Get sold on first impressions

Putting best face on home especially important if selling in winter

February 27, 2005

By Lin Connery

CALGARY — If you’re planning to sell your home, curb appeal is even more important in the dreary days of winter.

At this time of year, even the best-kept neighbourhood can look tired and mournful. Your home should be the house that stands out. You want prospective buyers to be eager to leave the warmth of their car so they can see more of your home.

“We’ve all experienced it,” says designer Karyn Elliott, owner of Albertine Design and Crazy House Home Staging (

“It’s that singular moment when you drive up to a home and it’s love at first sight. Something about it has your heart beating just a little bit faster.”

According to real-estate industry studies, half of home purchase decisions are made during the first 60 seconds a potential buyer sees a house for sale. A well-kept exterior suggests the rest of the house is in good shape. This first impression usually has a significant influence on the price a buyer is willing to pay.

“This doesn’t mean spending a great deal of money remodelling and renovating,” Elliott says. A little creativity and some effort can do a lot for your home’s curb appeal.

A tasteful and natural looking wreath is a good starting point.

If you want to go a little further, consider your front door and its accompanying fixtures.

If you must have a screen door, consider the Phantom, which is completely hidden from view.

You’re probably so used to your mailbox, porch light fixtures and house numbers you don’t notice them, but prospective buyers will.

Elliott also recommends lighting for curb appeal, starting with a basic point homeowners tend to forget: “For showings at and after dusk, turn on the outside and inside lights so the home looks inviting, not spooky. “At night, highlight garden features with spotlights and floodlights. Well-lit paths and entrances promote safety and are an added feature to any home,” Elliott adds.

More curb-appeal tips from Elliott:

* Wind clear holiday lights on trees or drape net lights on shrubs to give a sense of depth after dusk.

* Add spotlights to uplight the ornamental or big trees on your property.

* Adorn balconies, trellises or pillars with fresh garlands of cedar or pine. Thread tiny white holiday lights throughout the garlands and wire on large pine cones or bright clusters of berries.

* Mound pine cones or set evergreen boughs in your window boxes. If you don’t have window boxes, they’re easy to install on brackets and enhance your home’s facade immediately.

* Dress up a balcony or deck with inexpensive globe lanterns along the ledge or on the ground, creating a wonderful, soft glow in the dusky evenings.

* Fill an urn with cedar or pine branches and accent with red dogwood branches to make a dramatic, woodsy arrangement. * If you can’t justify the cost of a new door, consider replacing plain doorknob hardware with something more attractive.

* Two oversized, painted planters that sport generously overflowing greenery can be placed symmetrically on either side of an entrance door, creating a harmonious natural focal point.

* Add a brass mailbox, a new brass porch light, brass house numbers and a brass kickplate to your front entrance. For less than $80, you will transform the look of your home.

* Eliminate clutter of all kinds, whether it’s construction debris, toys and bicycles, or a dog chain lying across the sidewalk.

* Anything overgrown or so large that it blocks windows, doorways or sidewalks should be trimmed back or removed. Prospective buyers should not have to look through overgrown shrubs or trees to see your home.

* Clean. As an absolute minimum, ensure your front door, porch and windows are spotlessly clean. Downstairs and upstairs windows should sparkle inside and out.

* If your agent is showing your home to potential buyers, quickly sweep the steps and walkway and move garbage cans to an area where they are not easily seen.

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