Glam the Front Door
Adding pizzazz to your home's front entrance is an easy, low-cost way to up your home's curb appeal. Try painting your door a pretty hue that coordinates with your home's color. "Make sure there is a contrast between the front door and the facade of the home," says Kristine Ginsberg, owner of Elite Staging and Redesign in Morris County, N.J. If your house is gray or white with black shutters, consider painting the front door red, she suggests. Other ways to beautify your home's exterior are adding appealing house numbers to your entrance and hanging a pretty wreath on the door. For extra pop, place a potted plant or two by the front entrance.
Approximate cost: A gallon of paint for the front door will cost as little as $25. Metal house numbers can be purchased for less than $4 each, while a potted mini evergreen like boxwood or a dwarf Alberta Spruce could run you less than $20.
Manicure the Lawn
Tending to your lawn is a do-it-yourself task that can add instant curb appeal to your home. Get out the lawn mower, cut the grass regularly and conquer those weeds. "I think it's always a great idea to edge your lawn for a professional look," Kristine suggests.
If you need to green your lawn in a hurry for an open house or for showings to potential buyers, you can spray your lawn with a green lawn spray paint that's especially formulated for grass, is nontoxic and is environmentally safe. You can do it yourself, or hire a professional lawn painting service.
Approximate cost: No cost to you, unless you bring in a professional to cut or green your lawn. If you artificially green your lawn on your own, you can get a quart of lawn paint, which covers up to 1,000 square feet, for less than $30. Lawn sprayers are available at a variety of price levels, but some are sold for less than $20.
Tend Those Beds
Groomed garden beds tell buyers that a home has been well maintained. Start out by weeding your planting beds and removing any debris. Buy a few bags of mulch and spread enough of it to cover the width and length of your home's front beds. The mulch will give your landscaping a fresh appearance and will keep weeds to a minimum while retaining moisture for your plants.
Try planting some annual flowers like pansies, black-eyed Susans, impatiens and petunias for quick and long-lasting color. The flowers can be bought already in bloom in low-cost flats of 12 to 48 flowers at garden and home improvement stores. "Annuals grow quickly, are inexpensive and bloom longer," Kristine says.
Consider planting brightly colored annuals in the spring and summer and plant flowers with autumn hues (reds, oranges and yellows) in the fall, suggests Joanna Seidler Farber, a Realtor associate with Davis Realtors in East Brunswick, N.J. "Changing it up every so often gives a fresh new feel and look," she adds.
Approximate cost: A 2-cubic-foot bag of mulch can be purchased for $3 or less. Online mulch calculators, like the one available from the National Gardening Association, will help you calculate how much mulch you need to purchase. Meanwhile, a flat of annuals could cost you less than $20, depending on the type of flowers purchased.
Wash Off Dirt
Turn the nozzle on your garden hose to its strongest setting and use the water to blast dirt and debris off sidewalks, your driveway and the front of your home. Be careful not to dislodge or get any water underneath your home's siding. You could rent a power washer at an extra cost, but you probably don't need to go to the trouble — a simple garden hose can do the job, and a power washer can be too powerful and could damage siding.
"If you do use a power washer, don't put it close to windows or doorways," suggests Stephen Boehler, owner of Mr. Handyman of NE Monmouth County in New Jersey. "The pressure can remove caulk and other materials sealing your home."
Cost: Absolutely nothing (minus the cost of water), if you use a garden hose. Renting a power washer will run you about $40 to $75 a day depending on your location and the quality of the equipment. If you'd like to purchase a pressure washer, there are various options available for between $120 and $150 at big home improvement stores.
Tidy Up the Driveway
Buyers won't be impressed by your garbage or recycling containers, so store those on the side of the house (preferably behind a bush, a small fence or a screen) or in the garage. Take care of minor cracks in your driveway by patching or resealing it yourself. Determine how much sealant you'll need by using the length and width of your driveway to calculate its square footage. Then match that up against the product's use recommendations. "Plan on getting 10 percent extra because some areas will absorb more than others," Stephen says. "You can always return unopened pails of sealer."
Stash your car in the driveway or down the block to give your driveway and the approach to your home a neater appearance.
Approximate cost: To DIY seal an average 1,000-square-foot asphalt driveway should cost about $100 to less than $150, depending on the quality of the sealant used.
Make the Windows Sparkle
Clean windows inside and out to make your home sparkle. If your home's windows tilt out, it's quite simple to wash exterior windows. Otherwise, you might need a friend or family member to steady a ladder while you do the work. Try washing outside windows by spraying them with a garden hose to remove dirt and cobwebs. Then sponge them down with a small amount of vinegar or detergent diluted in warm water and rinse. If you need to wash your windows from the outside and your windows don't tilt out, try using a long-handled brush.
Approximate cost: Next to nothing, if you wash the windows yourself. But if your windows are high up and you need to rent a ladder, a 14-foot ladder will cost about $25 to rent for four hours from a big-box home improvement store.
Update Light Fixtures
Removing builder-grade or outdated front door or garage light fixtures will instantly brighten your home's curb appeal. "This is often done by homeowners with a great success rate," Stephen says. "Make sure the breaker inside the electric panel is shut off for where the light is being installed." Before touching any wires, test them with a live-wire testing device, he suggests.
If you don't want to go to the expense of buying new light fixtures, you could try painting or spray-painting your old ones for a fraction of the cost. "If you have outdated light fixtures like 1980s gold, the quickest fix is to paint the light fixture black," says Cindy Lin, general manager/founder of Staged4More Home Staging in South San Francisco.
Approximate cost: A 12-ounce can of spray paint costs less than $8, while attractive wall-mounted exterior lights can be purchased for less than $30 each. A live-wire tester costs less than $20.
Trim Trees and Bushes
Your home needs to be visible from the curb in order to have curb appeal, so cut overgrown bushes and trees, removing branches that block walkways, windows, the driveway and views of the home from the street. "People need to see the front of the house," says Kristine.
Except for very large tree limbs, you most likely can use a pair of hedge or pruning shears for the job. If you don't have your own pair of shears, look into borrowing a set from a friend or neighbor to keep costs down.
Approximate cost: Nothing, if you own a pair of shears, have extra time or have friendly friends or neighbors. If you need to purchase your own shears, expect to pay between $10 and $50.