Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sellers, It's Your Front Door!

The real estate market is coming back—over the last week or so I have probably been in and out of 25 homes with several groups of buyers, and I must say, today’s sellers are neither very tidy nor all that conscious of the “first impression” that we all talk about. 

You don’t get a second chance to make a “first impression”. Some homes make a very poor first impression. These are homes with a very uninviting front door, or homes where you had to skirt the gas meter or sidle around garbage cans to get into the home. In one case a house where there was such a bewildering array of doors, you weren't sure which one to knock at.

Picture yourself as my customer, at the front door, while I am getting the door unlocked. My clients are noticing the door paint is peeling or the lockset hardware is rusty, or worse, it’s loose. The front entrance is seldom high on a seller's remodeling priority, yet, just like that old saw about first impressions, it's the home's entrance that people notice first. It's practically impossible to rectify a bad impression made at the front door.

Customers actually say, “I hope it’s nicer inside than this.”  Or, “looks like they didn’t take care of this one.”
Newer homes built by tract homebuilders usually have more money and energy spent on the front door than elsewhere in the home. Because builders who know their buyers care about first impression--even in the cheapest house--they rarely cut corners on the front door. They know that a strong impression of quality here subtly colors a visitor's perception of the whole house.

For hundreds of years colonists, architects and builders have spent time on their front entrances, which are a focal point of a home's design. In colonial New England, for example, the front door was often flanked by sidelights and topped by a pediment, setting it apart from an otherwise austere facade.

Certain design elements are hard to adjust, for example, a narrow lot does not lend itself to a garage opening to the side, so the “snorkel-house” (the one with the garage sticking out toward the street) has become popular in Florida, but really, the entrance should also be clearly apparent from the street. That doesn't mean it has to be glaringly exposed to view just that an unfamiliar passerby should easily deduce its location. Architects call this principle "demarcation."

There are lots of subtle ways to demarcate a front entrance. The most common is to surround the door with an architectural form such as a pediment or other type of trim. Another traditional strategy places the door in a recess, on a projection, or under a roofed porch. You can find a well-known example of the latter on the back of a $20 bill.

If you’re selling, here are some thoughts for your own grand entrance:
  • Stand on you own entry porch area and look around with special emphasis on the door.  A quart or two of paint can correct a world of hurt from the front door. Don't be afraid to invest in a new door lockset hardware, there’s a lot to say about new shiny doorknob and key locks.
  • Trim back any natural vegetation that might be overgrowing the entry. And if you must bring the path to the front door past utilities such as gas or electric meters, or past unsightly storage areas for trash or the like, consider a couple of sheets of plastic fence or lattice installed to hide the utilities. Keep these kinds of features out of the buyer's line of sight.
  • If you have a covered entrance porch, be sure it’s clean and free of mud wasps, spider webs and any general mess.  A pressure wash will correct most of this, but even a garden hose and a broom will do the job.
  • Lastly, if your house has several doors facing the street, make sure your front approach directs your visitors toward the main entrance. Do this with welcoming geranium flowerpots—or similar--or even a small welcome flag. Your front door may seem obvious to you, but, hey, you live there.
Dane Hahn is a real estate professional serving Charlotte and Sarasota Counties in Florida, he can be reached at or by phone at 941-681-0312. See him on the web at

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