Paying regular attention to your abode’s exterior prevents cold shoulders from neighbors and keeps passersby from slamming on the brakes to stare at the eyesore.

More than cosmetics, a spiffy home protects a homeowner’s investment.

DIY builds equity

Do-it-yourself projects add curb appeal and sweat equity, giving homeowners the opportunity to use the savings on additional improvements, said Angela Klein Hughes, president of the Billings Association of Realtors.

Regular maintenance lessens additional stress when a homeowner has to sell a home because of unexpected job changes or life circumstances, she said.

“Then it’s go time and they end up spending a whole lot more money,” Klein Hughes said. “They have an eye-opening experience because (of) deferred maintenance.”

Matt Jansen, owner of Matt the Painter in Billings, recommends yearly repairs. Doing so deters potentially expensive structural issues later on, especially when missing shingles or cracked windows are promptly addressed.

Replace damaged window and door caulking that lets in moisture and insects, and if sprinklers are getting the house or garage wet, make adjustments to avert water damage.

Correct sagging gutters or damaged shutters, touch up deteriorating paint and replace burnt out bulbs. Seal cracks in the driveway and sidewalks, and repair or replace pavers. Pressure washing the home’s exterior and any outbuildings, driveway and sidewalks will make them look fresh.

For ideas that add curb appeal and instruction on repairs, visit Pinterest, how-to websites such as DIY Network and LifeHacker, or YouTube videos.

Call a professional

More complicated projects such as painting the home’s exterior are best left to professionals, Klein Hughes said.

Jansen says a home’s exterior should be inspected seven years after it was last painted, or earlier if the house is exposed to a lot of sun or painted green, blue or a dark color, which fades faster.

Starting with the house’s south side, look east and check the corners and substrate for damage, color discrepancies, checked or peeling paint. If the paint has faded, it’s a sign the product has broken down and needs a new coat.

Black mildew spots on the home’s north side are nothing to worry about as they are easy to clean.

Newer homes with HardiePlank-type siding can be painted every 10 years or more, while houses built in the 1970s and 1980s with Masonite siding should be inspected for wax bleeds, which require prepping with an oil-based primer to stop unsightly spotting.

“Just like your skin with suntan lotion … you want to seal and protect that underlying surface,” Jansen said.

Painting the front door a fun color, like the plum Klein Hughes recently added to her home, is quick and inexpensive, adding a lot of pop to a home’s front.

Landscaping adds edge

Mowing, fertilizing, watering and edging the lawn cost no more than elbow grease and a few hours to keep a home’s appearance fresh, said Andrew Marble, a landscape designer with Billings Nursery and Landscaping.

“It’s probably the best thing you can do,” Marble said. “It adds a crispness to the landscape.”

Pull weeds, trim shrubs, remove dead branches or plants and replace mulch. Identify shrubs and flowers that need transplanted; wait until spring to move them as hot weather can stress or kill the plants.

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“Those are quick, easy things to do that will add to your home’s curb appeal,” Marble said.

Approach landscape design with a light touch and leave enough space between plants to accommodate future growth. Overplanting leads to an unruly, messy look.

“Keep it simple and don’t overdo it or the landscape will look cluttered,” Klein Hughes said.

Design large yards with planting beds featuring a single perennial or landscape grass in groupings of five to 10 plants for an appealing, cohesive look. Keep in mind that the ideal landscape has diverse plantings to prevent the spread of disease, Marble said.

Hardscapes like porches and patios made from stamped, stained concrete or pavers invite people to enjoy themselves, while a berm, wall or fence adds drama to a long expanse of front lawn, Marble said.

Garden art enhances landscaping. An urn at the end of a path, a pair of Adirondack chairs, potted plants or a bench break up vegetation and natural lines. Rock features, such as boulders and walls, add texture and contrast when softened by foliage spilling over the edges.

A water element near the front door adds interest, and exterior lighting illuminates walkways and creates focal points for trees, shrubs and flowerbeds, Marble said.

Stage patios and front porches with tasteful, neutral décor, flexible enough that seasonally-themed items are an attractive addition. Promptly remove holiday decorations once the season has ended as those left past their prime detract from the home. Christmas lights abetted by the wind can cause damage to roofing, siding and painted exteriors.

Exterior appearance matters, whether a potential buyer drives by the home or sees it advertised. According to the National Association of Realtors, 97 percent of buyers look at homes online.

“A home with good curb appeal indicates there is pride of ownership, which typically means the interior is as well-maintained,” Klein Hughes said.

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