The way your home looks outside tells buyers what to expect inside. They may not be actually driving by, but they will still judge your home based on how it looks from "the curb." Today's curb is the Internet, where 44% of homebuyers shop for the next home.

Usually, I blog about making your interior rooms pretty. But let's be honest. Without taking care of the important exterior stuff like your roof, siding, and windows, those fluffy pillows and perfectly staged closets are like lipstick on a pig. (It's just an expression.😊 I'm not calling your house a pig!) 

Interestingly, in Remodeling Magazine's 2018 Cost Vs. Value Report, seven out of the top 10 home improvements that offer the highest returns, are exterior ones. 

Let's look at three of these outdoor upgrades, ones that promise impressive returns on your investment.  They are long-lasting improvements, making them the ones that home buyers value.  

Siding refresh

If your home's siding is in bad shape, you can bet that potential buyers will notice. Replacing problem siding can get pricey. Depending on where you live and the size and style of your home, prices vary widely, but the national average cost is around $15,000. However, this upgrade comes with a 76.7% ROI.

Wood siding should be painted every three to seven years. Stucco and fiber cement board need periodic re-coats as well. Put on your "buyer spectacles" and decide if your siding looks bad. When it appears chalky or shows signs of hairline cracks or fading, it's probably time for a repaint. Because all paints will fade or change color slowly with time, you can't count on touchups to hide problem spots. Paint makes your home look better, and it adds a layer that protects it from damage done by the sun and moisture. 

As a house painter myself, I have painted all kinds of exteriors, including brick, asbestos, vinyl, and aluminum, but these were cases where problems were extreme (No one wanted to buy that putrid green vinyl-sided house until it was painted yellow, the most popular house color). 

Sometimes cleaning is all that's needed to make siding look attractive again. Start with a simple hose-down. If mildew or accumulated dirt don't come off, a pressure wash should be the next step. With a rental sprayer and good instructions, this can be a DIY project.  

I never recommend DIY exterior painting unless you have the equipment, time, and experience. Even if your home is a small, one-story building, taking on the job yourself can be frustrating and counter-productive. Full-time professionals know the right products, all the equipment, and the know-how to give you a good finish. Ask around, and get reviews for local house painters. Tip: changing the color of your siding could cost more than staying with the same color, since a color change could require two coats of paint.    

Siding is most of what people see when they look at your
home, either IRL or virtually. The better it looks,
the better you look as a seller. Photo: Zillow 

Roof repairs

Smart buyers walk around a property and look up. They want to know that one of their first projects won't be replacing the roof. When the roof looks iffy, they may not want to go to the next step of paying for a home inspection. If they love your home, they may make an offer, and request a reduction based on the cost of a roof replacement. 

The most common roofing material in North America is asphalt shingles. In some areas of the US, tile or metal roofs are common, and these kinds of roofs need regular checks for damage. Because it's sometimes impossible to observe roof damage from the ground, you're smart to hire a home inspector (or maybe just a contractor or roofer) before listing.  

My experience as both a buyer and seller of homes is that aggressive negotiators will quote a price reduction that is more than what it will cost you to do repairs and replacements. In other words, it's probably cheaper to fix a problem roof before listing. It's one more thing you can brag about in your MLS facts. Also, that all-important profile photo of your home as well as any drone shots can show off your new roof. 

The good news is that the cost of replacing a roof averages over 68% ROI, which is pretty good considering what other home improvements return. Tip: do some research about what shingles give you the best value.

Upgraded windows and doors

A recent article in Kiplinger reported that 89% of buyers value energy-efficient homes.  Fortunately, window replacement can offer a handsome 72% payback when you sell. A front door replacement will return even more -- 91.3%. 

The trend in some markets is towards black trim and
sash on windows. If you decide to replace all your windows, 
this might be the way to go. Photo: Hawthorn Builders

Sparkling windows and a bright front door
are both important parts of good 
curb appeal. New styles make your home
look more contemporary and are easier to
keep clean. Photo: Morrison Developers 
New replacement windows reduce heating and cooling costs because of their improved insulation. They have features like tilt-in sashes and encased grills for easy window washing. And they can certainly modernize your home's exterior. If your windows are old, get some quotes for replacing them. For a typical 3-bedroom ranch house the job can be done in a day or two by an experienced crew. 

Tip: you don't have to buy the very high-end windows unless all the materials in your home are high-end and your likely buyer expects and is willing to pay for the quality. "Don't over-fix," is one rule of home improvement for resale.  

Sometimes the glass in a window, sliding patio door, French doors, or storm door gets cloudy over time. That happens when the double-pane (insulated) glass has lost the inert gas sealed between the two glass panes. You don't necessarily need a total replacement. Usually, a local glass company can remedy these situations by replacing just the glass. 

If your front door isn't showing serious signs of age, but you want to change the color or freshen it, I've blogged about how to paint a front door without removing it from its hinges, and how to choose a front door color. 

Nothing makes a home look more energy-smart than new windows
and new exterior doors. Their improved insulating qualities and 
up-to-date appearance are good buyer-bait. Photo: Zillow 

Get the look, get the book 

Considering that every day your home stays on the market is a day you pay carrying costs (mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance), it makes sense to do what it takes to make your home irresistible to buyers. Outside maintenance should come first. And then, have fun indoors deciding on wall art, tweaking your bookshelves, and doing some comparison price shopping for some stylish new furniture.   

You'll get all the encouragement and tips you need to make your home the one that stands out from the competition when you download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.

Top photo: Apartment Therapy