When the time comes to sell a house, homeowners are often advised to consider their home’s “curb appeal.” That umbrella term encompasses a range of factors.

“Curb appeal refers to the features of a house that really catch your eye – how the house draws you in and makes you want to go inside,” says Tina Winn, a Realtor in Long & Foster’s Grove sales office.

A house’s exterior merits attention all the time, not just when it’s up for sale.

“Right now, because we’re all spending so much time at home, you want to feel good about the space you’re in,” Winn says. “People get their houses ready for market and step back and say, “Oh gosh, I wish I would have done this a long time ago.’ But there’s no need to wait. Now is the time to make your house the place you’ve always wanted it to be.”

Plus, Winn says, it’s easier to make small changes in sequence rather than tackle years of lapsed upkeep and maintenance.

“Regular home maintenance will not only keep your home looking good, it will save you money in the long run,” she notes. “If you get your trim painted and prevent wood exposure, you avoid having to replace the trim. The same applies with all regular home maintenance.”

Here’s where to start:

Overall House Presentation
Make House Repairs First

“This is a great time to walk around the house and look at places that need attention,” Winn says. Homeowners might assume washing the house’s exterior should come first, but cracks or exposed wood can lead to additional damage from water. Repairs come first. “Spend time looking at these things and get them addressed,” Winn says.

Then, consider what you’re willing and able to do. “If you need to repaint, it’s smart to do it all at once, especially if you’re doing the same color on the door and the shutters,” Winn says. “If you can do both, it makes a big difference. At least try to do the trim around the door, and the threshold. If you paint the shutters, but not the door, the door can look drab by comparison.”

Front Door

Repainting the front door is the easiest way to make a statement. “Even if you’re on a tight budget, just changing the front door color can be a huge game-changer,” Winn says.

Houses located in historic districts or in neighborhoods with homeowners’ associations might be subject to color restrictions, so look for guidelines before paint is purchased. Winn recalls hearing how out-of-state purchasers selected a bright yellow for a building in Richmond’s Shockoe Slip. But the color wasn’t on the historic district’s approved list, so the owners had to repaint.

Even in historic districts, though, bold hues are available – you just have to know which ones.

“Lots of the historic colors are colors that pop,” Winn says. “Think of Charleston [S.C.] – most of the town is in historic district.”

Window & Shutters

As with the door, windows make a strong first impression. Start by washing them. “It makes a huge difference,” Winn says. “It’s such an easy thing that people can do that makes such a big impact.”

Next, the shutters. For most homes, shutters are purely decorative, so they should be appealing. Shutters that have obviously broken slats should be repaired or replaced. A fresh coat of paint will show nicely against the gleaming window glass. If possible, paint the window trim, too.

Fencing & Railings
Fencing along the sidewalk or the railing on the front porch also draw attention – whether negative or positive. If a homeowner pulls up the driveway and enters from a rear or side door, it can be easy to overlook wear on these house “accessories.”

Repaint Your Fencing and Railings

“Think about them as part of the entryway,” Winn says. “If you have a wooden or metal lamppost, address that, too. And the mailbox and the post. All of these pieces make up the whole, and you want the whole to look its best.”

Yard & Landscaping
Even though the house is the focal point, it’s important to consider the setting. Bushes and plantings should be tidy, and edging is a must, Winn says.

“Edging at least once a year is really important, at least around all the beds,” she says. “Plenty of people can do that on their own. Edge and spread fresh mulch once or twice a year. It shows you are keeping up with the work.”

Improving a home’s curb appeal is both a public and a private statement.

“It’s the first thing people see, and people form opinions immediately,” Winn notes. “A good initial impression will cause people to think the remainder of the house is well-kept. But it’s also something to do for yourself. It’s your home, and you’re the most important person going in and out. It’s great that other people can come and enjoy it, but, ultimately, you should be the one who’s happy.”