The Power of Curb Appeal
Improve your home's value with these tips
When putting a house up for sale, one of the most important factors you should consider is your home's exterior as this is the first step to draw potential buyers. It's what is known as curb appeal. Here are some changes that will make your home more attractive and functional, and they're also the ones that will give you the most impact for your resources.
First, create an inviting walkway for your guests and potential buyers. Lay bluestone or any other type of slate over the typical concrete steps or walkways to add warmth to an otherwise cold entry.
Replace old columns
Most front porches have columns that are visually too small to support the roofs. Replace all columns that are 4"x4" with larger ones. It will look and feel better if you do.
Change out your light fixtures
For some reason, porch lights are often hung at the wrong height and are not in good scale with the entry. When hanging sconces, put them a bit higher than your eye level to reduce glare. For those of you with unusually high entryways, try independent lights. It's an easy way to add elegance to your home.
Consider replacing the front door and windows
Make sure your entry door does not clash with the style of your home. If you have an arts and crafts bungalow, stick with a door appropriate to that style. If you have a contemporary home, your door should be contemporary. Don't get caught up in the fads of the time. Consider, too, the style of the interior. This is also true of windows.
Replace your windows
If you have an older home, it will probably benefit greatly from the energy saved with new windows. Keep the style of the windows the same as the home's architecture for the best outcome. Replacement windows are less expensive because they are made to sit inside the present frame. Most window companies can replace the windows in this manner in a single day.
Dormers break up a large growth expanse and provide depth and balance to the front of the home.
If repairing or redoing stucco, consider getting some of the foam core crown molding made for exteriors. A little goes a long way to dress up your home. You have your stucco man cover right over the crown molding for a plush look.
Add or replace shutters
Make sure your shutters are not too small for the window. They technically should be wide enough to cover the window opening when closed. Mount operable shutters slightly away from the home. Shutters will provide a decorative element that further defines the character of your home and gives it a custom look.
Add flower boxes to windows
Flower boxes help add color to a home's exterior and make the windows appear taller from the street.
Replace older shrubbery that has grown too large for your home. If you want to make your home appear taller, use smaller shrubs. Watch out for shrubs that are overgrown as they can easily "swallow up" a small home.
Landscape all the way out to the street
For goodness sake, understand that the days of a straight hedge at the front wall of the house to the street are over. The same goes for lawn that stretches from the home to the street with practically nothing of interest. Remember that the exterior decor should utilize focal points and group your plants together. Don't string them out, soldier fashion, along the front of your house or the sidewalk leaving the in between areas bare or endless grass.
Exterior lighting is important
Exterior lighting can warm the look of a home without creating distinct points of light. Where space is limited, well-placed exterior lighting can replace pendants or sconces at the entryways. The home will be further enhanced if the materials and lighting are of the same style as the home.
Improve your driveway and make it more appealing
Use saw cut, apron pavers or stamped concrete in place of regular concrete for the driveway itself. Try changing the location of the driveway so that it sweeps across the front yard, but is still functional. You want the view from the driveway to be of the home instead of the garage door.
To disguise the garage door, build a 2 ft. trellis or arbor with vines over the garage; it will give the garage a softer cottage look and feel.
For a side entry garage, plant evergreen trees to hide the turn around area next to the garage, putting the focus on the front of the house.
Frame a doorway with plants
Try using boxwoods, steeds holly, dwarf Alberta spruce, smaller holly trees or arborvitae. Potted plants can be moved around and taken with you when you move away.
Plant the right things in the right places
If low sunlight is a problem, don't fight it. Low maintenance plants that can grow with little sunlight are azaleas, dwarfs and regular mondo grass, weeping Japanese maples, autumn ferns and hydrangeas. Your nursery can guide you on the varying needs of sunlight and water for each plant you buy.
For big results, think small
Trench the edges of your flower beds to create smooth sweeping lines. Freshen your mulch or pine straw. Get your lawn on a regular fertilizer program.
Simple low voltage lighting at entry points and specimen trees can add a lot of flair to the yard. Highlight and accentuate entryways with annuals.
Keep it simple
Don't confuse guests. Have a clear and defined path from a parking area to the home's entrance. Create paths out of stone or other materials that complement the house.
Study the color palette of your home
Determine the most complementary color for both body and trim of your home. Some houses look better with muted color schemes rather than the standard white trim. Consider an off white trim with a complementary color for the body of the house. I just passed a home with a white garage door, some white trim here and there, a fairly dark olive green body and a large black front door. The shutters on the windows and window trim was also black. Very stunning and quite unique.
