Your Curb Appeal Essential Guide

by Hello Blue
February 13, 2020
Reading Time: 6 minutes

If curb appeal and landscaping had little impact on the sale price or marketing time of a home, most houses on the market would look identical, lacking style, personality, and charm. Each house would be constructed with the same easy-to-build floor and landscaping plans. Uniformity and boredom would reign supreme, and the concept of individuality would be unnecessary in terms of home sales. 

But fortunately, most homes are generally unique and often represent the personality and character of the property’s owners. Homeownership is an important part of the American dream, and many take great pride in caring for their home and outdoor living spaces – which, together, essentially defines a home’s curb appeal.

The Art of Landscape Design 

Landscape design is a serious art form that has been shown to have great potential in increasing the value of a property. 

The American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA – estimates that a homeowner could invest in landscaping design – in an amount equal to ten percent of the home’s value, and see that 10% investment translates to a 15% – 25% increase in value. This added value is the result of only the addition or change to the home’s exterior look and functionality.  

Landscape design is a big business. According to IBISworld.com, there are more than ½ million landscaping businesses in the country, with a combined yearly revenue that nears $100 billion. 

Sellers that are interested in improving the curb appeal of their home as they ready it for sale should–

  • Identify problematic areas.
  • Know what buyers look for in curb appeal.
  • Understand which modifications or adjustments buyers will notice and, more importantly, appreciate.

Curb Appeal isn’t Just about Flowers

Improving a home’s curb appeal can be accomplished in countless ways, some of which are expensive and complex, and others simple and cost-effective to implement.  

When a seller identifies – with or without the help of a real estate licensee, those items which would help improve the home’s curb appeal, the next step is to prioritize the list of potential upgrades and repairs. 

The curb appeal items that should be tackled first should be those that might be buyer deal-breakers – the items that could likely turn a buyer off from considering the house for purchase.

Additionally, an appraiser will eventually be used to complete the real estate transaction. The appraiser is tasked with the responsibility of disclosing specifically defined issues that may end up as deal-killers. A few examples include –

  • Standing water for no logical or apparent reason.
  • Peeling paint that may be lead-based. 
  • A crack in the foundation.
  • Missing roof tiles, among many others.

Be sensible and reasonable when determining how to allocate any funds towards improving a home’s curb appeal. Pretty flower beds will hardly matter if the gutters or downspouts are hanging dangerously loose from the eaves. 

Make Curb Appeal Your Selling Partner – it is!

Curb appeal can be likened to a subtle musical piece playing softly, but something about it catches your attention and focus and keeps you engaged.  According to the Zillow Group’s Consumer Housing Trend report from 2018, the average buyer took about 4.5 months searching for a home, but only visited between 4 and 5 houses, on average, during their home search – about a one home per month, which is not a lot of viewings. 

Because buyers, as the statistics imply, are rather selective in their choice of physically visiting a home for sale, it is critical for the home’s curb appeal to be optimized for each showing. 

Curb appeal should provide something memorable and pleasing to potential buyers.

You Need Great Photos of Your Curb Appeal

According to the 2019 Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report  (NAR), 84% of buyers used an online resource when searching for a home to purchase. Photographs have always been an essential part of the home selling process; however, the internet has heightened their importance.

Quality and eye-popping photos of the home uploaded to national home sale websites have essentially become the online version of curb appeal. Use it to your advantage!

While most agents suggest using a professional photographer when first listing a property, the reality is any talented individual with a newish smartphone can take remarkable pictures as well. It is essential not to skimp with regards to the home’s photographs.

The photographs of the house and property must visually describe the home and property from many angles, perspectives, and at, many times of the day. Remember, homes photographed at dusk always look a bit better simply because of the magic of dusk lighting.

Pictures should never date the listing and cause any potential buyer/buyer agent to wonder why a home in June in MLS has snow-covered landscaping. 

Quick Tips to an Improved Curb Appeal 

Although it should go without saying, the most important thing to accomplish when trying to improve the curb appeal is to clean up the entire outdoor space. In this regard, less is more.

