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11 Simple & Inexpensive Ideas to Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Are you trying to sell your home fast? If so, one of the most effective things you can do is to boost your home’s curb appeal.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a sale by owner, working with a great real estate agent, or flipping a house; it pays to put some time and money into making your home look great on the outside, especially if you’re planning to host an open house.

First impressions are incredibly important in the home buying process. Malcolm Gladwell, best-selling author of “Blink,” says that people make up their minds about something within two seconds of seeing it. This is true whether they’re catching their first glimpse of someone new or a possible home for their family.

Remember, almost all potential buyers will look at your home online before they ever pull into the driveway. Your home needs to look great and photograph well in order to get them to the door. That takes some work, but there’s plenty you can do to boost your home’s curb appeal. Below are some ideas for every budget, whether you have $100 to spend or $10,000.

How to Stage Your Home’s Exterior

Before you make any changes to the exterior, go down to the street and look at your home from a distance. Try to imagine you’re a potential buyer seeing it for the first time.

Is this a place where you would want to raise your family? Does the house look like it’s in good condition? Does it appear clean, fresh, and inviting? Are there any repairs that need to be made? Chances are, there are at least a few upgrades you could do to make your home more appealing.

If you’re hesitant about spending money on a home you won’t be living in much longer, you’re not alone. But investing in upgrades is hardly a waste of money. Putting off repair projects or cosmetic updates can cost you a lot when it comes time to sell, for several reasons.

First, buyers will likely bid low on a home that needs repairs. No house is perfect, but many buyers don’t want to deal with a much-needed repair right when they move in. Buyers might also ask for concessions once the home inspector has gone through and made a list of items that need fixing.

Putting off repairs can also increase how long your home sits on the market. If you invest time and money into making your home look fantastic on the outside, it will likely sell faster — which means fewer mortgage payments for you.

Boosting your home’s curb appeal is a good investment however you look at it. Here are some of the best ways to get started.

1. Paint the Front Door

The front door is often the first place buyers look when they pull up to a house. It’s front and center to your home, so it’s essential that it’s clean, inviting, and — if you’re game  bold as well.

The best color to paint your front door depends largely on your home’s exterior color and style. Some popular front door colors are turquoise, red, deep navy, and yellow.

Bold can be beautiful, but you don’t have to go wild to boost the value of your home. A report on CBS News cited research conducted by Zillow that analyzed sale prices of more than 32,000 homes. They found that front doors painted navy blue, dark gray, or charcoal sold for $1,514 more, on average, than other homes.

Whatever color you choose, make sure it blends well with your home’s overall personality. You might love the idea of a bright turquoise door, for instance, but if your home is olive green, the color combination will look off. Make sure your choice works with your home’s exterior paint color.

A fresh coat of paint on the front door is an inexpensive way to update curb appeal. Most exterior paints cost around $30 per gallon. Don’t forget to add a brand-new doormat to complement the new door color.

2. Paint the Exterior

If you have extra money in your budget, you might want to consider repainting the whole house. It can be a big expense, costing $5,000 or more, but according to CBS News, you could very well get some of this investment back. Citing the same analysis from Zillow, they found that houses painted certain colors, such as “greige” (a blend of grey and beige), sold for $1,526 more than other homes.

According to building expert Bob Vila, some colors will scare buyers away. Colors to avoid include black, tree green, citrus green, dark brown, and bright lemon yellow.

If you can’t afford to repaint the entire house, at least touch up any areas where the paint is thin or peeling. Peeling paint is not only unsightly; it can make buyers wonder what other routine maintenance tasks have gone unaddressed.

3. Update House Numbers

Another way to give your home an instant personality boost is to update your address numbers. After all, buyers are used to seeing the run-of-the-mill brass numbers sold by most home improvement stores. Imagine the impact if your home had handmade numbers attached to a faded wood plank or numbers made of brightly colored, Spanish-inspired ceramic tiles.

Thanks to sites like Etsy, it’s relatively easy to find unique house numbers made out of everything from iron to ceramic to wood. And handmade house numbers aren’t as expensive as you might think. On Etsy, prices for a set of three numbers typically range from $30 on up.

4. Install Exterior Lighting

Your home’s exterior lighting might seem like a detail that buyers won’t really notice on their first visit. But remember, getting those buyers through your front door all depends on the quality of your pictures. Great exterior lighting can help you create a dramatic look for dusk or nighttime pictures.

