Well, I don’t know about you, but I have been decluttering, cleaning, and painting like a mad woman these past few weeks! Preparing a house to sell IS hard work; there is no doubt about it. But in this slow housing market, the hard work is more necessary than when real estate was booming. I want my house to stand out from the rest as a well-maintained home that is move-in ready. That way I am more likely to get the price I want for it, and it is also more likely to sell quicker.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the exterior of our homes. With the East Coast battling a winter storm right now, it hardly seems like the time to discuss landscaping and curb appeal; but as we work through our series on preparing your house for sale, this is an important topic! So we’ll cover it now, and after the snow melts we’ll all be able to put it into action!
If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can find them at the following links:
Last week we talked about how it is important to make your home REALLY clean before you have a showing, because a clean home will show the prospective buyer that you have taken good care of it. The same is true of the outside of the house. We want the exterior to look its best, so that buyers will not have any doubts about the house’s condition. Also, we want prospective buyers to like the overall appearance of the house. That is what curb appeal is all about – that feeling that says “I want to see the inside of that house, because the outside looks really nice.” That is what we’re aiming for.
Ways to Improve Curb Appeal
You know, when the market’s like this, you really need to focus more on presentation; and… I think, maybe, the chair that is sitting on the front lawn? It looks very, very comfortable; but have you ever considered moving it inside the house? — Sarah Jessica Parker, as Merrill in Did You Hear About the Morgans
I live in a very rural area, and there is no doubt that the standards here are much less stringent than in a suburban subdivision. But even so, this is a minimum list of what I need to be sure to take care of:
- Keep the lawn mowed and edged. This is as important as keeping the carpets vacuumed inside the house. An unkempt lawn signifies an owner who doesn’t care to do basic upkeep, which brings into question whether important maintenance has been kept up with as well. Also, just an aside here, if you have a dog, be sure to keep their, um, “piles” at a minimum… nothing says “don’t buy this house” more than a gazillion little brown mounds scattered over the lawn…
- Weed and declutter the flower beds; trim the bushes. Obviously weeds do not look nice, any more than dirty dishes look good in the sink. But beyond weeding, we want to apply decluttering principles to the flower bed, as well – i.e., get rid of the excess. We want to give the impression of minimal maintenance required, which does not get projected if the beds are overflowing and crowded with oversized plants. Now might be a good time to put down a fresh layer of mulch, to make those beds look really clean. (OK, technically, dirt cannot be clean – but you know what I mean.) Be sure to prune any bushes that might be blocking windows. On the other side of the coin, if your garden looks bare, add some seasonal flowers or evergreen plantings.
- Rake leaves, and do whatever is necessary to get rid of the resulting leaf piles. Again, we want the place to look like it is EASY to take care of. Lots of leaves all over the lawn just make the prospective buyer realize all the work they’ll have to do to remove them. (If they buy the place, they’ll figure that out eventually; but let’s postpone that until AFTER you have taken the money and run, shall we?)
- Touch up exterior paint, or repaint as necessary. If the outside of your house is looking faded and worn, you may want to bite the bullet and give it a refresher coat. You might be able to get away with just touching up the trim; but again, the idea is for the prospective buyer to think that they can move right in and won’t have to do any work to have a beautiful house. This is true more for the outside than the inside, because outside projects always seem bigger and more difficult, somehow. Of course, there is always the option to come down on your asking price in order to compensate for some of the projects you don’t have the time or money to tackle right now.
- Wash mildew from siding. There is one side of our house that gets very little sun, and over time it gets a green haze over the surface of the siding. This can be washed away with a brush and a cleanser that can be purchased at the local home improvement store. This one is a simple and inexpensive fix; it’s definitely worth taking the time to do before showing the home.
- Fix gutters and downspouts. Saggy gutters can cause damage to the wood behind them, so hopefully this is something that has been maintained regularly. Do take a look at the gutters to be sure they are straight; this is one of those things that we might walk by daily and not notice, but someone coming to view the home will see it right away.
- Front door area – While the realtor who is showing your house is inputting their code into the lockbox to get the key out, the prospective buyers are looking around them. They are standing there at the front door, and you want them to see a welcoming entrance area. Keep it clean and clear of clutter. Maybe buy a new welcome mat and/or repaint the front door. Keep the cobwebs brushed away. This is where the first impression is made, and you know what they say about those! 🙂
- Outdoor Living Areas – We have a deck along the back of our house. I want prospective buyers to see this as an asset, so I will be sure all the leaves are raked off of it, the flowers in the pots are healthy, the tables and chairs are wiped off, etc. Treat these areas as if they were rooms inside your house; i.e., stage them well. (More on that next week.) Make sure any railings, posts, etc. are in good repair.
- Miscellaneous items – Pick up litter; store garbage cans out of sight. Make sure the house number is easily visible and looks nice, whether it is on the house or the mailbox. Confirm that the doorbell works. Get rid of wasp nests. Be sure all exterior lights have good bulbs. Confirm proper operation of sprinkler system, if there is one. (When we lived in California, EVERYONE had a sprinkler system; here in rural Missouri, not so much… )
Further Resources for Improving Curb Appeal
Curb Appeal on a Budget — at The Budget Decorator
20 Easy and Cheap DIY Way to Enhance Curb Appeal — at Woohome
Curb Appeal is Worth the Work — at Mad in Crafts
If you are getting your home on the market while it is still winter, many of these items are still possible to do. It is mainly important to present a clean, uncluttered, well-kept appearance. This can be done any time of the year.
Next week will be the last part of the series; it will be time to discuss tips on staging the house to show well. See you then!