What gives a house that elusive ‘curb appeal’? When it comes to the landscape, local experts say the key is cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness—and a pop of color from flowers or variegated greens in winter.
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Even in winter, Engelhardt says, colorful plants make a difference. At this time of year, she recommends adding red-twig or yellow-twig dogwoods, any sort of berry, or spruce boughs in pots along a shoveled walk. When the weather warms up, she says, choose pansies or annuals. “There’s nothing like a pot of pansies to perk-up a porch,” she says. “As long as everything goes together, the more colorful the better.”
When it comes to the lawn, the grass should be cut, the edges trimmed and stray leaves blown clean. “It can’t hurt to have a professional come and put some mulch in,” Engelhardt says. “But the trick with mulch is, you don’t want to put it down right before an open house, because it stinks.” She recommends putting in mulch at least a week before you plan to have people visiting.
Garden beds should be weeded and straightened. “The key is making sure that your gardens look well-cared-for, even if you haven’t updated since the 1940s yew bushes,” says Engelhardt. “If people see your yard and it looks all raggedy, they’re going to think you didn’t take care of your house, either.”
Extensive gardens can be off-putting, Engelhardt notes, because potential buyers may be concerned about whether they’ll be able to keep them up. She recommends that sellers furnish buyers with a list of what is planted and who’s been taking care of it, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
And don’t forget what’s behind your house, Engelhardt adds. If you have a patio, deck or pool, buy an inexpensive hand-blower and get rid of leaves and debris.
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“Make sure that there’s a clear walkway to the front door,” advises Todd. “Remove any scary-looking plants, anything that looks like it’s guarding the house.” Then line the walkway and entrance with low-maintenance selections like boxwood, spirea in spring or daylilies in summer. “Dressing up the entryway is always the best thing you can do,” Todd says. “It makes your home inviting and makes people want to come in.”
When it comes to preexisting plants, Mark advises sellers to prune back any trees or bushes that are leaning into the house to better showcase the property. Don’t forget to remove dead leaves that might have collected on shrubs or hedges. And in the garden, add a spade edge or a brick paver along the edge of beds to make them look tidy.
As for the lawn, cleanliness is key, Todd reiterates. In winter, it’s especially important to keep an eye out for debris and maintain evergreens neatly, he says. “Sometimes it’s addition by subtraction.”
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Putting down new sod is Moseley’s No. 1 tip for creating curb appeal. “It’ll literally change your yard from average-looking to a golf course,” he says. And, he adds, it doesn’t take long—laying down new sod often doesn’t take more than one day. “That’s the beauty of sod,” he says. “It’s instant gratification. You have to water it, of course, but instantly the place looks that much better.”
Once you’ve freshened the look of your lawn, Moseley says updating plantings is key. “I look around my neighborhood, and a lot of people still have the same things that were planted in the ’50s or the ’70s,” he says. At the very least, sellers should update plantings to fit in with those of nearby houses, he recommends. Boxwoods and Japanese maples are ‘in’ while yews are out, he adds.
Color is also critical, Moseley says. Add colorful evergreens in the winter, like blue spruce, or put in annuals and some mulch in warmer weather. “When you’re selling your house, you need to make it inviting,” he says. “You want the ‘wow’ factor right when they step onto the property.”