Improving your Home's Curb Appeal on a Budget - You Can Do It!

Today we’re going to talk once again on one of my favourite real estate topics “Preparing your home for sale on a budget!” Homeowners, prior to having John and I hammer that exciting “For Sale” sign in the lawn, will often ask if I would take another tour of the property to see “if there is anything else we should do as far as staging is concerned?” Interestingly, I also have first time homebuyers, often a bit stretched for funds after their first big investment wanting some tips on decorating on a budget to make that new house a home. Well, very similar rules of thumb apply but today we’re going to focus on developing the exterior beauty so let’s take a step outside, shall we?

  1. You’ve heard of Location, Location, Location? How about Curb Appeal, Curb Appeal, Curb Appeal?

    This does NOT require a landscaping company, a design team, or a major dent in the pocketbook. A bit of time, perspiration and, if necessary, a very few dollars well spent is the investment. Put on your gardening clothes and get out the trowels, shovels, rakes, wheelbarrow, maybe a hammer and screwdrivers, and a lawnmower.
    In one afternoon, you can transform a front yard. If you, your partner or some friends and family invest a whole weekend the result will be a sense of great satisfaction, not to mention a transformed property. Don’t be blind to the tough jobs.
    Tackle those first. If you have an old shed that is an eyesore to you... you know the one... the one you keep hoping if you ignore it, it will just grow legs and walk away leaving a nice green patch of lawn in its place? Trust me when I tell you that potential buyers have 20-20 vision and will zero in on all the negatives. They see that old shed as a problem, as something to do, as a project and believe me, in today’s market buyers on a budget are looking for ‘move in condition’, not projects. Get that old shed torn down and taken to the dump. Depending on the municipality, it will cost a few dollars to dispose of but well worth the trip and the mental relief at no longer having to play psychic dodge ball with the eyesore anymore.

  2. That spot along the side of the house or garage where you keep leftover lumber, drainage pipe, an old basketball net, tomato spikes... get rid of it. Do not try and convince yourself that the ‘new owners might want it’, they don’t. Take this to the dump with the old shed. You haven’t touched it in over 2 years, its rubbish. Don’t cling to the past or what you paid for it or what it ‘could’ be used for in the future. Do you want to keep $20 worth of 2 x 4s because they’re still good or sell your home for close to its asking price? My bet is that you want to sell your home.

  3. You don’t want any negative thoughts or questions entering your potential buyer’s minds from the moment they set foot on your property. They have very likely looked at many properties, and are a possibly suffering from real estate fatigue, so you want to make this process easy for them. As realtors, we want to hear the buyers say things like: “Wouldn’t our patio set look amazing here? Oh honey, the kids would love this yard. We could put a rink back here in the winter.” Or my personal favourite: “Wow!”

  4. Get into those gardens, dig up the weeds, turn the dirt over, put nice clean edges in, and rake that garden. Trim, move or get rid of unruly, or overgrown shrubs and perennials. Pop some annuals in if the beds look sparse or lacking in colour. At this time of year, friends and family may be willing to split and donate some of their flowering perennials to your project.

    The big chain food or hardware stores are usually selling their annual hanging baskets at half price or less by now. Buy a few of these, pull them out of the container and plant them in a cluster in your flower bed. You’ll have an instant big bang of colour in your garden. If you can afford a few bags of cedar mulch, these are a terrific investment and make garden beds pop. Go with black or natural colours. I personally prefer the black mulch as it really stands out, but be sure to wear gloves as it will stain your bare hands. A big bag of mulch will set you back about $7 but if you are going to go this route, try not to skimp. If you must skimp on the mulch, then be meticulous about spreading it evenly throughout the bed. For a 200 square foot garden you will need about 10 bags minimum. Don’t save the leftover mulch and put it in the garage! More clutter! Just dump it all in and spread it around, more is better when it comes to mulch in a garden. What all this garden maintenance does is give cleanliness and structure not only to the gardens but assists in visually defining the architecture of the house.

  5. Outdoor knick-knacks and statues. I know you LOVE the garden gnome that looks like the one in the Travelocity commercials.

