Don’t underestimate the power of curb appeal

If you want to improve your home's market value, curb appeal matters. The condition of your front yard, entry area, driveway, and sidewalks will color the impression of everything else a potential buyer sees during a visit. Homes with great curb appeal usually command higher prices and spend less time on the market. Luckily there are simple, inexpensive ways to help your home impress.

1) Make it sparkle. Walk around the outside your house and take note of what looks dirty. Parts of your house that may get grimy over time include windows, downspouts, gutters, siding, and garage doors. These can usually be tackled with soapy water and a scrub brush. For a bigger job, consider using a pressure washer.

2) Coat of paint. Updating the color of your front door, trim, or shutters may help your home look newer and more modern. A gallon of exterior paint costs about $30, so this will probably cost less than $100 overall.

3) Replace hardware. Don't overlook your house numbers, entry door locksets, doorbells, mailboxes, or light fixtures. These elements add visual interest, but can detract from your home's appeal after they show years of wear. Replace, clean, or paint pieces that have become dingy or out of date.

4) Mow the lawn. It's hard to stay on top of mowing when the weather warms up, but a mangy lawn riddled with dandelions won't make your home attractive. Try to cut it once a week to keep it looking neat.

5) Add landscaping. Planting a tree is a great way to add long-lasting dimension and appeal to your yard. Consider flanking your front door with trees or shrubs. Add a pop of color by placing flower planters on your stoop or adding window boxes to front-facing windows.

6) Install landscape lighting. Outdoor landscape lights lining a sidewalk or driveway provide safety and security, but they can also have big impact on your yard's appearance. If you're unable to install wiring for electric lights, solar-powered light fixtures can do the trick.

7) Incorporate outdoor art. Show a little of your personality by adding some tasteful features, such as a birdbath, beautifully arranged rocks, a sculpture, or wind chimes.

8) Upgrade fences and railings. If you have privacy fences or railings leading up to your front door, think about repainting or replacing them.

9) Fix the driveway. Cracked asphalt is not doing you any favors. Fill cracks with asphalt patch and coat the surface with blacktop refinishing compound.

10) Hide your trash bins. Everybody needs trash bins, but nobody likes to look at them. Store them in your garage or hide them behind a fence or enclosure.

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