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Curb appeal even more important today

In normal market times, the National Association of Realtors says, 49 percent of buying decisions are based on curb appeal.

These are not normal times – in fact, some Realtors call current market conditions the “new normal.” Yet curb appeal is still of major importance, especially with so many houses for sale.

It’s unlikely to get you more money for your house. But it will get buyers’ eyes on your prize.

In effect, curb appeal is “outdoor staging,”. Even if the interior decor is Buckingham Palace-quality, no one will ever know if the place isn’t appealing from the street – because no one will ever ring the doorbell to see it.

“You need to pay attention to outside as well as the indoors,”.

Still, Marilou Buffum of Eichler & Moffly, Realtors in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood, who concentrates on Northwest Philadelphia properties, cautioned that curb appeal “depends upon what a buyer is looking for.”

“If you have an urban-oriented buyer, a house with a lovely lawn isn’t high on the list,” Buffum said. “Clean windows, paint that isn’t peeling, an attractive front door, nice plantings, leaves raked and the lawns mowed set the tone of what the buyer thinks the house should be.”

There are challenges to curb appeal everywhere.

“The city is the best place to live, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else,” said Prudential Fox & Roach agent Jeff Block, who focuses on the Center City real estate market. “But city properties do deal with unique curb-appeal issues. “One is simply windblown bags, wrappers and leaves,” he said. “You can sweep your sidewalk every day, but if the wind blows right before an appointment, the buyer doesn’t know that.”

Also affecting curb appeal may be the condition of neighboring houses.

“We deal mostly with townhouses and twins,” Block said, “so sellers can point their brick, paint their door and trim, and the house can look perfect. But it does not help if the attached house is beaten up.”

Said Buffum: “You have to look at your neighbor’s house when considering curb appeal. If there are issues, and you get along well with your neighbor, you might ask if they wouldn’t mind trimming hedges or cleaning their yards.”

In some cases, sellers have even paid to have the house next door painted, she said. “Remember, you are selling your neighborhood, not just your house.”

Among the easier-to-fix curb-appeal issues are the weeds that pop up between pavers on sidewalks and patios, said Weichert Realtors agent Carolyn L. Sabatelli. “Bushes should be trimmed neatly, and plant beds should be trimmed out,” she said. “If driveways are asphalt, they should be nice and clean, and, if needed, another coat of blacktop applied.”

Think mulch, agents say. Fresh dark mulch adorning even barren landscapes gives them a warmer look.

Except for when a property cries out for professional help, boosting curb appeal does not have to be expensive, Buffum said.

“A fresh coat of paint or windows washed and fixed don’t add up to much of an expense,” she said. “Will you get the money back on your investment? Not necessarily, but you are making your house more appealing to buyers,” she said. “It gives buyers the impression that you care.”

Some agents recommend having at-the-ready photos that show how your house looks in other, more colorful seasons. In fact, Buffum and other agents make booklets of such pictures and leave them inside the house for prospective buyers to see.