Real estate curb appeal

How to Improve Curb Appeal and Sell More Listings

by The CE Shop Team

What Is Curb Appeal and Why Is It Important? 

One of the most important aspects of a home's resale value is its curb appeal, or the property's exterior attractiveness. Homeowners and real estate agents may overlook the importance of a home's exterior presentation in favor of tackling costlier remodeling projects. However, some simple fixes, such as tidying up the lawn, power washing the siding, painting the trim, and adding new house numbers and lighting, can significantly impact the property’s resale value.  

This guide provides tips you can use to help your clients improve their home’s curb appeal, along with some common mistakes to avoid when getting a house ready to sell. Curb appeal is one of the most effective marketing tools to capture potential homebuyers' attention. If that first impression is positive, buyers will be more enticed to explore the home's other attributes.

Curb Appeal Ideas for Real Estate Agents 

Strategic Landscaping 

Statistically, the median duration of homeownership in the U.S. is 13 years. While homeowners should expect to pay $1,000 annually for typical front yard maintenance, landscaping provides an ROI of between 6%-13%. In fact, the American Society of Landscape Architects estimates an average return of 15%-20% on professionally landscaped lawns.

As a real estate agent, you can make suggestions to help your clients improve their home's curb appeal. Updating an outdoor space may be as simple as a DIY cleanup or as complex as adding structural features like arbors and stone fire pits. However, all exterior improvements begin with strategic landscaping:

  • Maintain the grass: Brown patches throughout the lawn make the home look neglected. Adding grass seed to affected areas and watering it regularly may be all that's needed to bring the yard back to life. Routine fertilization and mowing will help keep it looking well maintained.
  • Prune shrubs: Like dead grass, overgrown shrubs give the property an unkempt appearance. Trim or remove dying shrubs, especially those closest to the house.
  • Create a landscape plan: If clients are focused on selling their homes, they probably won't want to invest the time and money in a long-range landscaping plan. However, adding pops of color with flowers and shrubs, particularly species native to the area, really enhances real estate curb appeal.
  • Plant a tree: If space and finances allow, plant a tree or three. Mature trees planted to the east and west of a home provide shade and help conserve energy. They reduce air conditioning costs by 30% and heating requirements by 20%-50%. Healthy trees also increase a property's value by 10%.
  • Add mulch: Fresh mulch is an inexpensive way to add depth to the lawn's color palette. Give the landscape a professional look by edging the area between grass and mulch.
  • Repair or replace broken cement and other hardscapes: A cracked, weed-filled driveway isn't the welcome mat you want to put out for prospective buyers. Some weed spray and 30 minutes of labor can do wonders. Likewise, replace broken or cracked walkway pavers, and consider filling in spaces between them with moss or other low-growth potted plant varieties. Add another layer of color with strategically placed ceramic pots filled with complementary annuals.

If clients feel overwhelmed by the time and effort it takes to create and maintain an inviting lawn, they might want to consider hiring an ASLA-certified landscape architect to at least help them outline a plan and budget.

Fresh Paint 

Aside from the landscaping, a home's most noticeable feature is its front door. If the door looks tired and dated, try repainting it before purchasing a new one. While you're at it, freshen up the trim with a new coat of paint. Consider adding a pop of contrasting color to create a polished look.

Did You Know? 

Researchers at the University of Texas Arlington and the University of Alabama conducted a study recently for the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics. They evaluated the impact curb appeal had on 88,890 properties in the Denver metro area. Using sales data and Google Street View, the researchers concluded that a home with excellent curb appeal sold for 7% more than similar properties in the same neighborhood with poor curb appeal. In slow markets, sellers realized as much as a 14% increase. Take heed, though, because your neighbor's home can also affect your property value as “the study revealed neighboring properties accounted for approximately one-third of the overall premium."

Power Washing 

Power washing a home's siding, front porch, driveway, and other dirty surfaces is an economical way to spruce up property. Even if grime was washed off within the last year, go ahead and give it another wash. Windows should also get a good scrub after the power tools are packed away.

New House Numbers 

Don't overlook these details. Replace worn, broken, or hard-to-read house numbers. Take a little extra time to match the numbering style with the lighting and general house design.  It's an inexpensive element that adds to the aesthetic of the home.

Exterior Lighting 

Replace outdated exterior lighting with new light fixtures that enhance the home's architecture. The porch light is a key element, but don't overlook other lights on the property, including light posts. The added safety and ambiance that a well-lit walkway and drive provide is a noticeable detail that can be accomplished with solar lighting.

Common Curb Appeal Mistakes

Once homeowners get into the groove of updating their properties, they may be tempted to stretch the boundaries even further. To attract the largest potential buyer audience, here are a few common curb appeal mistakes to recognize and avoid:

  • Bold paint colors: Steer clear of making a bold statement with paint. There may be some buyers who find that specific colors match their personal tastes and furnishings. However, homeowners who want to sell their property need to broaden the net. Using a neutral palette ensures it matches a wide range of personal effects and decorating styles. Remember, you can add splashes of color with landscaping, flowerpots, and some accessories like pillows.
  • Personal decorations: Staging a property is as much about art as it is about function. Once your clients have made the decision to pass their beloved property on to the next homeowner, they need to relinquish some of their personal effects. It's an important detail for the interior as well as the exterior of a home. It's time to safely pack away the gnomes dancing through the garden and save them for the next house.
  • Expensive fixes: The curb appeal investment will vary from client to client. As a real estate professional, you can offer advice on which repairs and updates bring the highest ROI and which ones to avoid. Factor in the time of year and the client's deadline for placing the property on the market to help prioritize changes that deliver the biggest return.
    • A neatly landscaped yard with healthy green grass and colorful foliage presents a perfect curb appeal balance. However, homeowners who go too far with elaborate gardens run the risk of scaring off potential buyers. They may feel overwhelmed by the time, money, and effort needed to maintain such a showpiece and pass on the property. 
    • Similarly, adding an outdoor living space in the backyard can be an excellent way to attract potential buyers and recoup an impressive ROI. This is one area, however, where it's very tempting to overspend.  Determine the home's current value by running comps of neighboring properties. Evaluate whether the average range of between $1,868-$5,351 to install a new patio justifies the 80% return. Clients may reconsider that expense after considering the comparative range of $668 to $2,104 to repair and refinish an existing patio, for roughly the same return.
    • Unless absolutely necessary, expensive home repairs, such as a roof replacement, should be avoided. Recommend having it inspected, and forego replacing it if it still has several good years of protective service. Your clients will have the inspection document to show prospective buyers. They'll appreciate the extra effort taken to ensure the quality of the home. Cleaning a solid roof and gutters will sharpen it up to match the pressure-washed siding.
    • Advise clients about the benefits of hiring professionals to do some of the work if it's not in their particular skill set. They'll pay a little more upfront for the services, but they'll ultimately save time, frustration, and money by ensuring the work's done right the first time.
    • The projects clients decide to invest in should be completed with quality products. Savvy buyers will spot subpar materials and workmanship, and it will negatively impact their overall opinion of the property. It's the same philosophy as hiring qualified professionals to do the work. 

Maintaining great curb appeal can give your properties an edge in your local real estate market. By following these tips and avoiding common mistakes, you can promote home improvement without pushing your clients to spend top dollar on projects with a low ROI. Now get out there and make your fellow real estate professionals proud!