Tips to boost a home’s first impression

    Chris Berry poses for a portrait in front of his 6-color 1881 home on DuPage Street on May 23, 2016 in Elgin, Ill. Berry and his wife have been restoring the home since they bought it in 2012.  (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
    Chris Berry poses for a portrait in front of his 6-color 1881 home on DuPage Street on May 23, 2016 in Elgin, Ill. Berry and his wife have been restoring the home since they bought it in 2012. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

    Whether you plan to sell your house this year or after your last child leaves the nest, being a homeowner includes keeping the house in tip-top shape.
    Yes, you can boost your sale price by updating your kitchens and bathrooms, but buyers will never even see your home’s interior if the exterior scares them off.

    Every house needs curb appeal. You want your house to say “welcome” to prospective buyers

    BE OBJECTIVE

    “Step back and look at your house as though you’ve never seen it before,” said Chip Wade, host of HGTV’s “Elbow Room” and a home-improvement consultant for Liberty Mutual Insurance. “Even if you don’t use it, there should be a clearly defined path to your front door. After dark, the entry should have sufficient lighting. The address numerals should be visible and easy to read. If your front door needs to be replaced, now’s the time.”

    Buyers will notice if your house needs a new roof or siding. These are costly, but they can make or break the sale.

    Before you add a porch or portico to your house, read your city’s building rules and neighborhood covenants.

    ENLIST THE EXPERTS

    “We did a lot of the work ourselves,” said Chris Berry of the 19th-century house he and his wife, Rebekah, remodeled in Elgin, Ill. “But first, we got professional advice.”

    Before they bought paint, they hired a color specialist who helped them choose a set of colors that would have been used when the house was built. “And we hired a landscape designer to draft a plan that took summer and winter light into consideration, then planted the plants ourselves to save money,” Berry said.

    If you can’t afford the pros, take advantage of apps and manufacturers’ websites that let you post a photo of your house, then “paint” it different colors or add amenities.

    RESPECT THE HOUSE’S ORIGINS

    “Don’t fight the house’s original style,” said John Potter, architect with Morgante Wilson Architects in Evanston, Ill.

    When Potter designed a remodel of Renee and Garrick Lau’s 1896 Italianate house in Wilmette, he chose materials his predecessors would have used in the late 1800s.

    Potter kept the home’s original, wavy-glass windows. What they lack in energy efficiency, he said, they have in character.

    WEIGH COST VS. VALUE

    Before you embark on home improvements that will enhance your home’s curb appeal, consider how much money you’ll recoup when you sell the place. Remodeling magazine compiles an annual cost vs. value report.

    If you replace your unsightly front door, for example, you can recoup 72 percent of your cost if you get a fiberglass one or 101.8 percent if you buy one that’s steel. You’ll get 88.4 percent of your money back at resale if you buy a new garage door.

    A new roof costs about $19,528, said the report, but you’ll get 71.6 percent ($13,975) of that back at resale. Windows are costly, too, but yield a 72.9 percent payback if they’re vinyl and 78.8 percent if they’re wood.

    GREENBACKS FOR GREENERY

    There are two components to curb appeal — the house itself and the plants that give the property life.

    For the lush lawn that buyers want, consider a professional lawn service for fertilizing and weed control. Trim or replace foundation plants that hide the view of your house from the street. Edge the lawn for a tidy look.

    Post large planters on either side of the front door.

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