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How to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

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When you put your house on the market, you want to attract a large number of interested homebuyers as quickly as possible and make a positive first impression. The more interest you have right away, the more you can sell your house for—and the quicker the process will be. Alternatively, if you have an eyesore on your hands, you might have trouble getting potential buyers past the front steps.

Most buyers decide whether they’re interested in buying your home before they even open the front door, says Emelie Griffith, a real estate agent for PorchLight Real Estate Group in Boulder, Colorado. Making sure your home’s exterior looks attractive is essential to a fast, successful sale, and can potentially increase the sale price of your home by thousands of dollars. 

Here’s what you need to know about curb appeal before you list your home for sale and cost-effective tips for a mini home makeover. 

What’s the ROI on Improving Curb Appeal?

The easy answer to this question is the age-old response for real estate: location, location, location.

It’s hard to say exactly how much curb appeal can increase the sale price of your home, because this will ultimately vary greatly on what exactly you do, how much of an improvement it is over what it previously looked like, what the rest of the neighborhood looks like, etc. But it’s clear that it matters, a lot. 

“In a hot market, unattractive homes can still sell or be snapped up by an investor with a vision to remodel and flip,” Griffith says. “But many people don’t have the creativity to see what a home can become, so making it stand out so that the buyer can imagine living there is a priority.”

HomeLight, which connects buyers, sellers, and agents, created a chart with some estimates for specific improvements and how they may impact your sale price. Spending $268 on lawn care services and greenery may yield an increase of over $1,200, and you could double your ROI on laying down fresh mulch. High-end landscaping and professional tree care, on the other hand, are likely more expensive than the price increase they could net you.

Curb Appeal Ideas on a Budget

Improving your home’s curb appeal doesn’t have to break the bank, though. Most real estate agents surveyed by HomeLight last year said that they recommend sellers spend less than $2,500 on improving the exterior look of their home.

Griffith offers her clients a design consultation before listing their homes. A designer will walk through the inside and outside of the house and offer suggestions for changes that may increase the sale price or attract potential buyers more quickly.

Front porch improvements

Some of the smaller things for the front of your house you can DIY and won’t require much budget or outside help. For example, you could rent a pressure washer from a nearby home improvement store and power wash the exterior. Pull weeds from any cracks in your driveway or pavers and put potted plants by the door. 

If you have room for a small seating area and outdoor furniture by the front door or on your front patio or porch, this can also help make your house look more like a potential future home to prospective buyers.

Your house numbers should look shiny and new; ditch any faded or peeling stickers. Griffith recommends painting your door to stand out among the rest of the homes in your neighborhood. Consider updating the door hardware or knocker if it has seen better days, and put out a new welcome mat.

Windows and blinds

You can also replace broken windows, window boxes, or screens, wash them thoroughly — screens, too; if you’ve never done this, you will likely be unpleasantly shocked at how dirty they are — and make sure any window treatments, like shutters or blinds, are in good shape. Updated window treatments are another inexpensive way to improve the look of your home both inside and out. 

Yardwork

Clean up the yard to make sure it looks well-maintained. HomeLight agents also suggest trimming shrubs, planting flower beds, hanging planters, installing fresh mulch where applicable, and simply cleaning the entrance to your home by removing cobwebs, dirt, and grime. Real estate company Coldwell Banker suggests installing a new, attractive mailbox and maybe even white picket fencing.

If you have a tree with a lot of broken or dead branches, you could also hire an arborist or “tree surgeon” to remove unsightly and potentially dangerous limbs.

Apply a fresh coat of paint

Unless you’re able to do it yourself — and do it well — hiring painters to give the exterior of the house a fresh paint job could be worth the investment. Avoid choosing bold colors and instead select a widely accepted paint color for the neighborhood.

Another service you might want a professional to do is clean your gutters, especially if your roof is far off the ground, as this could be dangerous work. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t assume that your home stands out just because you love it. You need to think about how a potential buyer might see it, Griffith says. This also means you should avoid overdoing it—if you go too far on landscaping, for example, buyers may be concerned that it could take more maintenance than they want to deal with, warns HomeLight.

A higher budget doesn’t necessarily translate into higher ROI or a faster sale: You could pour $20,000 into beautifully xeriscaping your front yard, a type of landscaping that minimizes environmental impact by using plants that don’t need extra water, and a prospective buyer could hate it and see it as a problem they need to fix. 

How to Make Your Home Look Great in Listings

When it’s time to list your newly-spruced up home, springing for a professional photographer will almost certainly pay for itself. The Washington Post reported last year that professionally photographed homes sell 32 percent faster than other listings, and they can also list for nearly 50 percent more per square foot. A professional photographer will snap the best angles of your home to create space, play up its best features, and allow prospective buyers to imagine it as their own. 

That’s the major key with all of this: Your goal is to help prospective buyers see their best moments ahead of them in the home you’ve created. The more you can do to spark their imagination and make them think, “Oh! I’d love to curl up with a book on this window seat every morning. And my favorite pillow will look just perfect right there,” the more interest you’ll have.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the interview subjects are not necessarily those of Earnest.

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Disclaimer: This blog post provides personal finance educational information, and it is not intended to provide legal, financial, or tax advice.