Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries please email your questions to [email protected].
Question from Julia in UT: Brian, the pandemic and resulting unemployment have not been good for Utah home sales. The mood is extreme market uncertainty and reluctant buyers. At the same time, I’m in a position where I need to sell so I can move back east to take care of my ailing mother. I’ve kept good care of my home for the past 14 years and think it is above average for this middle-income neighborhood. I’ve had it listed for three weeks but haven’t had any offers. In fact, foot traffic has been exactly two people. As I’ve seen you asked before, what can I do inexpensively to improve my chances for a quick and fair sale?
Answer: Hello Julia. If your home is in good shape the way you say it is, you probably want to focus on the curb appeal to attract more buyers to take the time to visit and get to know the home. Homes lacking curb appeal are notorious for sitting on the market longer and selling for a lower price than similar homes with exteriors that look in top shape. That first impression is critically important. Curb appeal can attract buyers that just happen to be in the neighborhood, buyers driving to see a different house in the neighborhood, and agents want to show them because curb appeal is instantly attractive. These houses also take better photos for the MLS.
The phrase “curb appeal” might not be as accurate as it was many years ago. Today, you need to consider how the exterior looks on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Improvements don’t have to be expensive at all. A little landscaping and cleaning go a long way toward putting a house on buyers’ must-see lists.
Start with the front door. Often, there’s overgrowth that’s covering the front door, so trim it back. Symmetry is known to be attractive to most people. If you have enough space on the front porch, add some symmetry around the front door. A couple of small statues of something like lions are low maintenance but potted plants full of bright flowers on each side of the door are better. Don’t forget to put down a new doormat.
Rent, borrow, or buy a power washer. You might be able to clean up the existing paint with a gentle power washing. Just as important is taking a power washer to the driveway and sidewalk. These turn green and black with dirt but homeowners don't notice it because you see it every day.
If you have a wood porch, you can take the pressure washer to it also. Chances are that if it needs pressure washing, it’s about time for a fresh coat of stain or paint as well. By themselves, none of these is terribly expensive but all together they can add up to money and time. You want to prioritize the most important.
The lawn can take up the most visual space both in photos and when viewing the home in person. When it's lush and green, it creates a favorable impression. Getting it lush and green can take the better part of the summer but there is such a thing as lawn paint. Paint sounds harsh but it is actually environmentally friendly and biodegradable. It’s good for touching up brown spots or painting the entire lawn in drought-prone areas. The paint lasts for most of the summer (2 to 3 months), depending on how quickly your lawn grows and how often you mow it.
Moving up the expense ladder are shrubs, trees, flowerbeds, and other accents. Start by pruning overgrown shrubs, trees, and weeding flowerbeds. Add a fresh layer of mulch. Put in fresh flowers if your yard is lacking color. If you want everything to be low maintenance, use drought-resistant plants. That fresh mulch will also keep the weeds down.
Attached garages may seem utilitarian but they also make a big visual statement that most people overlook. One way to make them pop is by painting the garage door the same color as the trim on the house. Adding windows to a windowless garage is also helpful but expensive. Letting sunlight in is always a good thing and windows make the garage feel like it's more of a part of a bigger home.
A new mailbox can be part of the answer. Julia, you’ve been in your home for 14 years, when’s the last time you even noticed your mailbox to say nothing about upgrading it?
From the curb, a home should look and feel like a home that's been loved, cared for, and thought about. From the first impression, you want buyers to see it as a place they want to call home.
Please add your comment about improving curb appeal.
Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to [email protected].