A buyer has already formed an opinion about your home before they ever step foot inside. In fact, according to HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights for 2019, 76% of agents believe that taking steps to improve the exterior is the most important thing you can do to make your home more desirable.
The front porch is a great place to start. Whether you have a giant wraparound porch or just a small portico, there are plenty of creative and cost-effective ways to maintain, improve, and dress up your entryway.
We talked to a top real estate agent as well as some décor and construction experts to find out what you can do to spruce up your stoop, increase your home’s curb appeal and create a warm, welcoming introduction for buyers.
Front porch trends across the country
Porches aren’t just popular in the South. Data from the Survey of Construction (SOC) shows that a majority of new homes across the country are built with them. In 2017, the last year with data available, nearly 65% of new homes were built with front porches. The West North Central states saw 52% of new homes with porches, while in four Southern states, the share of properties with porches was as high as 90%.
The majority of front porches are made from concrete, and the second most popular material is treated wood, according to the Annual Builder Practices Survey (BPS) conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs. The third most common type of porch is a composite, which is a mixture of wood and plastic fibers that requires less maintenance than solid wood.
With so many porches out there, try these expert-recommended tips for making yours stand out. And don’t wait until scheduled showings — you never know when a prospective buyer might be doing a preliminary drive-by.
1. Clean outdoor cushions and furniture
If you have any outdoor seating on the porch, make sure the cushions are clean. If they have removable covers that can be tossed in the washing machine, that’s the easiest solution.
If not, try using a scrub brush to clean them with a mixture of one gallon of warm water, one cup of Borax and ¼ cup of dish soap, as suggested by Carpe Diem Cleaning. Be sure to check the care labels on your cushions before getting started. After washing, air-dry the cushions in the sun before putting them back on the furniture. You never know when a buyer might take a seat during a showing.
Next, clean the furniture itself using the appropriate method for the material:
- For wrought iron or aluminum furniture, Carpe Diem recommends cleaning with a mixture of one gallon of soapy water and ¼ cup of mild dish soap and then rinsing with a hose.
- For teak furniture, rinse off any dirt with a hose and then apply a teak wood cleaner to restore the wood and remove any stains.
- For wicker furniture, wipe off any dirt with a damp cloth. For caked-on dirt, try using a soft paint brush or toothbrush. Next, wipe down the wicker with a mixture of one gallon of soapy water and ¼ cup of mild dish soap. Finally, rinse with a damp cloth.
Make sure all furniture surfaces are dry before replacing the cushions.
2. Declutter the porch
Just like the interior of the house, it’s important to make sure the porch is clean and tidy. Remove any unnecessary or unused items that might create a cluttered appearance or impede the path to the front door. Common offenders include shoes, unused flowerpots, bicycles, kids’ toys, pet accessories, gardening tools and other “everyday debris” that might not seem like clutter to you, but certainly would to a buyer.
“Never use your front porch as a storage area,” advises real estate analyst Emile L’Eplattenier. “Psychologically, dumping non-working or rarely used items at the entrance to your home does not exactly indicate a high-functioning household. Even if there’s not enough interior storage space, telegraphing that fact to the entire neighborhood by using the front porch as a storage area is a bad idea.”
If you’re short on interior storage space, consider temporarily renting a storage unit until the house is sold.
3. Deep clean the porch
Once you’ve de-cluttered and removed any surface dirt and debris, it’s a good idea to do a deeper cleaning of the porch itself.
Benjamin Ottis, an exterior cleaning expert and founder of Full Color Cleaners, notes that wood can rot, grow fungus and lose the seal that protects it from weather conditions. “Wood will require you to do more maintenance, unlike slate, concrete and brick,” he points out.
Ottis says the best way to clean a wooden porch is to first use pressure-washing to remove any fungus that may have grown on and in between the wood. Next, you can add a fresh layer of stain to make the wood look new again.
For the pressure-washing, Ottis warns that it could damage the wood if it’s not done properly. “Homeowners are encouraged to hire a professional to assist them when pressure washing and cleaning their wooden porch,” he says. “If you don’t want to hire a professional, you can always scrub the wooden porch until it’s clean, but that can take up a lot of time if you have a larger area.”
For concrete porches, Ottis says it’s best to pressure wash, as you can’t mop away certain stains such as old dried gum, oil stains and dirt etched between the crevices. With pressure washing, you can use hot water to loosen the stains and make the concrete look like new.
It’s also important to watch for any cracking in the concrete, which could lead to bigger problems if left unchecked. Be sure to repair any cracks and weather-proof the concrete with a protective coating.
Clean the front door
Also remember to give the front door a good scrub-down, including any glass panes. “The worst thing is for a buyer to walk up and see a dirty screen door,” says Mike Graf, a real estate agent based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “A lot of my clients are now doing full glass doors, but it’s important to keep them clean and smudge-free.”
Freshen up the siding
If your porch has any visible vinyl siding, make sure it is clean and free of any green algae growth, which can make a home appear dirty. You can either hire a professional or tackle the job yourself. The Vinyl Siding Institute recommends washing with a soft cloth or a long-handled, soft-bristled brush.
