curb appeal

Mastering Curb Appeal: 8 Expert Tips to Elevate Your Home’s Exterior

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Remember Bob Ross and his Joy of Painting series on PBS? While we definitely need to spruce up our homes a little more than his standard deep-woods cabins, I’d like to repurpose a quote of his to kick off our tips for how to improve the curb appeal of your home: “All you need to get curb appeal is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind.”

Here I’ve called on the help of professional home stager with Blue Diamond Staging & Design, Kasia McDaniel, to share some top tips and exterior ideas for homes. We’ll provide simple instruction, a few helpful tools and easy-to-make, low-cost investments, while you bring the overall vision, and a little energy and enthusiasm to make it all happen!

Tip #1: Keep the Goal in Mind

Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves what curb appeal is all about. As with all sellers, you’re focused on how to raise property value. In 2020, The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics suggested that curb appeal may account for 7% of a house’s sale price, and that there’s money to be earned by directing some focus outside. 

Houses with curb appeal have been shown to make buyers more enthusiastic to come inside and more likely to make a higher, quicker offer if they like what they see. 

Tip #2: You’ve Got 10 Seconds to Make a Good First Impression

McDaniel reminds us that a good first impression is made quick, estimating that you have between eight to 10 seconds! You’re looking to bring the wow factor fast, and hopefully give potential buyers a gentle push toward having an emotional reaction to your home and property. 

What I want you to do now is use the following list to finetune a vision of your home with maximum curb appeal:

  • Clutter and Cleanliness
  • Exterior Paint and Siding
  • Roof Maintenance
  • Walkway and Driveway
  • Fencing
  • Landscaping
  • Outdoor Seating
  • Lighting
  • Front Door and Entryway
  • Fixtures and Hardware

While it would be great to include and focus on every part of that list to enhance your home’s curb appeal, it’s important to consider your budget, the size and scope of any potential projects, and any time constraints you’re up against. 

If you can’t afford to do it all, McDaniel advises to at least maintain the minimum, making sure that clutter is kept away, and cleanliness is emphasized at all times while your house is on the market. She adds, “If you need to hire a neighborhood teen to keep it looking fresh and clean, then that’s what you need to do! And, this becomes even more important if you have to move out of the property before the house sells.” 

Tip #3: The Exterior Reflects the Interior

One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to real estate curb appeal is that the exterior reflects the interior in the minds of buyers. A well-maintained exterior indicates that the homeowners have taken care of the home, outside and in. 

Sellers should take the time to see their house through the lens of a potential buyer. Consider giving the exterior a fresh coat of paint or a pressure wash, repairing the roof, fixing any damaged siding or fencing, or simply cleaning out the gutters. Though some of these projects can get pricey, many of them can be a successful part of the equation on how to raise property value and command a higher price from buyers.

Tip #4: Never Underestimate a Good Cleaning!

Though pro pressure washing jobs can get pricey, many of the big box hardware stores offer rentals making it possible to DIY a good cleaning. Giving your driveway and walkways a powerful spray down can make a big visual impact, and help you get rid of a top layer of dirt and grime, making the pavement less slippery and safer. 

And while you’re at it, give the siding and windows a once (or twice) over, making sure to follow the instructions for the washer to a T, and using a second-story nozzle kit instead of a ladder. Think of it as a spa day for the house!

Tip #5: Aim for the Happy Medium Where Landscaping is Concerned

When it comes to landscaping, the absolute musts are a well-groomed lawn that’s both trimmed and free from fallen leaves and plant debris, and trees and shrubbery that help you show off the house, rather than obscuring it or overtaking it. 

McDaniel shared with me a story of a couple trying to sell their million-dollar home. Their landscaping was very well planned and maintained, but they had some mature shrubbery that was hiding the view of the house itself. While they themselves liked the look of the shrubbery, they took her advice and got a gardener to come in and trim it all back to showcase the house itself, and despite it being the fall, a quieter season for the real estate market, they ended up selling quickly and for just below their asking price.

Once you get the exterior landscaping clean, trimmed, and working for you, if you have something left over in the budget, you can focus on adding seasonal flowers to your flower beds, planters or hanging baskets. This is an easy way to add some color and show buyers that the property is well cared for. “But,” she adds, “if the budget is running low, be sure to remove any empty planters or dead plants from your flower beds. An empty flower bed with a layer of fresh mulch is better than one that looks like it needs work.”

Tip #6: Enter Through the Front Door

If you’re like most of us, you likely enter your house through the garage, or the side or back door. In fact, you might not remember the last time you came in through the front door. Now would be the perfect time to do just that, because this is where your potential buyers will be coming in.

How to improve curb appeal can be as simple as focusing on the front door. McDaniel suggests exterior entry ideas that will make your home as warm and inviting as possible. Make sure there are no lingering cobwebs, give the door a fresh coat of paint, and pick up a new doormat. “And, while you’re at it, if you’ve got the type of front door where you have to hold your key just so, or give it an extra lift or jiggle just to gain entry, go ahead and swap out the lock so buyers can be let in without a how-to lesson!”

Tip #7: Help Buyers Visualize Any Potential Outdoor Living Spaces

Another anecdote shared by McDaniel involved a house flipper who had spent most of their budget fixing up the interior and had little funds remaining for the outside. On her advice, they staged a budget-friendly front porch seating area and added planters in front of the house, giving it a nice finished look at first glance. They too benefited from a quick sale.

Even if you can’t afford high-end furniture, showcasing outdoor living space helps buyers visualize themselves using and enjoying the space. Proper, well-placed lighting can also help show off outdoor spaces and make buyers feel more secure, so make sure all your lightbulbs are in working order and shining bright. 

Tip #8: Make Sure Your House Number is Visible

You want buyers to be able to spot the property easily, so make sure your address is well marked. Choose house numbers that are big and visible from the road, and mount them in an easy-to-spot location that contrasts with the colors of the numbers themselves. For instance, choose black numbers for light-colored siding, or light numbers if they’ll be hung on brick or a darker color. If you have a long driveway, or the front of the house is not visible from the road, consider putting the numbers on a mailbox or signpost where they can be easily spotted.

Let’s conclude the way we started, with a little more Bob Ross wisdom. “Go out on a limb– that’s where the fruit is.”

Curb appeal isn’t rocket science, just the art of making your house look as good as you can with the time and money you have available to you. These simple curb appeal ideas and pro tips will get your home turning heads and making passersby stop and consider. Remember, you have just seconds to grab their attention, so make the most of this short-lived opportunity.

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