motherI’ve been in the real estate business for a long time, so you’d think I couldn’t be surprised by anything anymore. Oh my friends — how wrong you are! I am surprised when I see a house with a hot tub in the main living area. I am surprised by cat pictures hanging everywhere. I am surprised that sellers think cooking fish the night before a showing is a good idea.

But the thing I am still most surprised by is the lack of attention even savvy sellers give to the outside of their homes. I’ve had clients de-clutter, paint, and stage their homes in a way that would rival design magazines, yet they’ve overlooked the old doormat out front. The dead plant on the back patio. The screen door that has been attacked by — well — probably those cats who were featured on the walls of that aforementioned home, but I don’t have proof. Cats are very sneaky you know.

Whether you are in the market to sell or just in the market to enjoy pulling into your driveway everyday, curb appeal is, as Martha would say, “a good thing.” And it’s not hard, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and it can change your listed home from a ‘maybe’ to a ‘make an offer’ — really. After all, buyers looking at your home is the equivalent of a first date. Remember first dates? Ah – first dates. You were a little bit nervous. You wanted to look your best. You cleaned yourself up. You put on a little shine. You smiled. You made yourself available for a second glance. You were ON THE MARKET for God’s sake.

Now your house is on the market. Be nice to your house and buy her a new coat of paint for the big (listing) date. Maybe trim the trees a bit, wash the windows, fix the cracks. Better Homes and Gardens offers a list of 20 ways to update your home’s exterior. I am not listing them all because, let’s face it, adding stone veneer probably isn’t on your list of to-dos. But if it IS, check out the full list here and let me know how it goes. In the meantime, try some of these smaller, more manageable projects:

Dress up the front door

Your home’s front entry is the focal point of its curb appeal. Make a statement by giving your front door a blast of color with paint or by installing a custom wood door. Clean off any dirty spots around the knob, and use metal polish on the door fixtures. Your entry should also reflect the home’s interior, so choose a simple swag or wreath that reflects your personal style.

Replace old hardware

House numbers, the entry door lockset, a wall-mounted mailbox, and an overhead light fixture are all elements that can add style and interest to your home’s exterior. If your existing pieces are dated or dingy, your home may not be conveying the aesthetic you think it is. These elements add the most appeal when they function collectively, rather than as mix-and-match pieces. Oiled-bronze finishes suit traditional homes, while brushed nickel suits more contemporary ones. 

Create perfect symmetry

Symmetry is not only pleasing to the eye, it’s also the simplest to arrange. Think about it like a necklace with matching earrings. Symmetrical compositions of light fixtures and front-door accents create welcoming entryways.

Create an instant garden

Container gardens add a welcoming feel and colorful appeal to any home exterior — quickly and affordably. You can buy ready-made containers from garden centers or create your own with your favorite plants. For most landscapes, a staggered, asymmetrical arrangement works best to create a dynamic setting.

Do a mailbox makeover

Mailboxes should complement the home and express the homeowner’s personality. When choosing a hanging drop box, pick a box that mirrors your home’s trimmings. Dress up mail boxes by painting the wooden post to match the house’s exterior color, or by surrounding it by a beautiful flowering garden.

Renew planter beds

Get garden beds into shape by pruning growth, pulling weeds, planting flowers, and adding new mulch to restore color that was taken away by sunlight and harsh weather. If stone or brick borders your bed, consider cleaning and resetting any pieces that are soiled or dislodged. If your border is old or tired-looking, try upgrading to stone or a decorative cast-concrete edging system.

Install outdoor lighting

Low-voltage landscape lighting makes a huge impact on your home’s curb appeal while also providing safety and security. Savvy buyers scope out neighborhoods at all times of day. Fixtures can add accent lighting to trees and the house or can illuminate a walking path. If you aren’t able to use lights that require wiring, install solar fixtures (but understand that their light levels are not as bright or as reliable as their wired counterparts).

Replace gutters and downspouts

If your home has an older gutter system, odds are it’s also suffering from peeling paint, rust spots, or other problems that can convey a sense of neglect. Replace old systems with newer, snap-fit vinyl gutter systems that go together with few tools and require no painting. Copper systems, while pricier, convey an unmistakable look of quality.

Dress up the driveway

If your driveway is cracked or stained or has vegetation sprouting from it, you can upgrade it without a complete redo. First, repair the cracks and stains (and kill the weeds), then dress it up by staining the concrete or affixing flagstones. If you need more room to move your car or park, add stone, brick, or pavers to the sides of the drive to widen it with flair.

Please tell me how you have or plan to dress up your house for its next hot date! Visit me on Facebook and share your story.