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Is Your Home’s Street Appeal Drive Buy or Drive Bye?


Tracey McLeod, founder of Presentation Sells, looks at whether the ‘front of  house’ presentation is working for your real estate.

When property professionals talk about curb appeal, they are referring to how a buyer will assess the desirability of your home for sale from the street.  What they don’t always tell you is that they will make a decision to ‘drive bye’ or ‘drive buy’*.  

It’s the difference between the potential buyer cruising on by or coming in to inspect.

And it takes about 7 seconds.

PS Street View of Home For Sale

Is Your Home Drive Buy or Drive Bye?

Getting Started

Firstly, it’s wise to have a professional building and pest inspection prior to tackling any home improvements for sale.  The cost is a small price to pay to head off potential problems.  That way, you can decide whether to tackle the issues yourself or leave them for the new owner.

Secondly, look at your priorities:

  1. Safety from harm for adults and children entering your property;
  2. You, and your family’s safety before, during and after sale.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance cover and ensure that licensed professionals are used.  This is not the time for ‘mates rates’ and dubious qualifications.

Now, let’s create a ‘hit list’ of the improvements that should be made and in what order of importance.

The Yellow House Test

As a home seller, how do you make the most of these precious seconds?

Instead of giving you a long ‘laundry list’ of to-dos, you can identify and list the possible trouble spots in the yellow house photo below and decide which cosmetic* improvements to make that will entice buyers in. *‘Cosmetic’ means superficial improvements that don’t include structural changes and don’t need prior approval.

That way, you can continue to apply a critical eye to your home for sale and to other homes in your price range.

PS Yellow House Exterior

Can you see the holes in this home’s curb appeal?

Hit List

Let’s walk across the street and assess the overall first impression of the house. Does it make you excited to come inside and view the home or does it need work?

We’ll start from the top with a hit list of the most obvious to-dos. See if you can find more yourself and add them in the comments below.

  • The roof needs cleaning and may need maintenance and/or replacement;
  • The guttering and chimney may need to be checked for blockages, etc;
  • Check the outdoor lighting and dispose of the leftover festive lights;
  • Use a professional trades person to fix any electrical wiring that may be unsafe;
  • House painting in a warm neutral colour;
  • Window cleaning;
  • Rethink furniture on patio. Is it necessary or does it add clutter to the space?
  • Add potted colour by the front door.
  • Remove hose from front of house;
  • Prune, mulch and fertilise garden;
  • Pressure clean pathway and front steps;
  • Keep smiling.

Order of Importance

Over a 10-year period, a survey of the top low-cost home improvements that added dollar value to homes for sale, was responded to by between 500 and 2,000 real estate agents across the US annually.  The findings from the survey provided a guide for thousands of home sellers in preparing their homes for sale.  The following list reflects the top low-cost home improvements that the real estate professionals recommended to home sellers.  Here we list only those related to ‘curb appeal’.

Cleaning and decluttering ranked as the top home improvement every year.  It was recommended by 99 per cent of the real estate professionals surveyed.

Cleaning and Clearing

If possible, clean the entire exterior of your home’s hard surfaces: roof, house, fence and driveway.  This removes dirt, grime, mildew and pollutants.

Get rid of anything that is not going to sell your home such as unused garden pots, hoses, car parts and rubbish bins.  Christmas lights are only cute in season.

When selling your home, cleaning adds to the aesthetic, the loveliness, and ultimately, the perceived value of your home.  Cleaning the roof makes your home look sleeker, it is your home’s crowning glory.  The front fence and front facade of the house signal to buyers what to expect once inside the home.

‘Shabby is as shabby does’, to badly paraphrase Forrest Gump.  Whether true or not, an unclean or uncleared front yard will suggest that other parts of the home need work.

Lighten and Brighten

Think from the inside out.  You want to lighten and brighten inside the home by removing obstacles outside the home.  Clean windows inside and out; remove or trim plants or other external obstacles that are not allowing light through the windows; repair and replace external lighting for evening photos, night viewings or drive-bys.

For best results, window cleaning should be done just a day or two before the professional real estate photos.

Repairs, Electrical and Plumbing

Roof repairs need to be done prior to selling if they have shown up in the building and pest report, so they might as well be done now.

It’s time to fix those dripping taps and make sure the sprinkler system and pool thingy are all working perfectly.  For those with pools or water features, malfunctions often seem perfectly timed to happen just before an open home viewing if not serviced beforehand. Just saying…


Prepare your yard to improve the curb appeal of your home and keep it ‘show ready’ while your home is on the market.  Add bark mulch, I love red cedar for a photo and street view ‘pop’.  Potted colour by the front door adds fun and directs buyers to the entry to your home.  Regular mowing is a must.

“A lawn that has not been mowed gives me the idea that the property has not been looked after”, home seller Ellen said to me after viewing other homes in her market.

When I’m not excited, I’m looking for what else is wrong… and I find plenty!”

It’s human nature to connect the dots. What do you want your dots to say?

House Painting

I know it sounds expensive, but house painting is in fact a great money spinner.  If you can’t paint the whole house, freshen up those parts that are most obvious.

Before: The house below looks darker and duller from the street and could go unnoticed.

PS Property for Sale House Front Before

House Before

Unable to paint the whole house exterior, these owners opt to paint only the entry portico. With the help of red cedar mulch,  it’s impossible not to notice the property as you drive by.

PS Property for Sale Front Yard After

After: Front yard with red cedar mulch

House Colours

In general, a colourful house exterior can be seen by buyers in one of three ways:

  • A small percentage will think it’s quaint.
  • Some will see it as an expensive painting ‘to-do’.
  • Others will ask for a discount, or make a low offer, or no offer.

Your goal is not to appeal to just a few buyers, it is to attract the largest pool of viewing buyers as possible.

Seen as one of the Top 5 Home Presentation Money Makers for Home Sellers, house painting’s return on investment makes it a worthwhile investment if your budget allows.

Getting It Sold

Simply put, selling your home in seven-seconds requires attention to detail and a commitment to doing what you need to do to prepare and present your home for sale. Here’s why The First Seven Seconds

*Term coined by Joanne Abrahams, Rave Re:view Home Staging & Redesign, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Pro Vision Image


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