When you’re expecting company to arrive at your house after dark, you flip on the outdoor light switch to invite these weary travelers inside with a welcoming glow.
Now, take that simple gesture and amplify it by 500 lumens, and what do you get? A curb appeal lighting display to spark that same feeling of instant kinship with buyers.
They might swing by for an evening showing or take a second glance as they drive past after a long day at work. Either way, you don’t want buyers to miss your house completely or get lost trying to find it in the pitch black.
Plus, you did all that work to trim the trees and decorate your front step—why let it all go dark once the sun sets?
According to Mark Piantedosi of the five-star Commonwealth Landscape Lighting in Acton, Massachusetts, “the aesthetic and functional value of landscape lighting systems remains undiscovered by the majority of today’s homeowners.”
With this guide to curb appeal lighting inspired by the most beautifully lit homes on the block, you won’t be one of those homeowners who misses out on the opportunity to let their house shine.
Clean your fixtures and light bulbs to instantly boost their brightness
If you do nothing else to improve your curb appeal lighting, follow the advice of top real estate agent Sandy Kantor:
“Be sure that you have cleaned the lights, that they don’t have cobwebs, that they’re not dusty—just make the house feel fresh and clean.”
But water, electricity and glass are a dangerous mix, so you want to take every safety precaution before you go drenching any sockets with a bucket of suds and your bare hands.
So, while it’s still daylight, turn off all the lights and flip off the circuit breaker that controls your outdoor lighting. Then, put on a pair of protective gloves, like this cut-resistant pair ideal for handling glass.
- Go around to all the fixtures on the outside of your house. Remove shields and globes with a screwdriver, and unscrew the light bulbs. Use a step ladder for any hard-to-reach fixtures; you don’t want to be on your tippy-toes when you’re handling breakables.
- Lay out several old towels in the grass as cushioning, and carefully place all the fixture pieces you’ve collected on top.
- Using a dry scrub brush or old paintbrush, go back to the light pieces that are still affixed to the walls to remove dust, grime, and debris.
- Then, fill a bucket with hot water and dish detergent. Dip a rag in hot soapy water, wring it out, and wipe each fixed piece down, being careful to avoid getting the sockets wet. Follow the wipe down with a suds-free damp rag and let the pieces air dry.
- Switch to rubber gloves and gently place the removable light fixture pieces (the ones that you set on the towels) inside the bucket of hot water and mild detergent. Clean them one at a time, gently swishing them around in the soap mixture. Then rinse them off in a bucket of pure water or with the spray nozzle on your hose on a gentle setting. (Wash brass fixtures with a lemon and baking soda paste rather than soap and water.)
- Wipe down the light bulbs with a damp cloth. Put your protective gloves back on to reinstall the globes, shields and light bulbs.
While you’re at it, tackle your interior light fixtures next if you haven’t yet, to at least remove dust and grime from your bulbs. Kantor advises that homeowners turn on all of their interior lights prior to showings as a curb appeal booster—the brighter the lights, the better!
Replace lamp shades that look worn, especially if you can see them from the outside. Make sure that the windows aren’t too cluttered with light sources competing with what you have going on outside.
Improve your curb appeal lighting in 3 steps
Beyond a simple clean-up, curb appeal lighting can get pretty extravagant. Here we’ll walk you through the basics: how to buy the right bulbs, tips for selecting features that match your home’s style, and different ways to highlight the best features of your house with light.
1. Pick light bulbs by lumens and temperature
A little light bulb science that all homeowners should know: “watts” measure how much energy a bulb uses, while “lumens” measure how much light a bulb gives off.
Whenever you’re switching out bulbs, make sure that your fixture can handle any extra heat (or wattage) if you’re installing a higher-watt bulb or you’ll create a fire risk.
The good news is, since the phase out of incandescent bulbs, brighter bulbs no longer demand higher wattage.
New technology has made bulbs more efficient, allowing lower watt bulbs to produce the same level of brightness.
LED lights are the new-age, energy saving magic bulbs. Once they are installed they can last up to 40,000 hours, which equals about 20 years of use. Halogens have a lower cost to you (about $5 vs $20 for LEDs) but they only go about two years with regular use.
When selecting your bulbs, you also want to be thinking about color. The warmth or coolness of different light hues is measured on the Kelvin temperature scale.
It’s better to light architectural elements with a warmer temperature bulb, in the 2,500k to to 2,700k range, whereas you can display plants in a cooler temperature (3000k to 4000k), according to Custom Lighting of America, a top-rated lighting contractor in Florida.
