Curb appeal is a critical component of selling your house. With enough of it, your house will have that needed edge in a soft real estate market to grab the attention of a potential buyer. Without it, your home becomes a literal drive-by. "The excitement for the potential buyer starts when they see the house from the outside as it's their first impression," says Dan Thielman, a broker with John L. Scott. "Curb appeal can make or break their decision to look inside."
Usually the decision to sell is made several months before the listing begins. As a seller, you want to maximize the chances for your home to sell, so some preparation is called for, starting about four months ahead of time.
If you'd like to get your house on the market this spring, now is the time to start the process. "At four months before listing, sellers should assess what needs doing outside and line up a contractor as they book up fast as we get closer to spring," Thielman says. It's often too cold in January and February to paint, put in concrete, or refinish a deck, he adds.
"When I first begin working with a seller, I tell them to have a home inspection done well before listing the property, so we'll know of any major problems that my visual inspection might have missed," says Rhonda Cochrane, a broker with Gateway Real Estate in Ashland.
Four months before listing is a good time to have your garden assessed by a landscaper, according to Talent landscape designer Jane Hardgrove. "Most landscapers charge an hourly fee for this service and it can really save time and money down the line. I look at the health of the plants and trees to determine if they're overgrown or if the garden could use a few more plants." She believes that January can be a great month to prune most trees in the Rogue Valley, as nothing has started to leaf so the branches are easily trimmed. "And rebarking in January helps suppress weed growth and will have your garden looking good for months," she adds.
Two months before listing is a good time to get the roof repaired, have the house painted and the deck treated (weather permitting). It's also the time to start planting and cutting back overgrown shrubs. "Aside from trees, you don't want overgrown shrubs or vining plants to obstruct the view of your home," explains Patricia Carbone, retail manager of Valley View Nursery in Ashland and Medford.
"Late February is a great time to plant most shrubs and add new sod to your lawn if necessary. And if there are plants in your garden that you'd like to take with you, this is the time to dig them up as they'll still be relatively dormant," Hardgrove says, adding that now is a good time to pot up color spots for use on the front porch and throughout the garden. Be sure to tag any plants you plan to dig up and include these items in the listing agreement.
A few weeks before listing, do a major outside cleanup. If you're not painting the house, have it pressure washed and get the windows cleaned. Take a long, hard look at the outside of your house and eliminate any remaining clutter. "You want your house to look the best in your price range," Cochran explains.
"One mistake people make is not having all the work done that needs doing before listing," Thielman explains. "If there's deferred maintenance on the outside of the house, it can make a buyer wonder about what's been deferred on the inside." He says a seller is better off including an allowance for needed work as part of the listing. "It shows integrity on the part of the seller."
Finally, don't get discouraged by a soft market, as Oregon is still a desirable state to live in, especially for those moving here from out of state.