When the Outside Matters More Than Ever: 6 Curb Appeal Tricks To Attract Buyers During Coronavirus

By Lisa Marie Conklin | May 11, 2020

Beautiful luxury home exterior at twilight
hikesterson/Getty Images

Curb appeal: It’s the make-or-break first impression of your home. It either beckons a second look or turns buyers off entirely. And now, in the age of the coronavirus, curb appeal is more vital than ever—since buyers might not be able to tour your home and are placing more weight on the exterior, or might be limiting in-person tours to only their top choices.

If you’re trying to sell your home during this pandemic—and the facade is a little worse for wear—don’t panic! We consulted with Clint Robertson and Luke Caldwell of HGTV’s “Boise Boys” to steal some tricks for curb appeal that’s so irresistible, buyers will be clamoring to know what’s inside.

1. Keep the yard green and pristine

Photo by Benjamin Silver Design 

The lawn is one of the first things buyers notice, whether they are pulling up to the curb or looking at an online listing. When it’s lush and green, it creates a favorable impression.

“One of the cheapest things you can do to enhance curb appeal is to keep your yard mowed and groomed,” says Robertson, who also partners with Caldwell at Timber and Love Realty. “Hire someone to mow it and keep it tidy, or take the time to keep it pristine.”

You don’t have to have a green thumb to get a lush lawn when you know these lawn care secrets.

2. Mind your driveway and walkway

Hose down the driveway and walkway before showing your home or taking photos.
Hose down the driveway and walkway before showing your home or taking photos.Timber and Love Realty

You might be inclined to overlook the driveway and front walk—how much can you really do to make concrete look good? But, truth be told, these areas are like the red carpet of curb appeal: They lead buyers to the main event, the inside of your home.

A driveway and front walk with minor cracks and weeds popping up through the expansion joints (the straight lines that divide the driveway and walkway) are an eyesore.

Luckily, it’s an easy fix.

Remove the weeds, and patch the concrete with caulk, Robertson suggests. Hose it down or power-wash it. For extra pizazz, finish a concrete driveway or walkway with a clear, glossy sealer. (You can give faded asphalt driveways a face-lift with asphalt sealer.)

At the very least, hose down the driveway and walkway before photos, or a video or in-person tour, to give it a fresh look.

3. Flaunt your nighttime appeal

Photo by SINGLEPOINT DESIGN BUILD INC.

Prospective buyers might be driving by after dark see what your house looks like at night. Turn on the charm with a warm glow from exterior lighting.

“I like to do a 60-watt clear lightbulb on both sides of the door, but one that has a warmer tone so it doesn’t feel like you have that overly LED blue light,” Caldwell says.

All exterior lighting on the house and garage should match or have the same style for continuity, if possible.

Caldwell’s partial to clear-glass fixtures.

“I love having glass fixtures flanking the door because it’s more welcoming when you see the actual light,” he says. “Just make sure that all exterior lights—including the ones on the garage—have the same type of bulb for a unified glow.”

4. Don’t forget the garage

Match your garage door color to the trim.
Match your garage door color to the trim.Timber and Love Realty

The garage is a key component in curb appeal, too, especially if it’s attached to the house. But how do you spruce up this often dull space?

Caldwell suggests painting the garage door the same color as the trim on the house. Garage doors with a row of windows are pleasing to the eye, too.

“Sometimes garages feel dark and scary,” says Robertson. “The light allows it to make it feel like it’s more part of the home.”

DIY garage window kits are available for most newer garage door models and allow you to remove a row of existing panels and add glass inserts. If you’re adding windows where people can see in, don’t forget to stage inside the garage, too.

5. Replace outdoor accents and give your landscaping some love

Photo by David Morello Garden Enterprises, Inc.

A shabby doormat, dingy house numbers, and a rusty old mailbox are hardly deal breakers, but they do leave a stale impression. If your outdoor accents have seen better days, replace them.

Then make sure your landscaping looks lush for any passersby. Prune overgrown shrubs and trees. Weed flower beds, and spread a layer of fresh mulch.

“It’s like getting a new haircut for your house,” Caldwell says.

Add pretty-looking annuals if your yard is lacking color. Plant a Japanese maple to fill a bare spot and create symmetry.

“It’s low to the ground and doesn’t require much light,” notes Caldwell.

