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Taking care of your home’s exterior and yard is always important, but when your house is up for sale in the spring, it’s even more crucial.

When prospective buyers visit a home in the winter, they’re not likely to spend much time outside. And with trees bare of leaves and flowers not in bloom, a little imagination is needed to envision the house during these months. But when spring arrives, it’s up to the owners to showcase their home’s springtime appeal.

Following these simple but effective steps can help the outside of your home create a good first impression.

Clean the yard. Even if you raked leaves in the fall, there’s an excellent chance you missed a few (or even a lot), or that neighbors’ leaves have made their way onto your property. Rake out all leaves and also clear out any twigs, trash or anything else that made its way onto your lawn.

Wash your house. This is something most homeowners should do more often. Cleaning a home’s exterior can make it look great and can also help prevent damage. You can use soap, water and a scrubber to wash away stains by hand. Also available are attachments for hoses that wash away dirt and debris. Perhaps most effective is cleaning with a power washer, though be sure to read the instructions carefully before using it. When cleaning the exterior, choose a warm day that isn’t windy, and cover windows, plants and shrubbery.

Clear the driveway and paths. This is important not only to keep a clean appearance, but for safety reasons, as well. Leaves, especially wet ones, on a driveway or walkway can lead to slips and falls. For the driveway, use a hose to wash away dirt and salt that have accumulated over the winter.

Clean the gutters. Gutters may not be visible to the casual visitor, but if they are overflowing with leaves and sticks, they stand out like a sore thumb. Clean gutters also are important in case people visit on a rainy day. Also make sure gutters are securely attached to the home.

Clean the patio area. This is not only visually pleasing, it also showcases your home’s backyard. Sweep the patio or hose it down if necessary. Take your patio furniture out of storage, clean it and set it up. If your patio furniture has seen better days, consider buying a new set. Set up the barbecue and fire pit, maybe even light a fire in the pit later in the afternoon. Investing in some outdoor plants and flowers is another nice touch. Also, be sure that bulbs in any outdoor fixtures are working.

Keeping your home’s exterior in tip-top shape can help set the stage for effective selling.