  • Clear out the clutter, toss or donate things that no longer have value or work for your home.
  • Trim the bushed all around the property, but especially near the house windows. Overgrown bushes and hedges make a property look unkempt and, even worse, block light from entering the home, mostly darkening the home inside.
  • Manicure the landscaping and mow the lawn regularly.

Flowers are a great addition if weather permits. But even in cold weather, there are potted trees and decorations to make the front door area inviting. 

Make the Front Door the Star Attraction

A home’s front door is essentially a property’s welcome mat. Many cultures place great symbolic significance based on the color of a home’s front door. 

For example, some in the American Southwest consider blue front doors protection from evil spirits. In France some time ago, criminals and traitors had their front doors painted yellow. 

Color psychology, believe it or not, impacts how a potential buyer experiences the home when first seeing the property. 

Even a simple coat of paint can brighten a worn front door for less than a few hundred dollars. 

Pathways & Steps 

A property’s walkways must be attractive, functional, and safe. Well-maintained walkways improve a home’s curb appeal as they enhance the home’s exterior esthetically and improve the practical use of outdoor space. 

But pathways – especially outdoor paths – are potentially dangerous as the weather and outdoor elements create uneven pavement, missing bricks, potholes, or missing handrails. All of these hazards create great risk for a homeowner, who should maintain appropriate insurance at all times.

Repairing pathways creates safer conditions for potential buyers and shows pride of ownership by the seller – often a very positive selling factor. 

Make the Front Porch Inviting

Many homes do not have front porches; however, those who do should make sure the porch is always swept. Additionally, homeowners must ensure the porch is safe and sturdy.  A porch in need of a minor repair – that is one that has not impacted the home’s foundation – generally costs between $250 and $1,000. 

A porch without solid footings is not only dangerous; it is likely to make buyers begin to suspect negative things about the home in general.

Lighting Tricks 

Using lighting to enhance a home’s curb appeal is a strategy that is pulled straight from a landscape designer’s bag of tricks. Outdoor lighting is comprised of three essential elements –

  • Design – speaks to a designer’s creativity.
  • Components – the lighting fixtures.
  • Installation – must be safely and properly installed.

The results of an outdoor lighting experience depend on how the above-noted trio of elements creatively interplay.

Proper lighting welcomes guests to your home but is also an integral part of keeping your home (and its visitors) safe. Pathways and home entrances must be safely lit to help deter theft and maintain a safe area for anyone walking. 

Siding and Exterior Paint 

A home’s siding or exterior paint showcases the home in an overall way. However, the cost to re-side a home – even a small home – is an expense that will likely not be recovered by the added profits created by this investment. 

But this does not mean one should ignore their home’s exterior completely. A home with siding could be power washed for only a couple of hundred dollars.

Painting expenses are also costly. Homeowners can paint the soffits and trim to brighten the property enough to make the cost and effort a worthy endeavor. 

Sometimes the easiest way to manage the exterior repairs is to negotiate with the buyers (who may want to paint the house a different color anyway) and put these agreements within the purchase agreement at the outset.

House Numbers 

House numbers should be easily visible – think contrast – and clean. With so many choices now available, the house numbers chosen can also enhance the design elements of the home’s curb appeal. 

Missing or hard to see house numbers also make it more difficult for potential buyers to find the home.

Driveway Tips

Think of the driveway as the welcome mat for a visitor’s car. A driveway should be free of grease stains (if possible) and errant weeds. Pressure washers can be bought or rented as a cost-effective way to clean the driveway.

There are tricks for removing grease stains –

  • Place a mixture of baking soda and water on the stains for at least an hour and then pressure wash the area.
  • Other household products that are helpful in removing grease stains include cornstarch, cat litter, and powdered dish detergent.

Garage Tips

The garage doors, like the rest of the home’s exterior, should be clean and in working order. Minor fixes to hinges or other parts average about $200 per repair, according to  On Track Garage Service. 

Mailbox Tips 

Mailboxes are both functional and decorative, but they pretty much live outside in the often-harsh elements. So, be sure to clean and de-rust the mailbox with Barkeeper’s Friend. It also cleans and polishes.

The Take-Away

The smartest approach with regard to improving curb appeal is to first ensure that the problems that will be identified by an appraiser are repaired. When these items are complete, sellers or seller agents can move on to the more cosmetic issues.