Cover story: Pay attention to 3 P’s of curb appeal

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Seven years ago, when Patricia Ebrahimi was planning to put her Virginia Beach home on the market, she gave herself a year to get everything ready to show potential buyers, and she didn’t forget the exterior.

“That home had been the builder’s model back in 1974, and the plantings hadn’t changed much since then, except grow,” says Ms. Ebrahimi, who has since moved into her great-grandparents’ Victorian home in Rockville.

“We pruned massively; I called TruGreen, and we ended up removing an ugly old evergreen at the corner of the lot and putting in a yucca instead,” she said. “We wanted to showcase the house like nobody’s business.”

Of course, not all homeowners have a year to ready their homes for sale. Some want to strike when the market is hottest, during the peak summer months, when home sales are at their height. Curb appeal is important in any season, but in summer, with the easy availability of annuals and potted plants, it doesn’t take much to make the exterior of your home look so good it will stop traffic - and get those potential buyers inside your front door.

Today, Ms. Ebrahimi has parlayed her love for art, color and space into her own business, Show-Smart! Home Staging. Over the years, she has made more than a few houses “bloom” inside and out for potential buyers. (She even had one divorcing couple decide to give their marriage - and their home - another go after seeing their home’s potential once Ms. Ebrahimi had staged it for sale.)

Her Virginia Beach house, which was expected to bring $375,000, eventually sold for $490,000 in the summer of 2005.

And at a time when the Internet has become increasingly important - the National Association of Realtors estimates that 90 percent of potential buyers consult the Internet first - good-looking photographs are key, both inside and out.

“You can’t ever list anything without pictures anymore,” Ms. Ebrahimi said. “If you don’t have them, buyers think there’s something wrong.”

There’s no better way to make a home’s exterior look good than with a clean look and a splash of color.

“When people are standing at the door waiting for the Realtor to unlock it, they’re looking around,” said Karen Trainor, chairman of the board of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and manager of Weichert, Realtor’s Ashburn office. “That’s your chance.”

So if you are preparing to put your house on the market this summer, here are some helpful tips to spruce up the outside of your home - even if it means ripping out that old evergreen.

Begin with the “three P’s”: pruning, painting and plants.

First, get out your pruning shears and get ready to cut back what can be decades’ worth of old growth. Many longtime homeowners are so familiar with their own space that they don’t realize the shrubs blocking the front windows and growing past the roofline can look unsightly to people who are envisioning themselves in the space. Just remember, it’s not really your space anymore.

“People need to disassociate themselves from the house,” Ms. Ebrahimi said. “It’s a product now that you’ve got to ready for sale. If you were selling a car, you’d spend money detailing it. You have to do the same sort of thing for the house.”

Keeping plant growth at least a foot away from siding also can help guard against mold growth.

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