How do you avoid spending a fortune on home improvements this real estate season? Rather than remodeling your interior, focus on exterior landscaping choices. You want buyers to “wow” at your home from the moment they drive up. That’s how curb appeal clinches the deal. Here are some tips on money-saving curb appeal projects:

(1) Refresh with paint.

To brighten your home, look at how you can use paint to revitalize the exterior. You can either focus on specific areas -- front door, trim, shutters and other accent areas -- or you can redo the siding in a new color. If you choose to focus on accent projects, do this on the weekend and spend about $25 to $50 per gallon on paint. If you decide to paint the siding, it will cost a bit more and might be best left to professionals. Painting your home exterior will probably cost between $1,500 and $3,600.

A less expensive project is to have your home professionally power-washed to remove all that grime, dust and debris from winter. Power or pressure washing your home generally costs between $200 and $400 when you hire a professional.

(2) Utilize ground cover plants.

When you’re revitalizing your landscape, you have two options. You can either create new garden beds or focus on what’s already there. One alternative to new garden beds is ground cover plants. They’re low and dense, and they come in a wide variety of colors. You can plant them almost anywhere, and they can cover dead spots or replace shrubs that have seen better days. The cost of ground cover plants starts at about $20 per plant. Some species of ground cover you can choose from include:

  • Moss
  • Bugleweed
  • Lamium
  • Snow on the Mountain
  • Periwinkle
  • Woolly thyme

(3) Install a fence.

Many buyers will find appeal in a home with a fence -- either in the front or backyard. If you haven’t installed a fence around your backyard, now would be a good time to do so. Installing a fence costs about $1,400 to $4,000, depending on the material, style and square footage. There are many materials to choose from: wood, vinyl and metal, for example. If you want to go the extra mile and enclose your front yard, picket fences are very popular -- and they won’t detract from the visual appeal.

If you want to add privacy to the front landscape without a fence, you can also add shrubs. If you plant shrubs in varying heights, you can achieve privacy without detracting from the landscape. The cost of the shrubs will probably be between $20 and $30 per bush, depending on their height. (For related reading, see article: Landscaping On A Budget.)

(4) Add outdoor lighting.

Think about landscape lighting for nighttime appeal. It is a great way to accent certain parts of your home -- trees, flower beds, the front porch, etc. -- without spending too much on electricity. You can buy solar-powered outdoor lights. For security reasons, landscape lighting comes in handy until you sell as well. You can find various types of exterior lighting at local home improvement stores for around $20 to start. If you want to spend a little extra money on wired outdoor lighting, you can call an electrician and have lamps installed.

(5) Inspect gutters and downspouts.

Gutters and downspouts are critical to the appeal of your home. After the harsh winter, you need to check them for leaks, breaks or other problems. If your home has old gutters and downspouts, there’s a good chance ice dams and packed snow did a lot of damage. You don’t want the siding or roof damaged by moisture. So instead, make any repairs necessary ahead of a walkthrough or sale. The cost to repair them will probably be about $250, depending on the extent of the damage. (For related reading on the home inspection process, see article: The 5 Most Overlooked Problems In A Home Inspection.)

(6) Check the roof.

Akin to the gutters and downspouts, a roof in poor condition will detract from buyer appeal. Buyers don’t want to see a roof with shingles falling off, tiles missing, or metal dented. You don’t want a buyer to walk away because you didn’t take the time to repair the roof. The cost might be anywhere from $300 to $550, depending on the damage. If you have a shingle roof, you might be able to do some of the repairs yourself, like replacing the shingles or tiles.

The Bottom Line

Low-cost projects to increase your home's curb appeal could ensure that your home makes a good first impression on prospective buyers, and will probably increase the likelihood of a successful home sale. (For related reading, see article: 6 Tips For Selling Your Home Fast.)

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