Color in landscapingOne of the worst marketing efforts, in my opinion, is a rider attached to a “for sale” sign stating “I’m gorgeous inside!”  It’s as if to say “I know the exterior is really bad, but just wait ’til you get past the front door!”

A better approach than an apologetic rider sign is to tidy up the front of the home and yard so it gives a great first impression.

If you are a potential seller, drive through your area (zip code, subdivision etc.) and have a look at the outside of other properties for sale which are generally similar to your own for size, pricing and so on. How’s the competition doing with curb appeal?  Pretend that you’re a Saratoga, Almaden or Cambrian home buyer.  Take notes.  What do you see?  Be brutal in your assessment and then take your observations back to your own home and keep the same standards.

First, pay attention to these landscaping elements in the yard:

    1. The lawn, if there is one: is it green?  Weedy? Healthy? Does it have bare or dead spots? Is it level or “bumpy”?  Is it fairly uniform, or are there patches of various types of grasses in other areas, making the lawn uneven in color, texture, or density? Putting in fresh sod may give you a super “bang for your buck” or return on investment.Why does this matter? Because if your lawn looks neglected, buyers may wonder what else is neglected, too.
    2. Bushes and shrubs should not impede sidewalks, walkways or views of doors and windows.  Buyers will feel crowded if they sense that plants are blocking their passage or that of light!  The yard, like the home, needs to feel uncluttered. As you look at the other homes’ yards, do the bushes look appealing or unruly? Are they a help or a hindrance to the home’s curb appeal?  Many buyers do not like ivy or juniper, by the way, unless they are exceedingly neat and in small quantities.

  1. Color:  bright annuals with colorful flowers make a home far more inviting.  Is the yard solidly green? (All lawn and bushes?)  It can be spiced up with flowering plants and bushes.  If room is an issue, at the very minimum sellers could add color spots by the front door. Luckily, in Silicon Valley we enjoy a sub-tropical climate and even in winter there are annuals that can pack a nice punch of color.
  2. Stuff in the yard: what are homeowners doing with hoses, watering cans, front porch furniture or kids’ toys?  Ideally, hoses and other items not in use will be curled up or otherwise pretty much out of sight. (Worst case – laying across walkways, inviting disaster as home buyers trip!)  Yard gnomes etc.: don’t. Seriously.

Next, have a look at the building itself.  How well maintained and attractive is the house, townhouse or condo and garage?  If the view of the structure is unappealing, Silicon Valley home buyers may never cross your threshold to see how great the interior is!

Check these items:

  1. Paint – is it in good condition?  Wood tends to need painting about every five years, stucco closer to ten.  If paint is peeling or looking faded, at the very least it should have some “touch up” work done.  If it’s just dusty or sports a few spider webs or the like, perhaps a power washing will do the trick.  Peeling paint screams that “this house has deferred maintenance and is neglected”.
  2. Doors and windows:  should be fully visible without bushes or other objects obstructing passage or the view of light.  They should look impeccably clean and function easily.  The hardware should sparkle.  A clean doormat is helpful too.A few months back I saw an MLS comment for agents advising that the door knob sticks and if this happens to use the large rock nearby to make it open. Bad, bad, bad. Sellers need to make their doors open smoothly – again, buyers will worry about what else doesn’t work right if the obvious stuff doesn’t!
  3. Gutters, downspouts & roof – first look to see if there are gutters and if there’s coverage over the doorways especially. These components age and can leak at the seams if not well maintained.  Do you see rust at the seams?  If there are screens to keep leaves out, are they in place or have they moved and look a little off?  Small things like that can again send a wrong signal that your home is not well cared for when in fact it may actually be in great shape.Do the downspouts have any issues? Does the water simply dump out at the foundation? (If so, is there moss to address?)  If there are extenders, do they create any tripping hazards?The roof can accumulate stuff – particularly leaves in the autumn.  View the roof and gutter for buildup of debris, moss, etc.  Sometimes there’s so much accumulation of organic material in the gutters and roof area that grass and weeds begin to spring up.  I have even seen this on a home for sale!
  4. Front porch: if the property enjoys a front porch, it’s a good idea to play it up with appropriately sized and welcoming furniture, if possible.  Often porches in newer houses or homes are not super big, so bistro sized tables & chairs may be the best best. It may also be a good play for color spots – bowls with colorful annuals to welcome visitors in.

Once you’ve found several homes in your neighborhood which are your property’s competition and have noted their curb appeal, go back to your own residence and see how yours stacks up in all these areas.  Write a list of what needs to be done.  You may need to call in some outside help to get things in top shape, but this is normally both time and money well spent in getting you the best sales price for your home.  This is true whether you’re selling a luxury home or a distressed property – a home that appeals to buyers will have a much better chance of selling faster and for top dollar than one which looks a bit neglected.

Finally: many sellers make a huge effort to put their home in great condition prior to going on the market, but once there, they sometimes let it slip.  Bushes or hedges become overgrown, patches of the lawn are too dry and begin to brown, or the yards generally become a little neglected.  Don’t do this – every serious buyer who sees a neglected yard will wonder what else has been neglected too!  Nervous or worried buyers write lower offers than those who are confident – so keep the yards up so you have your best return on investment.