No matter how beautifully decorated the inside of your home may be, if the outside of the house does not reflect what lies behind the front door, you may easily lose the sale.
Potential homebuyers frequently make a list of homes from various internet sites, advertisement listings or through a realtor that they wish to see and then drive by these homes to get a ‘feel’ for the property and the house. Bottom line, if your home looks unappealing from the outside there is a good possibility your home will be crossed off the list of potential purchases.
Decide to spend a weekend fixing up the outside of your home and stick to a plan.
1) Call two or three local landscapers and ask them to come out for a landscape appraisal but most importantly ‘pick their brain’ for ideas of how best to show your home. Explain that you are selling the home and wish only to make the most of the exterior at minimal cost to you. In some cases, you might be surprised, particularly during slow landscaping seasons that you can afford to have a professional lightly landscape your property or at least modify a portion.
For less than $500, an associate of mine had a local gardener come in and plant 12 tropical plants, 8 large flowered bushes, trim the existing trees to shape, pull the weeds, cut out sod to merge two planting beds, plant 20 small flowering bushes and throw down several bags of mulch in 2 afternoons. She also saved a little more money by having him transplant bushes from another part of the property to the front where she planned to create a more dramatic impact. Further, his price included clean-up and removal of gardening debris, which saved her a lot of time after the work was complete. Her soil was very hard to dig into and it would have taken her twice as long to dig one hole as it did for the gardener to dig several; he was familiar with such difficult work and he had all the right tools to do it quickly. My associate only paid him to service the front beds while she saved money by cleaning up the smaller side beds on the side property by doing it herself. (The gardener even let her borrow his expert tools as long as she promised to return them the following day, which she did.)
You might be surprised at the minimal but well-worth price of hiring a professional gardener, particularly if you find a local, one-woman/man operation with low overhead. Someone starting a new business might also be less expensive in trying to build a clientele while my associate in turn offered to advertise the gardener’s services by keeping business cards on hand during real estate visits.
Consider having him/her do a portion of the work and then do the less difficult areas of your home yourself. Even if you do not have a landscaping budget, call a few local gardeners to come out for a quote just to get some great landscaping ideas you can use yourself. Most are willing to spend a few minutes of their time even if you do not use their services. Take their business card anyway and offer to send them a referral. It is all part of doing business. So consider hiring a professional gardener to add curb appeal to a tired property.
2) Stand at the curb of your property and look the land from the perspective of the drive-by potential buyer. Get in the car and drive down your street and look at the way your property compares to your neighbors. If your neighborhood is well-cared for but your property is not; where the trees are overgrown and the weeds are hiding your front door is a clear indication your home will stick out like a ‘sore thumb’ and you may lose the sale. If you live in a neighborhood where your neighbors’ landscaping is ‘so-so’, this is your opportunity to shine. My associate explained that she once lived in a brand new home in an older neighborhood where few people took the time to landscape nicely so anything she did…add a border, plant a few bushes, and place a park bench near the front driveway with container plants, certainly looked amazingly better than the homes around her property. When the time came to sell this home, she took a ride around the block and took the position of the potential buyer. As a drive-by buyer canvassing her own street, my associate noted that the viewer would see blasé curb-appealed homes and then come upon her own, where the flowers were blooming, the green grass was trimmed, the containers were filled with flowers and the inexpensive park bench at the end of the long driveway looked inviting. So plan your landscape to stand out from the rest and if your budget does not allow for the extras, then the next rule of thumb is to just make the property look ‘neat’….
3) Neatness in landscaping is important. If a property looks tidy, the impression you will give to the drive-by buyer is that the inside is neat and well-cared for as well. Even if you are not a neat person, make an effort to neaten up the exterior. Find someone who has a ‘neat’ eye and ask for their opinion.
Trim the grass and if you have spotted, brown grass, invest in a bag of grass seed and water frequently to encourage growth. Baby-sit the seeds and if necessary, place a barrier around the area to keep children and pets from stomping on them. Cover new grass-seeded areas with hay or grass clippings to prevent blowing away, from birds eating the seeds and to keep moisture in. Water newly seeded areas daily.
If you have time before you place your home up for sale, fertilize your lawn…it can make a huge difference in how healthy and green the lawn shows from the street. If you do not have grass, then create areas with grass. Consider removing areas covered in stone or weeds and planting with either seeds or sod. It is a big project if you have little or no front lawn so elicit help from friends and neighbors if needed. Having some kind of greenery in the form of grass makes a huge difference to a buyer. Grass is a great canvas to making other areas of your property stand out and grass appeals to many who grew up with front lawns or always wished they had one. If you live in areas where it is impossible to grow grass, adding stone is another possibility however, be sure that stone works in that area of the country in which you are selling. Stone lawns usually fit in better in coastal properties where sand is the foundation and the cost of carting in topsoil is enormous. I often feel that all-stone frontage looks out of place in neighborhoods where lawns are more prevalent and gives the impression the homeowner really cannot be bothered to maintain a lawn. I feel that stone is not a warm product if used in large areas and should be contained in smaller garden beds if possible.