Assess your roofs
Asphalt roofs look best in either black or slate gray. For more informal homes, pressure treated cedar shake roofs have wonderful color and texture. Slate roofs give a premium look to any home. Raised-seam metal roofs are a great option for homes that seek to achieve a distinctive older look.
Enhance the trim
Add wood pediments over the windows or over the front door. There are several sources for ready-made trim that is designed for standard sized openings.
Upgrade your door's hardware
Go to premium hardware companies and look at the options for door latches. Georgian-style homes should have polished brass fixtures, while country French and many cottage-style homes can use fixtures with darker finishes, such as oil-rubbed bronze or pewter gray.
Do your research
For older houses, look for lighting fixtures that look like old carriage lanterns or gas lanterns. Finishes should be black or aged copper. For an extra special look, replace the glass with seedy glass and use lower wattage bulbs. If you have a larger budget, consider installing a gas line to make the fixture a real gas lantern.
Stay away from helter-skelter objects in your yard. Pick a focal point or two for the art and leave the rest to more clean and understated design.
Think about function
If you want to use your yard for entertaining or just lazy days sipping sweet tea, make sure you have nice, clean seating and an easy to grow garden.
Keep it clean
Periodic pressure washing will remove molten debris off siding, decks, driveways and walkways leaving a pristine facade on your home
Put seasonal plants in pots that will spill over with color and make the front door a focal point.
Make it Low maintenance
Hardier plants will continue to look attractive in the colder months of the year, giving your yard year-round appeal.
Beyond Curb appeal
The "For Sale" and "Open House" signs are popping up like dandelions in Toronto area front yards. Home buyers are buzzing through neighbourhoods to check the new listings. Curb appeal is the nectar that beckons buyers to stop and sniff the flowers. Peeling paint, overgrown shrubbery and an unkempt appearance is a buzz kill. Buyers read "keep out" when the message should be "welcome."
Prospective home buyers usually make up their minds about viewing a home less than 10 seconds after seeing the exterior. If they don't like what they see outside, nothing a real estate agent says or does — short of dragging them kicking and screaming — will get them inside.
Even if the interior has been redone, they don't want to stop and go in. People want to be excited about coming home to their house every day. It sends a subliminal message when a potential buyer drives up and sees everything is neat, clean and in its place. That says 'this is a great home' and sends the message that if the exterior is taken care of, probably they've cared for the interiors, too.
Make the front entry as welcoming and warm as possible. That front door needs to be clean, the glass sparkling, the porch cleaned up, and when you open the door, no clutter and no odors.
Beyond curb appeal:
One of the biggest errors is trying to mask an odor rather than get rid of it. Too many scented plug-ins and candles from room to room is just as bad. If there are pet odors, some people won't even go through the door because of allergies.
The better dressed your home, the more people want to see it. Make it inviting. Repaint, hose down the siding, make sure the landscaping is trimmed back and presentable, put a wreath on the door. Step back and be objective. Ask yourself, 'Would I want to go into this house or would I pass it by?'
But a seller's efforts don't stop at the front door. It's the "little things" that can make or break a sale, particularly odor, cleanliness and clutter. Some real estate agents suggest a teaspoon of vanilla poured on a cookie sheet and placed in a warm oven will fill the house with a light, appealing fragrance before a showing. Just remember to turn off the oven before leaving the house.
If a home isn't sparkling clean and uncluttered, especially the kitchens and bathrooms, the woman is going to walk out the door. Thoroughly scrub bathrooms and kitchens. Replacing worn, corroded fixtures can give older sinks and tubs an inexpensive facelift. Remove small appliances and give counters a clean sweep to clear counter space. Clean off magnets, photos and take-out menus from the refrigerator door.
You want bathrooms and kitchens looking their best because those are the rooms that will reap the most rewards. Also, if you have old carpeting throughout the house and hardwood floors underneath, remove the carpeting and get the floors cleaned up. Let them sing. If the carpet is in good shape, have it cleaned.
De-personalize the space by removing the family photo gallery off the walls. Prospective buyers should picture themselves living in the home.
Pack up salt-and-pepper shakers, velvet Elvis paintings and Precious Moments collections and put them in storage. Clean out and organize basements, garages and attics. Ask children to help out by removing posters and glow-in-the-dark stickers from their bedroom walls. Paint rooms to freshen the space. Have a garage sale to get rid of stuff you don't want and have been meaning to ditch for years.
