Staging Your Home Exterior and Curb Appeal for Sale

Today it is estimated that 75 percent of homebuyers log on to the Internet to check out Multiple Listing Services. Many homes have 360-degree videos of the inside and outside, and most have a digital photograph of the front of the house. Therefore, it is critical to pay attention to how the front of your house looks. Once the would be buyers obtain your address and do a drive by to see if they are interested in making an appointment, you probably have about 30 seconds to hook them or lose them. You must make the exterior shine.

You have heard of the expression curb appeal? It just means that the house exterior and property is so attractive that potential buyers who drive by will want to call to set up a walk through. That is what you want to shoot for. The Home and Garden channel has a couple of weekly shows that can give you ideas many Before and After pictures. Not that you are going to spend that kind of money on redoing your exterior but look at how designers rearrange landscaping to emphasize the entrance.

Check out Designed to Sell on HGTV. Although they have a budget of $2000 (not counting all the labor to redo inside and outside which probably brings the total closer to $5000 or more), they have a bunch of good clean-up and rearranging ideas that will give you easy, visual hints. The show always spruces up the entrance; fixing the tilting mailbox, getting rid of ugly outdoor furniture and plastic flowers, and shining the outdoor light fixtures. Do the curb appeal exercise again at dusk or just after dark, because it is not unusual for potential buyers to drive by houses in the evening.

A recent Clemson University study showed that consumers valued well landscaped homes at 11 percent above the asking price. A Gallup survey found landscaping could add 7 to 15 percent to a home's value. It is suggested that spending 5 percent of your home's value on landscaping could yield a return of 150 percent or more, but let us not go crazy here!

In this landscape plan, notice that the landscaping is designed to draw visitors to the front door.

This article starts with the Exterior. First, we will look at the landscaping and general yard appearance and then the house itself.

Striving for Curb Appeal

Your curb appeal goal for the outside of your property is the same uncluttered decorating that you will want indoors. The lack of neatness and charm can be worth several thousand dollars and perhaps months on the market.

This little house has curb appeal. Neat yard is clean and green, flowers blooming. Any potential buyers would want to do a walk through.


For many newer home, the driveway is often the first thing viewers see. Ask yourself, "Is the driveway the most welcoming thing for someone coming up to my home?" Not really. It might be the most welcoming thing for your SUV. Because the driveway is the largest hard area near the house, the material and look of the driveway and garage have a huge impact on curb appeal.

Blacktop. You can probably get it blacktopped within 30 days but if not get some driveway cleaner and work on any oil spots. Fill in large cracks (you do not want questions about settling and sink holes). Always have it swept and if it is winter, it must be shoveled and sanded.

Cracks. Fill cracks in your sidewalks or walkways and pull sidewalk weeds or any grass that is growing in cracks. Pressure wash your walkways particularly if you are in a tropical state. White sidewalks and walkways make your house look younger and cleaner.

Power washing can brighten your sidewalks and driveway

Cars. Try to have your cars not parked in the driveway or garage during visits. If you have a front facing garage the cars in the driveway will block the view of the house and make it look smaller (ditto garage). Therefore, park in a neighbor's driveway or down the street.

Tip. Hose Sidewalks. If you have advanced notice of a tour, hose off the sidewalk and driveway right before your lookers arrive (along with watering your yard). This gives a fresh, well maintained feeling and like aromatherapy, buyers have a pleasant reaction but really cannot quite say why (hopefully it is already beginning to smell like home to them).


Lawn. Sorry to tell you, but you are going to have to keep that lawn mowed and trimmed weekly while you are showing your home. Remember to water more than usual. If you are not a gardener, hire someone to trim your shrubbery (particularly around the entrance). An easy detail project that provides a big bang for the effort is simply edging the lawn. Just having a crisp edge on a lawn really has visual impact. Remove all debris from your yard, bag it, and take it to the trash disposal, this includes branches, dog excrement, broken lawn furniture. Weed those flowerbeds!

Gardens. If you are a gardener and have taken excellent care of your landscape, be sure to flaunt what your garden offers. If you are not selling but are only planning to sell next year, fill your yard with seasonal bulbs. Just another thing you will not have to think about next spring. We put our last house on the market in May. I am a gardener so I already had daffodils, tulip, and crocus but in November of the year before, I added about $50.00 worth of bulbs and only planted a few each week for four weeks. I had the most gorgeous spring garden for a month and at the end of the month, the house was sold. If you are not a gardener and are pressed for time, you might want to pay extra and have your lawn service fix your flowerbeds. You can buy hanging plants at your local garden center and they always perk up the yard.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online How to Prepare, Stage and Sell Your Home course?

Early spring and the lawn has started to green. This house could use some potted plants or early spring bulbs to make it more inviting. Have photos of what your yard looks like in Summer if you have to sell off season.

Yard Clutter. Make sure the kid's bikes, trikes and toys are stored in the garage. Keep your hose neatly coiled and be sure your garbage cans are tucked discreetly away (and they really clean!). How would you like to be walking around a property with flies buzzing around overfilled trashcans?

Only an outdoor table and chairs set on a brick path, and this backyard looks unique.

Tip. Mulch. Mulch is like fresh paint. After you have cleaned out your flowerbeds or shrub beds, you should pile high the mulch. New mulch looks and smells so good. It covers a multitude of problems and shows that you really take care of your property. (Wal-Mart usually has shredded pine mulch for as low as $1.25 a bag.)

I am sure that this was a problem backyard with the steep hill. Mulch, rocks, and minimal ornamental grass have made an eyesore a top selling point.

Flowers. If you are selling in Spring, Summer, or Fall buy pots of flowers (annuals) and position them around your yard. Even if you are not much of a gardener, you should be able to keep these alive for a couple of months with regular watering. Flowers on either side of your front door or walkway or both are very inviting. Remember you are dressing the house as if you would dress yourself for a first date.