4) Once you have the grass, fix up the existing beds. (If you do not have any beds in your property, this would be an entirely different article. This article deals with homes, which have garden beds already in place that need sprucing up.)
Garden beds help soften the hard lines of sidewalks, walkways, and the rigid angle of homes. Once you have weeded these beds, ask yourself, “Does the design of the current beds allow them to be connected in some way across the front of the home? Do my beds flow?” The reason that I bring this question forward in a Curb Appeal article is that my associate explained to me that she used to have to separate garden beds in front of her home; one ran right across the front left-side of the home and the other ran down the side of the driveway. Both beds were disconnected from each other separated by a walkway. This separated design made the frontage look severed and harsh. So she cut out the sod from the bed in front of the house, around the walkway and made a connection to the bed nearest the driveway. It looked like one continuous snake-like bed and once planted with similar foliage the entire property looked really ‘pulled together’. In doing this she accomplished two things: 1) Softening the hard angles of the walkway, which did not have a garden bed in front of it and, 2) the property had the look of what my colleague refers to as ‘fluid design’. The eye now followed a soft flow from one end of the house where the bed began to the end of the driveway where the bed ended. And…there was a small surprise at the end of that bed too, which made the design interesting and appealing.
At the end of the driveway, which is ordinarily dull space, the garden bed ended in a circular shape and she planted just a few extra eye-catching flowers there; just a nice little touch and the colors were appealing. The path up the driveway, followed around the walkway toward the entrance of the home was entirely landscaped and pulled together with like-flowers and shrubs. Not a whole lot, but it was consistent and it was neat.
5) Another lawn tip from my associate…she did not have time for grass to grow in some ugly, brown and bare spots on her front lawn and in some cases, the grass just never grew back at all. She cut around the bad areas and made a teardrop-shaped cut out on that spot and filled it in with a few container plants she had growing in the yard. My colleague arranged the containers on 3 different levels…small, medium and large and then filled around the containers with mulch to even things out. The arrangement looked very nice. One of her empty containers (she often picks them up in the dollar store or finds disposed of in construction sites), she cut in half and placed it cut-side down on the bare spot on the lawn in front of the 3 flower-filled containers. She filled the cut container with soil and threw in a handful herb seeds, namely dill and in about 2 weeks; the container flowed with pretty green herbs and ‘spilled out’ the container onto the ground covering the area cut out from the lawn. It made a nice presentation and was not too ‘much’ and at the same time hid the very worse part of our property. My friend noticed that even after I sold the home, the new owners still kept the container area as it was when she had the home for sale.
6) Another consideration when taking control of curb appeal when selling your home is to remove or trim down those trees and bushes which hide the beauty of your home. So often buyers look at photos of homes, which show a huge tree in front of the house that hides any view from the inside to the street. If you cannot see the home in a photo or in a drive-by viewing, this again reduces the chances that a potential buyer may be interested in your home. No one wants to ‘guess’ what a home really looks like and if there are overgrown bushes and trees hiding the house, potential buyers do not want to envision having to clear the property themselves. So be bold and trim the bushes down and if necessary, remove whatever seriously blocks viewing the home’s charm and character from the street.
7) Along the lines of seeing a home from the street is the inability to do so if you have cars parked in front that do not always need to be there. Granted, we need to park our cars but if you have the opportunity to take your car to the street or to the furthest end of your property for a few hours on the weekends or, if you have a large driveway and can move the car away from the front of the home, then take the time to do this. Buyers need to visualize the home as it would be if they lived there and anything which detracts from this thought is a non-plus for you as the seller. Weekends are usually the busiest times for drive-by house viewing so if you can move your car to a neighbor’s driveway or off your own driveway for a few hours, do so. It may make a difference in the curb appeal of your home.
Also, as a reminder, if you have any cars, boats or trailers parked in front of your home, which really do not need to be there…a car you were going to work on or an inoperable vehicle without any registration and kept putting off paying to be towed away, make a decision as whether it really needs to be there or not. Call a charity to have it towed away and donate it. Put an ad in the paper or on craigslist for a free boat or project car, but by all means, remove any unnecessary vehicles, which really take away curb appeal and make the property look more like a car dealership or a parking lot than a home.
So the main items to consider when creating curb appeal are to:
• Neaten up the property
• Plant grass or sod wherever possible – if not possible, hide bad spots with container gardens.
• Trim and cut away trees and shrubbery which prevent drive-by buyers from seeing your property and the home to its fullest.
• Remove cars on higher drive-by traffic days and permanently remove any cars, boats or trailers, which will not be sold with the home.
• Call a landscaper for his/her opinion and talk about a quote for neatening up the property. See if you can afford at least a portion of it to be professionally ‘neatened’ and if not; get ideas from a professional that you can use later on your own.