Curb Appeal: Boost yours for added equity and faster sales.

Realtors joke that people will pay $200,000 for a house just to get the $200 front door – or the $50 wreath on the door. But it’s often true that “curb appeal” can be a boon for investors selling real estate. Learn how to improve yours and you can dramatically improve your sales while increasing the chances that you will get a higher offer to purchase.


To those who may not be familiar with the term “curb appeal”, it is real estate jargon used to describe the allure of a home when it is viewed by passersby from the street. Curb appeal works like a magnet on browsers who are out crawling the curbs search of homes, either in cars or during a leisurely after-dinner stroll. But it is important to remember that every magnet has two opposite poles. Your curb appeal magnet will either draw potential buyers in for a closer view of your home, or it will repel them and they won’t even slow down for a second glance.


The Importance of Curb Appeal


For example, gutters stuffed with leaves and a burned out porch light or broken doorbell are minor issues that do not detract from the actual value of a home. But to a buyer who pays close attention to subtle clues and telltale details, unkempt gutters could indicate a poor track record of home maintenance. A broken doorbell can be an embarrassment for a Realtor coming to tour your home with clients, and it can make them skeptical of your entire home wiring system.


The missing porch light is no big deal – unless buyers are touring neighborhoods at night, a time that is popular for people who are busy at work during daylight hours. They might not spot your house or house number because of the lack of light, and even if they do they might get the impression that it lacks that warm, inviting quality that many buyers shop for in a home.


On the other hand, if your walkway is flattered by attractive ambient lighting, the entryway sports a beautiful door with a stained glass panel, and the flowerbeds are manicured and pretty, it can help close a sale. Most sales of homes are powerfully influenced by the buyer’s emotions. Appealing to those emotions in a positive and uplifting way is an important part of real estate marketing.


How to Evaluate and Critique Curb Appeal


Before you improve your curb appeal, you will first need to evaluate it and come up with a game plan. Begin by driving through the most attractive neighborhood you can find to check out what others have done to increase their curb appeal. Even if your property is modest and your goal is to do an inexpensive project, you can still get valuable ideas from those who splurged on their own projects.


·         For instance, what colors did they choose for the shutters and trim, what kind of entry door and hardware looks best, and how are the house numbers displayed? Sometimes a handsome brass doorknocker can be a knockout, and a cheap white picket border around the walkway can add upscale charm and character.


·         Next, observe your own house from the curb and compare and contrast it with those you found most attractive. Look for conspicuous blemishes like bald patches in the lawn, dead leaves clinging to the shrubbery, shabby lawn furniture, unkempt garden hoses and trashcans, roof shingles that are curling, and peeling, faded paint.


·         Focus on the front door and entryway because those are the center of attention in terms of curb appeal. Replace broken windowpanes, torn screens, and purchase a new door if necessary – or give it a good coat of varnish or paint. The entryway is the focal point for your house.


Add Perceived Equity on a Shoestring Budget


While most home equity projects involve not just labor but also a significant investment of cash, improved curb appeal can usually be accomplished on a shoestring budget. The sky’s the limit, of course, and the more you have to spend on improving the exterior look of your property, the better. But if you are trying to preserve your profits by conserving your funds, look to an inexpensive curb appeal makeover as the path of least resistance and biggest immediate rewards.


·         Trim the grass and shrubbery and put down fresh, rich-looking mulch or pine bark.


·         Ask your local nursery to help you select flowers that are inexpensive yet colorful and low maintenance. $200 worth of new flowers, pine straw, and mulch can make a drab yard look like a million bucks.


·         Clean out the gutters because it looks good, helps prevent water damage to your home or yard, and conveys the impression that the entire property is probably looked after with pride of ownership.


·         Wash the windows to make them sparkle. Use newspaper to dry them instead of a cloth, because newspaper does not leave streaks.


·         Add some inexpensive walkway lighting or just leave the porch light on at night to accentuate the beauty you worked so hard to create.


Get Creative in an Emergency


If your lawn needs help, you might have to call in a landscaper to re-seed it. But in a pinch you can cover those bald or brown patches with potted plants or attractive lawn furniture. If you can’t afford to repaint your entire exterior, focus on the trim. Making the window frames, doorways, and shutters look sharp can help give the home a facelift, and may draw attention away from areas where the siding could use a fresh coat.


Remember to Give Browsers a Sales Sheet


To make sure that you connect with buyers, consider putting sell sheets or flyers near the curb for them to take. Home improvement stores sell plastic tubes on metal stakes that are specially designed for keeping MLS sheets conveniently accessible but protected from the elements. If a buyer likes your house and walks away with marketing information in hand, there is a much greater likelihood that they will contact you or pass the information on to someone else who is house hunting.


Curb appeal is not necessarily difficult or costly to accomplish, but it can give you a distinct advantage over the competition, and that is especially valuable during challenging market cycles. Invest a little time and energy to achieve and preserve the aesthetic appeal of your property, and it may turn out to be one of the most rewarding investments you make. Good first impressions are important for business, and that idea is especially true when it comes to selling real estate.


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