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What Is Curb Appeal, and Why Does It Matter When Selling a House?

May 13, 2020 by Tara Mastroeni

It's hard to overstate how much having good curb appeal can make a difference when you're putting your home up for sale. After all, the way that your home appears from the street often serves as a buyer's first impression of the property. Whether you're a seller who's ready to move on to your next home or an investor looking to score top dollar, you're going to want the property's first impression to be a good one.

With that in mind, we've brought you a primer on curb appeal. Read on below to learn what curb appeal is, why it's so important when selling your home, and what you can do to improve curb appeal in your home. Armed with these curb-appeal tips, you'll have all the knowledge you'll need to get your home ready to hit the market.

What is curb appeal?

At its core, the term "curb appeal" refers to the way your home looks when it's viewed from the street. It's a combination of all the eye-catching design elements that are used to make your home's exterior look its best.

Homeowners often do their best to add curb appeal because they want their home to be aesthetically pleasing when they pull into their driveway at the end of a long day. However, it becomes even more important when thinking of putting the property on the market.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the first usage of the term back to 1975. Though sources are mixed on how it came about, most sources believe it refers to the way buyers used to decide on which properties to see before the days of online multiple listing service (MLS) systems.

In those days, rather than looking at listing photographs or taking a virtual tour, potential buyers would drive past the property and pull up to the curb. If they liked what they saw, they would call their real estate agent to schedule a showing.

Why is curb appeal important when selling a house?

When you're putting a property on the market, taking the time to ensure that the home has good curb appeal has two distinct purposes. On one hand, it often serves as potential buyers' first impression of the property. Essentially, if they like what they see of the home's exterior, they're more likely to walk through the front door, which is, after all, the first step toward receiving an offer.

On the other hand, taking the time to boost curb appeal can also have an impact on how much the buyer decides to offer for the home. In fact, a new study that appeared in The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics found that good curb appeal can raise a property's value by up to 7%.

How to improve a home's curb appeal?

Now that you know how it can help when selling a home, the next step is to learn how to enhance curb appeal. Below are a few easy curb-appeal ideas that won't break the bank or take an unreasonable amount of effort.

Create a welcoming entryway

With curb appeal, your first step should be to create a welcoming entryway. That means staging the area around the front door to look its best. To that end, think about giving the door a fresh coat of paint and adding a new welcome mat into the mix. If you don't have some already, consider hanging house numbers above the door so your property is easily identifiable from the road.

That said, keep in mind that improving curb appeal means thinking beyond the doorstep. If you have a front porch, for example, you'll want to take the time to set up outdoor furniture, creating a seating area that looks and feels inviting. In addition, you could line the steps of your porch with potted plants as a way of subtly guiding buyers to the door.

Invest in strategic landscaping

Beyond the entryway, you'll want to be sure to invest in the right landscaping. In this case, your investment doesn't have to be substantial, but some money should be spent on things that will have a big impact. For instance, if your home has window boxes, you'll want to be sure each one is filled with lively, blooming flowers.

If, on the other hand, you simply have typical flower beds, you may be able to get away with using last year's plants. In that case, you'll simply want to make sure you add some fresh mulch to the beds and care for the plants as needed.

Add plenty of light

Adding exterior lights is another way to increase curb appeal, particularly if you're listing the property in the fall or winter. In that case, since the majority of showings are likely to take place after dark, make sure your driveway and any paths to your front door are well lit. (After all, you don't want any potential buyers to fall down the porch steps.)

To that end, consider adding more exterior lighting to your home. If you already have some in place, make sure that it functions properly. Be sure to replace any light bulbs that need to be changed, and always remember to turn the lights on before evening showings.

Clean it up

Similar to how the interior of your home needs to be cleaned before buyers come in for showings, the exterior of your home should be cleaned as well. If your home has siding, before you put your home on the market, take the time to clean it with a pressure washer. Odds are, you'll be surprised what a difference this task makes. It's amazing how dirty siding can get over the years.

Commit to upkeep

Lastly, make sure you commit to keeping your yard looking its best while your home is up for sale. Mow the lawn regularly, and make an effort to keep weeds at bay.

Common curb appeal mistakes to avoid

Even the smartest investors sometimes make mistakes, but you don't have to. If your goal is to improve curb appeal, make sure to stay away from the following:

Investing in big-ticket fixes

When the property you're selling is a fixer-upper, do your best to avoid making big-ticket fixes, if at all possible. For example, completely redoing the landscaping in your yard, instead of opting for the type of strategic fixes mentioned earlier, could certainly boost curb appeal, but the return on investment probably won't match what you put out. With that in mind, do your best to invest wisely in improvements that will pay off.

Choosing the wrong paint colors

Believe it or not, paint can have a huge impact on buyers' impressions of the home. With that in mind, if you're considering giving the home's exterior a new paint job, be sure to choose neutral, popular shades. The idea here is that you'll want the way that the home looks to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible.

When in doubt, bring a stager or interior designer to give their opinion on potential paint colors. They'll be able to give you color combinations that work well together, as well as offer insights on which shades are trending.

Making your landscaping too personal

When landscaping your yard -- whether hiring a professional or doing it yourself -- beware of having it become too tailored to your own sense of personal taste. It's the same idea as the interior of your home. Since you're getting ready to sell, you should make sure all of your improvements are as neutral as possible. The goal is to try to appeal to a wide variety of buyers, and even your landscaping should reflect that.

The bottom line

By now it should be clear that improving curb appeal is an essential step in selling a house. To that end, before your property hits the market, take the time to evaluate how it looks from the street. If needed, use these curb appeal tips to get your home's exterior into its best possible shape. Trust us when we say that you'll be glad you invested the time and energy into maintaining good curb appeal when buyers start coming to your front door.

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