Curb Appeal Begins Down the Street
Front Yard: Some landscaping is a definite plus. Absolutely the grass should be cut often and kept short. Plants should be trimmed and mulched, trees fertilized and in good condition.
Home Exterior: This varies with the external covering. For wood, is it clean, paint not chipped or flaking, stain in good condition, etc.? Brick is usually easy, but it should be pressure-washed if needed to bring out the color and make it look its best. Siding can be a challenge, especially if there are broken pieces that can't be replaced. Do the best you can to help the homeowner to find repair materials or plant a bush in front of low damage. You're not trying to hide damage, as the inspection or even the walk-through on first visit will show it. However, if they don't even get out of the car, it's a problem.
Driveway: Need we even mention not having cars up on blocks? Repair cracks, wash the driveway down, especially if it's got oil spots. Remove those with proper materials.
Windows: Again, the obvious is to have broken windows repaired, even just cracks. However, a thorough washing and cleaning inside and out is a must as well. Paint the trim. This pretty much ties up the exterior look from the curb, best curb appeal, but only if you stop there.
Curb Appeal Stretches out to the Neighborhood
It's understood that you can't control other people's habits, and definitely can't tell them how to take care of their homes and yards. However, especially for homes in higher price ranges, you may want to offer some free lawn and other services to at least the two or three homes to the left and right of your listing.
If they don't seem to care about their grass height, offer to have their yard cut for the next month for free. It's a cheap expense that can pay big dividends for your client. The same goes for any of those cleaning or washing tasks we touched on above. People love a freebie, so you probably will not meet with much resistance. Of course, hire licensed and bonded people, as you don't want to pick up liability.
If you're concerned with offending someone, it's always a possibility. However, it shouldn't be a major problem, especially if you put it in a way that's not insulting. Perhaps something like: "We're listing your neighbor's home for sale and we're offering the nearby neighbors some services to enhance the overall look of the street." It also goes over well to say that doing this usually results in a higher selling price that will be used to value their home later should they choose to sell.
Show Off the Good Stuff on the Way In
This is something the best listing agents know, but it bears repeating and some elaboration. Always prep the area carefully before listing and determine the best route to approach the home to avoid eyesore properties or other negative things that may turn off your buyer before they ever get in front of the home.
However, don't just avoid the ugly stuff. Drive by the good stuff too. Even if you have to take a round-about route, put it in a way that shows you're trying to give them an idea of the benefits of living in this neighborhood. Encourage questions and give them a mini-tour. You're not only avoiding the ugly and pointing out the good stuff. You're also building anticipation.
The old saying "location, location, location" is still around because it's accurate. You're not just selling a home, you're selling a neighborhood. Buying a home is a lifestyle decision, and curb appeal is more than just the look of a home from the street. A family is considering:
- Distance and route to work.
- Distance to and quality of shopping and entertainment.
- Definitely the nearby neighbors and the look of the homes on the street.
It's a location package. Sure, they'll have to like the home, but if they're turned off with the neighborhood before they ever get there, you're in trouble. They may be polite and waste time going through the home, but it's just so they can move on and find a better one.