Monday, November 5, 2012

Ten Tips to Improve Your Autumn Curb Appeal

A home on the market needs to look good all year long.
This home looks friendly, despite bare branches and dormant grass. 

Instead of calling it “curb appeal,” I’m going to call it “front yard glamour.” Sound sexier?

Whatever you call it, the front of your home is the king pin of home staging.

Even though it’s now November, and I hope your home sells very soon, I like to plan ahead. That means thinking ahead to spring.

Once spring begins, the real estate market picks up quickly after slowing down for the winter holidays. So, spring’s when you want your front yard looking absolutely stunning! Planning ahead can make it happen. Here’s how:

Tidy Up the Grounds

If you do nothing else, and before you do anything else, remove debris from around your home. Get rid of what’s accumulated from previous seasons. There might be things like plants felled by frost, tree limbs left from autumn storms, papers and leaves that have blown into the yard, shrubs that have died. 

Already, you’ve made a huge difference!

Salvage What You Want

If you’re a gardener, selling a home and moving gets complicated, because you’ll want to take some plants with you to your next home. Fall is the time to divide those perennials like hostas, ferns, irises, and daylilies, to pot them up or store them in peat moss to make the move with you. You can also collect seeds from plants you love, and dig up tender bulbs and tubers from cannas, gladiolas, lilies, dahlias, caladiums, and elephant ears. 
 
Put Away Signs of Summer

Give your yard an up-to-the-minute look by putting into storage empty flower pots, fountains, summer sports equipment, cushions, hoses, pool toys, and umbrellas. I like to leave out some outdoor furniture so buyers are reminded of outdoor features like a patio, porch, or deck.

If you have a bare spot in the lawn where a kiddie pool was all summer, can you convert it to a fire pit? If your flower boxes are empty, can you fill them with evergreen boughs?   

If you live where winters are severe, you’ll winterize your pool. If you live where winters are warm, leaving a pool uncovered provides an outdoor focal point that’s a selling feature to most buyers, but only if you are willing to maintain it through the winter.

Most pools are situated behind a house, but sometimes they are still visible from the street. 
This home in Florida is located on the Intracoastal Waterway, 
so the pool is part of a different kind of curb appeal, or "canal appeal." 

Prune and Prune Some More

While there’s still some foliage on shrubbery and trees is a good time to prune. You’ll be able to spot any dead or diseased branches, making sensible pruning easier. 

Keep shrubs from crowding walkways. Keep them from blocking views from inside the house. Prune them back hard if they are getting leggy. Prune them so they’re wider at the bottom than at the top, so that sunlight can reach lower branches.   
  
Plug in Some Bulbs

Autumn’s the time to purchase and plant bulbs that will bloom in the spring. You can buy them locally at nurseries, garden centers and big box stores, but I like to get mine from a long-established company like Terra Ceia or Brecks where I know I’ll get my money’s worth in large and healthy bulbs.

Plan right, and there will be something blooming every month, possibly beginning even as early as February with plants such as snowdrops and narcissi. And squirrels don't like either of these bulbs. You will thank me for this advice, and you are welcome!   

They don't call them Snow Crocus for nothing! These small but welcome beauties
will bloom through snow-covered ground. Photo: White Flower Farm.  

Top Dress Your Beds

Mulch is to your landscape what paint is to your home’s interior – the quickest and cheapest way to make everything else look better!

Whatever you use for mulch -- wood chips or bark, compost, or pine straw -- get out there and refresh it. If your mulch is stone, gravel, or rocks, make sure it’s free of weeds and other junk. I don’t recommend cocoa hulls because they are toxic to pets, and I don’t recommend cypress because harvesting it can deplete cypress swamps.  

Stone works well as a mulch when there are enough plantings to keep the yard interesting. 

Plant and Transplant Shrubs

Any plant requires frequent watering when it’s just settling in. That’s why planting shrubs in the fall makes more sense than in springtime, when the warmer weather makes more demands on a plant.

Planting now gives any new small trees or shrubs a chance to establish their root systems before the ground cools during the winter. And you might get better deals on prices in the fall than in the spring.


Test Your Soil

I know it sounds geeky, but a soil test will let you know how to fertilize your lawn and ornamental areas, and what plants will thrive where you live.

Did you know that we homeowners typically over-use chemicals on our yards and gardens? Save money and save the environment by using only what your soil needs. Start by testing your soil.

Most US states offers this service for a small fee, as a function of your local county extension service. Here’s more information on soil testing:

Aerate Your Lawn

One thing the serious turf aficionados talk about is aeration. What it amounts to is putting lots of holes in the lawn -- holes that are not easily visible but allow the lawn to perk better. Aerating a lawn lets water, fertilizers, and air to move into the soil to encourage healthier grass. The opposite of an aerated lawn is a compacted lawn and we all know how that looks – bare! If you have compacted areas due to foot traffic, create a path of stepping stones to protect the lawn.

If your lawn is a warm season grass, aeration should be done in the spring. Cool season grass? Do it now. Here is more information on aeration.

Taking care of business now, in the fall, will pay off in the spring
with an enviable, lush lawn that buyers are bound to notice.

Fertilize the Soil

This one is a little trickier than the others, because when you fertilize depends on where you live, what kind of grass you have, and what else you are growing.

Best bet: check with dependable sources of information for your area, not people with vested interests such as chemical salesmen and lawn services. State universities and colleges, especially agricultural colleges, will give you impartial and current advice, so go to the websites for the these institutions in your state.

The Wrap:

Now that your front yard is uncluttered and clean (just like your home’s interior) you can bring out a little winter decor. Maybe a solar-heated birdbath would enliven the front yard. If you live where winters aren't severe, you may be able to introduce winter color with annuals like pansies and flowering kale. And for the ultimate touch of front yard glamour, don’t forget to give a nod to the season with a front door winter wreath, maybe one you've made yourself from rags, or pine cones

This autumn grapevine wreath can quickly re-invent itself as a Christmas wreath once I 
replace the orange berry garland with some seasonal picks, greenery, or a big red bow. 


My $5 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, includes one entire chapter on exterior home staging. If you have a home on the market, you can't afford to be without it. I guarantee it will help you sell your home! 


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