Curb appeal is just what it sounds like: a measure of how appealing a home looks from the curb, when potential buyers first see it. And in real estate, as in life, you only get one first impression.
Sara Garden, Owner of Rocky Mountain Home Staging, emphasizes the importance of this first impression, especially in the age of online shopping for homes. The listing photo is the first thing a buyer sees and that photo can make or break a sale.
“It’s really important because most buyers look at hundreds of houses online and they only pick about a dozen to visit before they make an offer,” says Garden. “How someone perceives your home in that first impression is really critical.”
Pat Kahler, a Broker Associate with ReMax Alliance, explains that a home with a less appealing exterior will concern potential buyers.
“Curb appeal invites a buyer to come into the property,” says Kahler. “It also helps the buyer recognize the overall condition of the home. If the exterior or yard needs work, it allows the buyer to think that there might be other things going on the inside.”
Both Garden and Kahler recommend taking photos of your home as a first step to assessing its curb appeal. Things that can be improved are more likely to stand out to the homeowner in a photograph, says Kahler.
“A really great start is to take a few pictures of the home on all sides to evaluate it,” she says. “When you look at something everyday, you don’t see things, but in a picture, your eye might focus on something that isn’t right.”
Some basic steps include ensuring that the gutters are in place, the thresholds and windows are clean, and the roof and siding aren’t damaged. Kahler says it’s small changes like this that can dramatically increase your home’s chances of making a good first impression.
“It’s the little things,” Kahler says. “Put the trash cans away. Put the snow shovel or rake away. Make sure the gate is closed.”
These small details are important as final touches, but before that comes a chore that might not excite the salesperson in you: cleaning. Getting your home and yard looking tidy is the key to curb appeal, says Garden.
“It’s not sexy, but it’s maintenance,” she says. “You always have to start with maintenance. Buyers are instantly discounting a place in their mind when they see tall weeds, dead lawns or overgrown shrubbery.”
This means a lot of less-than-thrilling tasks: clean the flower beds, clean underneath shrubs, add fresh mulch to the garden and clean between the pickets of the fence, if the home has one.
Steve Ward, Owner of SJ Ward Landscapes, agrees that the first step to achieving curb appeal is clean up, paying special attention to any overgrown plant features in the yard.
“The easy thing to do is, number one, prune everything back,” Ward says.
Once everything is cleaned up, a homeowner can get creative with landscaping for increased curb appeal. Ward recommends a dynamic combination of “hardscape” and “softscape.” A hardscape is some sort of rock feature: boulders, a meandering sidewalk, a front patio or porch area. A softscape is grass, flowers and other greenery.
“It’s always key to have something green in the front,” Ward says. “One of the most important things from the design aspect would be an integration of the hardscape and softscape – not too much of one and not too much of the other.”
Ward also recommends including boulders and other rounded features when landscaping.
“Try to take it off the flat, linear approach and get a nice design element to it,” Ward says. “Get a lot of different contours involved in your yard.”
There are a number of ways to improve a home’s curb appeal outside of landscaping, but in her career as a home stager, Garden has seen many people overdo the decor.
“Less is more,” Garden says. “Fewer, bigger pieces are the key to success when selling.”
Garden says to avoid small decorations, like weather vanes or wind catchers, as these usually just make the home appear cluttered. Opt instead for a couple of upsized, dramatic pieces. This technique also applies to exterior lighting, which Garden cites as a very important part of a home’s curb appeal.
“When it comes to updating the light fixtures, you want to do about 2 or 3 times bigger than what most people do,” Garden says. “It gives you a wow factor.”
Garden says that another reliable technique for giving a home excellent curb appeal is to present buyers with a place they can envision themselves, like a pair of chairs and a side table.
“A cozy seating area evokes emotion,” Garden says. “The buyer is thinking about sitting out there. That’s where you want to take them to get the very best sales price.”
From basic cleaning to the final readjustment of the patio chair, these tips can give you excellent curb appeal for both the listing photo and showings, meaning your home sells for the best price possible.
Published in the spring 2016 edition of Longmont Magazine.