CURB APPEAL – FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When putting your house up for sale, curb appeal is the main attraction the first impression.  When people drive by, they see the “For Sale” sign and then look up at your house, specifically the front door!  I know you think they see the whole house but they don’t, they see your front door and then, if they like what they see, they look at the rest of the house and either say pretty or ugh. It is a bit like prom night for your house!  So let us pursue the curb appeal for your home.

Today most homes are viewed on line and often on a cell phone, so that curb appeal is mandatory along with a fabulous photo or they aren’t even going to click on your house to read about all the goodies it offers.  So what is curb appeal and what can you do?

Curb Appeal is the things that draws people into your house, grabs their attention.  It can be design, color, style but above all uncluttered and clean.  This means you have to do the following things during the entire duration your home is for sale.  Start with the grand view:  the grass, the yard, the gardens, the driveway, the garage, the path to the all important front door.  Mow the grass, keep it weed wacked and fresh looking.  Remove all trash and those cute little things you put in your yard, unclutter.  Be sure the house number is visable on the curb, mailbox and house, repaint or buy new numbers if needed as they are cheap.  Be sure the front porch or any solar and/or outdoor lights are working.  Close the garage door and keep a minimal number of vehicles in the driveway, none if possible.   Put gravel in the driveway if needed or have the blacktop resealed.  If you have fencing, be sure it is freshly painted or at least in very nice condition, keep the gates closed except for the one leading to the house.  You want the potential buyers to feel welcomed so you might even put a welcome sign on the gate.  If you have storage sheds or other outbuildings, keep them clutter free, doors closed, freshly painted.  Be sure the walkways are clean, well trimmed and have some landscaping around them.  A few yellow or red flowers with lots of greenery help.   Remember – we are talking about the outside of things here …we haven’t even gone inside yet!

If your house is looking a bit drab, get it repainted.  Don’t let gutters and downspouts get clogged and have debris hanging from them.  Keep them painted and in good working order.  Be sure your roof looks safe and has no leaks, if so – get them fixed.  If you have a deck or porch, re-stain or paint as needed and fix any rotten or missing boards, keep it fresh and uncluttered.  Keep the windows clean and replace any missing or torn screens.  I keep saying “uncluttered and clean” and that is probably one of the hardest things to do.  You always seem to have more than you need in any given space and sometimes forget to throw things away.  It is important that you unclutter – you are moving and need to get rid of these items anyways, so now is the time.  If your house is in need of paint, get it repainted.  I know this is a big project but this is what makes the difference between a sale and a no sale.  Repaint or replace those shutters as well.  Keep colors neutrals, stay away from loud or unusual colors as you want to appeal to as many people as possible. Trendy front door colors can be found that may work but just be careful.  Take a look at your neighbors and try not to clash with their color schemes.

Now for the most important place, that front door.  Once you un-clutter the walkways, yard and porch you arrive at the front door.  If the wood is worn or the paint fading or chipped or just plain out of date, repaint.   A gallon of paint makes a big statement, just stick to neutral colors.  A white house always looks great with black shutters and a red door.  If your door is wood, re-stain and finish to a fresh look.  Be sure to repaint the surrounding trim too, don’t leave it looking drab, white is usually the best choice for trim.  Wash the windows in the door and be sure the hardware looks good too.  If the storm door is worn or has torn screen or claw marks, replace it even if you just buy a simple screen door.  Make the entry look inviting.  Be sure the porch light is working with a white or clean light – no color lights, and the glass on the light is clean.  Brush away any cobwebs you find on the doors, lights, windows or porch ceilings.  Make this area spotless.  Put a new welcome door mat in front of door.  You want buyers who are willing to buy your house at the price you want, this is what it takes.

Once all the above is done, you get to do a bit of decorating.  Find a nice wreath that fits the season, is the right size for your door and the colors in the wreath go with your front door.  Take a look at some of our front doors to see what we did.  We keep our wreaths and decor fresh looking, vibrant and eye catching plus seasonal.  When the flowers get a bit worn, we simply replace them – don’t keep worn looking wreaths.  If you can switch them when the seasons change that is even better but hopefully your home will be sold before that new season arrives.  This is what we call “curb appeal”.

