In the last year, quite a few houses have gone up for sale in my neighborhood. Several have sold and several have languished. While price plays a big role in what sells and how quickly, most of the houses that languished in my neighborhood were priced competitively. So what made them unappealing to buyers?
One obvious answer is the lack of curb appeal that many of them had. While I never went inside any of the houses for sale and can’t attest to any problems inside, most of the houses that didn’t sell had lousy curb appeal. If a prospective buyer drives by your house and sees that the outside is a mess, it’s an immediate turnoff. They start thinking about the time and effort they’ll have to put in to make it presentable. And then they think, “If the outside looks this bad, what is the inside going to look like?” Rather than take on tons of problems, they head to the next, more attractive home.
Improving your curb appeal doesn’t have to be expensive. There are lots of ways to pretty up a home with just a little effort on your part. Here are some ideas.
Wash the house: If the funk is so thick on your house that you can write your name in it, you seriously need to wash your house. One of the homes in my neighborhood was like this and it never sold. Green funk on the walls is not appealing to buyers. You can rent a power washer and do it yourself, or you can pay someone around $100 to do it for you. It will make a huge difference in how the house looks.
Pick up the trash: Even if you’re in the throes of moving, don’t leave piles of trash around the outside of your home. One of the homes in my neighborhood had an old water heater, carpet, and other stuff sitting in the side yard the entire time it was up for sale (before the seller gave up and rented it out). Make sure your household trash is collected (or hauled to the dump) each week and that you quickly remove anything that the trash man won’t take. Pick up newspapers and flyers and clean up any trash that’s not even your fault such as cigarette butts and other litter.
Paint/replace the mailbox: Many neighborhoods have mailboxes with painted wooden posts. Make sure to clean and paint yours. If it’s been eaten by termites, replace it. If the box is dented, broken or missing the flag, replace it. If you have a metal post, make sure it’s free of rust. If you have a plastic box, make sure it’s not cracked and faded. Plant a few flowers next to the mailbox for added appeal.
Kill the weeds: A few weeds in the lawn isn’t going to break a sale, but an overgrowth of weeds is a problem. And don’t look only on the lawn. Get rid of weeds in your planters and in your foundation plantings, if applicable. If your driveway is gravel, get rid of weeds there. If you have a concrete driveway and sidewalk, look for weeds in the cracks. One of the houses in my neighborhood had a foundation area that was so full of weeds that they had killed most of the shrubs.
Trim the shrubs: If you have shrubs along the front of your house or along the driveway, give them a good trim so they aren’t overgrown.
Paint the shutters: Whether your shutters are vinyl or wood, they need care. Vinyl will fade and painted wood will peel. For the cost of a few cans of paint (if you have vinyl shutters you can get the spray paint that’s made for plastic) you can make them look dramatically better.
Clean your fixtures: Clean anything like light fixtures, door knockers, house numbers, door knobs, kick plates, or mail slots. If they are brass you might need to polish them to really make them shine.
Paint the house: If your home is wood and the paint is peeling or faded, give it a fresh coat. If you have to pay someone to do this for you, it might cost a good bit depending on the size of your house, but it will be well worth it. If you can do it yourself, you’ll only have to pay for paint and brushes.
Plant something pretty: If you have areas where plants can go, such as around the mailbox or along the front of the house, plant some durable flowers, shrubs, or ground cover. A couple of pots near the door or steps filled with flowers can help, too. To really maximize your dollar, get something like pansies or evergreens which will last more than one season. After you plant, be sure to keep the area free of weeds, trimmed, and neat looking.
Keep the lawn mowed/raked: When your house is on the market, you need to keep the lawn neat. This means mowing when it needs it and/or raking the leaves often. Don’t let it get out of control or potential buyers will be turned off. Use the weed whacker to trim areas that the mower can’t access. Also, pick up any dog droppings. No one wants to step in your dogs’ poop when they come to look at the house.
Clean the doors and windows: Give exterior doors and windows a thorough cleaning. Repaint the doors or replace, if necessary.
Paint/repair fencing: If you have a fence, make sure it is in top condition. Give it a fresh coat of paint and repair any broken or sagging areas.
Pick up excess toys: If you have kids, make sure you keep the yard free of bikes, broken dolls, and excess toys. Your prospective buyers might not have or want kids and may not find the detritus of childhood endearing. If you have larger items like play sets or trampolines, make sure they are clean and well maintained. Even if you’re taking them with you when you leave, they are impacting your curb appeal while your house is on the market.
Consider mulch: If you have areas where grass doesn’t grow well, such as under trees or play sets, consider adding some fresh mulch to add color and definition to the yard.
Clean the driveway: If you have a concrete driveway and it has oil spots, paint spills, or “artwork” from your kids, clean it off. You can buy cleansers made for concrete at home improvement stores.
Remove holiday decor: If you’re one of those people who leave the Christmas lights up all year, take them down. Christmas lights on a home in July aren’t a selling point. Similarly, if your home is for sale during the Halloween to Christmas time frame, go easy on the decor. Remember that your buyers may not celebrate or love the holidays as much as you do, so keep it to a tasteful minimum. Deflated blow up decorations all over the yard are not attractive.
Sure, you can spend a ton of money and completely re-sod your lawn, install a water garden, or plant some huge trees, but chances are you don’t have to go that far. A little maintenance, repair, and cleaning can go a long way toward improving your curb appeal and making your house one that buyers want to see.
Photo courtesy of WaywardShinobi