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Every dollar counts when you're deciding whether or not to sell your home. When you're thinking about selling, there are a ton of variables to consider: You need to assess the needs of a buyer in your market, and specifically, a buyer for your product type. There are also a lot of factors that will weigh on your potential profits that are outside of your control: macro-economic forces such as interest rates and employment growth, inventory levels against which you'll be competing, and local school system performance trends, just to name a few.

While there are many market forces that are outside of your control, as a seller, there are actions you can take to improve the profitability of your home sale regardless of macro-level factors. If you play your cards right, you can get your home sold quickly, efficiently, and for the highest possible profit.

One of the elements that is entirely within your control as a seller is the* curb appeal of your home*. First impressions are extremely important, and you have the opportunity to help your home make an immediate impression on a potential buyer. If you take a strategic approach to boosting your home's curb appeal before listing it for sale, you can achieve outsized returns on your investment! Even the smallest changes can make a big impact.

So where should you start?

First, build a "model" of your ideal buyer in your mind.

Who will be the person most likely to purchase your home? Is your home located in a neighborhood that attracts a lot of investors and/or landlords, or does your home sit in a community that is largely owner-occupied? In terms of your local area, is your home geared toward a "starter home" demographic, or will it appeal to a higher-end, more established audience?

Understanding your most probable buyer is crucial at an early stage, so you can make the curb-appeal improvements that will be most attractive to your target audience. For example: an investor will probably see more value in mid-grade durable fixtures that will last through many sets of future tenants with minimal wear and tear, whereas an established affluent family will likely prefer to move into a home that feels "complete" with all the accoutrements they would expect at that price point. While an owner-occupant may love the idea of marble countertops in the kitchen, an investor would see the maintenance expenses and abbreviated lifespan of marble countertops as a liability that could stifle their return on investment.

In order to determine what curb-appeal improvements will drive the best results for your property, you'll first want to get into the mindset of the target audience for a home like yours, so take some time to think through it, do some research on your market, and tailor your approach to match the needs of the audience you intend to attract.

Next, determine a budget for repairs and improvements.

In order to maximize the return on your investment when selling your home, you'll want to get a firm understanding of your budget…and stick to it!

You'll need to consider the sales price you want to achieve from your home and determine what amount of cash you're comfortable investing to achieve that price. Take a look at your liquid assets, allocate a specific dollar amount toward renovations and improvements, and don't spend more than you are comfortable investing. In the same way that your home is an investment, any money that you spend on improving its curb appeal should be viewed as an investment. Crunch the numbers on the ROI of any planned renovations, and make sure you don't end up spending $10,000 on a new custom patio if it will only boost the value of your property by $5,000. Take extra care to measure the return on investment before engaging in significant value-add projects, and consult with a professional before taking the plunge with any major renovation plans.

If you're not sure how much you should budget, talk to your real estate agent and see if they have any recommendations based on their experience. Better yet, you could reach out to a local property management company to ask for recommendations—chances are, they'd love to establish a relationship with you and would be more than willing to offer some free advice.

Property managers often help their clients with value-add renovation projects and have access to reliable contractors they could refer you to; they will also be a good resource for up-to-date information about material and labor pricing in your market. The costs of materials (paint, wood, stone, and hardware) along with the costs of labor can vary significantly between different geographic markets, so we recommend getting a second (or third) opinion if possible. In order to set your budget, you need a baseline estimate of how much you'll need to spend to accomplish the improvements you envision.

Finally, take a walk outside your house and look for the basics.

Check out the front exterior of your home, take a critical look at your yard, and look for areas of improvement. If you've been living in your house for a long time, chances are you've gotten used to the little "quirks" that a prospective buyer may not be so fond of. If you already have a real estate agent, this would be a great activity to get them involved in so you can get a professional opinion that is more objective and not colored by years (or decades!) of memories at your home. A second set of eyes can be very valuable!

Try to take a critical stance and put yourself in the mindset of a discerning buyer. If you can put your own emotions aside and take into consideration the emotional impact on the buyer, you can find great opportunities to cost-effectively boost your curb appeal and add value to your home.

Before you get into the larger-scale value-add projects, you should first take care of the essentials that will appeal to a wide audience. Get back to the basics!

Here are 10 cost-effective ways to instantly boost your home's curb appeal

  1. Enhance your landscaping

Beyond the basics like making sure your lawn is freshly mowed, you can take your curb appeal to the next level with some tactical landscaping. Trim your shrubs, shape your hedges, lay down some fresh mulch, and consider adding some fresh greenery by placing some planters around your entrance way.

  1. Clean up the front!

Take an opportunity to de-clutter your exterior space and make a great first impression on your future buyers. Use a pressure washer to clean up your walkway, make sure your gutters are clean, and remove any debris from the exterior that may have accumulated over time.

  1. Make sure your windows are crystal clear and clean.

Fortunately, it doesn't cost anything to clean your windows! But it does make a big impact. Make sure you've cleaned all your windows prior to taking photos for a listing or conducting a tour, so your home can make the best first impression.

  1. Add a pop of color to your front door

You can make a big first impression with a freshly painted front door. And the good news: it doesn't cost very much at all! Find a color that compliments your exterior while providing a nice element of contrast to give your façade some more visual depth. A 2018 study of over 135,000 listing photos indicated that the color of your front door can impact your sales price by up to $6000!

  1. Upgrade your front entrance lighting

Exterior light fixtures can be a great way to highlight a warm entryway and add some extra character. One great option is to install exterior lanterns framing the entrance on both sides of the front door.

  1. Let there be light!

Buyers often tour homes in the evening, since they are busy at work during the daylight hours. For these popular twilight tours, you'll want to make your house glow. Consider adding exterior spotlights which can add a stately appeal to your home, and you may also consider adding walkway lighting for an ambient entrance.

  1. Enhance your front door with new hardware.

You can add some charming character to your entrance with tasteful front door hardware. This is often overlooked, as locks are normally a utilitarian afterthought, so if you install quality architectural-grade hardware, it will stand out as a unique touch and will show the buyer that you've put a lot of care and attention into the finer details.

  1. Add some modern technology!

The modern buyer, whether an investor or a family looking for their dream home, cares about convenience and ease of use. There are plenty of high-tech options that can upgrade your front door, and they have become very affordable over the past few years. "Smart Locks" are a great option—you could boost your security while adding a nice layer of convenience. Speaking of security, you should also consider installing a video doorbell!

  1. Give your mailbox a face lift.

The mailbox is the first thing people see when they pull into your driveway, and it is also highly visible to every car that passes on the street. Put your best foot forward by installing a brand-new mailbox. Consider installing a mailbox with wrought iron posts for an elegant and timeless look that will last for many decades to come.

  1. Upgrade your garage door hardware

Replacing a garage door can cost a fortune! But the good news is that you can improve the appearance of your garage without the hassle of getting a new garage door installed. You can add some tasteful hardware upgrades for (much) less than $100. You can spruce up your garage door with faux antique-style hinges and handles. Pro tip: you could even use magnetic hinges and handles, and no one would know the difference!

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In order to provide our readers with the best possible advice and information, Clever features guest articles written by experienced subject matter experts from every corner of the real estate industry. If you would like to become a guest contributor, please email content@movewithclever.com

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