Invest in Curb Appeal

It's the height of home buying season, so if your home's for sale you probably have plenty of local competition.

According to the National Association of REALTORS, curb appeal is crucial because it can be the first thing buyers notice about a home. "With many factors to consider such as cost and time, deciding what projects to undertake can be a difficult decision for homeowners," said NAR President Steve Brown. "Realtors know what home features are important to buyers in their area, but a home's curb appeal is always critical since it's the first impression for potential buyers.

Good landscaping, for example, can add up to 28% to the overall value of a house, says landscape economist John Harris, and cut its time on the market 10% to 15%.

Even taking your landscaping to the next level, upgrading from "good" to "excellent," in terms of design, condition, and placement, can add 6% to 7% to a home’s value, according to a Clemson University study.

Worth the Effort?

Beyond landscaping, look at your property from the curb with a critical eye. Is the paint peeling? Could you benefit from a power wash? Should you replace or upgrade doors or windows?

According to NAR, exterior replacement projects can offer high returns on your investment. "Projects such as entry doors, siding and window replacements can recoup more than 78% of costs upon resale," Brown says. For example, a steel entry door replacement returns an estimated 96.6% upon resale, while a wood deck addition offers an estimated 87.4% return.

Additional Planning

NAR's consumer website HouseLogic.com offers a "Best Bets for Remodeling Your Home in 2014" slideshow with information and advice on various home improvement projects, including dozens of exterior replacement projects.

"But remember every neighborhood is different, and the desirability and resale value of a particular remodeling project varies by region and metro area," notes Brown.

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