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Fixing Up Outside the
House

Most real estate advice tells you to work on the outside
of the house first, but unless there is a major project involved, we believe it
is best to do it last. There are two main reasons for this. First, the first
steps in preparing the interior of the house are easier. They also help develop
the proper mind set required for selling – beginning to think of your “home” as
a marketable commodity. Second, the exterior is the most important. A
homebuyer’s first impression is based on his or her view of the house from the
real estate agent’s car.

So take a walk across the street and take a good look at
your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see how yours compares.

Landscaping

Is your landscaping at least average for the
neighborhood? If it is not, buy a few bushes and plant them. Do not put in
trees. Mature trees are expensive, and you will not get back your investment.
Also, immature trees do not really add much to the appearance value of the
home.

If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful
flowers and plant them. They add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating a
favorable first impression. Do not buy bulbs or seeds and plant them. They will
not mature fast enough to create the desired effect and you certainly don’t
want a patch of brown earth for homebuyers to view.

Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well
watered, and free of brown spots. If there are problems with your lawn, you
should probably take care of them before working on the inside of your home.
This is because certain areas may need re-soding, and you want to give it a
chance to grow so that re-sod areas are not immediately apparent. Plus, you
might want to give fertilizer enough time to be effective.

Always rake up loose leaves and grass cuttings.

House Exterior

The big decision is whether to paint or not to paint.
When you look at your house from across the street, does it look tired and
faded? If so, a paint job may be in order. It is often a very good investment
and really spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from
potential homebuyers.

When choosing a color, it should not be something garish
and unusual, but a color that fits well in your neighborhood. Of course, the
color also depends on the style of your house, too. For some reason, different
shades of yellow seem to illicit the best response in homebuyers, whether it is
in the trim or the basic color of the house.

As for the roof, if you know your house has an old leaky
roof, replace it. If you do not replace a leaky roof, you are going to have to
disclose it and the buyer will want a new roof, anyway. Otherwise, wait and see
what the home inspector says. Why spend money unnecessarily?

The Back Yard

The back yard should be tidy. If you have a pool or spa,
keep it freshly maintained and constantly cleaned. For those that have dogs, be
sure to constantly keep the area clear of “debris.” If you have swing sets or
anything elaborate for your kids, it probably makes more sense to remove them
than to leave them in place. They take up room, and you want your back yard to
appear as spacious as possible, especially in newer homes where the yards are
not as large.

The Front Door & Entryway

The front door should be especially sharp, since it is
the entryway into the house. Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door
needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done.

If you have a cute little plaque or shingle with your
family name on it, remove it. Even if it is just on the mailbox. You can always
put it up again once you move. Get a new plush door mat, too. This is something
else you can take with you once you move.

Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits
properly. When a homebuyer comes to visit your home, the agent uses the key
from the lock box to unlock the door. If there is trouble working the lock
while everyone else stands around twiddling their thumbs, this sends a negative
first impression to prospective homebuyers.

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