There’s no question that the Internet has been a boon to home buyers, sellers, and owners.

But while you can view property online – and may even make an offer for a piece of property sight unseen – seeing it in person, instead of on a desktop or laptop computer, can be an entirely different experience.

If prospective buyers decide to look at your house in person, they will probably do a “drive-by” showing, which lasts approximately six seconds as they slowly drive from lot line to lot line. The buyers will decide, in those six seconds, whether your house is worth the effort to stop the car and walk the property. Or, whether it is worth setting up an appointment to see the interior of the house.

Which is why, if you hope to sell your house this spring, you should start your spring cleaning on the outside of your house.

You’ve got six seconds to get the buyer to “Wow!” And if your house doesn’t sparkle, you could lose a potential offer and not even know it.

Start by taking out a notebook and pen walking around the exterior of your property. Take a close look at the exterior cladding on your house. Does your brickwork need tuckpointing? Does the wood trim or siding need to be repainted or restained? Does your siding need to be powerwashed? Does your stucco need painting?

Next, look at your windows. After a long, dirty winter, they probably need to be washed and cleaned. The screens need to be washed or brushed, so that they’re less dirty. If you have storm windows up on the house, take them down and wash them as well.

Why wash windows? Even a minute layer of dirt on the windows cuts down on the amount of light they let into your house. And, when you look through windows, dirt and grime can make it difficult to see the view. Also, dirty windows send the wrong message to your buyer about what kind of maintenance you’ve been performing on the property.

Step back from the property and take a look at your roof. Did winter storms cause any damage to the shingles? Are any nails popping out? Do you need to replace any shingles? If you had a leak over the winter, be sure to get that fixed before you put your property on the market.

And, if you haven’t had your chimney cleaned in the last few years, you may want to have that done while you’re working on cleaning up the rest of your exterior.

Now it’s time to walk to the curb and see how your house will look to a prospective buyer doing one of those “drive-by” showings.

If you can’t say that your yard is among the top three in the neighborhood, you’ve got a problem. Having a great lawn isn’t quite enough to attract the kind of attention you want. What you need to do is upgrade your landscaping enough to make sure it shines from every angle. A gorgeous front and back garden will ensure that your house gets put on every buyer’s list of properties to see.

Make sure you set aside enough time and money to do the job right. You can spend $500 to $1,000 to get a good gardening company to come in and do a thorough clean-up of the winter garden debris, edge out your flower beds, spread a new layer of mulch (to give the planting beds a uniform look) and trim back your bushes. For about double that, the landscapers should be able to turnover your soil, plant colorful annuals, and even plant a few fabulous containers or hanging baskets.

Don’t forget the exterior of your home includes your driveway. If yours is asphalt, consider having it seal-coated so that it has that dark, well-maintained look. If your driveway or sidewalk is badly cracked, price out the cost of fixing or replacing the broken concrete.

Finally, don’t forget to take a look at your deck, patio or porch. If the screens on your porch have holes, replace it with fresh screening. Make sure the porch is swept clean and ready to be used.

Give your deck, and any playground equipment on the property, another coating of water-repellant sealer. You’ll also want to make sure any loose boards are nailed or screwed back into place. Replace broken or cracked bricks on your patio so it has a smooth appearance.

Finally, if your patio, deck or porch furniture is in bad shape, give it away and buy a new set. It’s an investment that will show off your exterior rooms, and you get to take it with you after you close.

May 3, 2005.