Your home’s curb appeal is one of its true first impressions to potential buyers (second only to online listing photos), and it’s a huge factor in convincing a buyer to walk through the front door.
But how can you improve your home’s curb appeal? And what might you be doing to inadvertently tank it? We spoke to the pros at Helen Adams Realty for the scoop, just in time for DIY season.
“As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression!” says Helen Adams Realty Agent Jackie Albrecht. “Whether you’re considering selling your home in the near future or are just ready for a refresh, the outside of your home helps show pride of ownership.”
Trying to decide how to enhance your exterior decor? Helen Adams Realty Agent Marissa Stauffer suggests driving past homes you love for inspiration.
“Simple things like fresh mulch or pine straw, cutting back trees and bushes — and pops of color with seasonal potted plants can create a feeling of ‘fresh’ and ‘taken care of’,” she says. “Real estate is often psychological in capturing a buyer’s attachment to a home, and you never know when something so simple will make them feel right at home!”
Helen Adams Realty Agent Annette Semprit suggests taking a short walk — right across the street.
“Something I like to do is stand across the street from the house I’m about to list and try to see it from the consumer’s point of view,” she says.
But curb appeal isn’t just for homeowners who are getting ready to sell.
“Having a home with good curb appeal shows you have pride in maintaining your home,” says Helen Adams Realty Agent Ily Munoz. “It always feels good when you come home to a place that is beautiful and brings a smile to your face.”
Whether you’ve got a weekend or a lifetime to freshen up your home’s exterior, here are some tips from the pros:
Quick weekend DIYs
Want to spruce up your home over the weekend (and on a budget)? Check out these quick and easy ideas:
Clean it up
“You want potential buyers to notice the beauty of your home, so make it sparkle!” says Helen Adams Realty Agent Theresa Kistler.
She suggests power washing the driveway and removing any cobwebs from the front door and windows.
Jackie says homeowners often overlook a deep cleaning, but it’s one of the simplest ways to improve curb appeal.
“Power wash the house itself, the walkway and steps leading to the front door, and underneath a covered front porch,” she suggests. “Get rid of cobwebs and clean the windows. Even dark spots in your concrete can go away with a little bit of patience and a great pressure washer.”
Do some planting
All the agents agreed that freshening up the in-ground landscaping is one of the simplest ways to improve a home’s exterior. Bushes, flowering plants — they all go a long way toward making a home look complete and well-maintained.
Ily suggests mixing in potted plants as well.
“You can really make the curb appeal pop by adding fun, funky, printed or simply beautiful colorful pots,” she says. “I love to recommend adding potted plants strategically in the mix of in-ground landscape because pots give you a big bang for your buck and are personal property that you get to take with you when you move.”
But don’t go crazy with a rainbow flower color palette.
“When choosing what to plant, remember that continuity is aesthetically pleasing. Choose one or two accent colors to focus on,” Jackie suggests. “Planting three flowering plants that are various tones of purple will look more cohesive than one white, one red and one purple. When in doubt, a more monochrome theme can provide more bang for your buck.”
Mulch your flowerbeds
Ily says adding mulch or pine straw to flower beds is one of the quickest and least expensive ways to upgrade your home’s curb appeal.
Annette says pine straw is also great for camouflaging areas along the bed’s edges where the landscaping or grass may not be as robust as you’d like.
Give your front door a makeover
You use it every day, but when’s the last time you showed your front door some love? With a little TLC, your front door can change from neglected workhorse to beautiful entryway.
“The front door and the front door hardware set the stage for what you can expect inside,” Annette says. “A faded, cracked door with rough-looking hardware immediately makes you feel like the house is neglected. A fresh coat of paint and newer-looking locks and door handles makes you feel that there is pride in ownership.”
The same applies to any trim or railings leading up to the porch. If they’re chipping or otherwise looking worn, it’s time for a fresh coat of paint.
Stage your front porch
Jackie says keeping your front porch “lightly staged” will give your home a welcoming vibe.
“Setting up a bench, small table and chairs, or a couple of rocking chairs with outdoor pillows will show added usable space to any home,” she says.
She also recommends flanking your front door with potted plants to create a larger, more grand entrance.
Theresa suggests adding a new door mat to welcome potential buyers (and guests) into your home.
No porch? No problem. Jackie says simply create an outdoor sitting area by putting a small bench and some flower pots under a nearby tree.
Add a walkway
Can your guests, or potential buyers, get to your front door (or the backyard) from their car? Jackie says especially for properties that have only on-street parking or a separate driveway, a walkway can be a quick and beneficial upgrade.
“Instead of leaving buyers to walk across the grass (and wonder if that’s what they should be doing), give your property flow by putting down a few pieces of slate, flagstone or pavers,” Jackie suggests.
Remove your window screens
If you’re selling, consider popping off your window screens and storing them for the next owner, just like Annette tells all her clients.
