Face Value

painting

// from the fall 2014 issue of Jacksonville Magazine's Home

Your home is an extension of who you are. It tells the outside world something about you, like whether you have kids or a green thumb. A home with a well-kept exterior—one with “curb appeal”—looks inviting, beautiful and valuable. And when you're trying to sell your home, those are the things that matter.
“When purchasing a home, curb appeal is your first impression,” says Felicia Bowen, a realtor with Watson Realty. “When the house looks good from the road, you're going to want to go farther into the home.”
That means that curb appeal might be one of the more important—if not the most important—things to consider when trying to sell your home. It's not just about a pretty face, however; curb appeal is a moneymaker in more ways than one.
A house with curb appeal draws them in, but it can also be reassuring to buyers. “If you've maintained the home on the outside, it's going to give the impression that you've done other maintenance,” Bowen says. Buyers might think “If you didn't take care of the outside, you didn't take care of the inside.”
That's not all, however. Buyers aren't the only ones looking at your house. “Put a little money into your home and you can get more out of the value,” says Bowen. It's true: Making a few cosmetic adjustments before the appraiser arrives can bump up the value of your home substantially.
So maybe you've done your upkeep, but your house might need a touch-up to improve your chances of selling. The best part about curb appeal is that it's easy and relatively cheap to add.
Maintenance
It's sales 101: Make sure what you're selling looks bright and shiny. Start by power-washing it all—the driveway, the sidewalks, and the sides of the house. And not just the front, either. “Do your whole home,” says Bowen. “People are going to walk around it.”
Even though small things like a missing tile in the walkway or a smudge on the window might seem insubstantial, when taken together, they can add up to a look of disrepair.
“Make sure the doors open easily, the bricks are smooth, and the windows are clean,” she says. “You want to have your lawn mowed and the trees trimmed. If there's something missing, replace it.” The small cost of the cleaning and repairs can return much more to the price of your home.

Paint
If your house's paint is chipping and cracking, you'll need to re-paint. Homes made out of wood should be re-painted every three to seven years, and those with newer siding materials need a refresh every 10 to 15 years. The trim around doors and windows, however, should be re-done every two years.
What color should you paint it, though? “Paint color does make a big difference,” Bowen says. “Pink houses aren't going to sell first. But it depends on the style of your home.”
She suggests warmer, neutral colors like light grays and taupes. But you can add an eye-catcher like brightly-colored trim or accents, too.
“A warmer color with something that pops will make the house stand out more,” she says. “I'm seeing different colors of front doors. We have a lot of red doors in our neighborhood. You might see some yellow or aqua colored doors with a pale gray exterior... Pick out a nice color that works with everything else.”

Landscaping
The front yard is probably the most important of all the curb appeal categories. If you've got some decent landscaping already, improving your yard might be a snap.
“If you're a homeowner and you're looking to save money, you don't want to go tearing out certain materials that will work,” says Mark Fechtel, vice president of Earth Works. “A lot of times, people don't realize the value in their material if it's not properly pruned. If it looks overrun or tired, a good cleanup goes a long way in giving it some curb appeal.”
But for those homes with bare yards, it isn't too difficult to add some value. “It's just like putting pictures up. Anywhere you have exposed wall, you want to put something there to soften it,” Fechtel says. “Start with focals. Adding some trees or uprights will make it pop.”
From there, Fechtel recommends creating flower beds, adding mulch, curves and color, and doing your research. “Create a few color beds. Just some splashes of color go a long way,” he says. “Put the tallest plant in the back and the shortest in the front. And it's important you know how that plant is going to grow.” As for what type of flowers to choose, he recommends annuals, as “they're generally showier.”
Totally at a loss? “Have a professional evaluate your existing landscape,” says Fechtel. They will know what is and what isn't working in your yard. Be prepared, however, to pay around double the cost of a DIY job.