Here are eight ways to help your home put its best face forward.
Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell. We’re not talking about replacing vinyl siding with redwood siding; we’re talking about maintenance and beautifying tasks you’d like to live with anyway.
The way your house looks from the street — attractively landscaped and well-maintained — can add thousands to its value and cut the time it takes to sell. But which projects pump up curb appeal most? Some spit and polish goes a long way, and so does a dose of color.
Tip #1: Wash Your House’s Face
Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses.
A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $75 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.
Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate — TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers — dissolved in 1 gallon of water.
You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds — depending on the size of the house and number of windows — but will finish in a couple of days.
Tip #2: Freshen the Paint Job
The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it. Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.
Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.
Tip #3: Regard the Roof
The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.
You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to “Remodeling” magazine’s 2015 “Cost vs. Value Report,” the average cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $19,500.
Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.
Tip #4: Neaten the Yard
A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.
Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.
Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly.
Tip #5: Add a Color Splash
Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.
Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.
These colorful touches won’t add to the value of our house: Appraisers don’t give you extra points for a blue bench. But beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.
Tip #6: Glam Your Mailbox
An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out.
High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers.
These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.
Tip #7: Fence Yourself In
A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community.
Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.
If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.
Tip #8: Maintenance is a Must
Nothing looks worse from the curb — and sets off subconscious alarms — like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.
Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:
Dread your upcoming move all you want, but it’s going to happen. Make moving day less painful with this series of clever and easy tips and hacks that are simple, but will make the whole process faster and easier. And then maybe, just maybe, you won’t go insane after packing your 99th box, and will enjoy the first night in your new home.
Above, a toothpick or safety pin marks the end of packing tape, making it easier to spot the edge so you don’t waste time running your finger around the roll, looking for where the tape begins.
Put any screws or hardware in marked sealable bags, then tape the bag inside the corresponding boxes, or on the furniture itself.
Don’t bother emptying your bedroom dresser of its contents. If you cover each drawer with plastic wrap, you can move them as is without the need to unpack, then repack and organize your clothing.
Use socks as packing material to protect glasses, and extra linens for other breakable dish ware. It’ll save you money on bubble wrap and is more protective than newspaper.
Cover salt & shakers, half-used shampoo bottles, or anything else in danger of leaking during the move, with more plastic wrap. Screw on the tops over the plastic wrap. Hey look, no spillage in transit!
Before you unplug and pack up all electronics, label your cords. A piece of duct tape or masking tape, with the name of the corresponding equipment written in pen, will save you from having to guess what’s what when you reassemble everything in your new home.
Also, take a picture of the back of your television and/or stereo equipment, so you’ll know exactly how to set it up once you get to your new home.
Pack the heaviest of your objects (like books) in suitcases with wheels. No hernias to see here, keep moving and thank you very much.
Place knives in padded potholders so no one gets cut, poked or scraped in the process of moving. (If they are really nice knives, you can wrap them individually as well so they don’t damage each other.)
Relax. Here’s how to make short work of every common repair annoyance from a leaky toilet to a sticky window.
1. Fix a leaky toilet.
Running toilets not only rob sleep, they waste water and jack up your bill. Here’s how to change a flapper — the usual suspect — and solve other likely problems.
2. Repair drywall holes.
The hardest part of drywall repair is making the patch flush with the existing wall. A “pumpkin patch” is an easy repair that cuts down on sanding.
3. Adjust cabinet doors.
Changes in humidity can make cabinet doors rub, refuse to close, or just look cockeyed. Adjusting them is easy and generally requires only a screwdriver.
4. Open a stuck window.
Windows stick when paint, dust, or moisture builds. Use a utility knife (or a pizza cutter) to remove old paint. Be careful not to gouge the wood sash. If high humidity is making windows hard to move, run a humidifier that sucks moisture out of air.
5. Stop a leaking faucet.
A dripping faucet can waste 5 gallons of water per day. If you can’t replace the faulty part immediately, tie a string around the faucet and let it fall into the drain: Dripping water will silently flow down the string.
6. Silence door squeaks.
Take the squeak out of doors by lubricating top and bottom hinges with a little WD-40 or white lithium grease. If you don’t have any on hand, olive oil is a quick but temporary fix.
7. Turn off the main water line.
Don’t wait until water gushes into your house to search for the main water line. When things are calm and dry, locate and practice turning it on and off.
In the beginning of this year, Valley Green Bank merged with Univest Bank and Trust Co. Valley Green Bank had thrived in part due to the close relationship that it established with the neighbors and businesses in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill over the years. Valley Green Bank will always be grateful and appreciative for this close relationship and the outpouring of support that it received from these communities.
To honor this history, Valley Green Bank’s board and staff decided to give a gift to the community that would commemorate this appreciation and meaningful connection: The restoration of the pergola and arch at the intersection of Cresheim Valley Drive and Germantown Avenue, two historical structures that provide a gateway to the lower part of Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy.
On Tuesday, July 21st, to show their love for the community, Bob Elfant, Janice Manzi, Louise D’Alessandro, and Paul Walsh, all of Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, joined in the effort by taking part in this gigantic planting and general cleanup!
If you’re looking for ways to unplug your children and get them some fresh air, try these engaging outdoor projects. You’ll introduce them to a little pride of home ownership while adding some finishing touches that’ll ramp up your home’s curb appeal.
