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Making a Porch Appealing to Buyers

Market Ready

Q. How can I make my front porch more appealing to buyers?


A. It’s worth putting some extra effort into sprucing up the front porch, because potential buyers spend a lot of time there, chatting with real estate agents and waiting to get into the house during showings, says Cindy Shea, a vice president with Sotheby’s International Realty in the Hamptons.

“It’s about first impressions,” she said, noting that an unkempt porch is a poor introduction to your house. “I hate to say that it could kill someone’s interest in going inside the house, but it’s really the portal through which they’re going to enter, so it’s very, very important.”

Kimberly Renner, owner of the Austin, Tex., design and construction company the Renner Project, made a similar observation. “From a marketing standpoint, you know that potential buyers tend to linger outside the house and talk,” she said. “They stand at the curb and stare at the front of the house, talking about what they’ve just seen. You want to take full advantage of that.”

As a first step, Ms. Shea and Ms. Renner stress the importance of getting the front porch as clean as possible.

“One of the first things to consider is power-washing off any dirt or mold,” Ms. Shea said. “You want to have clean surfaces, especially after a long winter or a wet summer.”

If the paint is peeling, touch it up. “Look at the trim and the railings,” she added. “If they’re rotted, you might want to get rid of them.”

Ms. Renner’s list of essential basic maintenance also includes making sure the doorbell works, washing the windows and clearing away unused flowerpots. In addition, “make sure the porch light isn’t full of bugs,” she said. “These things are so familiar, you almost stop seeing them. But to have a nice, bright, sparkly light fixture, sparkly windows and pretty flowerpots is actually really important.”

Sellers should also consider replacing tired hardware, she says, as well as the house numbers and the mailbox. When selecting replacements, she notes, there’s an opportunity to update the look of the house. For a contemporary home, for instance, she suggests Design Within Reach’s crisp Neutra house numbers. For a traditional home, she recommends classic brass numbers from Restoration Hardware.

A fresh coat of high-gloss paint on the front door also goes a long way toward making the whole exterior look better, she says, adding that black is a “classy, safe” color choice in most situations.

To go beyond the basics, Ms. Shea and Ms. Renner recommend thinking about the porch as an outdoor room and adding furniture. For a durable outdoor rug, Ms. Renner suggests a woven floor mat from Chilewich. For seating, she likes Crate & Barrel wicker Summerlin rocking chairs or West Elm outdoor Wood-Slat armchairs.

For the finishing touch, consider a large-scale planter. “One large pot with an abundant arrangement of flowers or one sculptural bush makes a better statement than multiple small ones that clutter up the steps,” Ms. Renner said.

The reward for all the work, Ms. Shea said, is a porch that can help seduce buyers: “As they stand there, it’s creating that first feeling.”