How to Get the Best Curb Appeal on the Block

manicured house with welcoming walk, lush landscaping and curb appeal

Photo:  Linda Oyama Bryan

Image is Everything

Here at This Old House, we believe that a handsome front facade ranks right up there with a solid foundation and good bones.

Sure, there’s the satisfaction you get in showing passers-by that yes, indeed, you’ve got a gem on your hands. But more important, it’s about how appealing details such as cheery blooms, a crisp white fence, and eye-catching shutters create a welcome sight for you and your family to come home to each day.

On the following pages, see nine stunning exterior transformations, including some from fellow readers whose homes were among the worst-looking in their neighborhoods. Through smart investments and, often, sweat equity, their diamonds-in-the-rough soon caught up to—and even surpassed—the rest of the block. Read on to see how these readers, as well as other inspiring homeowners, did it.

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Conducting a Marketing & Sales Plan

conductor_6It started when I was 14. It was my first opportunity to conduct a symphony orchestra. I took the conductor’s score home, following along with a recording of Mozart’s ‘Andante & Allegro’; I identified whom I needed to communicate with, so that the melody would be clear to the listener. Hours of perfecting my patterns, and my movements, so that the orchestra would know exactly what I wanted them to do. Phrasing and rhythm had to be internalized so that I could communicate and control the entire group. Everything needed to be memorized… all the parts… all the phrases… to assure a gorgeous timbre was played by all. Yet, I couldn’t make a single sound…

Even at 14, I knew what I expected. No one would get away with giving less than what was needed to serve the music. I can remember some instrumentalists complaining that I expected them to play the 16th note runs, in tempo. Of course, I did! How else would the phrase be propelled as it needed to be?

After 25 years of leading, directing, creating, performing, I have found myself doing the same job but with a new set of players, and a new checklist. No longer do I have to verify that the trumpets are playing in Bb or C. I, now, verify if I am hitting our target buyer’s needs and wants. Telling the story about a home, a neighborhood or a lifestyle is up to me – just like conducting an orchestra. Again, I don’t make any of the sound, but the message has to be tailored to the recipient and to make sense, no, to captivate them.

Though, there is a small minority of buyers (typically investors), that do not engage emotionally in the buying process. Most buyers make a decision based on emotion and subsequently, solidify their choice with logic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Why our properties sell is because we pay attention to the story that the home, the neighborhood, and the lifestyle provides to the next owner. Technology delivers the message immediately; the speed of the message is lightning fast (in real time). For properties on the market today, the first impression is almost always the ONLY impression.

Another reason my team’s marketing works is because we understand human nature, in that, we all want significance. Many of the orchestras I conducted were made up of volunteers. My job was to make the many sound as one unit. This is counterintuitive to most ego-driven performers. To do that, I had to make sure the musicians felt important and valued. When the 2nd violin playing in the 4th row felt valued, she performed better. When she played better, we would all sound better. The reality is; this was about them, not me. When they sparkled, the music was served. When the music was served, we all won!

When the buyer’s values are identified and met, they are emotionally engaged. This is crucial to ensuring that buyers commit to a property, and stick with it until the closing.

We are all in sales. Teachers, parents, politicians, lawyers, even you! What you need to remember is; IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! It is about THEM!

Staging Helps Buyers Evaluate – Not Eliminate

Regardless of our selling situation and the market conditions, once the decision to sell is made, we all have the same goal – a quick sale at the highest price possible. Market conditions are out of our control, but the other factors that play into the fast sale/best price goal are 1) condition and 2) presentation – and those we can control.

staging 3

The condition factor is easily controlled through cleaning and repairing, fairly objective goals. The presentation factor is more subjective, and this is where staging comes in – evoking the emotions of home to help potential buyers imagine their life in your house – from how their furnishings will fit to how their lifestyle will fit. Staging is the finishing touch that, as its name implies, allows your property to take center stage when buyers start looking – creating a neutral décor and adding accessories to bridge the gap between property statistics and dreams.

staging 1

To disregard the presentation factor and expect buyers to “look through” your furnishings and decorating style is leaving much to chance. Most buyers think that what they see is what they get – everything from furnishings to décor colors. When buyers are either looking on the Internet or standing in your living room, they are usually eliminating before they begin evaluating. There are simply so many properties on the market at such fabulous price points that it can become overwhelming; eliminating is the default process to get the number of options down to a more manageable decision. Staging is the single most important activity to insure that your house isn’t eliminated without buyers truly evaluating its potential relevance to their goals and lifestyle.

staging 2

A recent study by the Harrison Group revealed that since the recession began luxury homebuyers have narrowed the purchase time of a second home property from approximately two years to three months. They are doing the research on the Internet; think of it as pre-selling themselves. This places the importance of staging at an all time high – regardless of price and location, with so many purchase opportunities, it is easier to click on to the next property if doesn’t “feel” like home.

Through staging you can increase your chances of surviving the Internet elimination process and move your house into the evaluating stage more quickly.