Landscaping for Curb Appeal

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Pat Curry
Published: March 25, 2010

A well-landscaped yard creates curb appeal and helps your property retain maximum value.

A beautiful yard is a head-turner, no doubt about it. The good news is that even if you can’t tell a tulip from a turnip at the garden center, you can still create eye-catching curb appeal by paying attention to the basics of good landscaping. Ignoring your yard–or doing something that’s out of character with the neighborhood-can jeopardize the assessed value of your home.

“We have several categories for design and appeal,” says Frank Lucco, a real estate agent and professional appraiser in Houston. “That’s where we make those adjustments. Poorly maintained landscaping can be as much as a 5 or 10% deduction.”

Appraisers are quick to praise the allure of a well-tended lawn and good-looking landscaping when it comes time to sell your home, but most do not assign any specific increase in monetary value for upkeep.

“Landscaping is going to add to the appeal of the property and it may sell quicker, but it’s hard to determine value,” says John Bredemeyer, president of Omaha-based Realcorp. “You have to have a number to compensate someone if you drove into their tree and killed it, but is it really market value? Probably not.”

Nevertheless, most professionals agree that curb appeal and a well-maintained appearance prevent your property from losing value. Here are the top suggestions from real estate agents, appraisers, and landscape designers for boosting the curb appeal of your yard:

Green up the grass

If your house has a front yard, make sure it’s neat and green (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/lawn-maintenance-calendar/). You don’t want bare spots, sprawling weeds, or an untrimmed appearance.

“It’s so simple to go to Home Depot, buy fertilizer, apply it every six weeks, and water it,” says Mitch Kalamian, a landscape designer in Huntinginton Beach, Calif. “It will green up.”

If the yard looks really scruffy, you may decide to invest in some sod. According to the National Gardening Association, the average cost of sod is 15 to 35 cents per sq. ft. If you hire a landscaper to sod your yard for you, labor will add 30% to 50% to the total cost of the project.

Another alternative is to plant low-maintenance turf grasses (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/low-maintenance-lawn-alternatives-turf-grasses/). Turf grasses are durable and drought-resistant. Expect to pay $18 to $30 for enough turf grass seed to plant 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn area.

Add colorful planting beds

Flower beds add color and help enliven otherwise plain areas, such as along driveways and the edges of walkways. In general, annual flowers are a bit cheaper but must be replaced every year. Perennials cost a bit more but come back annually and usually get larger or spread with each growing season.

If you’re not sure what to plant, inquire at your local garden center. Often, they’ll have a display of bedding plants chosen for their adaptability to your area. Also, they’ll be inexpensive because they’re in season, says Peter Mezitt, president of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Mass. Try pansies in the summer, and asters and mums in the fall to add vibrant color. “That’s what we do around the entrance to our garden center,” Mezitt says.

Valerie Torelli, a California REALTOR® who dresses up her clients’ yards to sell their houses faster and for more money, says that in her market, she can put in a bed of colorful annuals and bark, as well as cutting down overgrown shrubs, for less than $500. “We can buy gorgeous plants for $3.99 to $15.99,” she says.

Add landscape lighting

For homeowners who have made a sizeable investment in landscaping, it makes sense to think about adding another 10% to 15% to the bill for professional lighting (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/outdoor-lighting-curb-appeal-and-safety/). “You can’t see landscaping after dark,” says Brandon Stephens, vice president of marketing for a landscape lighting firm in Lubbock, Texas, “and buyers are not always looking at houses on a Saturday afternoon.”

The cost of a system runs from $200 for a DIY installation to more than $4,000 for a professional job. If you’re doing it on your own, the key is to light what you want people to see, such as mature trees and flowering shrubs.

 Plant a tree

The value of mature trees is particularly difficult to determine. Lucco says that in his market, mature trees (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/plant-trees-save-energy-grow-value/) contribute as much as 10% of a $100,000 property’s overall value. In addition, a properly placed shade tree can shave as much as $32 a year on your energy bills. Expect to pay $50 to $100 for a young, 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree.

You can make your own initial assessment of the value of your property’s trees by visiting the National Tree Benefit Calculator (http://www.treebenefits.com/calculator/index.cfm). For example, a mature Southern red oak tree with a diameter of 36 inches in the front yard of a house in Augusta, Ga., would add $70 to the property value this year, according to the calculator.

Georgia-based freelance writer Pat Curry writes extensively about housing and real estate for consumer and trade publications. While a fair hand at remodeling, she is hopeless as a gardener. As a result, her landscaping is made up of plants that thrive on neglect.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

For more information on selling, purchasing, or simply adding value to your home with simple tips and tricks, don’t hesitate to call Steve & Christi Durflinger at 925-708-0006.  You can also visit us at www.TeamDurf.com or we can emailed at Christi@TeamDurf.com.

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8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Pat Curry
Published: March 25, 2010

Appraisers and real estate agents offer advice for curb appeal that preserves value and attracts potential buyers.

Curb appeal has always been important for homesellers. With the vast majority of today’s homebuyers starting their search on the Internet, the appearance of your property is more critical than ever. You only have a few seconds to catch their attention as they scroll through listings online to get them to stop and take a closer look.

But the role of curb appeal goes beyond just making a good first impression. The way your house looks from the street can impact its value. It can also shorten the time it takes to sell your house.

