Lew Sichelman

The number of houses for sale is beginning to increase, bidding wars are not as prevalent, and the housing sector is moving into what are normally the slower fall and winter months. So, sellers need to be doing more to attract the attention of would-be buyers. 

The place to start is at the front door – or more precisely, the entire front of the house. Remember, while it may seem trite, it is still true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. 

In other words, you don’t want your prospects evaluating your listing by its outside before they ever see the inside. Many buyers will drive right past houses that don’t ignite their interest, moving on until they find one that does. 

Sure, curb appeal is important at any time of year. But when the weather turns cold, the sun sets earlier and the wind starts to blow, it becomes somewhat more difficult to make your home stand out.  

Sellers can take lots of steps to improve their home’s looks. Some are expensive, like replacing a roof. But others are economical, like adding a few planters at the entrance. 

Here are some ideas collected over the years, starting with the most costly: 

Roof Options 

Roofs play a major role when it comes to curb appeal, if only because they can represent up to 30 percent of what someone sees as they approach the house. But a roof is expensive to replace. 

However, if your buyer has to replace your worn-out roof, it could be even more expensive in the long run. That’s because most buyers tend to think these kinds of projects cost more than they actually do. And since they adjust their offers to reflect that, you could make out better by paying for the job yourself. Better yet, the cost may be deductible as a selling expense. 

If you go this route, the folks at DaVinci Roofscapes suggest blending the color with that of other exterior elements to create a cohesive look. 

Garage Doors Worth a Look 

Garage doors are another prominent feature, also taking up as much as a third of the facade. Sellers tend to ignore them, but buyers see them right away. 

If your listing’s door is made of press-board that has absorbed more than its share of moisture, you might want to encourage the seller replace it with something more fashionable. According to trade magazine Remodeling, trading in a garage door results in almost a 94 percent return on cost – the highest in the publication’s latest cost-vs.-value study. 

Absent that, a new coat of paint goes a long way. And while the seller is at it, they could throw some paint on the front door, decorative trim, millwork and window frames. That will help call attention to those small architectural details and make them stand out. 

Replacing a front door can be costly, too. So how about just adding a decorative handle as a finishing touch to the new paint? Consider it icing on the cake, says Delaney Hardware. 

The Yard, and More 

Have the seller tidy up their yard, and keep it that way. The grass may not be green, but they should keep it trimmed. Ditto for flower beds: Yank out those weeds, edge the walk and driveway, pick up twigs and rake the leaves. 

Since days are shorter and the sun goes down earlier, a wash of the windows – inside and out – is important so the lights from inside can shine. And make sure the seller is using maximum wattage bulbs. 

Outside, turn on every light just before showings, day and night, to brighten the exterior. Add spotlights if the house don’t already have them. If the home’s old fixtures don’t sparkle, the seller could consider replacing them. And add a photo of everything lit up to your listing presentation. 

Back at the front door, add some colorful cold-weather plants. Perhaps planters on the porch or stoop filled with dogwoods, heath, witch hazel or winterberry that crank up the visual impact. Or consider a tall, hardy winter grass. 

Outdoor sculptures, orbs and birdbaths can do the same for dormant flower and shrub beds. 

Don’t forget the backyard patio or deck. Visitors won’t see them as they enter the house, but they will see them eventually as they tour the place. So, treat them as the extension of the inside that they are. 

Don’t cover the outdoor furniture for winter; instead, set up the table and chairs as if it is still summer. For added effect, treat them as a vignette with waterproof pillows that accent the interior colors. 

Above all else, safety is paramount. If it’s snowed, make sure your seller knows to clear the walks and drive regularly so there is no ice or snow buildup. Buyers need a clear, safe path to the door. Wet leaves also can be a hazard, so clean them up, too. 

When everything is finished, make sure the seller puts away their tools. Put away the garbage cans, too, and any toys except maybe a sled; lean that against the side of the house, and it becomes an alluring attraction for families with youngsters. 

Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at lsichelman@aol.com. 

Secure Winter Curb Appeal, From the Top Down

by Lew Sichelman time to read: 4 min