When making stuff with kids, remember the Keep-It rules:
Keep it safe. Use gloves and safety glasses when necessary.
Keep it simple. They’ll come away with a sense of accomplishment if it’s a project they can handle easily.
Keep it under an hour. Kids’ attention spans are short.
1. Making stepping stones
This classic kids’ project never gets old — it’s gooey, messy, and arty. You’ll make the stones using ready-mix concrete or mortar; a 40-lb. bag makes 3-5 stones. Make your own forms with wood, or use old pans, aluminum cake pans, or anything that’ll create a 2-inch-thick stone.
While the concrete is still wet, decorate with beads, tiles, marbles, and polished pebbles. Wait 48 hours until the concrete is dry to remove it from the form.
Cost: A 40-lb. bag of ready-mix mortar is $6.
2. Painting your mailbox
Put a little sizzle in your snail mail when you let your kids paint the mailbox.
Un-mount the box and clean it first. When dry, give it a coat of metal primer, then let your kids’ muse take over. Inexpensive craft store stencils help keep designs on track. Take the kids to the store and let them pick out designs. Don’t forget to include house numbers.
Cost: Primer, $5; acrylic craft paints, $20-$40 set of 10 colors; plastic stencils, $1-$2 each.
3. Planting a shrub that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
There’s some delayed gratification with this project — the payoff doesn’t happen until the critters find the shrub — but the fun factor is high when they do.
Keep the digging to a minimum — one or two plants are plenty. Make a generous hole and have the kids fill it with outdoor potting soil, and put them in charge of watering as the plant roots in. Hold a contest to see who spots the first wildlife visitor.
Nectar-producing shrubs that attract hummingbirds include Hibiscus, flowering quince (Chaenomeles), and Lantana. Butterflies like butterfly bush (Buddleja) and Potentilla.
Cost: $10-$30 per shrub; a bag of potting soil is $9.
4. Building a garden gate arbor
It’s easier than it sounds. You’ll find simple DIY kits at home improvement centers that you and your team can put together in 1 to 2 hours. If that challenges younger kids’ attention span limit, let them wander away for a bit, then call them back when it’s done. They’ll love carrying the finished arbor to the garden and setting it in the ground.
Cost: $150-$250 for a wooden kit.
5. Adding solar lights
This is one of the easiest projects. Gather up some solar walkway lights — the kind mounted on a stake — and have your kids put them along your sidewalk, paths, and at the edge of garden beds. When the sun goes down, they’ll get a kick out of seeing the lights switch on.
Cost: Outdoor lighting comes in all styles and prices, but you’ll find an 8-pack of solar stake lights under $50 at your home improvement center.
6. Stacking a tipsy-pot plant tower
Here’s a great optical illusion that kids will really dig. Stick a ½-inch diameter wooden dowel or piece of copper pipe firmly into the ground or a big pot. Put clay pots of various sizes onto the pipe, threading the pipe through the drain holes. Fill the pots with soil and tilt them at crazy angles — the rod holds all the pots upright. Plant easy-care impatiens or petunias.
Cost: Copper pipe is about $3 per foot; an 8-inch-high clay pot is $4.
No doubt, exterior upgrades like adding a wood deck or installing new garage door offer great return on investment that’s worth the cash outlay. But these four blogger projects will ratchet up your curb appeal for a lot less money. And your friends will think you hired a pro.
A Champagne Fence on a Beer Budget
Image: The Unique Nest
Laura, the blogger behind The Unique Nest, wouldn’t let her limited funds put a damper on her curb appeal vision. Her DIY fence enclosed a 1/4-acre side yard for only $1,000.
Not only is it beautiful, it’s functional: It keeps her kids and dog safely in the yard and adds privacy and value.
She and her hubby:
Sketched out their design to calculate how much lumber they needed. The project required around 250 pieces of rough-cut Hemlock wood.
Contacted Dig New York, a nonprofit that marked underground utility cables and pipes on the property, so they could dig safely.
Rented an auger — essentially a giant drill — to dig holes. Their project required 29 fence posts. The rental made the four-day building process a lot easier.
Tip: If you have a wood fence, apply stain or wood preservative every three to five years to protect it from bugs, rot, and sun damage.
The Landscaping Power of a Little Concrete Edging
Image: Home is Where They Love You
Besides adding spit and polish to your landscape, edging can help keep weeds and grass from overrunning your garden.
Camie, from the blog Home is Where They Love You, thinks her decorative and functional concrete curb looks like a pro job, and we agree. Even better, she created it for less than $20.
In a nutshell, she and her husband:
Crisply defined the garden’s border while also creating the curb’s form using bender board and wood stakes.
Poured the concrete into the form.
Used an edging trowel to smooth out the curb’s shape.
A Driveway That Just Looks Expensive
Image: DIY Fun Ideas
When Jenise from DIY Fun Ideas created this tile driveway at her mom and pop’s place, she became a serious contender for world’s best daughter.
But, here’s a secret: She says this concrete project is so easy that even a DIY novice can build it.
Here’s quick breakdown of the project’s three basic steps.
1. Mix mortar in a bucket.
2. Spread the mortar into a tile mold.
3. Place the freshly minted tile into place on the driveway.
And get this: A pro might charge $10 per square foot to build a driveway like this one; Jenise’s project cost about $3 per square foot.