10 Curb Appeal Tips From the Pros

A good-looking face isn't just memorable – in real estate, an attractive exterior can make or break a home sale. We asked home professionals for their best tips on creating a sparkling outside that beckons potential buyers inside.

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Why Curb Appeal Matters

First impressions are everything – at least when it comes to selling your home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 63 percent of homebuyers will drop by after viewing a home they like online. What will they see? The home's exterior – including the front entry, yard, driveway and sidewalk -- should serve as a snapshot of what's to come when potential buyers enter your home, says Caroline Wilkes, owner of Caroline Wilkes Interiors on Long Island. Read on to learn 10 ways you can wow homebuyers from the curb.

1: Curb Appeal Starts Online

Since 88 percent of homebuyers begin the process on the Web, fabulous photos are critical to getting homebuyers to the front door, says Jennifer Ames, a top Chicago real estate agent. "Find the best time of day to shoot each room, avoiding too much sunlight, which will give the photo a glow effect," Jennifer advises. "Overcast days are often the best time for a photo shoot." Take a digital shot and examine it as if you were a buyer, and get rid of extras – bikes on the front porch, platters stacked on top of the fridge – that don't show your home at its best.

2: Act Like a Buyer

Walk around your entire home's exterior with a critical eye and a notepad and pen, says Paul Brennesholtz, a Keller Williams agent in the Atlanta area. Take notes on what looks "off" and needs repairing, replacing or cleaning. Get in your car and drive by slowly from both directions during the day and night. You might see something you've never noticed before, like a Frisbee on the roof or a missing piece of siding.

3: Look Up to the Sky

Most homeowners don't give their roofs a second glance, but the roof is an important curb appeal item that buyers do notice, says Jean Miskimon of the Metal Roofing Alliance. Is yours missing any shingles, or is it dingy and streaked? A good cleaning or, if necessary, a roof replacement will up your home's curb appeal factor tremendously.

4: Shiny, Happy Numbers

If your house numbers aren't easy to see or if they're dirty and dingy, replacing them carries a tremendous impact, Caroline says. Consider the style of your house – traditional, transitional or modern – and create a harmonious or contrasting effect with new house numbers.

5: Get a Second Opinion

Homeowners often get used to certain defects –chipped paint on the front door from the keys banging against it, cobwebs on the porch ceiling, cracked or stained steps – and might need a new set of eyes to help them prioritize what needs to be fixed and cleaned up, says Kelly O'Ryan, office manager for Coldwell Banker in Lexington, Mass. "Know your budget and how much time you can spend, and get an outsider to help you decide what needs work," she says.

6: Under Pressure

Budget-conscious homeowners will love this tip: Pressure-washing the dirty siding and deck, as well as the oil-stained driveway and faded walkways is an extremely cost-efficient way to increase your home's curb appeal. If you don't own a pressure washer, you can rent one from your local home improvement store for the day.

7: Plant Some Color

Except for the dead of winter, some types of annual plants are always in bloom, says Sheri Silver, a landscape designer and owner of Fiori Garden Design. "Spruce up your porch containers, window boxes and front beds with some colorful flowers for instant lift," Sheri advises. Never plant artificial flowers – a few inches of dark mulch will brighten up the beds without screaming "fake."

8: Open Up

Fling open the shutters, curtains and blinds, Paul says. "Homes that are brighter inside sell faster, and open curtains look prettier on the street," he says. Go outside and look at your window  treatments from the street, and try to keep a uniform look throughout.

9: Light Up Your Landscape

Give your walkway an edge with solar light fixtures, which are affordable and a cinch to install, says Rick Hoffman, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage of San Diego County and Temecula Valley. "Solar lights are inexpensive, and you can place them where they highlight your home's best attributes – landscaping, walking paths and any custom fixtures."

10: Add Some Polish

Paint is only about $25 per gallon, and painting the front door, trim and shutters is a great way to polish the look of your home, Kelly says. Other inexpensive fix-ups: a new mailbox (research your city's  regulations to make sure you're up to code first), a new porch light fixture and a cheery new welcome mat.