgo the gnomes and flamingos. Be careful not to overcrowd your entry.

Make sure your entry is well-lit, as this will not only make a big impact on curb appeal, but also provides better security. Solar stake lights can be purchased inexpensively from home improvement stores.


The exterior of your home plays a large role in the entire look of the property. Painting a house is a significant investment, but one of the most important investments you’ll make to get your asking price. Don’t skimp on this when it comes to preparing your house for the market.

The best way to chase off a buyer is to show him a house with wood rot in the windows and chipped paint. The first thing the buyer is thinking is, “we’ll have to paint immediately, and that will cost $20,000!” It may or may not cost that much; but if you freshen up the home, replace all rotting wood, paint the trim, etc., that worry won’t be the first thing the buyer thinks about before ever touring the inside.


As your guests’ “welcoming committee of one,” your front door has a significant impact on your home’s first impression. Make the point of entry “pop.” Painting your front door in a punch of bright, bold paint that contrasts with the home’s siding and trim will add beauty and is another great way to add curb appeal.

A seasonal wreath, a cheery welcome mat, some potted plants, or boxed planters will create a positive, free flowing atmosphere, and have buyers dreaming about the life they could have beyond that door.

Pay attention to the details: make sure that the door knob is polished, and if the hardware is dated or beyond cleaning, replace it. Making your front door sparkle is important in helping buyers develop a positive first impression.

If your outdoor lights are dated, consider replacing them with updated fixtures. Also, birds like to make nests in front door lights, and spiders love to weave webs in the shade of the overhang. Make sure you clear all that nature away.

Take a good look at the back door as well. If it’s a sliding screen, make sure you replace screens with holes or are coming apart at the edges. Make sure your sliding door slides smoothly and stays on its tracks upon operation. Don’t let anything fall apart in your buyer’s hands. There is absolutely nothing worse than having something malfunction during a showing.


If your “soft landscaping” (lawn and garden) is withering, has bare patches, or is overgrown and riddled with weeds, buyers will be turned off. The importance of a well-manicured lawn cannot be overstated.

Go for a neat and attractive look. A lawn that appears to be too high maintenance can also be a turn off. You don’t need to hire a professional to design a landscape. Just make sure the grass is cut and healthy.

Flowers make people happy. Planting a simple garden is a great way to turn a house into a home. Plant brightly colored flowers to bring a joyous feeling to your lawn area.

To add a finished look to your yard, lay some dark colored mulch around bushes and in your garden. Mulch gives the area a clean, well-maintained look, adding to your curb appeal.

As mentioned above, one or two simple garden ornaments is fine, but don’t overdo it. Avoid any thoughts of “tacky” or “clutter.” Though the buyer will understand that the lawn ornaments don’t come with the house, they could still impact that perfect first impression that you’re seeking.


The term “hardscaping” refers to the driveway, rocks, sidewalks, and any paved areas around the home.

Be careful not to fall behind in pool maintenance at summer’s end. A pool can be a powerful ally — or enemy — in selling a home. People either love them or hate them, but pool lovers will be turned off to see a dirty pool full of leaves, twigs, and dead bugs. Keep the chemical level balanced year-round and keep it skimmed. Your goal is for prospective buyers to envision themselves enjoying a hot summer day in the pool, not hard labor to keep it clean.

In the fall, excess leaves hide walkways and sidewalks, and can be dangerous if someone slips on wet leaves. Be sure to keep leaves raked and the paths safely clear.


By the time buyers gets to the backyard, they have formed their impression and they are moving into decision-making mode. Now is not the time to rest on your laurels.

Your back yard should be just as well tended as the front yard, as it matters just as much. Many buyers consider the backyard an extension of the home. This is where children and pets will play, and adults will relax and entertain guests. Making a good impression with your backyard is incredibly important. You want your backyard appeal to give the buyer a vision of endless possibility and picturing themselves enjoying life there for years to come.

Ensure your lawn looks good for showings, that it is cut, fertilized, and watered. Pick up any pet waste. If you have a pool or a hot tub, ensure that the cover is off and that the water is sparkling clean. Again, flowers will go a long way in adding to the appeal of the area.

The addition of patio furniture will make your backyard feel more welcoming, and will help the buyers envision themselves sitting outside with friends or family sharing a cold drink on a hot day and enjoying good conversation.


The roof of a house is a big consideration in the sale of a home. Roofs are expensive to repair and replace, and buyers will have the roof inspected before making an offer. Before putting your house on the market, hire a professional to assess the condition and estimated life of the roof. Make sure that any minor repairs are completed and all shingles are in place. There may be some expense in this pre-marketing strategy, but it will be worth knowing exactly what to expect in the inspection and negotiation phase of a sale, so making all necessary repairs beforehand will ensure that the sales process will be smooth and efficient.

If any problems are discovered upon inspection, you can fix them or you can subtract the cost of the repairs from the final sale price. This is generally acceptable to both buyer and seller.

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