Don't over-decorate. "People would rather see more of a blank slate so they can envision their own personality in the house. Toss down personal colors. Take down those family pictures -- a buyer doesn't want to feel they're moving a family out, they want to envision themselves moving in.
Declutter closets. If your closets are jammed full of stuff, if you've got shoeboxes and sweatshirts stacked 2 feet high, even if it's a huge closet or a walk-in closet, you're giving the buyer the thought that closets aren't big enough.
Rearrange furniture and remove pieces to aid traffic flow. Minimalist — that's the thought process ... if you have too many chairs or your furniture is large, a buyer is going to think the rooms are too small because all the furniture doesn't fit. If somebody is truly thinking about buying a house and get into a home and every corner is full, it's going to discourage the buyer. Unconsciously if they like the house, a buyer's eyes gravitate to an empty corner and they start arranging their own furniture. If they don't have that empty corner, they'll move on.
Inside and out, tackle chores on the "honey-do" list. Unfinished projects are red flags to potential buyers. Wives say — 'sure, you'll fix that for the realtor and I've been after you to finish that for the last 10 years'. If you're selling your house, you can't live in it like you normally would. It's all about presentation.
If possible, remove pets from the home during a showing. It will make for happier pets who may feel threatened by strangers, and a better showing.
Homeowners should leave during showings. Otherwise prospective buyers won't feel free to ask questions and the real estate agent can't effectively do their job.
Source: Curb Appeals
Curb appeal counts when selling
It's important that your home look tidy outside as well as inside. You’re ready to put your house on the market. Inside, it is beautifully decorated and sparkling clean. That bit of peeling paint on the porch and the bald spots in the garden won’t bother prospective purchasers, right?
Maybe not. And then again, they may drive by, see these flaws and take your house off the list of houses they plan to view. First impressions count.
What real estate agents call “curb appeal” is the impact your house makes when seen from a car or the sidewalk. If the exterior of the house and the yard are tidy and well maintained, prospective purchasers walk in with a pleasant feeling of expectation that the interior will match up. If the lawn is shaggy, the windows are dirty and the doorbell doesn’t work, they will be on guard for problems inside.
Here’s a short list of things you can do to increase your home’s curb appeal:
- cut and rake the grass and water frequently enough to keep it green; fill and seed any bare patches.
- wash windows and replace any cracked glass.
- weed and edge the garden.
- bridge gaps in foundation plantings with bright annuals in containers.
- remove flaking paint and stucco from the steps, porch or deck, door, trim and storage sheds and repaint.
- keep the lawn and porch or deck clear of bikes, toys, gardening tools, flyers and other clutter.
- keep the pool immaculate.
- make sure the front door opens and shuts smoothly and the doorbell functions.
- tuck garbage containers out of sight.
It’s a good idea to ask your listing agent to take a tour of the exterior, note any flaws and tell you what you need to do to make your home more saleable.
If you don’t have the time or skills to make repairs or spruce up the garden yourself, consider hiring a handyman, gardening service or pool service to visit your home a few times before you list and while it is on the market. Check out ads in the local paper or ask neighbours or your agent to recommend people who can help you at a reasonable price.
Try to think of your home’s appearance as a form of advertising. The few hundred dollars you invest in increasing its curb appeal can mean more viewings, a quicker sale and – possibly – a better price.
What is home staging?
Home staging is the design process of de-personalizing a private residence prior to putting it up for sale in the real estate marketplace. This is often achieved by re-arranging, de-cluttering and improving on certain items.
The goal of staging a home is to help it sell quickly and for the most amount of money by appealing to the largest amount of prospective buyers. Staging focuses on improving a home’s potential by transforming it into a ‘neutral’ property because the way we live in our home is completely different than the way we should sell our home. Staging creates a living space buyers can "see" themselves in, similar to how model home displays are presented.
Staging also helps create an environment that will lead a buyer’s eye to the home’s attractive features, while minimizing its flaws.
Many home-sellers agree that staging is a practical first step prior to selling any home, especially since the cost of staging a home is usually much less than the increased selling price often achieved from a professionally staged home.
Market value boosting renovations
Whether doing-it-yourself or hiring a professional, interior painting, hardwood flooring and kitchen upgrades are amongst the top equity enhancing home renovations.
With Spring here(?) in Toronto - the busiest time of the year for home sales - homeowners may want to consider tackling some simple home improvements that will ensure their properties sell for top dollar. The Royal LePage Renovations and Returns Survey examines some top renovations that bring the best return on investment.
