If you're worried about the recent decline in home values, you could take a passive approach, and wait for the real estate market to rebound. Another option is to improve the value of your home by giving it an exterior sprucing up.

Nothing entices buyers like the outside appearance of your home. A house's curb appeal will weigh heavily on their buying decision. An improvement now can result in thousands of dollars in savings on your next home sale. To ensure that your home has plenty of exterior appeal, consider making these improvements:

1. New color: A simple way to improve the look of your home is to give it a new color. If you have wood or aluminum siding, you can paint the exterior; this home improvement move that can significantly increase your equity, especially if you do it yourself. If your home is 15 to 20 years old, consider replacing its siding or exterior. This could require a second mortgage to finance the repairs, but it will improve the appearance and overall structure of the home.

2. Change the roofline: Aging roofs with peeling shingles should be replaced simply to protect the interior of your home from water damage. Changes to the roofline, such as the addition of a dormer, can also transform the look of your home, creating variety, or adding a cottage feel to the overall appearance.

3. Brighten your light: Dingy old light fixtures date your home and give it a rundown appearance. By replacing some of the more decrepit fixtures, you can add a dash of modern or classic styling to your exterior. Little details like these catch the eyes of prospective buyers. Fortunately, there are plenty of good-looking fixtures at reasonable prices.

4. Landscaping and gardening: Adding colorful flowers and attractive landscaping can be a tremendous equity builder. Growing a garden is satisfying, and can be relatively inexpensive, too. You'll spend the bulk of your money upfront on the flowers, but if you choose perennials, this won't be an annual expenditure. Landscape variations, such as berms, hedges, and trees, add variety and detail to your property. Stone paths or ponds add aesthetic appeal that can make an emotional connection with a prospective buyer.

5. Lawncare: A healthy lawn is a given for most homeowners, but there are people who tend to neglect their green space. For a minimal investment, you can lay down weed killer and fertilizer, and also aerate your lawn to keep the soil healthy and nutrient rich. If neglected, your lawn can become overrun with weeds and turn into a real eyesore, a definite negative for a prospective buyer.

Don't take sagging home values sitting down. By making improvements to the exterior of your home, you can make a home's first impression a deciding factor when it's time to sell it. Spruce up your home's exterior, and your home's value will improve, as well.

    Published on May 29, 2008