You've made all the arrangements to put your house up for sale, going through countless discussions on equity, multiple listing and setting a price -- but have you made sure your house has curb appeal?
What's curb appeal?
"It's that first appearance -- how the house looks when you pull up to the curb," explains Jim Mattingly, president of Vantage Real Estate, a realty with several locations in Anne Arundel County. He saysthat many homes go unsold because of their initial appearance to prospective buyers. According to Mattingly, there are countless inexpensive things that can be done to a house to improve its marketability.
"The house could be lovely inside, but if it doesn't catch (the buyer's) eye, he's not going to be interested in what's going on inside. You have to take it from a marketing standpoint when you become a seller," he says.
Mattingly says home sellers should step back intothe street and look at their home from the perspective of a buyer, and then make changes to increase the house's curb appeal.
A few inexpensive measures will make the house more attractive and therefore more likely to sell.
"If someone comes up and says, 'Wow' from theoutside, they're pretty much sold before they get inside."
Vantage and other real estate agencies provide their clients with a checklist of things to make their homes more attractive. At the top of the list for the outside is basic yard maintenance, which includes the following:
* Mow the lawn weekly to give it a "just cut" look.
* Edge the lawn along the sidewalks and driveway, and cut grass in cracks in the sidewalk.
* Trim hedges, low hanging tree limbs and shrubs.
* Plant flowers in the front yard and place a hanging flower basket near the front door in warm weather.
* Remove snow and ice from walkways in the winter, and rake leaves from the lawn in the fall.
After the lawn is cared for, real estate professionals recommend touching up the outside of the house:
* Replace or repair downed gutters and drain spouts, and remove all debris from the gutters.
*Paint any blistering trim work or exposed wood.
* Repaint or restain the front door. This is especially important as it is the first part of the house buyers will see up close.
* Replace torn screens in windows and doors and any broken window panes.
When the outsideis up to snuff, it's time to head inside, where the buyer will probably make his or her final decision to buy. Many of the steps are similar to the outside in terms of touching up and painting:
* Paint rooms that look worn or faded, and staircases and halls that are fingerprinted or dirty.
* Clean the carpeting to give it a new look.
* Replace old caulking around bathtubs and shower stalls, and repairleaky faucets (this usually requires a simple washer).
* Oil all doors, windows, closets and cabinets.
* Clean the humidifier (if there is one) with a vinegar bath to dissolve mineral deposits and improve the operation of the unit.
* Vacuum the floor and rafters of the garage and basement. Their appearance affects the entire house.
Next, remove items that clutter the house. You want the buyer to see the space and access the house provides.
"Don't have a clutteredlook. That may mean a trip to the landfill or a yard sale sometimes,but it's worth it," Mattingly says. Make sure you go through the entire home in your quest to reduce clutter:
* Put out-of-season clothes in storage outside the home to ensure that your closets don't look cramped, and do the same for other items that may crowd rooms, likechildren's toys and knick knacks.
* Take items off the floor of walk-in closets so buyers have easy access.
* Stack things in the garage against the walls to show floor space.
* Remove items in theattic that may have pressed down the insulation, and lay down new insulation where necessary.
Finally, add some finishing touches. Youcan decorate the house, placing a solid deodorizer in each room and closet to add freshness. Make sure everything is clean -- that means that dishes are washed, the beds are made and the toilet is flushed and clean. When the buyer comes, turn on every light in the house to give it a bright, "model home look."
You also will want to remove any special fixtures, appliances or other items you will be taking with you so the buyer isn't misled. This will save you headaches later on.
These relatively inexpensive and easy steps will increase the selling potential of your home, and send you on your way to your new home.