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Sprucing Up for Curb Appeal

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's got the fairest home of all?

If first impressions are everything, then your home's exterior should make a bold statement, something like, "Hey homebuyer, look at me! " In fact, curb appeal is so important that exterior improvements may do more to sell your home than investing big bucks on interior renovations. It's the packaging of your home, the photograph that appears in your home listing ad, and your home's debut on the market that could fly or flop. When that spotlight shines, make sure your home sparkles.�

And don't waste time and money on fruitless enhancements that don't provide bang for the buck. Not only do many home sellers make unnecessary improvements, thinking they are sure to boost the appeal, experienced real estate sales agents say the wrong improvements can actually deter the sale of the home. Knowing how to dress a house for sale, and what improvements to avoid can save you thousands of dollars. Here's a basic approach with ideas to boost your curb appeal up a notch or two.

Frequently, homes in suburban subdivisions take on that uniform, vanilla flavor for homebuyers driving through tract housing. Remember that anything creative you can do to give your home a unique, tasteful personality will go a long way. Sometimes it's adding a unique feature such as a trellis or gazebo. Or it might be simply redesigning the front landscape and adding new flowers and shrubs.�

Creating more usable space for outdoor barbecues, parties, or relaxation may be just the ticket to capture the homebuyer's fancy. For example, installing a small patio with landscaping and planters around it will turn a bland backyard into a delightful space. Trees are a simple improvement to greatly improve your outdoor ambience. They can add privacy in the backyard, or create a pastoral feeling with green space.

When making exterior improvements, follow these general principles.�

Front Yard Focus. Pull together some interesting features in the front of the house such as colorful shrubs or trees. Or plant some bold, colorful annuals. Another way to increase utility and appeal is to create street access to the front of the house with a path or walkway.

Porch and Patio Permutations. The front or back porch are heavily used in pleasant weather, so it pays to enlarge or improve the porch. A variety of other exterior items will lend beauty and functionality, including patios, patio covers, seating walls, fireplaces, waterfalls, fountains, ponds, fire pits and barbecue centers. If you have these items, put them in tiptop shape and replace any damaged or deteriorating concrete, brick, or flagstone. If you don't already have them, carefully assess the cost of installing them and don't go overboard without some assurance of recouping the outlay at resale.

Build in Basics. Consider installing privacy screening or trellises and arbors to accent any entrance area. Other accessory items include gazing balls, obelisks, sundials and birdbaths. Landscape lighting can add a touch of class. Update and re-sod or replant the lawn. If your grass is more than 20 years old, your lawn probably needs a makeover.

Sources used to create this article include Julie Bawden Davis and the Los Angeles Times.