By Jane Chertoff | Aug 30, 2018
It should come as no surprise that before you sell your home, you’ve got to make it sparkle—after all, prospective buyers will be peeking in every corner, closet, and cabinet they can get into.
But when you’re so focused on the inside, it’s easy to overlook the first (and arguably most important) space buyers will judge: the outside.
“Most people start coming drawing conclusions about a home as soon as they pull up to the house—or even before that, based on photos they’ve seen online,” says Lori Matzke, founder of Center Stage Home in Minneapolis. “If the exterior looks run-down or could even stand for just a little freshening up, that’s going to grab their attention.” (And not in a good way.)
You might already be thinking about what it would take to get your exterior in top form—and adding up the dollar signs in your head. But here’s the good news: It is possible to add instant curb appeal without draining your savings account.
“Simple, inexpensive things can make a big impact on how quickly and for how much you sell your home,” says Kris Lindahl, a real estate agent in Minneapolis.
Ready to get started? Here are six ridiculously easy ways to boost your home’s curb appeal—all for $200 or less.
1. Make your exterior sparkle with a pressure wash
For potential buyers, the walk up the driveway is their first look at your home, Lindahl says. Repaving the entire driveway would be nice, of course. But on a budget, pressure washing—which will run between $80 to $200 on average—will do wonders.
Driveways “turn green and black with dirt, and we don’t notice it because we see it every day,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers in Atlanta. “White driveways and sidewalks really pop.”
2. Max out your use of mulch and drought-tolerant plants
It’s easy to rack up the bills with elaborate landscaping. But it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, says Lucy Armentrout, broker associate at Red Oak Realty in Oakland, CA.
“I’ve turned a number of completely dead, neglected front yards into ‘buyer magnets’ for somewhere in the range of $500,” she explains. “But even $200 is definitely a worthwhile investment if you’re able to do some of the work yourself.”
Her secret? Putting down fresh mulch in the front yard and gardens, and adding easy-to-care-for plants. In particular, she likes ornamental grasses, bushy lavender, and salvia plants—all of which are drought-tolerant and affordable, and make a dramatic pop against dark mulch.
The end result is “an elegant and polished statement,” Armentrout says.
Matzke echoes the call for fresh mulch: “Mulch is your friend,” she says. “It not only brightens up the exterior of your home, it can also keep the weeds down and fill in bare spots so your lawn will look long-term neat and tidy.”
3. Lure in buyers with fresh honeysuckle
If you have a walkway to the front door, plant some honeysuckle along the way, recommends Dawn Houlf, owner of EXIT Realty Number One and real estate coach in Las Vegas.
“Honeysuckle is a hardy plant that is heat-tolerant and also thrives in the shade,” Houlf says. “It can be used in a variety of ways—as a bush, a vine, or for ground coverage. The sweet nectar also brings in beautiful hummingbirds. And, of course, the fragrant smell helps, too, when buyers are viewing the home.”
4. Add symmetrical planters
Savvy home stagers and landscapers rely heavily on visual tricks to draw buyers’ eyes to the right places. One of their biggest secrets? Symmetry.
If you have some space by the front door, anchor each side of the door with potted plants full of bright flowers like hydrangeas, Houlf recommends.
“It looks pleasing to the eye to have one on each side,” she says. “If you just have one plant by your door, it will look lopsided to potential buyers.”
But don’t use plastic containers, she cautions. Ceramic or terra-cotta pots are necessary here to add a “special touch” and give your home that luxe factor.
5. Freshen up your front door
Speaking of the front door: Adding a fresh coat of paint to yours is a cheap, easy trick that can transform your home in an afternoon’s time—and will definitely leave a lasting first impression.
“Buyers will often stand at the front door for a couple of minutes while the agent gets the key out of the lockbox,” Lindahl notes. “Make those moments count.”
Of course, you can’t go wrong with a shiny new coat in a classic color like black, gray, or red. But if you’re feeling a little daring—and really want to stand out on the block—go for a cheery pastel hue like a light green or orange-pink. (Bonus: Bold front door looks are trending big-time right now.)
6. Roll out the welcome mat (literally)
You’d be hard-pressed to find an easier trick than this: A new welcome mat and an elegant wreath are cheap but inviting ways to welcome potential buyers in for a home tour, Houlf says. (It is in the name, after all).
“Enhancing the front so people will stop and stare after the first glance is vital for any property for sale,” she says. “Look for a cheery welcome mat, or if your sale is happening over a holiday, I’d recommend something seasonal.”