In the home-selling market, looks matter — a lot. Boosting the curb appeal of a home often starts with the front door, which can set the tone for the rest of the home in the eyes of prospective buyers.
Real estate experts say refurbishing or even replacing a front door and sprucing up the exterior entry can improve your chances of making a quick sale.
“We call it exterior staging, and it’s huge,” said Cheryl Reed, director of external affairs for Angie’s List, which connects contractors and other service providers with its members. “Buyers want a home that’s in good shape, and having a bright entryway door is a great thing to have. It needs to be a sturdy, well-conditioned barrier. And if it’s pretty as well, that’s a plus, too.”
Because today’s lifestyles bring most homeowners through their garages as the entryway into their homes, many of them rarely see the outside of the front door. But for a homebuyer, the front door can create a huge perception — accurate or not — about whether the rest of the house has gotten TLC or been neglected.
“The front door is one of those things that homeowners forget because they just don’t see it anymore,” Reed said. “But the best thing you can do is stand outside on the street and look at your home and ask yourself if you would slow down. That can start with what the entry door looks like.”
‘The front door is everything’
The “2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value: Less is More” study, produced by Remodeling magazine and the National Association of Realtors, found that entry-door replacement was the No. 1 project nationally in terms of costs recouped, coming in at 101.8 percent.
Kerrie Kelly, a home design expert for Zillow Digs, an online hub for home improvement and design run by home marketplace Zillow, points out that making the exterior entryway inviting doesn’t always mean replacing the front door entirely, which can run into ousands of dollars. Kelly suggests starting with a good power-washing, which sometimes can do the trick.
“The front door is everything — it’s the first thing the buyers see when they arrive and the last thing they see when they leave,” Kelly said. “So start with a little elbow grease. If that doesn’t work, you can try replacing the hardware and repainting the door, and maybe putting some bold house numbers in the archway of the home. This is setting the tone when the buyer first pulls up to the house.”
Replacing hardware such as interior and exterior door knobs, key enclosures and knockers can be done for under $200 with a replacement kit from home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, and a handyman can touch up or repaint a front door in just a couple of hours. Experts say that’s a small price to pay given the first-impression effect that these small changes can make.
Opening the door to buyers
Jessica Petrosino, a Realtor with Keller Williams Urban Dallas, said she had one buyer who initially was turned off by the condition of the front door of a home, then refused to step past the front entryway during the showing. That stopped the potential sale in its tracks.
Petrosino added that a grungy front door can prompt a buyer to search for other imperfections in a home.
In addition to door improvements, Petrosino suggests setting potted plants around the front door to liven up the area.
She said fresh paint and hardware can solve issues with most front doors, sidestepping the need for complete replacement. Petrosino recommends keeping the color either black or neutral, although a red front door can be eye-catching as long as it complements the rest of the exterior.
“That first impression speaks volumes,” Petrosino said. “I’ve had so many people make comments on chipped or rotting wood on a front door. People do notice.”
Keep it simple
Petrosino suggests that sellers focus their make-ready money on the front door, rather than the garage door. That’s because the garage door tends to get less attention than the front door does.
Kelly said the key is to keep the refurbishments simple, rather than spending money on a fancy replacement front door. In addition to the door itself, she suggests making sure the door trim also has a fresh coat of paint, and the archways are touched up.
“You don’t need to go out and buy a solid hardwood front door,” Kelly said. “The whole idea is to capture that feeling of newness. The last thing you want is for the homebuyer to start making a list of necessary repairs in their head before they even enter the house. Capturing that curb appeal is a great thing for a seller to have in their back pocket, regardless of the strength of the market.”