Curb Appeal on a Budget

When it comes to selling your house, little changes can have a big impact. You’ve heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Well, this is where curb appeal comes in. Curb appeal is how attractive your property looks from the outside. Is it inviting or are there distractions like dead plants and ugly garden hoses that draw the eye?

Even without a drought, nice-looking landscaping can be tough to maintain. If you don’t have time for yard maintenance, simply remove dead plants; put in native, drought-resistant ones and let nature take care of itself. For a pop of color, place a few bright, flowering annuals in pots on your porch. Before you leave, make sure you trim the bushes, mow the lawn (if you still have one), weed, rake leaves, sweep the sidewalks and driveway, hide trash cans, and remove any lawn art that wouldn’t have broad appeal. You may love those little gnomes, but not everyone would.

If you want even more curb appeal, consider power washing your house. I warn you that a power washer in the wrong hands (like mine) can do serious damage—like blow holes in concrete—so be careful. Used appropriately, however, power washers can remove dust, dirt and cobwebs to make sidewalks sparkle and siding look like new.

Speaking of sparkle, clean windows make a nice difference inside and out. You don’t have to buy expensive glass cleaner to do the job. I use TSP. It’s cheap and can be used to clean many surfaces (it’s great for removing soot from a fireplace). A word to the wise about washing windows: wash them when they are shaded. Sunlight will dry your windows instantly and whatever is in the water will leave streaks all over your windows. If you skip the power washer, you may want to get a soft brush (one that mounts on a pole for second-story windows) to remove cobwebs and dirt.

The next suggestion is paint. If you’re on a budget, simply paint the house trim, shutters and front door. Don’t be afraid to use an accent color that makes windows and doors stand out. If your front door is natural wood, be sure it’s in good condition. You may need to strip off the old finish, then re-stain and re-seal it. If you can afford to paint the whole house, and your siding is peeling, this is well worth the expense.

If you want Realtors (and others, like emergency responders) to be able to find your house, be sure the house numbers are visible from the street. Put them on your mailbox and on your house. Good lighting also helps. Solar-powered lights are inexpensive and add a nice bit of ambience as the sun sets. Mendo Mill and Friedman’s have wall sconces and lawn lights, as well as friendly employees who can help you figure out what you need.

If you already have sconces, remove bugs that have surely accumulated there and clean the glass. If you choose to replace your sconces, be sure they have the same mounting system as your current ones, or your cheap sconces become very expensive because an electrician will be required to make them work.

If you have patio furniture on your front porch, replace sun-faded cushions and make sure the porch doesn’t feel crowded. Just like on the interior, you can probably remove half of the furniture and you’ll still have plenty left.

I know of buyers who have driven up to a house for sale and decided not to get out of the car to view the interior, simply based on how the outside looked. Good curb appeal can be the difference between a quick sale and no sale.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.




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