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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:

For more ideas, see the Curb Appeals website »

March 12, 2008 in Curb Appeal | Permalink


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I had a hard time making my house look good from the street. Well, my house looked ok, it was my grass. However sprinkler systems helped alot. My grass is always green now and now I can focus more on the house.

Posted by: Bill | Feb 18, 2013 8:01:47 PM

Thanks for sharing this on your blog, I really appreciate it! I'm sure the Calgary plumbers appreciate it just as much :)

Posted by: PJ Boothe | Jan 23, 2013 9:06:47 PM


Great site! Really professional-looking and helpful. I see you practice what you preach in your article about making your house look good just as you would in a job interview. You've clearly taken the same approach to this blog.

Since you have lots of cool links, I figured I'd suggest one that seems tailored for this site.

Have you heard of HomeStars.com? It offers thousands of real homeowner reviews (the good, the bad…) of local home improvement companies from tile installers to architects. The site has been around for a couple of years (founded in Toronto) and we’re now taking the plunge and letting anyone in North America join the conversation.

If you think it would be a useful resource to pass along to your readers, would you consider giving us a mention (and link) in your blog?


Matt Larkin
Community Editor, Toronto
HomeStars – Rating the Renovators, Retailers, and Repairmen
P.S. Some local press about us:

Posted by: Matt Larkin | Mar 12, 2008 1:58:12 PM

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