According to Kiplinger, 92% of homebuyers want a home with exterior lighting; it’s the most sought-after outdoor feature. Your options for exterior lighting include spotlights, solar sidewalk lights, and pendant lights on the front and back porches.

The cost of updating your home’s exterior lights can vary from $30 to $115 or more per fixture. However, you don’t have to buy everything new. Check salvage shops, thrift stores, or your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for vintage lights that match the style and age of your home.

If you do buy vintage fixtures, make sure they have a fresh coat of paint and are in good condition. Old fixtures can give buyers the instant impression that your home hasn’t been well cared for, so tread carefully here.

5. Hide Your Trash

Many homeowners store their trash bins on the side of the house, but this can be unsightly, especially to potential buyers. Unless you have some unique and artistic trash bins — and chances are, you don’t  they should be hidden from view.

There are plenty of ways to hide your trash bins, as well as any other ugly necessities such as air conditioning units. For example, you could put up some inexpensive wood fencing, build a three-sided box using corrugated metal, or make a rustic-looking fence from old pallets.

Another relatively inexpensive option is to build a “fence” using bushes and shrubs. Just make sure the plants you choose will grow well in that part of the yard — taking into account the amount of sunshine, or lack thereof, near the house  and that they won’t grow tall enough to interfere with any power lines.

6. Clean the Roof

Take a close look at your roof. Is it in good condition, or is it missing shingles? Is it dirty and streaked?

The condition of your roof is enormously important to potential buyers. After all, the basic premise of shelter is having something solid and sturdy over your head to protect you from the elements. If the roof looks like it’s in poor condition, buyers are going to look elsewhere.

A dirty roof might seem like no big deal, but it can actually be the start of a domino effect that leads to more serious problems. That “dirt” is likely a result of algae, lichens, or moss. These organisms build colonies and slowly eat through the organic material on your shingles. Over time, they can eat through the shingles themselves and create openings to the wood underneath. That can lead to wood rot, which in turn can lead to mold, which can cause health problems. These organisms can also create unsightly streaks on the shingles below the colony. Your home insurer might even cancel your home insurance policy if your roof is too dirty.

If your roof is streaked and dirty, you need to go up there straightaway and take a closer look or hire a roof cleaner or home inspector to do it for you. In some cases, a good pressure washing is all that’s required. It can be a dangerous task, however, and it’s probably worth it to hire a professional.

If you (or the professional you hire) find that the roof needs to be replaced, it can be a huge expense. According to HomeAdvisor, the national average to replace a roof is around $7,200, with prices ranging from $5,115 to $9,750. That said, a new roof can be a huge selling point to potential buyers because it’s such an expensive item; knowing they won’t have to worry about it is a definite selling point. According to Remodeling’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report, sellers can expect to recoup 68% of the cost of a roof replacement once they sell.

If you decide you can’t afford a new roof, keep in mind that chances are good you’ll pay for this expense at closing when the buyers demand a lower price or ask for concessions so they can replace the roof themselves.

7. Pressure Wash Everything

A good wash can bring life back into your siding and make your patio or deck look brand-new again.

Pressure washing is a very affordable way to make your home looking sparkling clean and bright. If you already own a pressure washer, roll up your sleeves and get to work hosing down all exterior surfaces, including the driveway and walkways. If you don’t own one, you can rent one from most large home improvement stores, such as Home Depot. Costs range from $30 to $40 or more per day.

8. Replace the Mailbox

Most buyers won’t see your mailbox in the online pictures unless you have a wall box on your front porch. However, when they pull up to your home, the mailbox is one of the first things they’ll see. If your mailbox is dingy, old, or sitting atop a rotting post, they’ll notice immediately.

It pays to buy a new mailbox when you put your home up for sale. It’s an inexpensive replacement; many standard boxes cost around $30. It’s also one less thing to distract buyers’ attention. Remember, you want them to focus on your amazing front porch, not the ugly mailbox at the foot of the driveway.

9. Spruce Up Your Flower Beds

If your home is for sale, it should be bursting with color three seasons out of the year. Blooming flowers and healthy plants provide an instant lift to a home’s exterior, and buyers always like to see established, low-maintenance flower beds. According to HGTV, an attractive and well-maintained yard can add up to 10% to your home’s value.

Go around your house and inspect your flower beds. Pull up weeds, plant some bright annuals, and lay down a fresh layer of dark mulch. Some annuals that are inexpensive and easy to maintain include petunias, impatiens, and begonias; these flowers will bloom all summer long. You can also consider planting bright yellow marigolds along the walkway or near the front door, which will add a bright splash of color that will instantly catch the eye.