Thankfully, LED bulbs can lean toward either side of the scale, so you can take your pick of bulb temperatures. Just check the bulb label to make sure you’re in the right range.
Finally, solar lights are another great option, and they’re aren’t just good in the summertime. These lights are convenient for stake and fence lighting because they require minimal installation.
While you may think you need abundant sunshine to power them, most are low-voltage, which means their LED lights don’t need much solar power to charge.
Home improvement expert Bob Vila provides some expert tips about buying the best solar lights for your needs. These lights are likely to be brighter in the summer months, but you’ll find that most provide an abundant all-year glow.
Whatever you do, don’t let dim light bulbs bring down your curb appeal.
2. Get new light fixtures to match your home’s style
Having a consistent aesthetic across every element of your home is key when getting it ready to sell, and that goes for the outdoor lighting, too.
If your front door and outdoor wall lights haven’t been updated in 30 years, it might be time to give them a refresh—even a house built decades ago can achieve an of-the-moment look by adding modern lighting. The key is to pick a style and stick with it.
Modern Curb Appeal Lighting
Clean lines, geometric shapes, and wide beams are all elements of modern lighting.
Instead of a light fixture, you could light up an entire segment of your house in a wall of light to show off its texture, a special lighting effect called grazing.
The modern look isn’t for everyone, but it can work, particularly for homes that have a ‘60s or ‘70s-era vibe.
Classic Curb Appeal Lighting
No matter the style of your home, you can’t go wrong with a classic sconce that hangs on the exterior walls, or, solar lights creating a path leading to the front door. Look for lights with simple details and lines to be sure that they will endure for years to come.
Rustic Curb Appeal Lighting
For homes with a cabin-like cozy feel, rustic lighting can work wonder for curb appeal. Lantern-styles on exterior walls and lights placed on picket fence posts might be the way to go.
Industrial Curb Appeal Lighting
An industrial look is similar to modern choices for your lighting, but with a little more edge. You’ll typically see industrial fixtures on ultra-modern homes but that doesn’t mean they can’t work for any home, if they are used consistently throughout an exterior lighting scheme— and flow with what’s going on inside.
No matter what style you pick, a little curb appeal lighting can go a long way in giving your home that extra glow, as a welcome invitation for potential buyers to stop in and say hello.
Individual light fixtures start at $20 but can be much pricier. For a professional to come out and install a 10-piece outdoor light system, you can expect to spend anywhere between $2,000 and $2,500.
3. Use special lights to highlight key features
When people stand in front of your house for the first time, you want them to think, “I can’t wait to go inside.” As they walk toward the front door, create anticipation and intrigue by adding lighting to illuminate pathways, entry points and key features.
- Make your fences more friendly
Fences are great for privacy, but they aren’t necessarily an open invitation to come on in. If you do have a fence, you may want to add a little more “hello” than “do not enter,” with these fence post cap lights from Wayfair.
- Illuminate your trees
Lit trees aren’t only for the holiday season. If you have a majestic oak in your front yard, why not show it off to add to the drama and appeal of your home. Uplights can be used to give your tree that extra glow.
- Light up your front walk
The front walk is like the runway that leads to the entryway, and by adding lights here you can create a literal path to the front door. If you have a front lawn, solar lights can be placed in the ground like this top-rated pick on Amazon, for a quick upgrade.
- Show off the outside your home
The front of your home may already have lights strategically placed at each corner and if it does, cleaning and replacing bulbs may do the trick to add to its curb appeal lighting. Or, go with outdoor wall or barn lights that fit with the style of your home.
- Bring attention to your front door
At last, the buyer has arrived at your front door and nothing says come in like doorstep lighting. You can put fixtures on either side of the door. Or, for a pro tip, put a potted plant on each side of your front door and add a stake light to each one. If you have a porch, hang a light from its ceiling.
- Put a spotlight on your for-sale sign
With a multi-purpose outdoor spotlight, you can make sure passersby know your home’s for sale at any time—day or night.
Let There Be Curb Appeal Light!
Enhancing your curb appeal lighting can be as simple as shining up your bulbs with a rag and a little elbow grease, all the way to installing special landscape lights throughout your yard with the help of a pro.
Most importantly, you don’t want buyers to arrive in your driveway squinting at the house numbers, and trying to make sure they’re in the right place.
That said, every homeowner’s needs and situation are different (we couldn’t possibly cover all the options in one article!) so talk to your real estate agent about how your outdoor lights compare to others’ in your neck of the woods, and what makes sense for you.