14 ways to make the most of your curb appeal

Curb appeal is the equivalent of charisma in a home.

It's that quality that makes you say "wow" when you first see it. You feel good when you pull into the driveway. You want to walk in the front door. Whether the home is yours or one you're considering, curb appeal can make a big difference in how you feel about the property.

If your home has that star quality, you won't have any trouble getting more for it than similar homes in the neighborhood. It also means you won't have any trouble getting potential buyers into the home.

It works the other way, too. "A lot of people won't go into a house if it looks bad from the outside," says Tom Silva, general contractor on the PBS series "This Old House" and "Ask This Old House." "Curb appeal is the beginning of getting people to look at the inside."

If your home doesn't shine, there are plenty of things you can do to unleash its charm.

Here are 14 ways to amp up the appeal of your home:
1.Manicure the yard.
2.Clean the windows, doors and front entryway.
3.Scope out the front door.
4.Don't skimp on flowers.
5.Pressure clean.
6.Talk to your friends.
7.Head for the trees.
8.Paint your house.
9.Call an arborist.
10.Reseal the driveway.
11.Examine the shutters.
12.Look for elements that draw too much attention.
13.Hire a professional designer.
14.Make a plan.

1. Manicure the yard. Some of the prime elements: Nurture and mow the lawn so it's trimmed and healthy. Make sure plant beds "are edged with nice, crisp edges, and mulched," says Roger Cook, landscape contractor for "This Old House" and "Ask This Old House." "It makes everything stand out. It gives the feeling that if the outside is being taken care of, maybe the inside is, too."

2. Clean the windows, doors and front entryway. Get rid of those spider webs on the light fixtures, shine any metal work and change all the bulbs. Visitors will notice whether the front of the home looks clean, even if it's on an unconscious level. And if everything is shined and bright, it's not only inviting but it signals that the rest of the home is well maintained.

3. Scope out the front door. It's one of the first things people will notice in a home, so make it count. But that doesn't mean you have to break the bank because there are good options at every price level. You can paint it for the cost of your time and a little paint or have it professionally replaced for $1,000 or more.

4. Don't skimp on flowers. "It's always nice to have flowers in front of the house," says Cook, whether it's hanging baskets, beds of annuals or both. "And, for some reason, people like red flowers better than anything else," he says.

5. Pressure clean. It can give a new appearance to walkways, driveways and (depending on the construction of your home) sometimes the house itself, says Cook. You can even rent the machinery and do it yourself.

6. Talk to your friends. "Get a fresh eye," says Silva. "You don't see something starting to look old or run-down because you see it so gradually." Bring in a couple of people you trust and ask their opinions.

7. Head for the trees. "Trees, planted in the proper spaces," can enhance the appeal and value of a home, says Cook. Consult a professional to help you select the variety, size and location. And if you want to plant larger trees, have them professionally installed.

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