When you take away the lush lawn, the green shrubbery, and the colorful flowers that made your home look pretty all year, you can be left with wintertime curb appeal that's in the gutter.

It doesn't have to be so. 

Just because trees are bare and snow might be covering the ground is no reason your home has to look disappointing to buyers looking for their next home. You can master the challenge of perfect winter curb appeal with a few simple guidelines.

Check what's big

Probably most of what people see when they see your home from the curb is lawn. For much of the U.S., lawns aren't looking like a carpet of green velvet in winter. In fact, for many people, the ground is frozen and covered with snow for months.

Followed by mud season. Am I right?

Even if you have a lawn that is dormant all winter, it can still look attractive if you keep it edged, raked, and free from weeds. Depending on your type of grass and where you live, this could be a good time of year to reseed bare spots. But overseeding some varieties of turf in order to have a green lawn all winter can actually harm the grass that is dormant. Your County Extension Agent can give you advice about what's right for your winter lawn care.

Walk your property regularly and keep it picked up. Are papers blowing in from other yards? Are leaves still covering the grassy areas? Are there downed tree branches that need to be collected? Think the way a critical buyer would think.

The National Association of Realtors shows that 34% of people looking at homes are first-time homebuyers. These are the younger buyers that expect everything, especially a great first impression. How a front yard looks is a big part of that impression.

Wintertime buyers are serious buyers.
Don't believe that the selling season
stalls when the days grow short.

Time to go bold

Make a statement with your outdoor decor this winter. Rather than decorating your entrance and yard with an assortment of the usual holiday trappings, create a single focal point that's one-of-a-kind.

Here are some ways your house can be the one that home buyers remember.

Plant a single, large, handsome planter with an assortment of the plants that can thrive through winters where you live. Keep them pruned and watered to make them standout specimens. If you live where winters are mild, you can add colorful blooming plants to the mix.

Stage your front door so it knocks the socks off visitors. Visit my Pinterest Board for "Front Doors That Welcome" to get new ideas.

Something distinctive will set your
home apart from your competition.
Think outside the box.
Lay down a welcome mat that's super-sized and colorful. Choose something other than the usual off-the-shelf doormat. If your front entrance is protected, you can use almost any style of outdoor rug as long as it stays flat and in place.

Emphasize what's special about your neck of the woods the way my friend Ethel did when she constructed her fisherman Santa for her porch. Ask yourself what's unique about your locale or house and decorate your snowman, angel or Santa accordingly. A bit of whimsy will give your home personality.

Don't be that homeowner who adds a scattering of insignificant outdoor decorations, hoping to distract potential buyers from the bleak and chilly weather and make your house look more appealing. If you overdo the decorations, buyers might not notice some of your home's important selling features.

While 35% of remodeling projects involve the entire home, staging your home for sale shouldn't require extensive remodeling that may not return your investment. At holiday time invest instead in one or two statement pieces you can take with you when you move. 

Replace clutter with simplicity

People are naturally attracted to simple settings. It's reassuring to see an organized and uncluttered space. Keeping your front entryway simple and clean is the best way to make buyers have confidence in the property rather than have them wonder what kind of people live such messy lives.

A winter-themed wreath will
look good through all
the months of cold weather.
Put a fresh eye on your exterior entrance. Have a schedule for sweeping away leaves and mud. Keep boots and snow shovels tucked out of sight. Consider adding a fresh coat of paint to your front door and adding a simple wreath that will carry you past end-of-year holidays and through the rest of winter.

If you've had photos taken of your home for your real estate listing, you probably tidied up around the property. Now you need to keep up the good work.

Place garbage receptacles and recycling bins out of sight. If you are storing a utility trailer, a boat, an RV, or an unused vehicle in view from the front of your home, it's time to find storage space offsite or in the back of the house. The same goes for summer toys like wading pools, bikes, beach toys, and camping gear. However, outdoor furniture that's designed to withstand the elements can sometimes be a part of outdoor staging during winter.

Not everyone wants to maintain a large garden, whether it's for flowers or vegetables. If your home is on the market, winter is a good time to scale back on what looks like extra work for the next homeowner. You can convert extra garden space to mulched areas, so in spring the buyer can reseed, lay sod, install a swing set or pool, make a dog run, or plant the garden they really want.

Less is more when it comes to seasonal outdoor decor. Staged homes need simple embellishments that are both tasteful and visually bold. Whether you're putting up decorations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday, make them match the style of your home -- contemporary, historic, eclectic, mid-century, farmhouse, traditional, or whatever.

Practice safe selling

Pathways need to be clear and slip-proof.
Ideally, home buyers can walk all
around the outside of your
home, even with snow on the ground.
Be sure your home is safe for people coming to view it. Because they aren't regular visitors, buyers are unaware of any unlevel surfaces or other oddities where people normally walk.

Shovel and sand your pathways so they are visible and free from ice or snow. Double check them before a scheduled viewing to be sure they aren't slippery.

Now is a good time to fix any outdoor hazards, the things you've ignored because you're used to them. Adjust any uneven stepping stones that can trip someone. Patch sidewalk cracks that are hazardous. Hire a handyman to set right that wobbly handrail. Use some fast-patch cement or Gorilla Glue to fix that loose brick on your front steps. Screw down loose floorboards on the porch or deck.

Statistics show that homeowners spend an average of 1% to 4% of their home's value on maintenance and repairs each year, so don't think you are wasting money with these simple fixes. It's normal and expected. Investing even a little cash into your home before you sell can make a big difference.

Curb appeal is more important than ever in the colder months. With bare trees, brown turf, and the possibility of snow and slush, it can be difficult to make your home look aesthetically pleasing. But wintertime can be a profitable time to sell your home, so review my four-point formula to see if your winter curb appeal can be improved to make buyers feel warm and welcome.

For more tips on how to prepare your home for sale, no matter what the season, download my home staging ebooks and get ready to attract buyers!