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Curb Appeal

First, lets start with what it is. Curb appeal is quite simply the rate of attractiveness your home projects to viewers from the street. Why is this important? As the definition states, it is the ultimate first impression. You may have an immaculate, luxurious interior but without high curb appeal, few will bother to step inside to see it. This is even more important when selling on your own because you don't have a realtor to hype the interior as worth a viewing.

Is it worth the trouble to invest, if you don't have good curb appeal? The payback value on exterior upgrades to your property range from 49% for landscaping improvements to 62% for exterior home improvements, such as painting. Next to the kitchen and bath, these are the highest payback ratios for home improvements and are well worth the initial investment.

In the order of highest payback value, we have provided some tips to help you achieve higher curb appeal for your home:

Exterior Painting

Painting the exterior may appear daunting and not worth the effort, but research shows that it results in the greatest return on time and money for exterior improvements.

As a guideline, when choosing color, a long and low house looks most appealing with colours that emphasize vertical elements such as doors and shutters, while taller more narrow homes should contrast its horizontal elements likes fascias and gutters. Window boxes are a nice touch as well.

If painting is out of the questions, the bare minimum improvements should be to:

Wash the full exterior to clear it from dirt and cobwebs. Renting a high pressure washer is best. Fix any loose, missing, or damaged shutters. Clean, paint, or replace mailbox, doorknobs, and street numbers. Windows

Especially with a freshly painted or washed exterior, dirty windows will stand out like a sore thumb, and will date them past their true age.

Tips for cleaning windows - Do not clean windows while they are in direct sunlight. Your cleaning solution will dry too fast.

Using a 100% cotton cleaning cloth, dip the cloth in cleaning solution and wring out excess before wiping the window to loosen dirt.

Using a squeegee, start each stroke in a dry spot, and squeegee in a pattern from top to bottom or side to side. If you are cleaning the outside and inside of the window, alternate the pattern on each side (i.e. top to bottom on the inside and side to side on the outside). This will make it easier to identify which side any streaks are on.

Keep your squeegee blade dry by wiping it with a cleaning cloth between strokes.

Nicks in the squeegee blade will cause streaks. Replace when needed. If you do not have a squeegee, newspaper will dry freshly washed windows, whereas papertowel or cotton will leave lint behind.

Cool clear water is the choice of solution by most professional window washers. For very dirty windows, add 2 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water.


Homeowners should plant colorful flowers along walkway leading to the door, prune existing trees, shrubs and bushes, and add fresh mulch. Clean out dead plants and weeds from flower beds and refresh with colorful plants and annuals.

Taller plants at the corners of your house will help anchor it with the landscape. Shorter plants near your home's entry bring attention to your front door. However, this could have a negative impact if the front door is in need of repair (another reason to rethink the exterior improvements noted previously).

Last but most definitely not least and probably most important, ensure your lawn is trimmed and green. If you have a lawn in need of attention, you may want to consult a landscaper for advice before trying to repair on your own.

Overall Appeal

Some further touches that will go along way to increasing the appeal of your home from curbside are:

Outdoor lighting - Exterior lighting in your garden, walkway or entrance area add a warmth and welcome feeling that will make a viewer want to see more.

Indoor lighting - While your house is on the market, leave lamps on in 1 or 2 front rooms. It brings the home to life and, again, provides the same warmth and welcome feeling as the exterior lighting. Exterior lighting alone will not provide the appearance of a well loved, lived in home, like the combination of exterior and interior lighting can.

Furniture - As long as the chairs are well kept and not cluttered looking within the space, two chairs on a front porch provides a tremendous visual appeal from the street. Buyers view the exterior as an extension of the home and will want to view more.

The best advice for creating great curb appeal, is to take a walk through your favourite neighbourhood. Analyze what works really well and what doesn't. Then determine why and incorporate those items to fit your own exterior. Most of all enjoy the outdoors and don't get too overwhelmed by the work at hand.

February, 2004 - Xstream Realty Incorporated

Amie Walton is the president and founder of Xstream Realty Incorporated, a Virtual Agent online real estate service. She has retained her ASP designation in Home Staging and is managing both and as complementary businesses for assisting homeowners to sell their homes quickly and profitably.

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