Catch'em at the curb
'Curb appeal' isn't just catchy real estate jargon. It recognizes the fact that many buyers form their first, and often strongest, opinions before they even enter the home. Keep in mind, buying a home is first and foremost an emotional commitment, especially for first-time home buyers. You may have a long list of sound reasons your home is a good investment, but a buyer is usually reacting emotionally to what he or she is seeing. Knowing this, you can use a buyer's emotions to your advantage. First, it is important that you take a good, hard look at the first impression your property makes. Whatever you see, that's what they will see. If it's flaking paint and a messy yard, they may feel the home needs a lot of work. Here are some investments in your home's exterior that I've found through firsthand experience can pay huge dividends.
It should be no surprise that surveys indicate that painting the exterior of your home results in the greatest return on time and money invested when compared to other improvements done for preparing your property for sale. An investment of $ 800 - $1,800 can mean adding $2,800 - $3,800 to your asking price. And if you do a professional job yourself, your return may be even greater. Even if your home doesn't need the complete painting, it is a good idea to check the trim around windows and doorways for cracking or peeling, and do any necessary touch-up work.
Another important first impression is made by the landscape of your home. If you can improve the attractiveness of the grounds without spending a lot of money, you can add possibly 5 to 10 % to the value of your home. You should, at the very least, prune existing trees, shrubs and bushes, clean out dead plants from flower beds and replace them with colorful flowering plants.
Landscaping can become a high-maintenance headache if not done carefully, and it is for this reason you should choose hardy perennials that require minimal care. If you have a damaged lawn, you may need to take additional steps. The easiest step is to repair damaged sections with new sod. While seeding is less expensive, it won't produce grass quickly. A good patch job can make for a great quick fix.
Other lawn problems — dead areas due to lack of sunlight or a tree's root system - can be solved by planting ground cover or creating additional flower beds. Like a new paint job, a relatively inexpensive upgrade of existing landscaping can bring far greater returns than what you spend. But don't do anything that would be deemed excessive by neighborhood standards. The important factor is that you make your home more attractive, so that it doesn't stand out as an oddity.
Because it's big, dark, and usually takes up a significant portion of the landscape in front of your home, a driveway can affect a buyer's first impressions. If yours is in good condition, make sure you keep it swept and neatly edged where it meets the lawn. If yours is cracked, buckled or oil-stained, fix it. Patching concrete can be a problem because matching colour is difficult: tar and asphalt are relatively easy to match. Whatever you do, be careful that you don't create a bigger problem through quick-fix solutions - use high quality patching materials and sealers.
Decks and Patios
These can be popular additions that add value to the property, especially with smaller homes, because they add leisure space. Be aware that any deck or patio should adhere to your home's architectural style and integrate well with your outdoor areas.
If your garage has that rough, unfinished look, consider drywall and matching switch and outlet plates. At a minimum, make sure all switches and outlets work. And give everything a good cleaning.
Don't Neglect the Minor Details
It's often the little things that really stand out. If your mailbox is in poor shape, replace it. Varnish or repaint your door if need be. A door knocker and brass kick plate can also be nice additions. Spruce up the entryway with new light fixtures, potted plants and other decorative touches. With the exception of adding a costly deck or patio, most of the steps I've touched on here can be achieved in relatively little time and with little money.
But the impression your home makes on prospective buyers will be sensational. Surprisingly, some of the larger, more expensive, items you might consider spending your money on will do little to enhance the marketability of your home. Aluminium siding, for example, is prized by some and despised by others. Hot tubs may or may not appeal to potential buyers. Be careful, because changes you may find appealing may end up limiting your home's appeal to others. Besides swimming pools, some other investments you probably won't see a return on are tennis courts and automatic sprinkler systems. Unless they're for your own enjoyment, don't waste your money.
One major expense you may have to consider is a new roof. In this case don't think you can pass the cost along to a buyer. Everyone expects a good roof, and they will not pay extra for it. And more importantly, a roof in poor condition can kill a deal very quickly.