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The Ultimate Open House Checklist: Curb Appeal Edition

home for sale

The following article was written by Chrystal Caruthers of

We know—selling your home is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a big decision that can take years of dreaming, years of waiting for home values to return all while second-guessing yourself, your life choices, and the market. You’ve been patient. The house you expected to live in for a few years has turned into a 10-year hold. Rejoice! The housing market has rebounded, and the time to sell may be now: Home prices are up, interest rates are still low (but rising), and inventory is tight.

Of course, the first thing a potential buyer sees is your front yard and your home’s exterior. Is your house as attractive as it could be? According to the 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value report by the National Association of Realtors®, home buyers are big on curb appeal. So here’s our checklist of everything you need to do to get the outside of your home looking as good as the inside.

Replace the entry door. Buyers are looking for safety and energy efficiency. Replace your dingy old door with a new steel entry door for a 102% return on investment, according to NAR. It is attractive, comes in different colors, and won’t break the bank (price range is $99 to $500). This, however, is good only for median- to lower-priced homes (those priced below $200,000). For high-end homes, be sure your front door reflects the grandeur of the price and neighborhood.

Replace the garage door. Sometimes it’s the first thing potential buyers see when they drive up to your house. If the garage door is dirty, worn, and hanging from a hinge, replace it. A new door can add pizzazz and, according to NAR, return about 89% of its value.

Wash the windows. If you don’t do windows, hire someone who does. Clean windows show potential buyers you take good care of your house. This attention to detail makes them want to see the inside.

Repair/replace the roof. This is a big one. Roofs are expensive; we know that. But a leaky roof can end up costing even more. Buyers always, always ask their agents how old the roof is. They want to know that they won’t get stuck with your postponed repairs. If you can’t replace it, have a roofer patch spots that show wear. It’s best to get this big-ticket item done before the inspector finds it and potentially destroys your sell.

Clear the gutters. If your gutters resemble potted plants, it’s time to clean them. If they hang lower than the roofline, reattach them. A cluttered gutter signals to potential buyers that you’ve given up, and they likely will, too.

Replace the siding. Buyers place a premium on fiber cement siding, according to NAR. If your home is sagging from warped siding, upgrade from vinyl to cement. Make sure your agent tells buyers about your recent investment.

Tuck-point the bricks. If you live in a brick home, be sure to have it tuck-pointed. Not only does a freshly tuck-pointed house look better, it is also sealed against water damage.

Replace the windows. Yes, this is another big-ticket item. Replacing windows can cost thousands of dollars. A quick hack: Replace the windows seen from the curb. New energy-efficient, double-paned windows are high priorities for buyers. You may not be able to afford all new windows, but some are better than none.

Paint the exterior. If you live in a painted house that used to be yellow but now looks beige, it’s time for a fresh coat. Don’t underestimate the value of a freshly painted house.

Mow the lawn. Do we have to say this? And while you’re at it, edge it, too.

Trim the hedges. There’s no need to get fancy—just trim the outgrowth.

Plant flowers. Adding pops of color with flowers and ornamental grass can boost curb appeal while making buyers feel welcome. If you want to landscape, try adding low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants to entice the eco-conscious.

Trim trees. Don’t make buyers duck down while walking to your front door. If the tree branches are hanging too low for the average person, trim them back. There should always be a clear path to the front door.

Powerwash the porch/deck. Buyers will always check out the backyard. If you have a deck, make sure it’s washed, sealed, and ready for entertaining.

Check the doorbell. While it doesn’t affect your curb appeal, a working doorbell matters. Sometimes open house visitors ring the bell before walking in. Make sure yours works!

Leave a light on. You can bet buyers are driving by your house at night, checking out the neighborhood. Sometimes they will drive by to make sure they want to attend the open house. To attract them, add strategically placed solar lights around your yard. Highlight your newly planted mums, your blooming roses. Make the house look as good at night as it does during the day, then watch (from a distance) as buyers line up to attend your open house.

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