Beat declining home value blues by increasing curb appeal

Homeowners looking to sell in the current market may have one advantage over the flood of foreclosures: pride of ownership.

While the bank-owned lot is likely to sit vacant with a brown lawn and little charm beyond its asking price, a properly presented lived-in residence has the potential to be much more inviting, said Port Orchard-based Windermere real estate agent Brie Storset.

"It's really amazing when you have green grass when you're trying to sell a house over dead grass," Storset said. "It's the simple things you can do, like pruning back your plants, putting out some potted flowers, keeping things lively, pull the weeds, make it fresh and clean."

Similar to the immediate appeal of a property's asking price, curb appeal is widely regarded as one of the most important assets in selling a house, Storset noted. She recalled horror stories of homeowners who'd put out silk flowers in the yard or let the garbage pile up, which in turn had wreaked havoc on their selling process.

Decreasing clutter, keeping things tidy, cleaning up debris and pressure washing dingy surfaces are all fairly inexpensive ways to boost a home's attractiveness. In addition there are more expensive projects like windows, doors and landscaping. It's all about making the place look inviting, drawing on the superficial and emotional side of potential buyers.

"It's what sets people apart," Storset said. "Giving that little pride of ownership."

Brian Wilson, a Poulsbo-based John L. Scott agent, concurred. Though he didn't have any quantifiable examples of curb appeal having a direct effect on a home's selling price, he noted the way pride of ownership and a well-kept lawn played to a buyer's emotions.

"Buyers are expecting a lot these days," he said. "And for the most part, they're getting it."

Not only are buyers looking for the best price, Wilson noted, they want everything in and around the home to be perfect. An on-target asking price and a clean, inviting first impression can go a long way.

"You'd be surprised what just simple Windex or bleach, having that fresh smell when people walk into the house, can do," Storset said.

In addition to maintenance and upkeep, Storset also noted how the strategic use of potted plants and patio furniture can play up a property's curb appeal. A barbecue grill with a table set, or a hammock on the porch can give the place an entertaining feel. Potted plants can increase aesthetic value.

None of those things will be sold with the house, or necessarily increase its value per se, but in a market like the present it may be one of a homeowner's best high cards. And even for those not in the market to sell, an increased curb appeal can make a house all the more inviting to come home to.

This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Windermere.

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