    After all, the gnome was holding an envelope that contained an all inclusive honeymoon to Mexico from your parents. It’s a happy but strictly sentimental reminder to you but the potential buyers weren’t there, and don’t know the story and don’t have the time or inclination to want to know. They are on a home buying mission, and in the first minute of taking in the curb appeal of your property, they are going to know if they are going to even consider purchasing this property. Give the rest of your home a fighting chance to bid for their home buying dollar! Don’t distract them from their mission. You’re moving anyway, so pack up Mr. Gnome in storage or let him holiday in Mom and Dad’s garden for a few weeks, and pop a donated day lily in his place. He’ll find a new home when you do. Fred Flintstone whirly-gigs and gnomes are fun but not helpful in creating great curb appeal when selling your home. Pack ‘em up and if you don’t love them yourself, find a new home for them.

  6. Shingles. Dream or nightmare. Your choice.

    When preparing the exterior of your home for sale when you’re on a budget, this may be the most expensive thing that you may have to do. If those shingles are showing ANY wear and tear makes it that much harder to sell your home. In fact, depending on the level of wear of the shingles, can make your home almost unsellable due to the simple fact that worn shingles are often related to other issues within the property. New shingles help sell homes fast. The expense vs. return on the costs is a wash, so why not have it done? Get as many quotes as early as you can. A few roofing companies offer financing through major banks, so this can make things so much easier on the pre-sale expenses. It might be a good option for you and the balance can be paid off with the proceeds from the sale of your home*. (*may depend on the bank. Be sure to ask.)

  7. Remember the half-price hanging baskets I mentioned earlier?
    Get a half-dozen of those, the thicker and more overgrown the better, cut the plastic hangers off and place them aesthetically around the property. Put it on the top of an old milk can with the flowers spilling over the sides.

    Take an old wooden ladder with flowers dripping over each step and place it in a corner of the property you want buyers to wander over to so they can see the house from a different perspective. Take an old tin bucket and put the flowers in that or turn it upside down and let the flowers spill over the sides... Use your imagination. It costs nothing to move flowers around and try interesting and appealing ways of creating a pretty setting in your yard. You will have potential buyers visualizing themselves relaxing in the yard with a nice iced tea, or glass of wine in no time. A bit of elbow grease and a spark of creativity can go a very long way in showing prospective buyers your lovely home.
  8. Paint the front door!

    I know we’ve discussed this before but a door painted with a POW colour makes people want to enter! Red! Periwinkle blue! Black! Yellow! Go for it! You’re moving anyway, you don’t have to love it. If you don’t get people through that door with one colour, paint it another in a few weeks, just make sure your realtor updates the photos to show off the new colour! Paint is inexpensive and for 2 or 3 good coats on both sides of a front door, you only need a quart of paint. If your budget is particularly tight right now, you can get cans of mistints at any hardware or paint store. If your budget is even tighter, just mention to your friends or post it on Facebook that you are looking for leftover exterior paint in bold colours and just about everyone you know will be answering you with a veritable rainbow of palette choices...

     you just saved them a trip to the hazardous waste depot! What a friend!

  9. While you’ve got the paintbrush in hand, ask your friends if they have any other leftover exterior paints. Here’s where you get to play Tom Sawyer...

    Ask your friends to help, make it fun and have a painting party! Touch up all those window frames, any wooden fences, or the tired old shed that just needs a bit of fresh colour! Important note to keep in mind, only serve soft drinks to your volunteers until the works all done! Once that happens, only then will it be time to crack open the wobbly pops and have a post-painting party in your lovely landscaped garden with trails of flowers flowing from the most interesting locations calling attention to all the creative genius you have untapped within yourself and bestowed upon your home!

  10. Finally... Don’t be afraid to ask your friends or neighbours if they know of anyone who would like to see the property now that this amazing transformation has taken place. Your realtor will be happy to take them through and show off all your hard work. You’ll be surprised how effective this form of property promotion is, and (who are no doubt going to miss you terribly because only neighbours that are truly good friends would help you paint) it gives them a wonderful opportunity to choose their new neighbours! Win-win and you know how we love a win-win!

So here’s to a little elbow grease, saving a whole lot of money and selling your home for the best possible price. Talk about big gain for little pain!

If you want to sit down and discuss ideas to help get your house sold, please give us a call. We can sit down and talk, with a pot of tea or coffee, share ideas and get the wheels in motion. We’re always happy to help.