9 cheap ways to improve your home’s curb appeal
6. Fill in empty spaces in the yard
Look for gaps in your beds and borders and fill them with annual flowers, Gilmer says. It's generally a good idea to buy larger flowers, unless you have time to wait for them to grow. Replace any plants that aren't doing well.
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If you're using large, potted plants to cover up eyesores such as an ugly wall or utility line, Gilmer recommends placing the purchased plant and its container directly into a large, empty pot rather than actually planting it in the pot. "Sometimes, those kinds of plants can die for no particular reason, and then you are stuck with that eyesore," she says. "It's better to just take the nursery container out and put another one in."
7. Use plants in cool colors, and keep them low-maintenance
Gilmer says that many people will react in a visceral, emotional way to hot colors, such as reds and yellows, and that it's best to stick with a cool palette. Use blues, purples, light pinks and whites. Those colors will also make the home look cooler in the summer.
Have a color theme going into your curb-appeal planning, says Lance Walheim, the gardening expert for Bayer Advanced Lawn and Garden products. "Go with all one color or complementary colors," he says.
Gimler agrees: "One of the things you don't want to do is do mixed colors. It's better to plant six pink petunias than a mixed flat of petunias. That makes a disorganized riot of color and does not say 'peaceful' to the eye."
Accordingly, keep your plants simple. A homebuyer will misinterpret a specialized plant choice as high-maintenance, and "today's homeowners are not as geared for gardens as they used to be," Gilmer says.
Cost-saving tip: Gilmer says big-box home-improvement stores often sell plats of plants almost at cost because they're set on selling you the soil and fences to go with them. But you must know what you're looking for. "Sometimes, if you don't know your plants, you might pick up the wrong thing," she says.
If you're not sure what you need to buy, try your local nursery instead. "The nursery is going to have the knowledgeable experts working there," Vail says. "Free design advice is practically priceless."
8. Mow, trim, prune and weed
A manicured lawn and weeded garden beds send a strong, positive message to the buyer. "This gesture shows you care and take pride in your home," Vail says. "The translation in the buyer's mind is that the whole house must be well-cared-for, too."
Walheim says a little thinning of the trees and shrubs will open up the house and make the good areas more visible. "There is nothing worse than a house that looks overgrown," he says.
Gilmer recommends doing away with any personal garden art. "Everyone has a different idea of what looks good," she says. "You're better off reducing to meat-and-potatoes plants and lawn."
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9. Give your yard a nightlife
Add some path lighting that highlights the best plants in your yard. "You never know when people are going to drive by," Walheim says.
Housing-market spotlight: Deals in Salt Lake City? Try the suburbs
Homes in Salt Lake City are still priced reasonably, but most of the biggest bargains were snatched up between 2009 and 2011, real-estate agent Leslye Stratton says.
February home sales in Salt Lake County, which includes the city, were up 18% over February 2011. The more than 800 sales mark the highest total in the past five years, according to the Salt Lake Board of Realtors. Pending sales were up 23% from the previous year. February also represented the ninth consecutive month of rising sales.
Inventory in February was down 13% from January, and Stratton says buyers are battling for the homes that are available.
"We are finding homes are selling very close to asking price, and in many cases they are selling above, as buyers are determined to get the home they really want and therefore have their agent implement an escalation clause to bid above the highest competitive buyer," she says.
Buyers who are intent on finding a "deal" should head to the suburbs.
"There are still bargains to be had in far-reaching markets" outside the city, Stratton says. "Those cities are still experiencing decreases in selling prices. Foreclosures and short sales are still available."
There are some short sales within the city limits, but "as you move farther out to the suburbs, the short sales increase with each mile," Stratton says. "The suburbs have had the most short sales and foreclosures: South Jordan, West Jordan, Herriman, Daybreak, Tooele, to name just a few."
In the downtown core, the fastest-selling properties are condos, Stratton says. The influx of condo buyers is largely thanks to a new high-end, mixed-use development, City Creek. People are buying that development's condos, which are selling for between $400 and $800 per square foot, but buyers are also snatching up condos nearby, where prices have gone up recently but are still low compared with City Creek.
"The average buyer is able to find a great condo in the same area for a fraction of the cost of buying with the City Creek project," she says. "One stands to make a good investment buying now."
Even high-end homes in Salt Lake City are selling quickly, particularly in highly desired neighborhoods such as The Avenues, Stratton says.
As in any competitive market, buyers should get all their documentation ready before submitting an offer.
"Properties are selling so quickly, and you might lose your opportunity to obtain that house if others have done their homework and you are still waiting" on preapproval, Stratton says.
Some first-time buyers may qualify for 100% financing through a Utah Housing Corp. program, if the Federal Housing Administration has approved the property.
Although buyers may not be able to find homes that are "steals," most homes in Salt Lake City would still be considered good deals, Stratton says. "The prices are still good, and the interest rates are historically low," she says. "Our market has picked up so quickly, as buyers know they can still buy a nice home and have an affordable mortgage."
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