“Removing screens instantly brightens up a house,” she says. “It lets more light in and the house appears brighter and cleaner without them.”
If you’ve got time and cash to spare, these more involved projects will be well worth the investment.
Marissa’s advice? Choose something you — not a hypothetical future buyer — will actually use and enjoy.
“When it comes to larger outdoor projects, I always advise that you do them to enjoy them, not necessarily to help sell the home,” she says. “They can help a buyer choose your home over someone else’s in the same price point, but things like fire pits, travertine patios and pools don’t often have an immediate return on investment.”
Replace your windows
This big-budget project pays dividends in both curb appeal and energy efficiency.
“Updating the type of window, with a gridded design or without, can significantly change the look of a home,” Jackie says.
Add a porch (or expand/cover the one you have)
Adding a front porch, especially in the South, is a larger scale project that is worth the investment, Ily says.
“People love sitting on their porch to enjoy a cup of coffee (or wine) and watch the neighbors go by as they walk their cute dogs!”
Jackie says you can also expand or cover your existing porch, if you have one, to create additional usable space.
Put in a pool
The ultimate in big-ticket upgrades, swimming pool installations have soared during COVID. But before you jump into the deep end (get it?) of this huge project, Annette has some wisdom to share.
“This is not an inexpensive project and you seldom recover your full investment, so you’ll want to get some good use out of it before selling your house,” she says. “But, thanks to COVID, people are seeing a much larger rate of return on this investment. In 2020 if you had a pool, you could expect multiple offers on your property. I saw one house go $75,000 over asking in Union County.”
However, this is a project that will definitely take some time.
“Just getting someone to come and estimate the cost of installing the pool is taking months — never mind the actual installation,” Annette says.
Is it worth it? It’s ultimately up to you and your family’s lifestyle. The bottom line for pools, as with all large-scale upgrades, is to make sure it’s something you’d enjoy as well.
Consider a water feature
Is a pool not in the cards? You can still bring the serenity of a beach or lakefront house to your landlocked city lot with a waterfall or fountain.
Ily says adding a water feature may be a large-scale project, but it can be budget-friendly as well.
“Water features add a nice aesthetic and a relaxing sound,” she says.
Hire a landscape designer
Feeling overwhelmed by your vast expanse of grass? Jackie suggests hiring a landscape designer.
“Tap into their expertise about what types of plants are best suited for your property in terms of growth rates, sun and shade needs, and other maintenance requirements,” she says. “Adding new planting areas, trees, and other hardscape features will enhance your curb appeal when designed specifically for the style of your home.”
What to avoid
Now you know how to improve your home’s exterior charm, but you still could be tanking your home’s curb appeal without realizing it. Here’s what the pros say to avoid:
Don’t neglect landscaping maintenance
You have a few bushes out front — that’s enough right? Not if they aren’t in good condition. Ily says lack of maintenance and overgrown or dead shrubs and plants can tank a home’s curb appeal and turn off potential buyers.
“Have you ever driven by a house that looks overgrown or outdated on the outside, and wondered what the inside looked like?” Jackie says. “If the outside looks neglected, the perception is that the inside is neglected too.”
You’ll also want to make sure anyone on the street has a clear view of the home, Annette says.
“Are there low-hanging limbs that block the view? If it doesn’t hurt the aesthetic of the tree, I will have the landscaper trim up the trees,” she says.
Theresa says trimming trees is something some homeowners never really think about, but trimming can help with the growth of your lawn while showcasing your home.
“You would be really surprised when you see the difference,” she says.
Clean off the cobwebs
Annette says sellers frequently overlook cobwebs, which attract dirt and leaves and create a dirty, dingy vibe — not ideal.
“It’s a good idea to sweep these off of windows, exterior lights and decking to make the house look like it’s cared for,” she says.
Remember, if you’re selling your house, you want potential buyers to picture themselves living there.
Jackie suggests choosing improvements that would appeal to many people and Annette says to scrap things like yard art entirely.
“Yard art is fun and sweet if you’re living in the house but in pictures it just sticks out and is a distraction,” she says.
“I list a lot of homes and I like to employ the Marie Kondo philosophy to staging indoors and outdoors: remove anything that is not pleasing to the eye,” Annette says. “For the outdoors this might mean removing dead limbs from trees, removing dead bushes, coiling up or hiding hoses, removing empty and discarded pots and yard art. You want all eyes on the house, not random stuff scattered throughout your yard.”
However you decide to improve your home’s curb appeal, it’s sure to increase the joy you feel each time you pull in the driveway.
“Taking care of your curb appeal means you are regularly checking on the outside of your home and staying on top of maintenance, which can save you from needing to make costlier repairs down the line due to undiscovered issues,” Jackie says. “Not to mention the pride of ownership you’ll have pulling up to a well-kept home everyday!”
What are some of your favorite ways to enhance curb appeal? Let us know in the comments.