Front door curb appeal is a home’s chance to flirt with buyers before they fall head over heels.
During those first lingering moments in the entry area, guests will take their sweet time surveying the scene around them while their agent works to open the lockbox.
Sticky cobwebs, rusted hardware, and peeling paint might as well be garlic breath on the first date. A spotless front step, fresh coat of cherry-red sheen on the door and vibrant flower displays dressing up the porch will have buyers smiling from ear to ear. What delightful surprises are in store for them next?
“Help potential buyers have a connection to your home from the ‘first hello,’” advises Sandy Kantor, JD, a real estate agent ranking in the top 1% in Tucson, AZ who also holds the SRES and CRS real estate designations.
So let’s get to it—these projects (backed by agents who know the key to buyers’ hearts) will get your front door area saying all the right things before anyone even sets foot inside.
1. You Sure Clean Up Well!
To achieve masterful front door curb appeal, your front steps, porch, siding and, yes, the door itself must be free of dirt, grime and debris.
You can get this area sparkling in just 5 steps.
- Use a poly-fiber push broom to sweep away leaves and dust from your steps and porch area.
- Using a step stool if needed, wash down the siding immediately surrounding your door with a soft-bristle scrub brush and a bucket of cleaning solution appropriate for the material you’re cleaning.
For vinyl: Mix a 70/30 water to vinegar solution in a bucket and use it to clean larger areas with the scrub brush. You can also mix a ½ cup baking soda to ¼ cup water solution in a smaller container and use a toothbrush to get at nooks and crannies.
For stone: Mix a bucket of warm water with vinegar or dish soap to create a mild detergent and clean with your scrub brush.
For brick: Remove loose dirt and debris with your garden hose and a spray nozzle. For any mildew or mold problem areas, mix a cup of bleach with a gallon of water and apply with a natural or synthetic bristle brush, but first soak the area to protect the brick.
- Remove the screens from your storm door frames and gently remove debris with a handheld vacuum. Using a mixture of all-purpose cleaner and water and a microfiber cloth, wipe them down carefully. Then rinse them with your garden hose on low pressure. If your screen is damaged you can use a simple screen repair kit to fix small tears.
- Wipe down your front door using a diluted water and soap mixture. Get windows looking spot-free and shiny with Windex and either paper towels or rags that won’t leave lint behind. For any tough-to-reach spots, use an extendable squeegee.
- Take a wet rag and clean out all the crevices chock-full of spider webs and built-up debris—check the doorbell, mailbox, house numbers and light fixtures for dust and grime.
“It all adds up,” says Kantor of cleaning your home’s exterior. “Buyers will think you have not paid attention and maintained this home. They will assume from the get-go that it’s poorly maintained and they may even decline to walk in. Don’t make buyers wonder what else is wrong from a poorly maintained entrance.”
2. Get Your Door Looking and Feeling Like New
The entry door is romantically referred to as “The Portal to the Soul of Your House.”
In other words, you don’t want to greet buyers with a janky door on its last legs.
According to HomeAdvisor, the most common problems you may face with your front door are:
- Sticking and swelling, so opening the door is a challenge
- Sagging, meaning the door swing is off
- Drafty frame
On average it will cost you $220 to repair a broken door. If you’re on the fence about trying to fix your current door or just getting a new one, consider whether your door frame is still in decent condition (that will lower your repair costs).
If you’re dealing with small nicks in your door, you can fix minor gouges by sanding the area down, filling it with wood filler, and painting or staining over it.
Finally, don’t ignore a lock that’s sticking when you try to open or close it. Now’s the time to call on your handy spouse to get it fixed, or hire a pro. You want buyers’ grand entrance to be a smooth one.
3. Dress Things Up With a Bold Coat of Paint
A brightly colored front door turns heads, period.
But beyond the “wow” factor, some loan types (FHA) will require that you repair peeling paint prior to approving the home purchase. Take care of it now, when fresh paint will also benefit the presentation of your home, instead of waiting until after the home inspection.
There is a science behind mixing and matching colors that can guide you when selecting a shade for your front door. Pick a color scheme that’s either monochromatic, analogous, contrasting or complementary using the color wheel. You’ll also want to choose something in harmony with your exterior, landscaping, and neighborhood feel.
The color of your front door can also draw out buyer emotions—do you want to evoke confidence, warmth, peace or creativity?
To get the wheels turning, peruse these bold statement shades for inspiration:
- Benjamin Moore Moroccan Red
- Sherwin Williams Loch Blue
- Sherwin Williams Lemon Twist
- Valspar Sassy Green
“Paint is the cheapest way to bring a home up,” says Kantor. “Using a bright color on the front door is a big step, and depends on the home. Spanish hacienda styles with an orange door; sunset colors fit well in the desert. A home in the city may work well with bright red. What’s important is that your front door looks clean and attractive.”
Paint runs about $25-$40 per gallon, with endless options. Home to over 16 million design photos, Houzz also has plenty of inspiration for bright front doors to help you find the perfect color to make your home stand out from the crowd.