4. Say it with signs
Graf recommends sprucing up the entryway with a sign to catch the buyer’s eye and create an inviting feel. Although you don’t want to overdo it with too many messages, some well-placed front porch signage can go a long way toward adding some personality to your porch. Below are some cost-effective examples:
- Even if you’re short on space, this vertical “Welcome” sign can be propped up in the corner of the entryway to greet visitors.
- This hanging “Home” sign will help create a welcoming and cozy feel for buyers.
- Display an address plaque on the porch to help visitors identify with the house and make it more memorable, while adding an upscale touch.
Also, if your front porch currently has a sign featuring your family’s name, a school name or a sports team, you might consider swapping it out for a more neutral, non-polarizing piece that will make the buyer feel at home.
5. Give the front door a face lift
The quickest and cheapest way to get the front door ready for showings is to give it a good scrubbing, including any glass panes or sidelights. But if your door is starting to show its age, is in need of repair or just isn’t looking its best, consider investing in one or more of these improvements.
Add a fresh coat of paint.
If your painted front door is chipping, fading or just not an appealing color, a paint job can make it look like new again, and can instantly transform your front porch without a lot of time or money. It’s also a lower-risk opportunity to try a bolder color you’ve been eyeing, without the commitment of painting an entire room or house. If you’re the DIY type, try these tips for choosing the right paint, prepping the door and doing the actual painting.
Upgrade the hardware.
Swapping out the doorknob, hinges and lock is another way to breathe new life into a tired front door.
Hang a welcoming wreath.
Choose a seasonally appropriate wreath in a color scheme that complements your home’s exterior. This simple addition can add a colorful and festive finishing touch to your front porch décor. (Avoid hanging any names or initials, as the goal is for the buyer to envision themselves living in the home.)
6. Stage the porch with decorative accents
A little bit goes a long way. The key is to warm up the space with carefully selected accents without making it look cluttered or obstructing any views from the porch.
- At a minimum, for very small porches, you can flank the front door with two matching planters for a pop of color.
- If you have a bit more space, you can incorporate some planters on stands, a cozy chair and a small table.
- If your porch is on the larger side, you may have more room for a conversation area with chairs and tables, multiple plants and an area rug.
- One way to add color, texture and personality to a porch without sacrificing floor space is to hang some exterior wall art.
- If space permits, consider adding a porch swing in a material and color that complements the rest of the space. This can add a warm, inviting feel while doubling as off-the-floor seating. When installing the swing, make sure there is enough room on either side to allow for the swinging motion. Porch swings must be installed into a structural beam to ensure safe use.
7. Warm it up with a rug or mat
If your porch is on the larger size, consider adding an all-weather outdoor rug to soften up the space. When choosing a floor covering, keep these important factors in mind:
- Look for a rugged, weather-resistant material that will stand up to the elements and that dries quickly after inclement weather. Synthetic fibers like polypropylene and acrylic are durable and low-maintenance.
- The rug should enhance the exterior of your home without dominating it. Avoid any bold colors or patterns that could distract from your home’s selling points.
- Make sure the rug is an appropriate size and shape for the porch — large enough to make a statement, but not so large that it overpowers the space or looks like it was placed there to cover imperfections.
If your porch can’t accommodate a rug, add a new front doormat that complements the home and makes a potential buyer feel welcome.
Be sure to keep any rugs or mats clean for showings.
8. Make any necessary structural repairs
L’Eplattenier says the most important (and often the most ignored) improvement for a porch is correcting any structural issues.
“A sagging or sloped front porch will immediately throw up red flags for buyers and investors,” he says. “If the homeowner couldn’t manage to keep up with basic structural maintenance for the most visible portion of their home, it implies there might be even deeper issues lurking in the rest of the home. It’s very hard to get potential buyers to shake their first impressions when it comes time to write an offer or counteroffer.”
9. Showcase the porch with strategic lighting
Highlight all of your hard work by investing in outdoor lighting that accentuates the entryway. In addition to enhancing your home’s nighttime curb appeal, illuminating your porch will also add an element of safety and could add value.
- Step and stair lighting: One easy way to brighten your porch is to add step or stair lights leading up to the entryway.
- Ceiling fans with lights: For larger porches, an outdoor ceiling fan with built-in lighting can add warm illumination while creating visual appeal and a comfortable breeze.
- Hanging pendant light: This type of lighting is a good choice for porches that have a gable roof. Choose a finish that complements other outdoor fixtures or your home’s trim.
- Wall-mounted lanterns: If you’re short on space, consider mounting two light fixtures on either side of the front door to create a welcoming glow.
When a potential buyer walks up to your home, the porch sets the stage for the rest of the showing. Whatever the size of your porch or your budget, there are plenty of ways to enhance and improve this important structure to help increase the chances of landing (or increasing) an offer.
Header Image Source: (David Papazian / Shutterstock)