Also be sure to look at your shrubs and trees and trim back dead or dying branches, making sure the overall shape is attractive.

You should also put out some potted plants. Large tropical plants in attractive pots can add visual interest to your front door or front porch. Don’t forget the backyard; potted plants can dress up a patio or deck and make it feel like an inviting outdoor space. When choosing plants, opt for both small and large sizes and keep the placement asymmetrical to add visual interest.

Another option is to install flower boxes, outdoor planters that sit just below your windows or front porch railings. Flower boxes add color and drama to your home’s exterior and are relatively inexpensive.

10. Freshen Up Outdoor Living Spaces

Outdoor living spaces are becoming coveted areas for home buyers. According to Kiplinger, 87% of homebuyers want an outdoor patio.

You want buyers to envision themselves spending lazy summer evenings in the yard, sipping cocktails with friends or watching their children play. A great patio and inviting backyard can spark a buyer’s imagination more than even a top-of-the-line kitchen or media room.

There are several ways to make your patio or deck look more appealing. First, put out potted plants; these can be large tropicals or pots of annuals. Use pots to create “walls” around your patio to define the space and make it feel more like an outdoor room.

If it’s within your budget, invest in some new patio furniture. Good furniture can show buyers what’s possible in the space, and since you’ll be taking it with you anyway, you’ll benefit from the purchase. If you can’t afford new furniture, give your existing furniture a fresh look with new paint or cushions. A free-standing patio umbrella costs around $100 and can further help turn your patio or deck into an outdoor “room.”

Last, take a look at lighting. A strand of bulb lights, like these globe lights on Amazon, can add whimsy and interest, especially when you take evening photos for your listing.

11. Add a Border to the Driveway

Most homes these days have an asphalt driveway. Asphalt is usually bland and boring, and it doesn’t do much to add to your home’s exterior. One way to make your driveway stand out is to add a border. You can do this by lining each side with bricks, stones, or pavers from the street all the way up to your house.

Adding a border to your driveway is relatively inexpensive. You’ll need to purchase sand, which you’ll put down below your brick or pavers, as well as the border material itself. Costs for this project vary depending on the border material you select and the length of your driveway, but plan on spending at least a couple hundred dollars for a driveway border.

house driveway curb appeal

Curb Appeal Mistakes to Avoid

There are plenty of things you can do to boost your home’s curb appeal. There are also some things you should not do.

1. Leaving Cars in the Driveway

When it comes time to take pictures of your home’s exterior, make sure all cars are out of the driveway. Cars left sitting in the driveway might make some buyers think the garage isn’t big enough. As you might imagine, that’s a turnoff.

2. Not Picking Up Clutter

In addition to keeping your cars out of sight, you should also put away any visual clutter such as toys and bicycles, lawn equipment, shoes by the door, and lawn ornaments. These will make your home look cluttered and be a distraction for buyers.

3. Ignoring the Lawn in Winter

Home sales are lowest during the winter months, but this doesn’t mean you can ignore the exterior. Dead leaves, downed branches, or dead flowers in the beds will all be turnoffs for potential buyers.

During the winter, keep your gutters clean, your flower beds empty of dead plants and leaves, and the sidewalks swept. If snow falls, make sure you quickly shovel the driveway and walkway and sprinkle salt to melt any ice. Sometimes buyers will only give a few minutes’ warning that they want to tour your house, and you don’t want them to have to walk through snow or risk slipping and falling to get to the front door.

4. Not Fixing Your Fence

Many sellers don’t give much thought to the fencing around their home. However, if the fence is dirty or sagging, it’s an eyesore that screams “neglect.”

Make sure your fencing is in good condition. Pressure wash the wood and replace any fence slats that are cracked or missing. You could also consider planting annuals along the fence to brighten up the backyard or choose some flowering climbing vines, such as clematis or black-eyed Susan vine, to add color and visual interest.

Final Word

Your home can have every update imaginable on the inside, but if the outside is treated as an afterthought, you’ll have a hard time getting buyers through the door. Remember, first impressions matter, and they happen in two seconds or less. It pays to put some time and money into making sure your home looks well cared for and inviting.

What ideas do you have for boosting your home’s curb appeal? If you’ve successfully sold a home, what tips and techniques worked for you?

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a writer with over 15 years experience covering personal finance, natural health, parenting, and green living. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons, where they're often wandering on frequent picnics to find feathers and wildflowers.

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