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5 ways to add curb appeal

Help buyers fall in love before they even step foot in your house

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    Andersen Windows
    front view of brick house with curb appeal

    If you’re planning to move and need to sell your home, don’t underestimate the impact of a strong first impression. The good news is transforming your home’s curb appeal doesn’t require an extensive renovation — with a few simple techniques, you can captivate potential buyers from the moment they lay eyes on your property.

    Key insights

    • Landscaping and power-washing are inexpensive and go a long way toward improving your home’s appearance.
    • Painting a house a light color will make it look bigger.
    • Define the entryway by lighting the walkway and adding a pop of color to the front door to make your house look more inviting.

    Improving curb appeal

    You don’t need to start an entire home renovation to spruce up your home’s appearance. Here are five simple ways you can make a big impact on the first impression your house makes on potential buyers.

    1. Mow, trim and edge your lawn

    A leafy and inviting landscape makes any home stand out — just be sure that tree branches and hedges aren’t hiding your home’s best attributes, like beautiful windows or a pitched roof. Tree branches that hover over the roofline can look menacing. Plus, leaves and branches clog gutters and stain your roofing material. Shrubs that are overgrown obscure windows and porches.

    To prepare your home to sell, trim trees and shrubs, and start mowing the grass on a regular basis.

    “A properly mowed lawn is thicker, healthier,” said Chris Lemcke, technical director of Weed Man, a national lawn care service provider. His tips for a perfect lawn include the following:

    • Mow every three to four days.
    • Mow when it’s dry to avoid slips and falls and maintain a sharper cut.
    • Alternate mowing patterns (horizontal versus vertical) each time you mow to keep your grass growing strong and straight.
    • Keep your mower blade sharp for a clean cut.
    • Toss clippings back on the lawn to feed your grass.
    • Never cut more than one-third of a blade of grass in one mowing.
    A properly mowed lawn is thicker, healthier.”
    — Chris Lemcke of Weed Man, a national lawn care service provider

    To set the right mower height, measure the distance between the ground and the base of your lawn mower, Lemcke said. Here’s the best height for various grass types:

    How short should you cut your lawn?

    Grass typeMoving height (inches)
    Kentucky bluegrass 2.5 to 3.5
    Bermuda 1.5 to 2.5
    Tall fescue 2.5 to 4
    St. Augustine 2.5 to 4
    Zoysia 0.75 to 2.5

    » WHAT’S YOUR NEXT MOVE? How to buy and sell a house at the same time

    2. Clean and pressure-wash your house

    Keeping your yard neat and tidy is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to boost curb appeal, says Robin Burrill, CEO and principal designer at Signature Home Services, a remodeling firm in Texas, whose pet peeve is dead plants in plant beds. And as long as you’ve got that shed door open, she adds, grab your power washer.

    “Make sure your home is power-washed — windows washed and front porch washed clean, including the front door,” Burrill said. “A well-kept front door and landscaping gives guests a welcome feeling—and that’s important when you’re trying to encourage those guests to make an offer to buy.”

    » IS IT WORTH IT? Home remodeling ROI: Costs vs. value

    3. Paint your home’s exterior

    If cleaning your home’s exterior isn’t enough, you may have to take it a step further and consider painting.

    “Painting a home’s exterior is part of home maintenance as much as it is curb appeal, as is replacing rotted wood and trim as needed,” Burrill said.

    If your home hasn’t been painted in years, this is likely a job for the pros.

    Splash a pale yellow, beige or tan shade on your siding to make your two-bedroom home seem like a spacious family residence,”
    — Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting

    “Painting the exterior of your home is a big decision,” said Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, which provides professional painting services in the U.S. and Canada. His rule of thumb? Bright colors make your home look bigger; dark colors make it look smaller.

    “Want to make the most out of your humble abode?” he asked. “Splash a pale yellow, beige or tan shade on your siding to make your two-bedroom home seem like a spacious family residence.”

    Don’t dismiss dark colors, however — they work magic in certain circumstances.

    “Dark shades can be useful if your house is located on a small lot,” Kunz explained. “A dark green or earth tone can balance the size of your home within the size of the setting.”

    Kunz recommends choosing paint colors outside in specific weather conditions. “These decisions are best made in natural light on a cloudy day or in open shade,” he said. “Bright sunlight can often distort colors.”

    The design pros at your local home center help ensure the paint color you choose matches your home’s trim and roof, Burrill said. They can also help you choose a high-quality exterior paint.

    “Making sure you get a great paint will make a world of difference,” she added.

    4. Define your house’s entryway

    Even if the home doesn’t need a fresh coat, you may consider painting your front door a fresh color. It’s part of defining your entryway, explained Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home, a website with home renovation advice.

    People often notice your entryway first, so small changes can have a significant impact on your home’s appeal.

    “Run solar lights up the walkway to the front door, set a large planter on either side of the doorway, and paint the door a bright color, so it stands out,” she suggested.

    “Front doors are often the catch-all for dirt, dust and handprints,” agreed Kunz. “Apply a fresh coat of paint to your door or buy a new one.” A new door in a style that suits the period of the home can instantly improve its curb appeal.

    Sherryl, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from Walnut, California, had her door replaced by Renewal by Andersen and immediately noticed the difference.

    “The work was so noticeably attractive. … My 4-year-old grandson came over and the first thing he said was ‘doors,’” she said. “That’s how impressive the curb appeal is.”

    Once you’ve got your door looking good, consider the lighting around it.

    “Lighting around the entryway makes a big difference,” Burrill said. “It is important to match the lighting in style and size to the home. And most important, make sure the house number is large and well lit.”

    5. Replace your garage door

    Another change that makes a world of difference to the front of your house is freshening up your garage door. Let’s face it: A garage door takes a beating from daily use and changes in the weather. Make sure your garage door closes properly and operates smoothly before prospective buyers try it out.

    Steer away from the old-style white metal and go with another color or for deco wood doors that match your house.”
    — Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting

    Consider the style as well. The garage door that came with the house when you bought it may not be the right style. Garage doors have come a long way, with new options that look like wood but are made of hardy materials.

    “Steer away from the old-style white metal and go with another color or for deco wood doors that match your house,” Kunz said.

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      How can I increase my curb appeal for free?

      There are a few things you can do to increase your curb appeal yourself, including mowing the grass and trimming bushes and trees. You can rent equipment to power-wash the siding, windows and trim, as well as the porches and decks.

      You can also paint the front door and your garage door. These strategies only take a bit of sweat and effort and minimal dollars, but they go a long way toward presenting your home at its best. 

      » OTHER WAYS TO SAVE: 8 cheap ways to move across the country

      How can I make my house look bigger?

      Paint your home a lighter color to make it look bigger.

      “Light colors make your home look bigger; dark colors make your home look smaller,” said Matt Kunz, President of Five Star Painting.

      How can I achieve a green lawn by the first open house?

      If your lawn isn’t looking its best because of the season, consider painting the grass. There are nontoxic paint products for this purpose that claim not to harm the grass. You add more or less water to dilute the color until you achieve your desired shade of green. Be sure to first cover pavers and lawn ornaments that you want to protect from overspray, though.

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