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Give your home Kerb Appeal

Before you put your home on the market, go outside and take a long, hard look at it from the road. The point of this exercise is that the view of the front of your house from this particular vantage point is the very first thing that potential buyers and estate agents are going to see, and first impressions are all-important at this stage.

Most people’s minds are made up in the first 10 or so seconds, so a scruffy, unkempt-looking exterior can literally make or break a deal. It doesn’t matter how beautifully designed and styled your interior is, because a buyer will usually take the outside of a house to be a mirror image of the inside, and making up that initial lost ground can be impossible.

Estate agents call this ‘kerb appeal’ and say there are certain things that make a property harder to sell. Pebble dash, cheap plastic window frames and crazy paving are all apparently guaranteed to make a buyer’s heart sink, as is the typical suburban, 1960s box-type house.

To achieve the very best price for your property, therefore, the view that provides instant kerb appeal must be made to look as appetising as possible ‘ and this need not be an expensive task. Turn over to find out how you can vamp up the exterior of your home for very little cost. All it takes is a bit of time, effort and forward planning.

Your front garden
Often a neglected spot, the front garden needs to give the impression of being cared for ‘ here are some quick fixes: Prune overhanging trees so windows into the house are clear and as much light as possible can flood in. Cut back straggling honeysuckle, roses and other shrubs leaving a neat shape, but don’t prune down to the wood or they’ll look bare. Weed the borders, taking out all dead and dying plants. Turn the earth so it looks freshly dug. Mow the lawn. Yes, it sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many vendors put their house on the market with the front lawn resembling an unkempt playing field. Visit the garden centre and buy a selection of cheap and cheerful bedding plants ‘ geraniums and busy Lizzies in summer, pansies in winter. Pot out in clusters in the garden, so there are lots of bright patches, or in flower pots and place in strategic spots, such as by the front gate. For instant colour, plant up a hanging basket and hang by the front door. Borrow a jet spray from a neighbour and hose down hard surfaces such as driveways and paths to remove all moss, weeds and other debris. Scrub away mildewed patches. If brickwork, pathways or tarmac in the garden look scruffy, or there’s lots of crazy paving around, go for an instant cover-up by pouring on bags of gravel ‘ it’s economical and a little goes a long way. Opt for bigger stones if there’s a likelihood of gravel being trampled into the house, as the small ones tend to stick to shoes. Make sure the garden gate opens easily and looks smart. A quick coat of paint and a check of the hinges to make sure they’re sound and don’t creak will all help to add to a positive first impression.

Outside your home
If the exterior looks a mess then you’ll give a bad impression before the buyer has even stepped over the threshold.

Here are some quick fixes:

Rub down and repaint the front door and polish all brass and silver door furniture to a shine. Favourite colours for front doors include deep blue, bottle green and black. Avoid pinks, oranges and purples ‘ they’re too personal a choice. Rub down and repaint peeling windowsills and other paintwork, filling any gaps with an exterior filler. Stick to classic colours (cream, white, pale blue and green) or shades that complement the period of your home (see the Traditional paint colour series from major manufacturers such as Crown and Dulux). If wood is bare, stain, rather than paint it. Repair broken or missing patches and cracks on rendered walls. Fill hairline cracks with a coat of exterior masonry paint. Again, it’s safest to choose conventional colours ‘ pastels such as pale blue and green are always popular, or stick to cream or white. Clear gutters and downpipes of leaves and debris so they don’t become blocked and cause flooding down the outside of a building. It’s a dirty job so wear old clothes and rubber gloves! Prevent further trouble by keeping leaves out with a wire mesh excluder (from DIY stores) fitted over the top of downpipes. Replace loose or missing pointing, as it can look scruffy and will eventually allow damp in. Most builders will charge from around ’50 per square metre for repointing but small areas are well within the means of the competent DIYer. Mend damaged flashing, as a surveyor will immediately pick up on problems with the chimney and dormer windows. Seal buckled or cracked flashing with a special bituminous paint or use a self-adhesive flashing tape, both available from DIY stores. Repair and replace broken or missing roof tiles. Again, this is an area that any surveyor is sure to examine in detail, so you want the roof to be in as good condition as possible. Clean the windows (and replace any cracked panes). It may sound basic, but sparkling windows give an immediate impression that the house has been treated well, whereas dusty, dirty panes not only block the light but look as if the owner doesn’t care about the property.

GIVE YOUR HOUSE A FACE LIFT

If you think your house is so unattractive that it won’t sell, or you have bought a property and loathe its dated facade, help is out there. There are loads of companies that can provide suggestions for an exterior makeover that’s one step beyond the quick-fixes we’ve outlined above.

However, their services do come at a price. Here are a few suggestions:

Back to Front Exterior Design will visit your home or work from photos to create a specialised plan (such as from red brick to New England style) for your property. Haddonstone specialises in classical architecture stonework. The Brick Centre supplies new and reclaimed bricks, matching them to your existing ones, and sells a paint that gives a weathered effect. For period doors and windows, both original and reproduction, there are a number of companies. Try Deacon & Sandys; The London Door Company or Turnburrys. Try your local salvage yard for original windows, doors, lintels, knobs and knockers, tiles and bricks. The Reclaimers – A Complete Guide to Salvage, by Sally Bevan, published by Hodder & Stoughton, price ’18.99, lists the names, addresses and phone numbers of all the yards in the UK, plus details of what they stock.

 

Ann Maurice says…
Having a home with a useable outdoor space can be like having an extra room ‘ especially when the weather is co-operating. In my home in Mexico, most of the entertaining I do is outdoors. It always seems much more festive to be dining al fresco.

Although the British weather is not always kind, there are still many sunny days and comfortable nights to enjoy the outdoors, so take advantage of your outdoor space and make the most of what you have. Even if your space is small, make sure that you have beautiful plantings surrounding you.

A comfortable dining table and chairs is a must. For entertaining after dark, have good, functional lighting for practicality, enhanced by candlelight for atmosphere. Think about investing in a portable gas heater so that you can use your outdoor space more often. Oh, and most importantly, don’t forget the music.

Here’s one of my favourite recipes for outdoor entertaining.

I like it because it can be made ahead of time and served chilled or even at room temperature. Enjoy!’

Ann Maurice’s Tangy noodles dish
Serves plenty!

1lb Chinese noodles

For the sauce

31’2 tbsp sesame oil 31’2 tbsp soy sauce (preferably dark soy sauce) 11’2 tbsp wine vinegar 1 tbsp hot chilli oil 1 to 2 tbsp sugar to taste Bring a large pot of water to the boil. When the water is boiling, add the noodles. Almost immediately turn off the flame. (How long you want to cook them is a matter of personal taste ‘ I like them al dente.) Drain, and run cold water over the noodles until they are chilled. In the meantime, mix all sauce ingredients together in a bowl, pour over the noodles and mix again, preferably with your hands. Add about 4 or 5 spring onions chopped into rings. For a hardier dish, toss in some cooked chicken or shrimp. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

This dish tastes even better if it is made the night before.

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