When you’re preparing to list your home for sale, expenses can escalate quickly. Some people embark on major kitchen and bathroom renovations (a study from Royal LePage found it can increase your home value as much as 12.5 percent). Others hire professional painters and douse their moody walls in bright white paint to freshen the place up. You may want to bring in a professional home stager to demonstrate the maximum potential of each room to prospective buyers. Experts commonly suggest spending a minimum of $2,000 to $5,000 to get your house ready (don’t worry, you should make it back when the offers start rolling in).

By the time you get to the exterior, you may not have time or resources left to keep up with the Joneses. The good news? Toronto-based realtor Tom Storey from Royal LePage doesn’t think you have to spend a fortune to boost your curb appeal. “It will maybe get people excited but they’re not going to buy the house unless they like the inside,” he said. “The outside helps but the inside is still where you should spend most of your money before going to the exterior.”

That said, the front of your house has the potential to make a great first impression (or not). Here, Storey shares his top tips for improving your exterior when you’re in a pinch — and without hiring a landscaper.

Paint your front door a bold colour.

Photo: Valeriia Bugaiova on Unsplash

A colourful front door can help you rise above the competition. “Giving the front door a bold yellow or red or black coat of paint will help it really stand out,” says Storey. “When people are going out and seeing 10 houses over the weekend, a buyer might say, ‘Well, what about the one with the yellow door where everything was done really nicely?’” One study actually found that a black door can net the seller an additional $6,271. You can also update the hardware for an instant refresh.

Clean up the yard.

Photo: Shika Chan on Unsplash

We all know you should declutter the interior of your home before an open house, but have you also decluttered the yard? Scan for anything lying around that doesn’t have to be there: Toys, the broken lawn mower, garden tools, renovation materials, unused planters and dying plants. If you’re selling in the spring or summer, lay down seed to ensure the grass looks lush, do some weeding, and mow the lawn. “I’m sure the kid next door will cut your grass for 15 bucks,” says Storey with a laugh.

Additionally, you’d be amazed at the impact a power washer can have to make your pathways, deck and driveway look brand new.

Add potted plants and flowers to the porch.

Photo: buckeyehome/Instagram 

Before you list your home, run to your local nursery and invest in a few potted flowers and plants. They’ll add colour and interest, while also drawing attention away from potential eyesores. There are plants and flowers for every season but be sure to ask the garden center staff what the ideal lighting conditions are to avoid dead greenery at your open house. If you’re working with a small footprint, you can also pick up a few hanging planters to maximize vertical space.

Stage the exterior — but don’t go overboard.

Photo: 111DesignCo/Instagram 

“All you really need on the front porch are two nice chairs with some hanging plants,” says Storey. “I don’t think you have to go over the top.” Even condo balconies get light staging. “A staged balcony isn’t going to be the reason someone buys the condo but if they’ve got 10 to choose from, and you can show your space in a better light than everyone else, it could certainly help,” he says. If you’re using furniture you already own, be sure to clean off the grit and grime of the elements and add some decorative pillows to make the furnishings pop.

Add decorative touches.

Photo: farmhousefanatics/Instagram 

Investing in a wreath for the front door, a new mailbox and beautiful ceramic pots will show pride of ownership, but also make the house feel lived-in. “You can walk through a lot of properties, and they are brand new and look amazing but they feel kind of sterile, like no one’s ever lived there,” says Storey. “It’s gorgeous but it just doesn’t feel like a home. I think adding those little accent pieces or knickknacks can definitely make a difference to help buyers see themselves in that space.”

If you can, invest in new windows.

Photo: James Bombales 

While buyers might not notice new windows at first glance, they will help you get a larger return on investment when it’s time to sell. The Royal LePage study found that eco-upgrades like new windows and smart heating systems can increase your home’s value as much as 10 percent. “Even though it’s an expense, new windows are way more energy efficient and, long-term, that’s good ROI on your house,” says Storey. “And when you sell it, you’ll get that money back.”

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