"Amid today's competitive real estate market, renovations offer a relatively affordable means to boost the value of a home," said Lisa da Rocha, vice president, marketing and sales, Royal LePage Real Estate Services. "Do-it-yourself tasks such as painting walls, changing cupboard knobs or laying new flooring will make a house not only more appealing to buyers, but also offer a great return on investment."
With the expansion of renovation chains across the country, and the proliferation of do-it-yourself television shows, it is no surprise that homeowners are tackling renovation projects now more than ever. According to Statistics Canada, renovation spending grew by 8.3 per cent in the fourth quarter 2007 to $9.2 billion, from the same period in 2006.
Added da Rocha: "There are some renovations, such as finishing a basement that a homeowner does for their own enjoyment without much concern for the return on investment. What we have explored within this survey are renovations that are intended to translate directly into enhanced equity in a property."
Reasonable and Radical Renovations
From simple aesthetics to washroom overhauls, here are the top renovations that will increase the equity of a home. The list is ranked in ascending order of cost of project.
1. Freshen up:
Adding a new coat of paint can freshen up a house and make the interior look like new - not to mention more spacious. For homeowners looking to sell in the near term, neutral colours are most preferred.
2. Floors galore:
Today, hard surfaces are all the rage. If genuine hardwood exceeds budgets, laminate works well. Buyers like to see hard floors throughout, so if possible, be sure to lay down laminate in dining rooms and living rooms, and even in bathrooms and bedrooms.
3. Lighten up:
Old or standard-grade light fixtures, electrical and light cover plates can easily date a house. To modernize, add distinct flair to the interior, consider installing new light fixtures. Remember to go green, and use compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs, where possible.
4. Pebble Beach?
Well, close: The old adage, you never get a second chance to make a first impression is extremely true when it comes to selling a home. To increase curb appeal and entice buyers, ensure front lawns are tidy and gardening is minimal. While there is no need to go overboard and plant an expensive Japanese Maple, adding some standard shrubs and flowers will make a home more inviting.
5. Stylishly steel:
Similar to the issue with old light fixtures, knobs, fume hoods and backsplashes can make a kitchen seem outdated. Sleek, stainless steel hardware designs have the biggest and most positive impact on those people looking to buy a home.
6. Opening all the right doors:
An elegant entrance enhances a prospective buyer's first impression of the house itself.
7. ROI from the ground up:
To see an even higher return on investment, replace old flooring with new hardwood. While a range of qualities, textures and colours exist, it's best to opt for a neutral wood colour to accommodate the widest possible array of tastes and décor.
8. White picket fence?:
Building a fence and a deck instantly boosts a home's appeal. Keeping kids and pets in the yard, and nosey neighbours out, fences provide the back and side yards with a sense of being finished.
9. Occupied, no more:
A bathroom situated on the main floor is increasingly seen by homebuyers as an essential feature in their next purchase. While many older homes were built with bathrooms only on the second floor, many homeowners are resorting to transforming closets or adding new rooms to accommodate two-piece powder rooms.
10. Exquisite en suite:
Today's homebuyer prefers bathrooms that have spa-style tubs and modern faucets. Granite and marble tiles are now readily available and can be purchased at relatively affordable prices.
11. Everything, and the kitchen sink:
While prices can vary when renovating a kitchen, one thing is certain - updated kitchens bring one of the highest returns on investment. With homeowners spending more time in the kitchen than any other room, it's no surprise they want the best possible style and functionality. Stainless steel appliances, ceramic sinks and clean lines on cupboards rank as the more preferred finish options. Since kitchens and baths can be such a personal space, it's wise not to select a dramatic style or colour scheme since your tastes may not be the same as the next owner.
Enhancing curb appeal*
* the visual attractiveness of a house as seen from the street.
Job applicants are often advised to dress properly for that all-important initial interview. After all, they are told, you don't get a second chance to make a good first impression. The same holds true for people trying to sell their homes. Would-be buyers may not make up their minds based on curb appeal, but many don't even bother to come inside if they are turned off by how a house looks as they pull up to the front door.
In other words, all the emphasis on interior home staging — prepping a home's interior for maximum appeal — could be for naught if you ignore the home's exterior. You have only a few key moments to spark someone's interest, so it pays to put your best façade forward.
The good news is that you can beef up your home's exterior for less than $500 and a weekend's worth of time. And if you want to go whole hog by, say, replacing the siding, adding a porch or replacing your old, worn-out windows, you should be able to recoup most of your cost.
According to the 2007 "Cost vs. Value Report" from Remodeling magazine, a trade publication, the projects offering the greatest return on investment involved what could be called "curbscaping" — new siding, a deck and new windows. The payback for siding and decks was greater than that for remodeling a kitchen, and the payoff for replacing windows was just a few percentage points behind.