We asked real estate agents, appraisers, home stagers, landscape designers, and home inspectors which curb appeal projects offer the most value when your house is on the market, both in terms of its marketability and dollars. Here is what they told us:

1. Paint the house.

Hands down, the most commonly offered curb appeal advice from our real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/exterior-paints-and-stains-guide-options/). Buyers will instantly notice it and appraisers will note it on the valuation.

“Paint is probably the number one thing inside and out,” says Frank Lucco, managing partner of Houston-based IRR-Residential Appraisers and Consultants. “I’d give additional value for that. If you’re under two years remaining life (on the paint job), paint the exterior because it tends to show wear badly.”

Just make sure you stay within the range of accepted colors for your market. A house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition will be marked down in value by appraisers.

2. Have the house washed.

Before you make the investment in a paint job, though, take a good look at the house. If it’s got mildew or general grunge, just washing the house (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/clean-and-care-siding/) could make a world of difference, says Valerie Torelli, a California real estate agent with a background in accounting.

Before she puts a house on the market, Torelli often does exterior makeovers on her clients’ homes, a service she pays for herself to get higher selling prices. Overall, she says her goal is to spend less than $5,000, with a goal of generating an extra $10,000 to $15,000 on the sale price.

Torelli specifies pressure-washing-a job that should be left to professionals. Pressure washing makes the house look “bright and clean in addition to getting rid of unsightly things like cobwebs, which may not be seen from the yard but will detract from the home’s cleanliness when seen up close,” she says.

The cost to have a professional cleaning should be a few hundred dollars–a fraction of the cost of having the house painted.

3. Trim the shrubs and green up the yard.

California real estate agent Valerie Torelli says she puts a lot of emphasis on landscaping, such as cutting down overgrown bushes and replacing them with leafy plants and annuals mulched with beautiful reddish-brown bark. “It runs me $30 to $50,” says Torelli. “Do you get a return on your money? Absolutely. It sucks people in.”

You also don’t want bare spots. Take the time to fertilize the yard (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/lawn-maintenance-calendar/), throw out some grass seed, and if need be, add some sod.

4. Add a splash of color.

It could be a flower bed of annuals by the mailbox, a paint job for the front door, or a brightly colored bench or an Adirondack chair. “You can get a cute little bench at Home Depot for $99,” Torelli notes. “Spray paint it bright red or blue and set it in the yard or on the front porch.”

It’s not a bad idea, but don’t plan on getting extra points from an appraiser for a red bench, says John Bredemeyer, president of Realcorp in Omaha. “It’s difficult to quantify, but it does make a home sell more quickly,” Bredemeyer says. “Maybe yours sold a couple weeks faster than the house down the street. That’s the best way to look at these things.”

5. Add a fancy mailbox and house numbers.

An upscale mail box and architectural house numbers or an address plaque can give your house a distinctive look that stands out from everyone else on the block. Torelli makes them a part of her exterior makeovers “I’ve gotten those hand-painted mailboxes,” she says. “A nice one runs you $40 to $50.” Architectural house numbers may run as high as a few hundred dollars.

6. Repair or clean the roof.

Springfield, Va.-based home inspector and former builder Reggie Marston says the roof (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/roofing-repair-or-replace/) is one of the first things he looks at in assessing the condition of a home. He’ll look at other houses in the neighborhood to see if there are a lot of replaced roofs and see if the subject house has one as well. If not, he’ll look for curls in the shingles or missing shingles. “I’m looking at the roof for end-of-life expectancy,” he says.

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. That could knock thousands of dollars off your appraisal. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2009-2010 Cost vs. Value Report (http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2009/costvsvalue/national.aspx), the average cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is more than $19,000.

“Roofs are issues,” Lucco says. “You won’t throw money away on that job. You gotta have a decent roof.”

Stains and plant matter, such as moss, can be handled with cleaning. It’s a job that can often be done in a day for a few hundred dollars, and makes the roof look like new. It’s not a DIY project; call a professional with the right tools to clean it without damaging it.

7. Put up a fence.

A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. A fence (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/fencing-guide-options/) has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community, Bredemeyer says, but in most instances, appraisers will give extra value for one, as long as it’s in good condition. “Day in a day out, a fence is a plus,” Bredemeyer says. Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

8. Perform routine maintenance and cleaning.

Nothing sets off subconscious alarms like hanging gutters (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/fast-fixes-common-gutter-problems/), missing bricks from the front steps, or lawn tools rusting in the bushes. It makes even the professionals question what else hasn’t been taken care of.

“A house is worth less if the maintenance isn’t done,” Lucco says. “Those little things can add up and be a very big detractor. When people say, ‘I’d buy it if it weren’t for all the deferred maintenance (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/value-home-maintenance/),’ what they’re really saying is, ‘I’d still buy it if you reduce the price.'”

Georgia-based freelance writer Pat Curry has covered housing and real estate for consumer and trade publications for more than a decade, including covering new home sales and marketing for BUILDER, the magazine of the National Association of Home Builders.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

For assistance with Short Sales, traditional sales, or purchasing your dream home, don’t hesitate to call Steve and Christi Durflinger at 925-708-0006.  You can also visit our website at www.TeamDurf.com or email us at Christi@TeamDurf.com

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