The number of houses for sale is beginning to increase, bidding wars are not as prevalent, and the housing sector is moving into what are normally the slower fall and winter months. So sellers need to be doing more to attract the attention of would-be buyers.
The place to start is at your front door -- or more precisely, the entire front of your house. Remember, while it may seem trite, it is still true: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
In other words, you don't want your prospects evaluating your house by its outside before they ever see the inside. Many buyers will drive right past houses that don't ignite their interest, moving on until they find one that does.
Sure, curb appeal is important at any time of year. But when the weather turns cold, the sun sets earlier and the wind starts to blow, it becomes somewhat more difficult to make your home stand out.
Sellers can take lots of steps to improve their home's looks. Some are expensive, like replacing your roof. But others are economical, like adding a few planters at the entrance.
Here are some ideas collected over the years, starting with the most costly:
-- Roofs play a major role when it comes to curb appeal, if only because they can represent up to 30% of what someone sees as they approach the house. But a roof is expensive to replace.
However, if your buyer has to replace your worn-out roof, it could be even more expensive in the long run. That's because most buyers tend to think these kinds of projects cost more than they actually do. And since they adjust their offers to reflect that, you could make out better by paying for the job yourself. Better yet, the cost may be deductible as a selling expense.
If you go this route, the folks at DaVinci Roofscapes suggest blending the color with that of other exterior elements to create a cohesive look.
-- Garage doors are another prominent feature, also taking up as much as a third of the facade. Sellers tend to ignore them, but buyers see them right away.
If yours is made of press-board that has absorbed more than its share of moisture, you might want to replace it with something more fashionable. According to trade magazine Remodeling, trading in a garage door results in almost a 94% return on cost -- the highest in the publication's latest cost-vs.-value study.
Absent that, a new coat of paint goes a long way. And while you're at it, throw some paint on your front door, decorative trim, millwork and window frames. That will help call attention to those small architectural details and make them stand out.
-- Replacing a front door can be costly, too. So how about just adding a decorative handle as a finishing touch to the new paint? Consider it icing on the cake, says Delaney Hardware.
-- Tidy up your yard, and keep it that way. The grass may not be green, but keep it trimmed. Ditto for flower beds: Yank out those weeds, edge the walk and driveway, pick up twigs and rake the leaves.
-- Since days are shorter and the sun goes down earlier, wash your windows -- inside and out -- so the lights from inside can shine. And make sure you are using maximum wattage bulbs.
Outside, turn on every light just before showings, day and night, to brighten the exterior. Add spotlights if you don't already have them. If your old fixtures don't sparkle, consider replacing them. And add a photo of everything lit up to your listing presentation.
-- Back at the front door, add some colorful cold-weather plants. Perhaps planters on the porch or stoop filled with dogwoods, heath, witch hazel or winterberry that crank up the visual impact. Or consider a tall, hardy winter grass.
Outdoor sculptures, orbs and birdbaths can do the same for your dormant flower and shrub beds.
-- Don't forget your backyard patio or deck. Visitors won't see them as they enter the house, but they will see them eventually as they tour the place. So treat them as the extension of the inside that they are.
Don't cover your outdoor furniture for winter; instead, setup your table and chairs as if it is still summer. For added effect, treat them as a vignette with waterproof pillows that accent your interior colors.
-- Safety is paramount. If you are in a snowy region, clear the walks and drive regularly so there is no ice or snow buildup. Buyers need a clear, safe path to your door. Wet leaves also can be a hazard, so clean them up, too.
When you are finished, put away your tools. Put away your garbage cans, too, and any toys. Except maybe a sled; lean that against the side of the house, and it becomes an alluring attraction for families with youngsters.