Grab 'em at the curb

Grab 'em at the curb

OK, it's not exactly the best year for people trying to sell a house, but if you want to improve your chances, you need to start right out front, with what's known as curb appeal.

"People's first impressions when they drive up are so important — it's a huge percentage of whether they want to buy a house," says Linda Jones of Central Point, who specializes in real-estate staging, a term for designing the look or setting the scene of a house to make it attractive to buyers.

"The outside has to be inviting them to look inside."

Jones says much of what needs to be done is obvious. Get rid of all weeds in the yard. Wash everything down so it sparkles and there are no cobwebs in the corners. Trim any overgrown trees or shrubs. Wash the windows and the screens. Sweep the walks. Clean the gutters. Don't forget to clean out the dead bugs inside the porch light.

Also check the foundation, chimney and drive for cracks and seal them.

"Power-washing the outside is always a good idea, unless the paint is starting to peel, in which case it's time for a paint touch-up." says Jones. If your house is not a neutral color, that needs to be rethought, adds Jones.

Kristi Johnson of Flying Frog Design in Medford also stresses the importance of neutral colors.

"If your house has been painted in 'fun' colors — if it looks like it belongs on the beach in Florida — it would pay to have the house repainted," says Johnson. The exception is the front door. "Red doors sell houses. If it will work with your color scheme, paint the front door red.

"If you have animals and there are scratch marks on the front door, be sure to sand them before repainting or staining. A ratty front door will set the tone for what they can expect inside," adds Johnson. Nothing should remind buyers of the presence of animals.

Jones suggests removing the front screen door unless it is particularly attractive. A plain screen door doesn't add much to the invitation you want to send the prospective buyer.

You want to make it easy for potential buyers to picture their own taste reflected in the house. So remove anything personal, including pink flamingoes, garden gnomes or other yard art.

Both designers advise investing in blooming flowers for the front garden, or at least a couple of large pots with blooming flowers by the door. And make sure there are no plants with dead or wilting leaves in view.

"If your outside light or hardware is bright brass, either paint it or change it," says Johnson. "Bright brass is so dated. Replace it with brushed nickel or paint it with Rust-Oleum flat black — it makes a huge difference.

"Consider some exterior lighting, not just the porch light," says Johnson. "You never know when a potential buyer might drive by at night. Put spotlights on a few special yard features like a nice, old tree. Pathway lights are OK, but too many people overdo it with those. You don't want too many or too close together so it just adds to the visual clutter."

If you have fencing around the yard, make sure it is in good condition with no missing slats. Wash or paint it, if needed, and oil the gate hinges.

A clean, new welcome mat is the final touch to entice them into the house.

Then cross your fingers.

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