Be the envy of the neighborhood and tempt buyers at the same time.
Seems like there is always one home in a neighborhood that’s just nicer than all the others. It’s cheerful by day and has nice lighting at night. It looks attractive. It looks cared for. It looks loved.
While it’s not always easy to define what sets a house like that apart, it’s really a combination of a number of features.
First, the landscaping is tidy, perhaps with a gently curving driveway or sidewalk. The bushes and plantings are in proportion to the house and flowers bloom from season to season.
Next, the house is inviting and says, “Drop in for a visit,” because of a tidy sidewalk, entryway, and front door.
Then, it has up-to-date siding that’s free of dents, stains, or fading. The windows are clean and match the style of the home. The roof has tidy shingles, tiles, or slate without missing or sagging segments.
Finally, the house is well kept with no overlooked maintenance, ignored repairs, or clutter like bicycles, odd lawn chairs, or a catawampus basketball backboard. And that big old garbage container from the trash removal company is out of sight.
Landscaping It Just Right
The house on the block that everyone admires frequently has professional yard service or homeowners who are often in the yard planting, pruning, weeding, and edging. A good landscape design can make it easier with combinations of small sections of lawn—which need regular mowing, watering, and fertilizing—and generous areas with trees and native groundcovers that pretty much take care of themselves.
“It’s a sweet design that can carry off just the right amount of vegetation, versus too much,” declares REALTOR® Sara Greenfield, Principal Broker for Charlottesville Fine Homes and Properties. “In our zone everything can grow and it does. We all have seen overgrown properties that are just not inviting with overgrown hedges and invasive plants, both poisonous and non-poisonous.”
Greenfield points out that it’s also imperative to be sure water has a place to drain to away from the home. “A well-built gravel drainage design can include swales and berms plus vegetation that can grow into its maturity,” she says, “but the plants must not be allowed to take over the well-intentioned drainage.”
Many places in central Virginia, even in urban areas, are in proximity to wildlife from bears to mice. “People use herbicides, pesticides and natural organics to keep out pests and rodents,” she continues. “If you have deer, there are organics to keep them away, as well as snakes and insects.”
An Inviting Home
A major factor in the welcoming appearance of a home is the entryway including the front door and red doors seem especially inviting. There’s some interesting history behind those red doors.
Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of proper placement, sees red as an auspicious, vibrant color that attracts fame and prosperity. In Biblical times, Hebrews painted lamb’s blood on their front door to protect their first-borns from the angel of death. Later, Catholic churches employed red doors to represent the blood of Christ, signaling that when you entered through the doors you were brought to holy ground.
In Scotland, many homeowners painted their front door red upon paying off their mortgage. Early American tradition said that red doors on homes welcomed travelers—even strangers in those days of sparse populations—to spend the night.
The House’s Skin
By the skin, we mean the outside of the house including the siding, windows, and roof. Are there dents or cracks in the siding? Is it faded? Is there mildew resulting from our rainy summer? It could be time for cosmetic repairs such as replacing damaged clapboards or vinyl strips.
If it’s an older home, perhaps it’s time to consider some window replacements with updated technology and appearance. If the roof is damaged, mossy, or mildewed, it’s time for some attention there.
Remember that people tend not to “see” things they see all the time—the cracked glass in the light fixture on the front porch, the cracks in the sidewalk, the missing brick at the corner by the garage, the rust on the kids’ swing set. All those little one-of-these-days items that need to be fixed definitely detract from a home’s appearance.
All these factors add up to what is called curb appeal—that is, how nice the outside of a house looks from the street. While it’s always important, when a house is on the market it is critical.
Research shows that many potential buyers—who have a wide selection of properties to consider—won’t even get out of the car if they don’t find a house attractive from the outside. These days, with many people shopping for homes on the Internet, potential buyers will cross a house off their list just based on online photos from the street.
Clearly, addressing a place’s curb appeal is a key component when it’s time to sell. Here are some tips to maximize a home’s exterior sales appeal!
How Can You Build Great Curb Appeal?
“Curb appeal differs from home to home,” points out Greenfield. “A home in the mountains with natural rock outcroppings and many trees may have a different curb appeal than an in-town home with lawns and flowers, plants and shrubs.”
She points out that fences are nice, especially with maintained plantings of annuals and perennials. There are many possibilities with fences, from low stone constructions defining areas of the yard, to split-rail fences to separate driveways, play areas, and gardens, to taller fences to provide privacy for outdoor areas or to conceal trash cans and other outdoor storage.
“Flowering trees and fruit trees are always appealing,” Greenfield adds, “but all need maintenance. Some homeowners prefer mulch and trees to grass and mown lawns and there is obvious beauty in both.”
If there’s a lawn, it should be fresh and green. If there’s at least a month before the house will be on the market, consult with a nursery about quick-acting fertilizer, reseeding, or replacing bad spots with sod. Be sure it is nicely mowed and edged all the time.
“Curb appeal increases the chances of the buyer showing interest in the interior of the home,” she continues, “so I advise my clients to take out invasive plants, prune the shrubs, and trim up trees,” Greenfield continues. “It can be done at affordable pricing and it’s definitely worth the effort.”
The House Itself
“The best way to achieve curb appeal is to highlight the features your home already possesses,” advises REALTOR ® Janet Matthews, owner of Charlottesville Town and Country. “If you have tired shutters, get out the paint brush. Keep clutter off the front lawn, driveway, porches, and entryways. This includes children’s toys and bikes, garden and lawn tools, and especially trashcans. Neat and tidy is always appealing!”
While it’s a superficial thing, a faded, dented, or rusty mailbox slightly askew by the driveway can suggest neglect before a potential buyer even goes through the front door. Touch it up or replace it and be sure the numbers are large enough to read easily from a passing vehicle.
Remember, the front door is the house’s face to the world, so perhaps it’s time for a fresh coat of paint—how about red? —or varnish. Polish up the doorknocker, doorbell button, and lockset and be sure house numbers are clearly visible, bright and shiny.
If the foundation, siding, porch, sidewalk, or driveway have cracks, get them professionally repaired. If gutters are dented or rusty, repaint or replace them. If there are stains, consider a good power washing.
Speaking of power washing, one can frequently forestall having to repaint the house’s exterior. Bear in mind that “in fashion” paint colors change from year to year. Often, rather than tackling the whole house, repainting the trim in an up-to-date hue can provide an eye-catching “pop.”
Windows should be sparkling clean. Having the blinds raised and curtains open is friendly instead of looking like there might be something to hide. If potential buyers are expected on a gloomy day or in the evening, welcome them by ensuring all the windows are brightly lit, porch light fixtures are dust and spider-web free, and the bulbs are working.
Finally, have cheerful flowers near the front, along the walk or in attractive containers. A new WELCOME mat and a seasonal wreath on the door also are inviting. Whether you’re presenting a lovely home that everyone in the neighborhood will enjoy seeing, or encouraging potential buyers to come through the front door in a positive state of mind to discover what’s inside, your house can be the envy of the neighborhood.
By Marilyn Pribus
When Marilyn Pribus and her husband moved from California eight years ago, the curb appeal of an Albemarle County home caught their eye, especially the flagstone steps curving between two Kousa dogwoods to the front door. She now admires those dogwoods from her home office.