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For those without big budgets, curb appeal means lots of time weeding the lawn and trimming shrubbery. Plant lots of flowers, and put planters near the front door, agents say. “Mums are really good in the fall. They have bright colors and they’re hardy,” Johnson said.

Peterson hates red mulch. “Use a dark-colored mulch, dark brown or black,” she said.

Don’t let shrubbery overhang the walkway or sidewalk. Buyers react badly when they brush against wet shrubs.

“Check the deck,” Johnson said. Shaky steps and wobbly banisters are a turn-off and say the home needs repair. If there’s a nasty-looking fire hydrant on your curb, call the city. Maybe they’ll paint it.

Sidewalks crack, rise or sink depending on whether tree roots are growing underneath or water is washing away the support. The home owner can replace the slab. But if sinking is the problem, a “mud jacking” firm might just lift it back into place.

Buyers also will check out your neighbors, real estate agents say. They’ll notice the ratty junkmobile in the neighbor’s driveway, not to mention his overgrown lawn.

This requires diplomacy, and sometimes volunteer labor.

“One of my clients asked if he could go pull their weeds,” Peterson said.

©2013 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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