Then wrap up by cleaning the windows and sweeping the cobwebs from the front porch. Tidy up and stage the front porch so buyers can imagine themselves relaxing there on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

6. Give your front door a face-lift

Would a shabby door with peeling paint, rusty hardware, and scuff marks entice a buyer to go inside?

“If you’re going to spend money on one thing to add curb appeal, make it a new door,” says Caldwell.

Front doors with glass inserts evoke a warm and welcoming feeling. If there isn’t room in the budget, rejuvenate your existing door with a fresh coat of paint and hardware.

“A fresh pop of color in red, yellow, or blue can bring life to your house immediately and catches people’s eyes as well,” Caldwell says. “It feels like thoughtful consideration has been put into the home, and ultimately that’s what we’re trying to do—to let the home feel like a home that’s been loved and cared for and thought about. A home that’s been cared for stands out.” Looking to sell your home? Claim your home and get info on your home’s value. Lisa Marie Conklin knows a little something about moving. She’s moved eight times in the last ten years but currently calls Baltimore home. She regularly writes for Reader’s Digest, The Family Handyman, The Healthy, Taste of Home, and MSN. Follow @cornish_conklin The realtor.com® editorial team highlights a curated selection of product recommendations for your consideration; clicking a link to the retailer that sells the product may earn us a commission.

Home-Selling Checklist: 12 Things to Do Before Selling Your House

Getting ready to sell your house? Then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work! Selling a home, after all, entails a whole lot more than just planting a “For Sale” sign on your front lawn or uploading a few random photos of your place—especially if you’re angling for the most cash. (And, honestly, who isn’t?)

So before you put your house on the market, peruse this checklist of things you must do in preparation. Some of these tips are surprisingly easy, while others might require a bit more elbow grease. But they’re bound to pay off once buyers start oohing and ahhing over your place—and hopefully ponying up a great offer.

1. Find a great real estate agent

Think you can sell your home yourself, and pocket the cash you would otherwise pay a real estate agent?

It can be tempting, especially in a hot market, but resist the urge, says Jon Sterling, a real estate consultant with Keller Williams Realty in San Francisco. He’s found that a “for sale by owner” transaction is almost always a disaster, leading you to sacrifice both money and time.

That said, don’t just blindly hire the real estate agent who most recently sent you a flyer or the one your uncle’s friend’s co-worker’s cousin used. Do some research to find a real estate agent who is knowledgeable about your specific market, and then interview her to make sure she’s a good fit.

Your real estate agent should be someone you feel comfortable working with, whom you trust to sell your house for top dollar. Don’t be afraid to talk to a few real estate agents before picking one.

2. Consider your curb appeal

Yes, for better or worse, buyers do tend to judge a book by its cover. You want to make sure potential buyers’ first impression of your home is a good one—and inspires them to stop by the open house or schedule a tour—so they can see more.

By investing some effort in relatively easy fixes, like planting colorful flowers and repainting your front door, the outside of your house can beckon prospective buyers to come on in.

If you’re not sure how to improve your home’s curb appeal, ask your real estate agent for advice on how others in your area have improved the exterior before selling their houses.

3. Declutter living areas

Less is definitely more when it comes to getting your house ready to show, notes Boris Sharapan Fabrikant, a real estate broker with Triplemint.

Do a clean sweep of counters, windowsills, tables, and all other visible areas, and then tackle behind closed doors: closets, drawers, and cupboards—since virtually nothing is off-limits for curious buyers.

If the house is overflowing with stuff, buyers might worry that the house won’t have ample space for their own belongings. They won’t sign up to pay a mortgage if they think they’ll also have to rent a storage space.

Take your excess stuff and donate it, or pack it up to be stored off-site. Not only will clearing clutter help your house look more appealing to buyers, it will also help you once you’ve accepted an offer and it’s time to move into a new home. Moving out will be easier if some of your stuff is already be packed.

4. Depersonalize your space

The next step on your declutter list? Sellers should remove any distractions so the buyers can visualize themselves and their family living in the property, says Kipton Cronkite, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in New York.

He says sellers should remove personal items and family photos, as well as bold artwork and furniture that might make the home less appealing to the general public. The goal is to create a blank canvas on which buyers can project their own visions of living there, and loving it.

