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By Daniel Bortz
June 7, 2021
A man carrying a ladder and paint walking towards a house
Getty Images

Even in today’s low-inventory housing market, a buyer’s first impressions of a home matters. Of course, home sellers only get one crack at making a great first impression, and it boils down to one thing: curb appeal.

Curb appeal is how a home looks from the outside, and it can have a big impact on how much a buyer is willing to pay for a house.

Homes with high curb appeal sell for 7% more on average than houses with a less-welcoming exterior, according to a study by business professor Sriram Villupuram at the University of Texas at Arlington. Villupuram trained computers to recognize features like trimmed shrubs, well-mown lawns and colorful flowers in hundreds of Google Street View images.

“The first impression for potential buyers has a big impact on their mentality as they tour your home, and it can alter what they feel [your home] is worth,” says Bailey Carson, home expert at Angi.com, a digital marketplace for home services.

Brendon DeSimone, a real estate broker at Houlihan Lawrence in Bedford, New York and the author of Next Generation Real Estate, says even small blemishes to a home’s exterior can scare away buyers. “If your front door has chipped paint, it can make buyers concerned about how well you’ve maintained the interior of your home.”

Here are five ways to boost your home’s curb appeal to fetch top dollar for your house.

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Spruce up the landscaping

Well-landscaped homes sell for anywhere from 1% to 10% more than homes with no landscaping, according to a 2019 survey of real estate agents by HomeLight, a real estate referral company in San Francisco.

“You want your home’s landscaping to look clean and pristine when buyers pull up to it,” says DeSimone.

Professional landscaping, though, can be pricey, with the average cost ranging from $8,000 to $15,000 for professional designs by a landscaper and upgrades like new plants, a patio and a backyard walkway, according to home remodeling resource Fixr.com. More modest interventions like new grass seed, topsoil and shrubs in a front yard costs about $3,000.

The good news? “There are some pretty simple, low-cost things that you can do to enhance your home’s landscaping,” says Sarah Hutchinson, director of content at GardenDesign.com.

She suggests adding potted plants, window boxes or hanging planters with annual flowers, like petunias. “Pop them in and you have an instant pop of color,” she says. “You can also put down a layer of fresh mulch to give your garden a crisp and clean look,” Hutchinson adds. (Pro tip: see if your town has a free mulch program. In Arlington, Virginia, for example, homeowners can get mulch made from recycled leaves at no cost.)

And don’t forget about the basics, says Lisa Stryker, a spokesperson at the National Association of Landscape Professionals — mow the lawn, prune trees and shrubs, and remove weeds and dead branches.

Make the driveway, walkway, and windows sparkling clean

You may not notice your driveway as you pull in your car each day, but a lot of buyers will, DeSimone says. Fortunately, “if your driveway has tire marks or oil spots on it, you can typically get rid of them by power washing it,” says Hutchinson.

Windows are also a common focal point for prospective buyers, so consider hiring a professional window cleaner to remove streaks, dirt and dust. Window cleaning costs an average of $213, with smaller jobs starting at about $80, according to HomeAdvisor. Many cleaning companies will do both interior and exterior cleaning.

“Washing your windows will also help bring natural light into your home,” says Hutchinson.

Paint (or replace) your front door

“As the main entrance to your home, the front door is a worthwhile place to make an improvement before getting ready to sell,” Carson says. Looking for the right hue? While some homes can benefit from a bright-colored front door, a 2018 Zillow study found that homes with black doors sold for $6,271 more than their estimated home value.

Moreover, painting a front door is a pretty easy project to tackle yourself. Tools and materials, including a two-in-one bucket of paint and primer, paint brush, drop cloth, and sandpaper, only cost about $75, according to HGTV.com, and there’s no shortage of YouTube videos with step-by-step instructions.

But there is an exception. If your front door suffers from warping, paint cracks, rust or scratches, it may be time to buy a new one. Carson says front doors cost an average of $1,000, and professional installation costs an average of $1,091, HomeAdvisor data shows.

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Swap out fixtures

To give your home’s exterior a modern look, replace outdated light fixtures and old house numbers. A new mailbox can also make your house more inviting; you can find one for as little as $30 at Home Depot or Lowe’s and install it yourself.

Don’t forget to replace burnt-out lightbulbs. In today’s fast-moving housing market, agents are often showing homes to buyers at night (especially if a house is vacant), so having a well-lit walkway to your front door is a must.

Buy budget friendly outdoor furniture

If you have a front deck or patio, don’t leave it empty. “Livable outdoor space is high on many buyers’ wish lists,” Carson says.

DeSimone agrees: “Coming out of COVID, people are looking for ways that they can socialize with their neighbors outdoors. So, if you can add a bench or a couple rocking chairs on your porch, that’s really appealing to prospective buyers.”

Consider purchasing lightly used outdoor furniture through Craigslist, OfferUp, Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace.

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