Something you don’t want to overlook is the very first photo of your house, the one that will be used for that all important ad, the “attention getter”.  It should be a nice day outside and you should remove any vehicles or clutter.  Again, close that garage door, freshen up the yard, put that wreath on the door.  Then step back and get the entire house in the photo frame but not any portion of your neighbor’s home.  Sometimes if you have trees in the yard you have to step to the right or left to get the entire house but never take that photo if you can’t clearly see the front door.  Move until you have a great view of the entire house and can see the front door, then click for the photo.  Remember this is the first thing people see when they look at houses for sale and yours need to stand out and above everyone else’s ad.  Most realtor and sellers don’t take the best photos nor really try for that great first impression so it is up to you.  We call the first photo the “gallery” photo, the one that will be on the MLS, the one Realtor, Trulia and Zillow will post to show the house on their listings.  If you have a great photo and have done the curb appeal, buyers will click on the listing and then be able to read all about your house and all the great reasons to buy it and that is the goal isn’t it!  This isn’t hard to do, it just takes time and planning.

It may seem overwhelming at first but just do it.  Start with something that isn’t too hard and work you way through the whole process.  Once you have everything done, then you are ready to list your home providing you have done pretty much the same thing inside!  If you don’t do these things, you won’t attract buyers and those buyers you do attract will make low offers.  Of course you could just call us and sell your house for CASH and QUICK close and not do anything!   Remember once you get the curb appeal and have their attention, you still have the entire inside to do!

Two Flipping Brothers

A friend decided to go in with his brother to buy an unfinished house for practically nothing and bring it up to date and sell it to make lots of money in just a few weeks!  This would be an easy money.  They bought the house on April 1(that should have been the first clue).  They paid just $25,000 which included closing costs and taxes.  So let’s see what happened to this rehab project.

First they had trouble getting a clear title to the property as there had been several divorces in the past and the various necessary releases hadn’t been signed. So after some legal fees and delays, everything was cleared up and the house was now theirs.  Now these two fellows knew how to build things and would do the job right for sure always keeping their eye on the profit to be made.  It took them nearly two months to get the title cleared.  They spent cash to buy the property and then more for legal fees.   $25,000 + 1,500 legal fees = $26,500 spent so far, not bad.

They now go to the house and see that the 2 acres has overgrown completely and you can’t even get to the front door!  So they hire a fellow to bushhog the property and then a mowing guy to come in and finish.  But its summer so they have to have the mower guy come every week just to be able to drive up the driveway to the front door.  So bushhog $150 + $75 per week to keep mowed (guessing it will only be for 6 weeks = $450).  So now they have spent $26,500 + 150 + 450 (if only for 6 weeks) = $27,100.

But the long driveway is in need of base gravel and then a topcoat and there is no walkway to house, just grass and no decks to doors.  So there goes another $3,500.  $27,100 + 3,500 = $30,600.

Now they are ready to begin but discover that the county water hasn’t been hooked up, so they have to pay another $1,200 to have the hookup and then another $800 to have the lines run to the house.  They can do the hookups inside the house themselves and save a little.  $30,600 + 1200 + 800 = $32,600.

The siding has some bad pieces and missing a few pieces and really doesn’t look that nice so they decide it would be best to re-side the house completely for a new and fresh look that surely everyone will want.  They take off the old siding themselves and add new siding thus saving labor.   Siding costs them $1,800 in material costs.   $32,600 + 1800 =  $34,400.

Thankfully the windows and door were fine so they didn’t have to do anything there but the home had sat empty for awhile so vandals stole all the copper plumbing and appliances and damaged the flooring doing such.  So they had to replace all the plumbing and repair walls, buy new appliances and decided it would be nice to have all hardwood flooring like on those TV shows.  But when they priced the hardwood they decided laminate wood floor would have to do.   So they figured 1,200 for plumbing, 800 for stove and dishwasher and $1500 for flooring in this 1400 sq ft house if they do the work themselves.  $34,400 + 1200 + 800 + 1500 =  $37,900.