5. Repaint walls to neutral tones

You might love that orange accent wall, but if it’s your potential buyer’s least favorite color, that could be a turnoff, warns Sharapan Fabrikant.

“You’re pretty safe with a neutral color because it’s rare that someone hates it, but the other benefit is that a light color allows [buyers] to envision what the walls would look like with the color of their choice,” he points out.

It’s the seller’s job to help buyers picture themselves in the house. If they don’t feel at home, they’ll probably look at other real estate options.

6. Touch up any scuff marks

Even if you’re not doing a full-on repainting project, pay special attention to scrubbing and then touching up baseboards, walls, and doors to make the house sparkle and look cared-for.

Selling almost any home can be tricky, but selling a home with lots of little problems and small repair needs can be downright difficult. When buyers walk into an open house, or go on a home tour, they want to fall in love with the house, not add a bunch of small repairs to their to-do list.

In order to impress buyers (and sell your house quickly), fix up your house before putting it on the market.

With a home that is fixed up and move-in ready, you will probably see more interest, and may even see multiple offers.

7. Fix any loose handles

It’s a small thing, sure, but you’d be surprised by the negative effect a loose handle or missing lightbulb can have on a buyer, notes Sharapan Fabrikant.

“It can make them stop and think ‘What else is broken here?’” he explains.

For a buyer, submitting an offer, and later committing to a mortgage, is a big deal. When you’re selling your home, you don’t want to give any buyers doubt that your house will make a great home.

8. Add some plants

When staging your house, remember that green is good: Plants create a bright and more welcoming environment. You might also want to consider a bouquet of flowers or bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or dining table.

Some plants and natural elements will impress buyers by bringing some extra color and life to your decor.

9. Conduct a smell test

Foul odors, even slight ones, can be a deal breaker, and the problem is that you might not even notice them, says Sharapan Fabrikant.

He recommends inviting an unbiased third party in to try to detect any pet smells or lingering odors from your kitchen.

If the smells are pervasive, prepare to do some deep cleaning as many buyers are on to seller’s “masking techniques” such as candles or plug-in room deodorizers. Plus, covering up odors with a stronger scent might backfire if the buyer doesn’t like the smell of lavender or artificial citrus.

10. Clean, clean, clean

Once you’re done cleaning your house, clean some more. Even if you’re not worried about what buyers will think of your home’s scent, you want your property to look spotless.

Think of it this way: You’ll probably have professional photos taken of your house when it looks its best. Naturally, you’ll want your house to always look like it does in those pictures.

When selling your home, it’s important to keep everything tidy for buyers, and you never know when a buyer is going to want to schedule a last-minute tour. Remember to take special care with the bathroom, making sure the tile, counters, shower, and floors shine.

11. Hide valuables

From art to jewelry, keep your treasures are out of sight, either locked up or stored off-site, recommends Kronkite.

You can’t trust everyone who comes into your house, even when you’re trying to sell it. Sometimes things disappear during an open house, and there’s little the seller can do to get those things back. Take care to hide your valuables or move them to a safe space away from your home.

12. Consider staging

Does your house scream 1985? Nothing invigorates a house like some new furnishings or a perfectly chosen mirror. The key is getting your home staged by a professional.

Home stagers will evaluate the current condition and belongings in your house and determine what elements might raise the bar. They might recommend you buy or rent some items, or they might just reorganize your knickknacks and bookshelves in a whole new (that is, better) way.

Stagers know the real estate market, and what sells, so it’s important to take their advice and not take offense when they make big changes. Their job is to help drum up interest from potential buyers, which is always good news to the seller.

Cathie Ericson is a journalist who writes about real estate, finance, and health. She lives in Portland, OR.

5 Reasons to Sell This Winter!

5 Reasons to Sell This Winter! | MyKCM

Here are five reasons listing your home for sale this winter makes sense.

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains very strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase… and are in the market right now! More often than not, multiple buyers are competing with each other to buy a home.

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply that is needed for a normal housing market. This means that, in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in the market. This is good news for homeowners who have gained equity as their home values have increased. However, additional inventory could be coming to the market soon.

