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The saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When your house is for sale, you make it outside at the curb, before prospective buyers even get near the front door. That first impression is why Curb Appeal is so important, and why it always ranks high for Return on Investment.

The right exterior immediately says, “Hello! Welcome! I am a well-maintained, well-loved home. Attractive, right? Well, I am just as good and look as beautiful on the inside. And you very well might want to live here!”

With so much to do to prepare your house for sale, you don’t want to spend the whole budget outside. But you can get a great outdoor look without spending a lot of time and money. Try these tips:

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  • Declutter and clean outside your house just as you do inside. Clear away yard tools, toys, and fallen branches. Rake. Mow. Weed. Trim. Power-wash surfaces.
  • If the lawn needs to be reseeded, invest in that. A lush lawn brings over 100% ROI.
  • Bonus yard grooming tip: if you mow the lawn so it has diagonal “mowing lines,” it will appear larger. Second bonus grooming tip: it’s especially important to trim bushes near windows so nothing blocks natural light inside.
  • Fences, lighting, and other permanent outdoor features need to be in good repair. Getting fresh, new light fixtures, house numbers, mailbox, and welcome mat is easy and inexpensive.
  • Mulch is an inexpensive, easy way to get a neat look in garden beds.
  • New plants add life and design, even in the cooler weather. If it’s too late for your summer garden, mums and decorative kale are hardy and colorful additions that work well in the ground or in containers. Your garden store can advise on options.
  • Today’s designers and buyers are all about outdoor spaces. If you have a deck or patio, clean and treat the materials, and stage it with a vignette that shows how to enjoy it. Cushions, pillows, and settings for food/drink will make it inviting.
  • If you do not have an outdoor living space, consider one. A wood deck is an addition realtors recommend. If that’s out of your budget, paving stones on the lawn can form a nice patio area.
  • While you’re at it, show how enjoyable the whole yard is by emphasizing good garden or play areas. Create a special pop with a piece of outdoor art from a thrift store or flea market.
  • If your outdoors lacks privacy, consider plantings, a fence, or an awning.
  • As autumn holidays approach, decorate carefully for maximum appeal. Cobwebs the size of your garage door, complete with huge spiders, are fun for Halloween, but not for house showings. Focus instead on seasonal colors from gourds, pumpkins, and cornstalks. Use real or artificial, but make sure real ones aren’t rotting or damaged as the season goes on. Add decorative candles or autumn accessories near outdoor seating. Just keep everything off stairs and out of the way. And yes, a cute ghost or jack-o-lantern is OK, too!
  • Keep leaves off paths and walkways, and if it snows early, make sure everything is shoveled, de-iced, and safe.

These tips and your own creativity will help you get a lot of curb appeal for less!

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