Using pots to fill empty spaces in the garden, and making sure that the pots have a common look, such as a combination of terracotta pots and glazed pots with terracotta interiors is an easy way to add interest and texture to your yard

Without the plants in various pots, this patio would look completely different, bare and lifeless.

Miscellaneous. Birdfeeders (filled and clean) are an appealing touch, quiet wind chimes, and if you have a flagpole, have a decorative flag displayed. Set out your garden furniture, put up an umbrella, place the chairs in a nice conversational grouping, and really show a potential buyer all the lifestyle possibilities.

Do not forget the rear view. Trim tree limbs that are near or touching the roof.

House Exterior

Paint the front. It is not expensive to paint the front of your house. It is expensive to paint the whole house. If you cannot paint the front, you can always paint the trim. If you live in a tropical state, have your house power washed as well as sidewalks. Green moss film should not be showing anywhere.

Repair or replace loose shingles, caulk anything that looks bad like areas around windows and doors.

Pressure Wash. If you do not need a paint job, rent a pressure washer or hire someone to wash your house. Have them do your sidewalks, driveways, and deck if needed. This will brighten and refresh the whole exterior. Be careful, those of you who live in warmer and tropical parts of the country, that you protect your foundation plants from the bleach and chemicals used to wash the house. I have lost plants or stressed them so that they dropped leaves because of overzealous pressure washing.

Front Door. The first physical contact a buyer makes with your house is the front door. A front door is the division between private and public space and it is the greeting you offer the world. The choice can make or break the entire look of a home. A decorative door says people are welcome and their visit is an important event, particularly if they are your housebuyers!

Focus on the Front Door. Make sure people know where your front door is, and then work on drawing people toward the front door. Many homes will not have a clear walkway from the driveway or street to the front door. Paint it and polish the hardware. Put out a new Welcome Mat and put one at the back door. If you have screen doors repair any holes or rescreen. Wash the screens amazing what dirt they can hold. (Make sure that the doorbell works.)

Flowers. As I said before, a couple of pots of annuals next to the door are a great welcoming addition. Ferns look wonderful also and if your entrance is totally in the shade, ferns will still thrive.

Gutters. Clean out your gutters and downspouts and make sure the gutters are all attached and not hanging askew. Then, especially look up at gutters filled with twigs and leaves and think, "These people do not take care of their property." I now live in a place where the live oaks drop leaves and these squiggling things all year round and there is always something in our gutters, I am happy that I do not have to show this house for years and years.

Outside Windows. Let the sun shine in! Wash the windows, wash the outside skylights and it is important to clean and wash those basement windows, and in particular clear window wells. (If window wells are spotless, I guarantee lookers will think you have taken care of your house.) If you have filthy storm windows and screens crawling with bugs, it is not going to impress anyone and if they still want the house, they will be thinking of offering less. Wash your screens and your windows. The views from inside the house will be much finer and brighter.

Spider Webs. Yes, if you have a screened in lanai or a covered entrance take a look up. It is amazing how many webs can accumulate in a year. Take a broom and remove webs everywhere, get those wasp nests, and other debris. No one wants to see a bunch of cocoons attached to odd places.

Outdoor Lights. Make sure that all outdoor lights are working and the bulbs are not burned out, and then polish the fixtures. Replace outdated and rusted fixtures. This inexpensive improvement can update old decor that might have discouraged buyers. If you have a walk through in late afternoon, you might want to turn on all those yard lights. A well lit place is impressive.

These are solar lights. No electrical wiring and they come on
automatically at dusk.
Deck. Stain or repaint the deck if it requires it. This is a small price for a big payback. Again, set out tubs of flowers, and as I said under landscaping, put out your chairs, tables, and loungers.

Notice the freshly hosed deck, a great trick to make decks, sidewalks, driveways, and walkways sparkle and suggest that everything is newer and very clean.

Outside Sheds or Other Outbuildings. Clean up all trash around them
and wash any windows. If the shed has some charm, add some potted plants to frame the doorway and an interesting outside chair. Do not forget to search for hornet
nests, spider webs, and eliminate the mouse problems. You get the drift.
Check your fences. Replace any broken slats or gate latches. Make sure your fences are not sagging. Fences are an area where buyers like to take off bucks when negotiating. In addition, be sure that your fences are on your property line and know if the fence belongs to you or your neighbor.

Swimming Pools. For those of you lucky enough to have a swimming pool now is the time to have it looking its very best. Clean it thoroughly, every day. If it is late in the day turn on the lights. Set the stage with a pretty bathing towel artfully draped across a chair. Have some green plants around the pool. This is another area (deck area) that would look better if you spray it with water before people arrive.

The pool plantings make all the difference here. A very small space appears much larger and of course, more colorful.

I know that this sounds like a tremendous amount of work but many of the things I am asking you to look at may not even apply to your home, but they may help you also when you are looking for a new home. Just keep in mind that the way everything looks and functions will affect your bargaining power as a seller. Any pain you have to go through now will pay off in selling your house quickly and selling it for your asking price or more than your asking price.

What are 30 or 60 days of hard work considering the payoff?

Here is what is considered trendy in houses nowadays. Do you have any of these features to offer a buyer?

1. Gated community.

2. Water Garden.

3. Jacuzzi.

4. Center island in the kitchen.

5. Pop out windows (new bay type windows that might be found over a kitchen sink).

6. "Open" plan for first floor living area.

7. Deck or patio open or enclosed.

8. Master bedroom suite.

9. Feng shui, the Chinese art of designing and decorating a house to invite peace, happiness, and good fortune. A seller might boast of this design and expense, pointing out to would be buyers how they can retain that "good fortune" after they live there.