Historically, the average number of years a homeowner stayed in their home was six, but has hovered between nine and ten years since 2011. There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move, as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until this other inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and much simpler as buyers know exactly what they can afford before home shopping. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report, the time to close a loan has dropped to 44 days, after seeing a 12-month high of 48 days in January.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up! The inventory of homes for sale at these higher price ranges has forced these markets into a buyer’s market. This means that if you are planning on selling a starter or trade-up home, your home will sell quickly, AND you’ll be able to find a premium home to call your own!

Prices are projected to appreciate by 4.7% over the next year according to CoreLogic. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait.

5. It’s Time to Move on With Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

4 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall!

4 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall! | MyKCM

Here are four great reasons to consider buying a home today, instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.7% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.0% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have hovered around 4%. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage 

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that, unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on With Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If purchasing a home for you and your family is the right thing for you to do this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Buying a Home? Do You Know the Lingo?

Buying a Home? Do You Know the Lingo?

for sale by owner

Bellingham Homes for sale

Buying a home can be intimidating if you are not familiar with the terms used during the process. To start you on your path with confidence, we have compiled a list of some of the most common terms used when buying a home.

Freddie Mac has compiled a more exhaustive glossary of terms in their “My Home” section of their website.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) – This is a broader measure of your cost for borrowing money. The APR includes the interest rate, points, broker fees and certain other credit charges a borrower is required to pay. Because these costs are rolled in, the APR is usually higher than your interest rate.

Appraisal – A professional analysis used to estimate the value of the property. This includes examples of sales of similar properties. This is a necessary step in getting your financing secured as it validates the home’s worth to you and your lender.

Closing Costs – The costs to complete the real estate transaction. These costs are in addition to the price of the home and are paid at closing. They include points, taxes, title insurance, financing costs, items that must be prepaid or escrowed and other costs. Ask your lender for a complete list of closing cost items.

Credit Score – A number ranging from 300-850, that is based on an analysis of your credit history. Your credit score plays a significant role when securing a mortgage as it helps lenders determine the likelihood that you’ll repay future debts. The higher your score, the better, but many buyers believe they need at least a 780 score to qualify when, in actuality, over 55% of approved loans had a score below 750.

Discount Points – A point equals 1% of your loan (1 point on a $200,000 loan = $2,000). You can pay points to buy down your mortgage interest rate. It’s essentially an upfront interest payment to lock in a lower rate for your mortgage.

Down Payment – This is a portion of the cost of your home that you pay upfront to secure the purchase of the property. Down payments are typically 3 to 20% of the purchase price of the home. There are zero-down programs available through VA loans for Veterans, as well as USDA loans for rural areas of the country. Eighty percent of first-time buyers put less than 20% down last month.

Escrow – The holding of money or documents by a neutral third party before closing. It can also be an account held by the lender (or servicer) into which a homeowner pays money for taxes and insurance.

Fixed-Rate Mortgages – A mortgage with an interest rate that does not change for the entire term of the loan. Fixed-rate mortgages are typically 15 or 30 years.

Home Inspection – A professional inspection of a home to determine the condition of the property. The inspection should include an evaluation of the plumbing, heating and cooling systems, roof, wiring, foundation and pest infestation.

Mortgage Rate – The interest rate you pay to borrow money to buy your house. The lower the rate, the better. Interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have hovered between 4 and 4.25% for most of 2017.

Pre-Approval Letter – A letter from a mortgage lender indicating that you qualify for a mortgage of a specific amount. It also shows a home seller that you’re a serious buyer. Having a pre-approval letter in hand while shopping for homes can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.

Primary Mortgage Insurance (PMI) – If you make a down payment lower than 20% on your conventional loan, your lender will require PMI, typically at a rate of .51%. PMI serves as an added insurance policy that protects the lender if you are unable to pay your mortgage and can be cancelled from your payment once you reach 20% equity in your home. For more information on how PMI can impact your monthly housing cost, click here.

Real Estate Professional – An individual who provides services in buying and selling homes. Real estate professionals are there to help you through the confusing paperwork, to help you find your dream home, to negotiate any of the details that come up, and to help make sure that you know exactly what’s going on in the housing market. Real estate professionals can refer you to local lenders or mortgage brokers along with other specialists that you will need throughout the home-buying process.
The best way to ensure that your home-buying process is a confident one is to find a real estate professional who will guide you through every aspect of the transaction with ‘the heart of a teacher,’ and who puts your family’s needs first.

