Buyers buy neighborhoods and they start assessing value based on what they see as they approach your property. Nice looking homes that are situated on blighted blocks are a hard sell while rough houses on great blocks attract buyers.
In general, your neighborhood is what it is. That said it is often worth the money to pay for some gardening/general cleanup of adjacent properties when selling your home if those properties will distract or turn off potential buyers. Often poorly maintained properties are rentals with landlords who are all too happy for free gardening. If you don’t have a good relationship with those neighbors, ask your real estate agent to break the ice or coordinate a cleanup.
Look at your own property from the perspective of a buyer. Stand across the street and take photos that include the neighboring homes. It’s natural to become oblivious to dead or overgrown plants, a cracked window, or missing shutter you were going to replace last year.
Start at the top by having old television antennas removed, repairing vents and dormers, and having gutters and downspouts repaired.
If needed, have the home gently power washed to remove dust and grime without striping the paint. Should the home need repainting (see Exterior Paint), power washing will likely be included as part of the painters prep work.
Repair broken or cracked windows. Unless you really need them, remove and store window screens and make sure windows are sparkling clean inside and out.
Porch lights, sconces, and post lights should be thoroughly cleaned. Touch up old weathered fixture with heat resistant paint and replace light bulbs with matching warm bulbs.
Landscaping should be addressed as soon as you are planning to sell. Avoid heavy pruning and trimming if this will expose branchy under growth that will take a season or more to green up.
Avoid planting flowers that won’t get watered and plant colorful grasses instead. Grasses are more likely to hold up with sporadic watering and give you more coverage for the expense.
Power wash all patios, sidewalks, walkways, driveways, and decks. Take precautions if you are doing this yourself. The pressure on even the wimpiest power washer can cause damage. Standing back and using a broad sweeping washer head will give you best results. Work top to bottom and from the house out away from the house.
Remove excess clutter from patios and decks. These areas should be furnished with outdoor seating and planters with colorful grasses where appropriate. Well staged outdoor seating areas add visual square footage to your home.
Planting beds should have a fresh thick layer of mulch. Avoid red bark, hairy gorilla bark, or anything else that doesn’t look like it came from nature. I prefer forest floor mulch which is dark dirt brown.
Approaching the front door should be a welcoming experience along a well-defined path. I advise erring on the side of formality when creating your entry approach. All buyers want to feel like they are buying up so formal is the safe bet. When possible, modify entry paths that are in a straight line from the front door to the street.
If an entry redesign is not in the budget, use planters filled with drought-tolerant plants to infringe on to the walkway.
The front door should be refinished or painted if worn or dull. Inexpensive or broken door hardware should be replaced and graphite used on squeaky hinges.
Replace the doormat with something new. Depending the shape and scale of the entrance, I use oversized mats (use carpet tape to combine two or more mats) or outdoor rugs and runners.