4. Greet Buyers Warmly With a Fresh ‘Welcome’ Mat
Showing your home will likely require more foot traffic that normal—which makes this the perfect time for a clean, functional doormat.
While something like “Beware of Dog” may make buyers think twice, a great neutral mat will show buyers a clean start to your home.
Here are a few options:
- This top-rated Cobham doormat is available in a variety of neutral colors and different sizes to adapt to your space, ranging from $20-$50 depending on size.
- Pottery Barn’s Kendra Trellis Coir welcome mat is both pretty and modern and would go with any color scheme.
- Literally say “hello” with the Sulema Hello Doormat for $30.99.
5. You’ve Got Mail!
If you have a mailbox or slot on your porch, make sure it’s in good repair both functionally and cosmetically. This is a small and simple thing to update; just be mindful of the style of your home and hardware finishes on the porch when selecting a mailbox.
A new mailbox can also be an opportunity to add a small pop of color. Modern homes mesh well with options like this sleek SereneLife wall mount mailbox, while more traditional homes might enjoy the style of this Chicago Industrial Style mailbox. Most styles have options available in the $30-$50 range.
6. Upgrade to Attractive House Numbers
House numbers are one of the first things buyers will notice—especially if they have to squint to make sure they’re at the right place!
Having new home numbers will prevent someone from arriving lost and frustrated, and can also make a statement.
According to Better Homes and Gardens, a trusted real estate brand since 1922, your house numbers can be “an extension of the architectural style of your home.”
These unique and customizable house numbers start around $20 per number, and you can choose from six typefaces, five sizes and four different finishes—brushed aluminum, flat black, dark bronze and white.
7. Match Up Your Hardware: Swap Out Knockers and Door Knobs
Your freshly painted front door could also benefit from new hardware, such as a knocker and doorknob in the same finish as your house numbers or light fixtures.
Plus, this thorough guide from Schlage, a long-established lock and hardware manufacturer that’s been around since 1920, will walk you through picking a handleset finish based on your brand-new front door color!
8. Wall Sconces Set the Scene With Inviting Lighting
Wall sconces, which look like the light fixtures you see atop lamp posts, are a popular way to brighten up your front door curb appeal.
They’re incredibly versatile and come in an array of shapes, sizes and finishes, as you can see with Houzz’s display of the most popular traditional outdoor lights of 2018.
Look for products with great reviews and that economically meet your style needs. For a modern home, this Cosette Outdoor Wall Sconce in a textured black finish would be very complementary; the fixture also has excellent reviews, and is under $50.
Installing new light fixtures on your own is a tricky and dangerous job, so your best bet is to hire an electrician. The cost of installation will vary depending on your existing fixtures and wiring.
9. Place Brightly Colored Flowers in Decorative Planters
Nothing adds that dramatic pop of color to your outdoor entry area quite like a beautiful flower display.
Feel like the options are endless? Use color theory to narrow down your varieties to set the mood you’re going for. You should also talk to the garden center of your local hardware store to make sure you’re getting plants that will thrive with your sun and water conditions, and won’t become a snack to any critters in your area.
Don’t leave your flowers in the plastic containers they come in. Display them proudly in decorative planters, like this Rustic Oak Barrel Planter that gives farmhouse feel for $20, or this Cabana Resin Planter that imbues a modern look at a similar price.
10. Create a Front Door Vignette to Tell a Story
If you have a larger front porch, take advantage of the space with a swing, bench, or seating area. Outdoor furniture selections such as these Wood Praiano chairs help buyers envision sitting outside with their cup of coffee in the morning.
Don’t have a ton of square footage to work with? Consider a small bistro set like this light-green Quebec 3 Piece from Wayfair. Place a small planter on top of the table or stage the scene with a bowl of lemons and two (unbreakable) cups reminiscent of a day well spent sipping lemonade on the porch.
If you already have porch furniture to work with, then make sure it’s in good condition and grab some fresh coordinating outdoor pillows with bright and fun options as inexpensive as $5.
11. Ding Dong! Don’t Forget the Doorbell
At the very least, make sure the doorbell is in good working order (and free of dirt and cobwebs)!
The cost of getting a doorbell fixed ranges from $228 to $354, but you don’t want a buyer to test it and disgruntledly realize it’s something they’d have to get fixed upon moving in. Talk about a buzz kill.
If you want to show buyers that you’ve kept your home up to date and embraced technology, then consider a smart doorbell.
A smart door bell’s cameras work with your smartphone, showing you who’s there and adding a layer of protection to the home with minimal financial investment. An added perk is the ability to see who is showing up to tour your home and when, even if you aren’t there.
Front Door Curb Appeal For a Dazzling First Impression
Kantor reminds sellers what the true goal of front door curb appeal is:
“Worn out screens, old hardware, a lock that sticks—they’re all important things to take care of. I’ve had buyers say ‘I don’t even want to see this house’ when approaching the front door. You want them to fall in love the first time they see it.”
With a little elbow grease and smart purchases, you can make sure that when buyers take that first step inside, they are already swooning over a home that’s a total catch.