Is Your Home Ready to Sell? – HGTV’s Lisa LaPorta Knows All About Curb Appeal

When putting your home on the market, curb appeal can make or break a sale.

Just as stellar homes translate into big bucks and quick sales, lackluster lawns and poor upkeep can mean lower offers and more time on the market.

“Curb appeal is one of the most important aspects of selling,” said Lisa LaPorta, the co-host and designer of HGTV’s “Designed to Sell” series.

“Commonly, people will say curb appeal, kitchens and baths can sell houses or not sell houses – but the front view of a home certainly is the first thing people see,” said LaPorta, who spends much of her time guiding sellers through drastic home makeovers on the hit show.

“People make a connection with the front of the house. They’re imagining what their friends and family will say when they drive up to their house. People want something impressive.”

Creating that crucial curb appeal is easier than it sounds. A memorable first impression comes down to the details.

Shiny, new hardware on a freshly painted door, dramatic light fixtures and luscious landscaping can all equal great curb appeal. So, too, can simple yet stunning flowers, a clever color scheme and basic home maintenance.

Before planning any projects, LaPorta urges homeowners to take a cue from her show, which pits brutally honest real-estate experts against sellers with less-than-awesome homes.

On the show, real-estate professionals inspect the home, offering straightforward suggestions and candidly critiquing everything from paperwork cluttering the kitchen to patchy paint jobs and paneling in need of repair. With advice in hand, the owners set out renovate, refurbish and redecorate their home with $2,000 and a team of experts.

Just as the “Designed to Sell” team solicits the frank opinions of others, homeowners should seek sincere input from friends and family. In fact, homeowners need to call up the most scathingly honest person they can find.

“You need someone to come over and objectively give advice,” she said. “Homeowners need to have someone come over and notice the things they’ve stopped noticing because they’ve lived in the house so long.”

Regardless of the response, homeowners need to be open-minded.

“When you’re selling, you live in the house, but it’s not your house anymore,” LaPorta explained. “There are no excuses like, ‘We have children, so we can’t get rid of that stuff.’ You will pay for that attitude in dollars.”

Seeking advice is imperative, as homeowners can become immune to the little things that make a house stand out, from overgrown shrubs to beat-up gutters.

At the minimum, homes should have a green lawn, a great paint job and healthy trees. Roof shingles that have gone missing, overgrown hedges and bare patches in the mulch beds can also put a kink in great curb appeal.

“Once the maintenance is done and the clutter is gone, you can do other things to make the home look fresher,” LaPorta said.

New accents are always a sure bet.

“All-new fixtures — new lanterns on the porch, a new doorknob, freshly painted address numbers — those are really easy fixes,” she said. “It’s a real simple way to give the front of the house a brand-new look. Those are the items that add a little wow factor, that add a little drama.”

Other tried-and-true measures include extra molding on the windows, a fresh coat of paint on the front door, a new mailbox and fresh flowers.

“Never underestimate the value of a strategically placed giant pot of blooming flowers near the front door,” she said. “Whatever the season, whatever the climate, I’ve never heard someone say that there were too many flowers.”

These little extras are all about creating drama and character.

“Drama can come from a pair of giant pots spilling over with blossoms or a nice plant or tree placed at either side of the driveway or walkway,” she said. “Anything unique — a different tree, great accents — helps homeowners one-up the neighbors. You have to prove why your house should be sold faster than the other guy’s.”

Cookie-cutter homes and condominiums need an extra dose of character.

“You need to add character, but everybody’s idea of character is different,” she said. “I love unique features, but with water features, sculptures and stained glass, it’s a little like a getting a tattoo. Not everyone is going to want the same tattoo.”

Clever, but conservative is the key. Homeowners should aim for subtle berms to show off plants and flowers, strategically placed boulders or a whimsical trellis or birdbath.

“Homeowners need to find safe ways to add character,” she said. “For example, a rock fountain with koi fish may not appeal to everybody. The items adding character should be somewhat neutral.”

Accent colors will also attract attention, but something too different may draw the wrong kind of attention.

“People are always confused by color. They get overloaded with paint colors. The accent color shouldn’t be outrageous,” LaPorta said.

Brochures from leading paint companies are the best routes to finding harmonious color combinations.

“Those brochures can be really helpful,” she said. “Behr Paint, for example, has free brochures that show various palettes and groupings of colors that work well together.”

Imitation is another option.

“Looking at other houses is important. Drive by the really expensive, really well-done homes — the homes of people who have been able to afford designers. Use their homes as inspiration.”

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