Creating Curb Appeal

They say you can't judge a book by its cover.  But when it comes to houses, the exterior can be just as important as the interior if selling or buying.

When selling, it is the outside, or the home's curb appeal that often determines whether the inside is ever seen.  How a house 'shows' from the street can tell a potential buyer a lot about what it may be like inside.  Even if the inside is the sparkling, charming structurally sound dream home they have been searching for, a buyer is not going to forget a cracked driveway, fallen shutters or overgrown grass and flower beds.

That's why most Realtors recommend a house not be seen for the first time at night.  If you have no choice but to view homes at night, always be sure to drive past them during the daytime before making any final decisions.

For sellers, there are many ways to enhance the exterior of a home to achieve the curb appeal necessary to attract prospective buyers.  Start by taking a close, objective look at your home from the curb.  Be sure to view it from different angles.  Ask friends and neighbours for their unbiased opinions.  What are the appealing features?  What is not so appealing?  What can you do to improve the appearance?

Are the shrubs untrimmed?  Are there broken doors and windows, loose screens and railings?  Does the exterior trim, or entire surface, need a paint job?

The interior may be clean, without a leaky faucet, cracked floor or loose door hinge in sight.  However, if the exterior roof, gutter, walls, driveway, garage and yard look dirty and untidy, chances are you are not going to get a lot of potential buyers knocking at the door.

Creating curb appeal is making your home appealing from the outside... where first impressions begin. This does not mean that you need to spend a  great deal of money remodeling and renovating.  Adding a new front veranda might add a lot of curb appeal, but so will a couple of wicker chairs and potted flowers by the front a lot less cost.

Here are some more tips for making the outside of your home attractive and inviting.

Clean up the yard  Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, weed the flower beds, get rid of dead trees and shrubs; get rid of any broken lawn furniture; shovel the walk and driveway in winter; rake the yard in the fall.

Repair any problems  If the roof is damaged, repair it.  Also repair any doors and windows that have loose hinges or other damage; fix storm doors and window screens; caulk window exteriors; clean and repair sidings and other structural flaws.

Eliminate clutter  If you have yard and construction debris piled up along the side of the house, or elsewhere, get rid of it.  The exterior of your home should be as uncluttered in appearance as the interior.  This includes cleaning out the garage....a major breeder of clutter.  Be ruthless....if you have not used something in the last 12 months, give it to charity or recycle it.

Give siding a fresh new look  Cleaning the exterior surface is all your home may need for a fresh new face.  Before rushing to paint the siding, try washing it.  For painted wood siding and aluminum siding, use a solution of one cup of strong detergent and one quart of chlorine bleach in three gallons of water.  Be sure to wear rubber gloves, goggles and other protective garments.  Work from the bottom up and rinse thoroughly.  To spruce up vinyl siding, hose it down, sponge it with a mild liquid detergent and rinse.

Use paint to brighten, re-proportion exterior  A paint job can do wonders for the exterior of a home.  A low house can look more graceful and tall from the curb by emphasizing its vertical features.  Paint elements such as doors, shutters and corner trim in a colour that contrast with the siding material.  On a high home, emphasize horizontal, by using a contrasting paint colour on window sills and fascia boards.  You can also make a tall house look lower by painting it a dark colour, provided that the roof is dark too.  Conversely, a light colour will make a home look larger.

Co-ordinate the exterior 'look'  The more coordinated your house looks from the outside, the more appealing it will be.  Coordinate the look of your home by painting the garage, tool shed, playhouse and other outdoor structures with the same colour schemes as the house.  If your house is a mixture of conflicting textures....vertical siding, shingles and brick, for instance....try painting them all the same colour, or in two related shades of the same colour, to create a harmonious look.  Dark tones work best when working with conflicting textures.

Use flower power Well-placed flowers, trees and shrubs can really make the outside of a home look inviting.  Not only does attractive landscaping invite buyers, it can also increase the value of a home.  Even without major landscaping, flowers can make a yard look colourful and pleasant.  Plant them in garden beds, hang them from railings and porch ceilings, add flower boxes to window sills.  There is no limit to the power of flowers.

At night, highlight garden features with spotlights and floodlights.  Well-lit paths and entrances promote safety, discourage burglars and are an added feature to any home.  A pretty wreath on the door and a welcome mat will finish things off.