But you don't have to go to all that trouble to make your home's exterior more inviting. All it takes is a critical eye. In order to make a house appealing to prospective buyers, it is important to create attractive finishing touches that make it stand out from the curb.
For starters, take a step back. Walk across the street, turn around and look at your place from the wide view, searching for positive features that could be highlighted and negative elements that need to be hidden from plain sight.
At this point, it will help to take a photograph of your house, which can be used as a basis for the improvements you might want to make. But opt for black and white rather than color, the landscape designer suggests, because color can affect your perception of problem areas.
A fresh coat of paint is always a good idea. Nothing creates impact more than color. But because different people have different tastes, it's always a good idea to use neutral earth tones as the main color and stronger colors to accent, say, the doors and windows. Keep in mind, though, that two or three hues are usually enough to make a statement.
If painting the exterior isn't an option, painting just the shutters or front door to add a little pop. Or even the door and window frames.
The front door should be visible from the front street. If it isn't, consider adding an arbor or some other landscape element to point visitors in the right direction.
Because would-be buyers show up just as often after dark as in the daytime, replace your front-door light fixtures with new, brighter, shiny ones. Also, consider adding landscape lighting. And remember to keep them lit in the evening. You never know when a potential purchaser might drive by for a quick look.
If you have a front porch or stoop, clean or replace whatever furniture you might have out there, and put out some new throw pillows. Give visitors a place to stop and enjoy the front door.
Speaking of the front door, adding a new polished door-knocker is a good way to give your entryway a little character and charm. Accenting the doorway with decorative pots or planters also can add vitality.
If you have a garage, treat the doors in the same way. If they are in bad shape, consider replacing them. In some houses, garage doors take up half the front or more. The GarageWowNow.com website demonstrates how garage doors can spruce up curb appeal. And remember to keep the doors closed at all times so visitors will see the effect — not to mention to hide the clutter that is usually inside.
Don't forget the walk and driveway, either. They need to be clean and free of cracks. And put the kids' toys and the hose and other gardening tools away and out of sight.
Fresh grass or sod is another cost-effective way to dress up your home's exterior. Seeding is the least-expensive way to go, but it is more time-consuming than sod, if only because it could take several months for a mature lawn to grow in. Sod is a much faster way to go, but it is far more costly, especially if you have to hire someone to do the work.
Either way, though, make sure that you start the process long before your house is put on the market. The last thing you want visitors to see is a bunch of stakes and ropes that cordon off freshly planted areas and signs that warn folks to "keep off the grass."
Chances are you already have trees and shrubs, so you won't have to reinvest in those key design elements. If you don't, consider adding them. If you do, make sure they are trimmed and tidy. Fresh mulch will make them stand out even more, and remove dead leaves and debris that tend to detract from the overall effect.
If your house is going on the market in the growing season, adding flowers is another minimal investment with a maximum payoff.
Fences and gates are far more expensive, but they are an excellent way to frame your entire yard and set it apart from your neighbours. They also help differentiate between the public versus private areas of your home.
Before you start a project of this magnitude, though, it's always a good idea to reconfirm your property lines and clue in the neighbors about your plans. The last thing you want is to overstep your boundaries or anger the folks next door.
You can enhance your home's curb appeal almost instantly by:
- Applying a fresh coat of paint, or adding color to trim and shutters for extra visual effect.
- Replacing your light fixtures and front-door knob with new, brighter, shiny fixtures. Leave the lights on in the evening.
- Cleaning or replacing front-porch furniture, and putting out some new throw pillows.
- Accenting the front door with decorative pots or planters.
- Cleaning the driveway and repairing cracks. Put the kids' toys and the garden hose out of sight.
For more ideas, see the Curb Appeals website »
Virtual Curb Appeal
According to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, 91 per cent of home buyers used the Internet to search for available homes. If you’re a home seller, what does that mean for you? It means, that not only do you need traditional curb appeal, from the street, you need virtual curb appeal on the Internet. Buyers are making decisions on whether or not to even drive by you home based on how it looks on-line.
If you’re considering selling your house, one thing you might want to do is take a few pictures of the home yourself. Look at them through the eyes of a buyer. What do you see? Are they appealing enough to capture a buyer’s attention and compel them to look at your home?
Or if your home is sitting on the market with no showings, take a good look at the principal photo on the MLS. Does it look compelling? It may be time to re-assess your online curb appeal. The Internet is now the initial place you need to make good first impression.