Curb appeal, or can you tell a good house from its cover?

The term that the professionals use to describe how good a house looks from the outside is "curb appeal". Step outside and look at your house objectively. Judge how it looks compared to the other homes on the street. How does it rate?

Use the "Checklist of Condition of House" on page 107 of this book to remind you of the items that need to be fixed and set a budget. Isn't it funny how all those little things we have been meaning to do only get done when we're selling the house?

Ask yourself the following questions about the exterior of your property. Most of the items are fairly simple to correct.

• Does the woodwork need repainting or restraining? Remember, chipped and peeling paintwork spoils the look of a home, just as badly scuffed shoes ruins the appearance of a person. They both end up looking unkempt and sloppy!

•  Have you examined brickwork, stucco and stone for cracks? Cracked stonework is only attractive on ancient monuments; prospective buyers will not pay for blemishes!

•  Are the shingles sound and well preserved?

•  Have you checked and cleaned the eavestroughs?

•  Examine the front entrance — walkway, steps, porch, mailbox, door. Short of a welcome sign on the mat, make this a warm and welcoming experience.

•   Can all those brass fittings remember what it was like to be gleaming after an encounter with spit and polish?

•   Is the doorbell working, and can it be heard all over the house?

•  Are the windows clean and are there any broken panes?

•   Have you checked the condition of the storms and screens?

•   Are the lawn and garden well kept? Remember, a few annuals can add life and colour to a neglected garden!

•  Is the fence in good repair?

•   Are the pathways level? Are the paving stones free of cracks and do they need weeding?

•   Is garbage collecting outside the house?

•   Are the chimneys and brickwork in good repair?

•   Is any tuck-pointing needed?

•   Does the aluminum siding need steam cleaning?

•  Is the garage neat and tidy, and does the door work? We usually toss all those odds and ends we can't quite throw out into this catch-all. Well, unless you want to move them, toss them out now!

•   Weed the driveway and if necessary have it "black topped".

•   If your car is parked outside, wash it too. If only major cosmetic surgery can make it look good, park it around the corner!