Curb appeal is the overall attractiveness of the exterior of your home. The more attractive your home appears, the better the first impression. Whether you are preparing to sell or planning to stay in your home for years to come, ensuring your home has great curb appeal will always pay off.

If you are selling, curb appeal can be the difference between a potential buyer wanting to see the inside of your home and deciding that it’s not worth the effort. Improving your home’s exterior reassures the buyer that you’ve taken care of the property, and sets an expectation for what’s inside.

Not selling? You still want to pay attention to your home’s curb appeal. The look of your home and the attractiveness of your neighborhood overall, help maintain values for everyone. Now that warm weather is here, spend some time focusing on your home’s curb appeal.

An attractive yard

Keep the lawn neat, trimmed, and free of weeds. Trim or replace overgrown, tired looking shrubs. Make sure that the landscaping extends all the way to the street. Add seating areas, grouped plantings, and ornamental trees to break up an endless, boring lawn. Make sure the borders of your planted areas are well-defined, either with sharp, trenched edges or stone borders. Use fresh mulch to make plant beds look new. Give the mailbox a fresh coat of paint. Get rid of any distracting clutter.

Emphasize pathways

Make sure that pathways from the driveway or from the street to the house are well defined for approaching guests. Concrete walkways are a basic choice, whereas natural stone pavers can give the path a more organic feel. Try to choose a material that complements the exterior of your home. Make sure that walkways are well lit, particularly if the slope of your yard requires steps in the path.

Don’t ignore the driveway

If the old driveway is crumbling and full of weeds, consider resurfacing. Try pavers or stamped concrete in place of regular concrete. Make sure the garage door is freshly painted and doesn’t sag.

Make your entryway inviting

Your front door should match the style of your house. Replace worn door handles and locks. Swap outworn outdoor light fixtures (hang wall-mounted lights above eye level to reduce glare). Update house numbers so they can be seen easily from the street. Make the front door a focal point by framing it with attractive containers containing colorful seasonal plants.

Consider more expensive changes if necessary

New windows can make a huge difference in your home’s curb appeal. Choose windows that match the style of your house. Check that your roof is in good shape and free of mold. Your home’s exterior should be fresh and clean. Touch up exterior trim and paint if necessary. New windows, some siding, and roof materials qualify for the home improvement tax credits that are available through 2010. These credits can help offset some of the expense of the improvement.

Keep your curb-appeal plan simple. A few careful touches in the right places can ensure a beautiful home for everyone to enjoy.