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How to Improve Your House’s Curb Appeal

Even small cosmetic changes to your house can give it more curb appeal to buyers. That means more interested buyers, a quicker sale, and a chance to get more than your asking price. In order to give yourself every advantage, it’s smart to make sure that your home looks as good as it possibly can when buyers come to see it. There are some very affordable (even cost-free) ways to make your home look much more appealing to potential buyers. And you won’t have to have any contractors tramping through your home.

For sale sign in front of nice house with curb appeal

Increasing your curb appeal

A lack of curb appeal can turn potential buyers away before they’ve even seen the inside. So let’s start with some tips for improving the outside of your home and yard. Note that not every task is DIY. Don’t, for example, climb up on your roof if you don’t have training and know how to do it safely.

  • Clean and paint. If the outside of your home looks dingy or has mold growing on it, clean it up. A good scrubbing may be all you need, but if not, get some well-matched paint and touch up those areas that need it. Don’t just look at the walls, but also check the eaves, gutters, drainpipes, decks, patios and porches, too.
  • Minor repairs. If you’ve got gutters leaking or obvious roof tiles out of place, fix those items as best you can. If there are holes in the driveway, you can patch and seal them yourself, on the cheap.
  • The lawn and landscaping. Make sure your lawn and any flowers, trees or shrubs around the place look nicely trimmed and cared for. Get rid of anything that’s dead and brown.
  • Sealers. For not a lot of money, you can re-seal your driveway, concrete paths and/or a deck or patio yourself. This can make everything look very new and sharp, which can make a big difference in a buyer’s first impression.

The inside needs love, too

What about the inside of your home? Curb appeal doesn’t last past the front door.

  • De-clutter! Clutter makes it harder for buyers to see the real potential in your house. Get rid of the it, even if you have to put some of it away in storage for now (this can actually make moving easier). That way, buyers can picture themselves and their stuff in your home. We get so used to living in our own clutter that it can be hard to recognize it, so when you think you’ve finished de-cluttering, ask someone to be brutally honest with you about what else needs to go. Pick someone with a good eye for decor, or your real estate agent. The more minimalist you can go, the more inviting your home will look.
  • Remove dark or dingy draperies and replace them with inexpensive white sheets (see my tutorial) that flow to the floor. Even irregular or outlet sheets will do the trick, so this is a very cheap option. And the added light will make the place look better – so long as it’s clean. Which brings us to the next tip:
  • Clean it – hardcore. A top-notch spring cleaning will make any home look one hundred percent better. Scrub everything. You may need to steam clean the carpets, which you can do yourself with a rental machine for less than you can hire a service to come in and do it.
  • Carpets need replacing? This can be a very expensive repair to make. Check your floors under the carpet, because you may have hardwoods that need little or no cleaning/polishing to look fantastic. And even if you do decide you need to replace some carpeting, consider area rugs instead of new carpet installation. Besides, the new owners may want their own choice of new flooring, so why put something down that they may end up ripping out?
  • Check the smell. Invite someone into your home who doesn’t frequently visit, and ask them how it smells. As we get used to certain places and their odors, we sometimes stop noticing them. But a new visitor who’s honest with you can tell you if some areas smell like wet dog, stale cooking or cigarette ashes.
  • Got stink? Deep cleaning is usually the solution to odors. Replacing fabrics like curtains or carpets is the next step. If it’s your furniture, can you move the stinky piece into the garage for now and replace it with a borrowed or rented piece? Or maybe you can spread your existing furniture around so the stinky piece doesn’t even look like it’s missing. Remember, minimalist is good.
  • Remove furniture. You don’t want to make your home look like a bachelor pad with two chairs and a box for a table, but the more furniture you have, the smaller your rooms look to potential buyers. Aim for just enough furniture to make two people comfortable.
  • Furniture to the middle. Pull living room furniture out from the wall to create little areas where couches and chairs face one another for socializing. Believe it or not, this makes the room look bigger than does the empty space in the middle.
  • Paint is cheap. It’s the labor that costs. If your walls have funky murals or the paint job is looking bad, you can repaint yourself. Grab a neutral shade of paint – an earthy shade of tan, beige, sage, peach, etc. – and get some friends with brushes to help.
  • Patch wall holes. Got some small holes in your walls? Get some caulk and fill them in before painting over them.
  • Paint other things. Got a fireplace that’s a weird color? Or wooden built-in cabinets that have seen better days? A coat of the right paint can make all the difference. If nothing else, neutral paint makes flaws less noticeable.

Bonus Tips

  • If your house needs new carpeting, paint or other cosmetic improvements that you can’t afford them, talk to your realtor about running ads that say the house costs $X, but comes with a $5-10k “redecorating bonus.” In this equation, X is what the house would be worth with improvements and the total cost of the mortgage they’ll be taking out, but you will take the $5-10k loss so they can have immediate cash for redecorating (which is probably less than you’d lose trying to sell it outright with no attempt to market its flaws as assets). You can do the same with repairs – just call it a “fixing up” bonus.
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