“There are only three things that determine if your house will sell: price, marketing, and condition,” says real estate agent Peter Clark, who ranks in the top 3% of 5,347 agents in the Portland, Oregon area.
It’s that 3rd one that you have the most power over as a homeowner. And buyers begin evaluating your home’s condition the moment they pull up in your driveway—which is probably why 94% of real estate agents recommend that their clients improve their home’s curb appeal before listing.
“We start at the curb and we power wash the driveway and sidewalks. We paint the front of the house and replace tarnished hardware on the front door. We do all those things so the buyer won’t be concerned about the condition of the house,” Clark adds.
The problem is, making major exterior renovations to get your house in tip-top shape can get pretty pricey—especially if you look at the laundry list of outdoor features that buyers crave.
Yikes! It would take thousands of dollars to add every improvement on this wish list. That’s a whole lot more than many home sellers can afford to pay out-of-pocket—even if they might make that money back when the home sells at a higher price.
But this doesn’t mean you’re stuck selling your home at a lower, as-is-condition price. Curb appeal on a budget? Yes, it’s possible!
Then it’s just a matter of adding a few of these budget accents to accentuate that sparkling, well-groomed exterior. Take your pick from 1, 2 or all 5 of these inexpensive curb appeal boosters—and then shop til you drop!
1. Universal Spray Paint to Enhance the Front Door Hardware (project costs: $15-30)
Tarnished hardware on your front door greets buyers with a message that says your house is in poor condition. In the same way, outdated hardware finishes (like brass) puts the focus on your home’s age rather than its assets.
Unsightly hardware is easily fixed with a little universal spray paint.
Spray paint ensures a smooth, even coat—unlike visible brushstrokes which will give your DIY project away to buyers. Pick one that both mimics a metal finish and one that’s designed to adhere to metal.
Make the job easier by paying a few extra dollars for a universal or all-in-one spray paint. That way you won’t need to prep your hardware by sanding it with steel wool and then pre-treating it with a coat of primer.
2. Gallon of Colorful Paint for the Front Door (project costs: $100 Or Less)
If your home was a work of art, the front door would be its focal point. It’s the place the eye goes first when buyers are getting their initial curbside impression of your home.
By painting the front door a bright, fresh color—like candy apple red, sunshine yellow, or royal blue—you’re using color psychology to create an emotional connection within your home’s potential new owner from the moment they lay eyes on it.
Trim painting costs vary depending upon the square footage, repairs needed and other extras like shutters, or porch railings.
If you do the work yourself, painting your front door will cost half of that. For around $50 you can get a small paint roller and tray, a quart of exterior-grade paint and primer, sand paper and a roll of exterior surface painter’s tape.
3. Inviting Welcome Mat (cost: $20-50)
Literally “rolling out the welcome mat” invites potential buyers to feel at home in your house. And that mat can say a whole lot more than just “Welcome.”
The style of front door rug is an opportunity for you to prepare buyers for the design style they’ll find inside, whether that’s ornate French Quarter or cozy coastal cottage.
And if you don’t have the skills or the budget to paint your front door, a bright doormat is another way to add an attention-grabbing pop of color to the entryway.
Selecting one that reflects your home’s personality rather than your own is key when your welcome mat shopping.
Stay away from any playful messaging and kitschy designs, such as “Excuse our Mess,” or cutesy paw prints. After all, you want buyers focused on your home’s appeal, not wondering about your home maintenance abilities or any potential pet smells.
Before you lay out any cash, you’ve also got to make sure the doormat you pick is going to fit. Measure the length and width of the area outside your front door before making your purchase.
Remember: Measure twice, buy once!
4. ‘Notice Me’ House Numbers (cost: $10-90)
If potential buyers have trouble finding your place because the address isn’t prominently displayed, they’ll have a negative mindset before ever laying eyes on your home.
Adding new house numbers not only makes your home easier to locate, it’s a practical way to add extra oomph to your curb appeal—the same way a scarf or tie accents an outfit.
Unlike the welcome mat, though, your house numbers need to be in keeping with your home’s exterior style. Otherwise they’ll stick out like a sore thumb. For example, installing sleek, modern house numbers on an ornate Victorian home.
The cost of new house numbers varies depending on the style, the number of digits, and whether you opt for individual numbers or an all-in-one address plaque.
If you want the look of an all-in-one-plaque (or you need it to cover up impressions left by the old numbers)—but can’t afford it—you can make one yourself.
Just buy an inexpensive wood plaque from your local craft store that’s large enough to fit your individual numbers. Then paint the plaque with an exterior-grade paint, attach your numbers and hang it.
But before you make any changes to your existing address, do your research. You may find out that your city or county has house number regulations that you need to meet.
Whether your area has regulations or not, in general, it’s best to get address numbers that are at least 3 to 6 inches tall. That way first-responders can easily find your house.
Numbers that aren’t big enough will likely be noted in your buyer’s home inspection.
5. Modern Mailbox (cost: $20-100)
You may get your snail mail every day, but when’s the last time you really looked at your mailbox? While your box may be perfectly functional, appearance-wise it’s likely a rusty eyesore in need of attention.
Most mailboxes can be painted with the same universal spray paint that you use on your front door hardware. Using identical paint colors on all your exterior metal accents creates a crisp and cohesive look that won’t bust your budget.
However, if your mailbox is dented or damaged, you’ll need to buy a replacement. The cost of a new mailbox varies depending on design style—and whether it’s a wall mount, post mount, or door-mounted mail slot.
Since your mailbox serves a federal function, take the time to check out the mailbox guidelines of the United States Postal Service before you buy or install your new mailbox.
This is especially true if you’re buying a unique mailbox from a privately-owned mom-n-pop shop like Etsy. If the mailbox you’ve got your eye on has the Postmaster General’s (PMG) seal of approval you’re good to go.
Improving your home’s curb appeal may seem impossible when you’re on a tight budget. But once you put in the work to make your siding and yard look neat and clean, it’ll look like you gave your home a million-dollar makeover without spending more than a few hundred dollars.
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