If you’re getting ready to sell your home, you want it to make a good first impression on potential buyers. You may have an updated, modern kitchen and an amazing spa bathroom, but no buyer will see either without first getting through your front door. Your home needs curb appeal.
Of course, if you’ve spent a pretty penny for updates throughout your home, you may not have the budget or desire to spend big on that first impression. Luckily, curb appeal can come cheap.
Here are the top 10 tips for inexpensive — and often free — curb appeal from real-estate agents, lawn-and-garden professionals and other curb-appeal experts (like me).
1. Add a layer of mulch
A fresh layer of mulch was mentioned the most as a cheap way to improve the look of your yard.
Mulch will cover up a multitude of sins, and the darker it is, the more effective it looks. But steer clear of reddish-orange mulch, which looks horrendous in a garden, especially next to a lawn. Mulch makes an area look freshly landscaped, and it also saves water by reducing runoff and conserving soil moisture.
2. Focus on your front door
Updating your door’s handle and deadbolt set with a modern-looking option is a great visual upgrade, and it can be a practical improvement, too.
I can’t tell you how many times as a real-estate agent I have fumbled and wrangled with the key in a rusty or stripped keyhole. That’s not the energy you want buyers to start viewing your house with.
While you’re at it, see if your doorbell, light fixtures and the door’s kick plate could be replaced. And be sure to glance up to check for cobwebs on the front porch.
Also, make sure the path to your door is accessible. You might use your garage or side door to enter your house, but buyers won’t. Cut back overgrown hedges so there’s plenty of space to maneuver, and fix any uneven pavement or broken pieces that could create a trip hazard.
A nicely scented, potted plant by the front door can make a good impression on potential buyers. Homebuyers make decisions with all five senses., But scent is almost always overlooked.
3. Don’t forget your fence
A homeowner may get used to looking at the back fence and not notice discoloration from water and sun. People don’t pay enough attention to fences, but they are the biggest constructed element in your yard.
Use a semitransparent stain to even out signs of repairs and to cover stains and discoloration. Pull together the look of the yard by using that same stain to upgrade other wood structures on your property, including benches, rails, decks, steps, sheds and playhouses.
4. Use some elbow grease
Stand at the end of the driveway and try to view the home as a buyer would. Are there oils stains in the driveway? Is there mold on the mailbox? Grime on the front door?
Rent or borrow a pressure washer and thoroughly clean your home’s exterior. You can use the pressure washer to clean your siding, foundation, patio, walkways, driveways, stairs, decks and porch. Take a bucket and scrub brush to your front door, mailbox and any other areas that need gentler cleaning.
5. Add a color to your home’s palette
If your home’s paint job is decent but a little boring, see if you can add a second accent color to the window casements, shutters and/or front door. The typical house has only two paint colors, one of which is usually white, but a designer or color specialist often creates a three- or four-color palette.
Pick up one of those color-scheme cards that the big paint manufacturers put out if you are at all unsure how to do this well.
6. Fill in empty spaces in the yard
Look for gaps in your beds and borders and fill them with annual flowers. It’s generally a good idea to buy larger flowers, unless you have time to wait for them to grow. Replace any plants that aren’t doing well.
If you’re using large, potted plants to cover up eyesores such as an ugly wall or utility line, place the purchased plant and its container directly into a large, empty pot rather than actually planting it in the pot. Sometimes, those kinds of plants can die for no particular reason, and then you are stuck with that eyesore. It’s better to just take the nursery container out and put another one in.
7. Use plants in cool colors, and keep them low-maintenance
Many people will react in a visceral, emotional way to hot colors, such as reds and yellows, and that it’s best to stick with a cool palette. Use blues, purples, light pinks and whites. Those colors will also make the home look cooler in the summer.
Have a color theme going into your curb-appeal planning. Go with all one color or complementary colors. One of the things you don’t want to do is do mixed colors. It’s better to plant six pink petunias than a mixed flat of petunias. That makes a disorganized riot of color and does not say ‘peaceful’ to the eye.
Cost-saving tip: big-box home-improvement stores often sell plats of plants almost at cost because they’re set on selling you the soil and fences to go with them. But you must know what you’re looking for. Sometimes, if you don’t know your plants, you might pick up the wrong thing. If you’re not sure what you need to buy, try your local nursery instead. The nursery is going to have the knowledgeable experts working there. Free design advice is practically priceless.
8. Mow, trim, prune and weed
A manicured lawn and weeded garden beds send a strong, positive message to the buyer. This gesture shows you care and take pride in your home. The translation in the buyer’s mind is that the whole house must be well-cared-for, too.
A little thinning of the trees and shrubs will open up the house and make the good areas more visible. There is nothing worse than a house that looks overgrown.
9. Give your yard a nightlife
Add some path lighting that highlights the best plants in your yard. You never know when people are going to drive by.
My pet peeve. If your mailbox is broken, battered, dirty or leaning. REPLACE IT! Add a few plants around it to blend it in as part of your curb appeal!
If you have questions, call me! As a certified Home Staging Professional, I am happy to help with ideas and tips!