Article Written By Tina Hill

Curb appeal is the term real estate agents use to describe a home’s appearance from the street. Agents know it can determine how quickly a house sells — and at what price.

That’s especially true in this age of the internet. Nearly every real estate company posts pictures and videos of their listings on websites, allowing potential buyers to give a thumbs up or down to a property without even visiting it.

Real estate author Lisa Grant Vail says a home’s curb appeal is instantly imprinted on a potential buyer’s brain.  “It’s very hard to change a first impression,” she says. Curb appeal is so important that many real estate firms contract with professional photographers to put a home’s best foot forward.

Even if we’re not putting our homes on the market, we want them to make a good impression. Our homes are a reflection of who we are and how we live. There are the obvious ways of sprucing up your home: keeping lawns trimmed and neat, pulling all the weeds, putting on fresh paint where needed, and scrubbing windows sparkling clean.  But if your house needs more, the bucks can add up!

Real estate pros have some tricks that can enhance a home’s exterior appearance without busting the budget. Here are six easy ways to make a home more photogenic, whether you’re planning to put yours on the market — or just want the joy of pride of ownership. 

1. Your front door is the key! 

Your door is the first thing that draws eyes in a photograph or from the street. In a cost vs. value report, “Remodeling Magazine” learned an updated door offers the most bang for the buck when it comes to selling a house. New metal doors are expensive — topping $2,000. But a fresh coat of paint can be a more palatable alternative. Just make sure the color complements the house. If it’s a DIY project, choose a high-quality paint and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

2. Make Your Entry Inviting

A porch with a garden bench or chair and table says, “Come on in and make yourself at home.” Even a small entryway can benefit from potted plants or flowers.

3. Don’t overlook little details

New address numerals, mailboxes, and entryway lighting are available at home centers in a variety of styles and prices. Shutters, awnings and flower boxes can add appeal to plain-Jane windows.

4. Beware of time and grime 

Exterior walls, driveways, and sidewalks become dirty over time. Power-washers can bring back the shine! Hire a cleaning professional or rent a power-washer at a home improvement store. New power washers at home centers range from about $200 to $700.

5. Watch out for cracks in your plan

Cracks in driveways and sidewalks are downright ugly! Home centers offering a variety of products for filling and patching. Large cracks may require a pro.

6. Don’t stay in the dark

Outdoor lighting can add appeal in the evening hours. Outdoor lighting once required extensive wiring, but now an array of solar-powered and battery lights are available at home centers and online.

When it comes to enhancing the appearance of your home, avoid too much of a good thing. Grecian columns may look great on a mansion in Highland Park, but appear pretentious and garish in a more modest neighborhood. You don’t want your home to stick out like a sore thumb — you just want it to look the best on the block.

Tina Hill is a landscape designer who stages homes before they go on the market. She recently remodeled her own backyard to include covered hardscaped areas along with an outdoor kitchen and fireplace.

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