Then there were the missing cabinet doors in the kitchen that had to be replaced but no replacements were to be found so they hired the Amish to build the missing doors.  Just $180 and the cabinets looked great again.  They decided new trendy faucets were needed too, so add another $350 for the kitchen and two bathrooms.  $37,900 + 180 + 350 = $38,430.   Now they are beginning to feel a little uncomfortable with spending more money as their perceived profit is dwindling fast, it has taken them three months to get this far…so the grass expenses, the utilities, the insurance, taxes, water bill are beginning to add up.  Another $1800 spent!  $38,430 = $40,230.

This isn’t as fun as they planned and their own jobs are demanding attention so they aren’t getting the work done like they planned.  A few little disputes and things begin to frey.  They decide to hire out the painting and that costs them $1200 and takes even longer as the painters can’t come when they need them, so delays occur.  $40,230 + 1200 = $41,430.   But that’s okay they say as they plan to sell it for $75,000 so some profit can still be made.

They finally finish inside but decide to add a new hot water tank and new a/c but neither has time to put it in so more delays.  It is now late August and the house isn’t ready.  But they decide maybe they should go ahead and list the house anyways and contacted a realtor who they didn’t meet or know anything about but hey, a realtor is a realtor, right??   They imagined the buyers pouring in and loving the house in their minds, all they have to do is just sit back and wait.  And that is exactly what happened.  Two months passed and they had no buyer or even lookers!  They call the realtor who is surely taking potential buyers to see the house and running ads on MLS only to discover that nothing has been done!  How can that be, the house is charming and in a great neighborhood?  She says lower the price, so they do.  Nothing happens for another two months so they call again and again are told lower the price.  They are now down to $52,000 and 7 months into project.  Countless hours and sweat on their part and the profit is fast dissolving.  Now they are paying more and more monthly costs and that grass keeps growing.  Winter is approaching so they have to leave the furnace on to keep the house warm and all the interior safe from freezing so more bills.  Still nothing, realtor says lower price but this time they say no, something has to be wrong.  There isn’t going to be any profit or even pay for the work they did, so what can they do?  Remember their expenses are already over $41,000 and adding up fast still.

They contacted us with their sad story.  We took a look at the house and agreed it was worth $75,000 and should have been sold quickly at $52,000 so why didn’t it sell?  Now we take a look at the realtor’s listing and see that there are no photos of interior or lot and only one photo of exterior but it is before driveway was installed and grass mowed and had been taken from road so you could barely see the house!  The ad said 800 square feet and it was 1400 square feet.  No other details were given about the house.  No glowing writeup telling people about all the wonderful things inside this lovely home, nothing, nada.  And to top it off, there was no “For Sale” sign in the yard, so how could anyone know it was for sale? Just what was the realtor doing to earn her commission?  These things must be corrected immediately.

We did make a few suggestions on how to better present the house.  Sure, they had done all the necessary things and made it very livable but they overlooked the feminine touch.  There wasn’t anything welcoming you into the home.  The front of the house was bland and uninviting.  Who was going to come inside or even look at the listing if it didn’t look more appealing than this.  Men don’t always think about curb appeal and it is really important.  Remember buyers are looking at tiny little pictures of houses, so you have to have a great photo to get them to click on it and see what you have to offer!

The bad news is that although they took our suggestions and began working on curb appeal, they are stuck with this realtor until January which means more monthly costs will be incurred and they are going to have to spend more money to get that curb appeal.  The moral of this story is that even if you know how to do the work you might not know how to attract buyers and find a good realtor.  Don’t allow things to slip by without following up and lose precious time during the selling season.   These brothers may still make a teemy profit but not the one they had hoped for.  This could have been avoided if they had contacted us early in the project, perhaps flipping it to us then and making profit and leaving the rehab to us.  Remember we pay CASH for HOUSES – call us!