Record Low Inventory in Bellingham and Whatcom County!

You’ve heard all the talk about the houisng market. I wanted to show you what it looks like. The housing inventory is at a level not previously seen. With only 1.9 months of supply in Bellingham, homes are selling in 24 hours or less.

If you are thinking of selling your home, give me a call! As the top agent in social media in Washington I can get your home MAXIMUM exposure!

How to Get the Most Money When Selling Your Home

Every homeowner wants to make sure they get the best price when selling their home. But how do you guarantee that you receive maximum value for your house? Here are two keys to ensuring you get the highest price possible.
1. Price it a LITTLE LOW

This may seem counterintuitive. However, let’s look at this concept for a moment. Many homeowners think that pricing their home a little OVER market value will leave them room for negotiation. In reality, this just dramatically lessens the demand for their house (see chart below).

How to Get the Most Money When Selling Your Home | MyKCM

Instead of the seller trying to ‘win’ the negotiation with one buyer, they should price it so that demand for the home is maximized. By doing this, the seller will not be fighting with a buyer over the price, but will instead have multiple buyers fighting with each other over the house.

Realtor.com gives this advice:

“Aim to price your property at or just slightly below the going rate. Today’s buyers are highly informed, so if they sense they’re getting a deal, they’re likely to bid up a property that’s slightly underpriced, especially in areas with low inventory.”

2. Use a Real Estate Professional

This, too, may seem counterintuitive, as the seller likely believes that he or she will net more money if they don’t have to pay a real estate commission. With that being said, studies have shown that homes typically sell for more money when handled by a real estate professional.

Research posted by the National Association of Realtors revealed that:

“The median selling price for all FSBO homes was $185,000 last year. When the buyer knew the seller in FSBO sales, the number sinks to the median selling price of $163,800. However, homes that were sold with the assistance of an agent had a median selling price of $245,000 – nearly $60,000 more for the typical home sale.”

Bottom Line

Price your house at or slightly below the current market value and hire a professional. This will guarantee that you maximize the price you get for your house.

Winter 2016/2017 Home Selling Guide

Thinking of Selling? Don’t Overlook an Outdated Kitchen, Buyers Won’t

If you are planning on listing your home for sale, make sure that you don’t overlook the condition of your kitchen. A recent article on realtor.com listed “7 Signs Your Kitchen Is Way Overdue for a Renovation,” in which they warned:

“Dated kitchens—just like bathrooms—are a major barrier for resale. Buyers want modern amenities and styling, and most aren’t interested in renovating post-purchase.”

Kitchen remodels can be pricey, with many complete remodels costing $20,000 or more. But not every kitchen needs a full remodel. There are many smaller projects that will help buyers see themselves trying their favorite Pinterest recipe in your home!

Here are a couple of project ideas that, if you’re handy or know someone who is, could end up boosting your home’s value without breaking the bank:

Are the cabinets in good shape but need an update? A new coat of paint and some updated hardware will instantly freshen up the space and drastically change the feel of the room all for under $300.
A new backsplash to match the freshly painted cabinets updates the space and adds some style while staying under $200, depending on the size of the room.
If the kitchen seems dark, consider adding LED under cabinet lighting for around $40.
If replacing the countertops in the kitchen isn’t within your budget, consider using a top coat to cover the current countertops.

If you decide to complete a full remodel of your outdated kitchen, you can expect a 67% return on a $30,000 upgrade (the national median cost). The benefits of a kitchen remodel aren’t purely financial, according to Houselogic:

“Eighty-two percent of homeowners said their updated kitchen gave them a greater desire to be at home, and 95% were happy or satisfied with the result.”

Bottom Line

Kitchens and bathrooms are often make or break for buyers when touring a home or searching through photo galleries online. Let’s get together to identify which small projects could pay off big!

Beautiful fall morning to check out the newest listings around #Bellingham and Whatcom county!

Fall may be in full swing but the housing market is still cooking right along! Check out the newest listings this week around Bellingham, Ferndale, and the rest of Whatcom county!
Thinking of selling your home? Get my free home selling guide and get your home sold before Thanksgiving!
See the new listings here:
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Jack Otto eXp Realty

Jack Otto eXp Realty