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6 easy ways to spruce up your home's curb appeal in fall

Julie Belcher

"When it comes to buying and selling a home, the final months of the year present some unique advantages in the marketplace - think less competition and highly-motivated buyers," according to Maureen Moran of Chicago Dream Home.

And while you may feel like giving curb appeal a pass in autumn (afterall, leaves are falling everywhere and it gets dark practically the second the kids get off the school bus), it's actually even more important in a lower-traffic real estate season. "Make the most of the season by staging your home so that it's warm, cozy, and inviting for homebuyers," Trulia advised.

Not sure where to start? Here are six worthy curb appeal projects for fall:

Tidy up

Keep the leaves raked and the gutters clean. Prospective buyers are envisioning your house as their own. Don't remind them that your home involves outdoor chores or let your yard give the impression that you haven't taken good care of the rest of the house.

Tie a ribbon around a pumpkin for a simple outdoor display. (Contributed by Fynes Designs/For the AJC)

Create an updated display complete with pumpkin

While you don't want to go overboard, a clean and pretty fall display is a great way to get folks looking at the front of your house. One popular project that's simple and screams "fall" is a wood crate used as a shadow box for a pumpkin festooned with a ribbon. "Add a straw bale or two for a look that's pure country comfort. You can almost smell the pumpkin pie in the oven!" enthused the designers at Bob Vila's website.

Beautify with a window box

"Despite the charms of the season, many homes aren't exactly showing at their best during fall," Realty ToolKit noted. Their instant curb appeal solution? A window box with a combo of violas, trailing ivy and tall, colorful snapdragons that will flower through early autumn. "Remember the container garden rule of thumb: thriller, filler and spiller," according to the Toolkit article. "Choose an eye-catching thriller to showcase, an attractive filler plant to keep the container from looking too sparse and a vine or trailing plant to spill over the side."

And don't skimp.

"You'll be using mostly annuals for quick color, so you don't need to be as concerned about leaving enough room for the plants to spread. A window box filled to bursting with lush plants should be visible from the street."

Consider painting the exterior

Those with chipping paint or a 1970s color scheme should call the pros ASAP for new exterior paint, according to Trulia. The good news: pros are more readily available in autumn. The better news: according to Trulia, you can expect a return on investment of 60 to 100 percent with exterior paint, and this investment in curb appeal can help homes sell for as much as ten percent more than others on the block. 

Add (or enhance) outdoor lights

If you look at the challenge optimistically, shorter days in autumn mean you get extra value from adding the outdoor lighting that can boost curb appeal. According to Popular Mechanics, a good option are lights that lead to your entryway to guide potential buyers after dusk and emphasize your home's safety. "Soft exterior lighting also makes your home appear more inviting and friendly, and it can emphasize landscaping and any other features you want to call out to anyone approaching your front door." 

They also recommended solar lights for sidewalks and paths. "They don't require running electrical cable or the use of extension cords, don't use any electricity from the house, and are easy to install - you just stick them in the ground." Solar lights also give off just the right ambient light without being too bright, and will usually run for at least six hours after a full day of charging.

Cool fall temps are perfect for a DIY project like bordering the driveway. (Contributed by Gregs Landscaping/FLIKR/For the AJC)

Install a border along the driveway

Sure, you're wrangling with damp ground and fallen leaves cluttering up the landscape, but you also get cooler temperatures for working on quick DIY projects that will boost your curb appeal.

According to Popular Mechanics, installing a border along the driveway gives it a crisp, elegant look. "Edging materials such as bricks, pavers and stone, or a combination of them, bring a boring asphalt slab to life with color, texture and decorative designs. The edging can be level with the driveway or elevated to prevent people from driving onto your lawn."

You can install edging pretty easily by removing a swatch of grass the width of your edging along both sides of the driveway and digging down the depth of your edging plus 2 inches. Fill in with a level 2-inch sand base and place the edging on top of the sand. Depending on the type of masonry edging, you may need to sweep sand over the top to fill in the joints.