Curb appeal is integral when selling a home, but when the trees are bare and the ground is covered in dirty snow, the winter months can make it very difficult to showcase your home's attractive landscaping.
But smart sellers know that taking extra steps to care for and present a home's exterior is a worthwhile investment, particularly during the real estate off-season.
There is one improvement you can make that will help boost your home's outdoor appeal no matter what the season: a deck.
When potential buyers visit your home in winter, they might not be able to envision how green and lovely your backyard will look come spring, but they will be able to see with their own eyes what a deck adds to the home's living space.
Decks, patios, sunrooms and porches have always been popular with homebuyers, but real estate agents say that too often these spaces are neglected or not used to their best advantage.
Yet outdoor improvements like a deck can significantly enhance your home's value and appeal.
In fact, at the time of resale, a deck will recoup about 73 percent of its original cost, according to "Cost vs. Value" in Remodeling Magazine.
"Anything that adds living space adds value, and the least expensive way to gain space is to build a deck or turn the one you have into an outdoor room by staging it so that it flows seamlessly with the rest of the house," said Mary Beth Harrison of The Harrison Group, a Dallas-based real estate agency.
"A great deck can set your home apart from others with the same interior floor plan or square footage, and deck additions typically add value when it comes time to sell."
The cooler temperatures of fall and early winter make the season a great time to add a deck to your home.
Or, if you already have a deck, enhance its appeal by adding simple touches and accessories that include:
• Staging a tiny deck or a rarely-used balcony off a master bedroom as a romantic getaway with cozy, cushioned seating and a raised fire pit.
• Adding designer style while safeguarding your deck with Latitudes Deck Stones, 16-inch interlocking square tiles made of natural slate or granite.
Deck stones provide an effective fire barrier that's an asset under fire pits or grills, or when used to create an outdoor kitchen.
• Lighting a deck to create a warm, welcoming mood for evening entertaining, as well as an important safety feature.
LED deck lighting kits, like those offered by Deckorators, are both practical and visually appealing.
• Incorporating deck railings into your design to add both safety and visual appeal.
Decorative railings with ornate balusters, post caps and post covers can give virtually any wood or composite lumber deck a distinctive look for a modest investment.
"More than ever before, people look at their decks as outdoor entertainment areas," said Chris Fox of Universal Forest Products, producer of Latitudes Composite decking and railing and Deckorators, a leader in decking railing systems and deck accessories.
"For some, it's a kitchen; for others, a living room. Decks can be party spaces or quiet retreats. With so many different types of deck materials, lighting, rail systems and decorative accents, it's possible to turn a plain deck into a fantastic outdoor living space."
"Potential home buyers always react positively to nice decks that look like a great place to hang out," said Harrison.
"From a buyer's perspective, if all else is equal, it's true that the home with the best deck wins."
Outdoor improvements like a deck can significantly enhance your home's value and appeal.