For most home sellers, it probably would come as a "well, duh" suggestion from their real estate agents that they need to keep the grass cut and landscaping tidy.

But there’s plenty more front-yard primping that could — make that must — be a priority for sellers, according to Sue Guers, a Fountain Hills, Ariz., designer and home stager. She says many sellers don’t give as much thought to curb appeal as they should because they often enter and exit by car, via their garages. They just don’t see the yard the way buyers do, she said.

For most home sellers, it probably would come as a "well, duh" suggestion from their real estate agents that they need to keep the grass cut and landscaping tidy.

But there’s plenty more front-yard primping that could — make that must — be a priority for sellers, according to Sue Guers, a Fountain Hills, Ariz., designer and home stager. She says many sellers don’t give as much thought to curb appeal as they should because they often enter and exit by car, via their garages. They just don’t see the yard the way buyers do, she said.

"You’ve only got a few minutes to make that great first impression," said Guers, who estimates that 90 percent of her company’s staging and design work is done on behalf of local real estate agents. "Some people decide within 15 seconds whether to come in and look at the house, based on what they see on the outside.

"Remember, you’re merchandising a product," she said. "It’s got to be new and bright and shiny and clean. There’s got to be a sense of ‘arrival’ when they drive up."

Five things to keep in mind about front-yard facelifts:

1. Start out in somebody else’s yard. "Take a step back and walk the neighborhood," Guers said. "Look at the houses that intrigue you from a visual perspective."

Take an inventory of their "visual value," from the condition of the roof shingles to the cut of the shrubbery, she said. Then go home and see how close your own house comes to meeting that standard.

2. Your house probably needs a bath. "Yes, people actually ought to wash their house," said Guers, who operates her Property Promoters firm with fellow designer Laura Harvey (ThePropertyPromoters.com). "They may be good at painting it every five years, but if they haven’t power-washed their house in a couple of years, they’re going to need to do that.

"And power-wash the sidewalks, too," she said. "You’d be surprised at how different it makes them look."

Plus, fix sidewalk cracks while scrutinizing them, she said.

3. Take a hard look at your hardware. "Replace older house numbers and older hardware that’s simply out-of-date," she said. "Sellers forget the mailbox, and the house numbers." …CONTINUED

That can be an extensive — and maybe expensive — undertaking, but in the case of doorknobs, doorbells, kickplates, and exterior light fixtures that look tired or out of style, doing as much as you can afford to freshen up will be an investment in making a better impression, she said.

(While you’re standing on the porch, give that grungy old welcome mat the once-over, too, she said.)

4. Paint, in some cases, can save the day.
"You can paint some existing hardware, such as light fixtures, especially if there’s an old finish that you want to update to a different color," Guers said. "Brass is pretty much outdated now."

The good news is that brass accepts paint well, but be careful to pick the right paint; consult a good paint retailer to be sure, she said.

5. The hole truth. Some popular get-it-sold programs on cable television recently have actually been "fixing" bare patches in front lawns by spraying them green.

It’s a real option — mostly used in warm-weather climates — but not one that Guers recommends.

"If you go to (the big-box hardware retailers), these products are right there with the fertilizer," she said. "It’s nothing more than spray paint, but it’s an outdoor version.

"You have to be careful with it," she said. "It only comes in a few shades, and you have to get the right shade."

But Guers says in her view the technique looks better on TV than in reality.

"We recommend authenticity over quick fixes," she said. "People are going to see through the spraying. We’d rather have homeowners spend the money to put sod in. It shows buyers you’ve taken care of the house and you’re not faking anything.

"If you don’t spend time on the outside, they’re never going to make it inside."

Mary Umberger is a freelance writer in Chicago.

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