Curb appeal is the no. 1 way homeowners can boost the marketability of their house, data from HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Survey reveals. But before you get carried away with elaborate landscaping or perfectly groomed topiaries, consider how complicated designs can have the opposite effect on a buyer—“wow, this home is beautiful, but how much work will it be?”
According to the International Labour Organization, Americans only get 13 days of PTO per year on average. For most buyers, the idea of spending those precious days off or limited after-work hours maintaining their home is far from ideal.
Instead, maximize your curb appeal with these easy, high impact improvements which require little to no maintenance. Informed by current trends, eco-friendly options, and expert advice from real estate pros, this short list will make your home’s exterior effortlessly beautiful.
1. Restyle your exterior with a light, neutral paint palette
Curb appeal can be reduced to two main elements: the face of the house (e.g. the appearance of the actual building) and the landscaping. Focus on improving the face of your house first, with fresh paint for the siding and trim.
Paint the exterior a light shade in a satin to semi-gloss finish
Elmer Morales—a top real estate agent based in Ontario, California who sells homes 49% quicker than the average agent—tells us that buyers love light, neutral colors which make the home appear bright and inviting.
Light colors can be surprisingly low maintenance so long as you choose the right type and finish. Exterior latex paints like top rated Behr Premium Plus Ultra Exterior Paint and Primer in One are easy to wash with soap and water and are known to withstand temperature changes. Acrylic latex paints can cover almost any building material so long as it’s not applied over existing oil based paint, in which case it will peel.
For the finish, semi-gloss and satin your best options as their reflective surfaces are easier to clean than flat/matte paints. As the glossier of the two, semi-gloss is easier to clean, but reveals surface imperfections like cracks and bumps. Satin is more forgiving in this sense and has a more subtle, contemporary appearance, but is slightly harder to clean.
Dark trimmings provide tidy accents
When it comes to trim, go darker, not lighter than your siding paint. Darker trim beautifully contrasts light exteriors with the added bonus of hiding dirt and watermarks. For a classic look, paint shutters and trim black, navy or even British racing green.
Muddy olives, dark, milky teals, and deep greys are trending colors which suit a wide range of home styles from craftsman to contemporary. If you’re already sold on white trim, make sure you select a semi-gloss or gloss finish for easier maintenance.
2. Landscape with native plants and smart irrigation
The second main component of curb appeal is also the one which typically demands the most maintenance: landscaping. Busy homeowners can rejoice that trending eco-friendly landscape designs are easy and affordable to maintain.
Ditch the lawn
With 18.5% of the U.S. facing moderate to extreme drought conditions, many homeowners are tearing out their lawns for more sustainable landscape designs.
Morales confirms, “drip systems, gravel, stone, cactus type plants are super popular right now,” especially in dry climates such as Inland Southern California. Swapping out your lawn for more sustainable styles will significantly lower your front yard maintenance—no more mowing, edging, fertilizing, or berating your neighbor’s dog over pesky yellow patches.
Some cities even offer rebates to incentivize the switch. In Morales’ greater area, 26 cities offer rebates of $1 per square foot of grass removed.
Add color and texture with native plants
Evolved to survive naturally in your climate, native plants are super low maintenance as they require little watering or pesticides. They also protect biodiversity by providing food sources for native insects like butterflies and bees, birds, and other animals.
Head to a native plant nursery in your area for a wide selection of natives along with some professional guidance. You can also search for plants native to your area on wildflower.org filtering results by soil type, light requirements, leaf and floral characteristics, and size.
Finish with mulch
HomeLight’s recent Top Agent Insights Report found that 84% of Realtors recommend homeowners lay fresh mulch before they list their home.
Costing an average of $340, fresh mulch can add up to $769 to the value of your home, an easy 126% ROI. Mulch also lowers the amount of maintenance your yard requires by insulating the soil from temperature changes, retaining water to promote root health, keeping weeds out, and preventing soil compaction.
Choose a mulch that complements your home’s color scheme. Natural, shredded mulch such as cedar suit a wide range of plants; it’s appearance is more subtle than dyed mulch and is less likely to wash away over time compared to chunkier mulch such as wood chips. If you have a desert landscape, use rock cover like gravel or pebbles for a textured look. Rocks require little rearrangement and are easy to refresh with a quick hose down. Lay landscaping fabric under the stones to prevent weeds from poking through.
Invest in smart irrigation systems
U.S. households devote nearly 9 billion gallons of water for outdoor use, accounting for 30% of total water use. At the height of summer and in hot climates, outdoor water use jumps as high as 70%. Install a WaterSense labeled irrigation system to save hundreds on your water bill and hours of your time watering every year. These smart controllers act as a thermostat for your sprinklers, automatically sensing local water and landscape conditions to determine when to water.
3. Build your own stone paver pathway
If your walkway is damaged or non-existent, build your own paver path to guide buyers to the door.
“The stone pavers are popular and super easy to do if you’re a HGTV, DIY, do-it-yourself type. They’re super homeowner friendly and inexpensive,” affirms Morales.
Priced only 10-15% higher than concrete slabs, pavers are lower maintenance and more effective in boosting curb appeal.
Pavers are easy to wash down and cheap to repair since you only need to replace the single paver that breaks.
When comparing material options, brick and concrete are lower maintenance compared to stone which is the most likely to chip.
Brick expands and shrinks with temperature changes so is less prone to cracking. Stamped concrete, also the most affordable option, is very durable and masterfully hides imperfection as it ages.
4. Install solar lanterns for a glowing nighttime ambiance
Curb appeal shouldn’t end when the sun goes down. A well-lit home looks amazing in listing photos and attracts buyers passing by in person at night. Give your home a warm glow with solar lights along the walkway and in strategic locations through the landscaping.
Solar lights are smart devices that use the sun to power rechargeable batteries which automatically turn on the LED lights when the light of the day fades. Some lights have panels on top of the design, some connect to an external master panel, and others can connect to your own solar panel. These lights require little maintenance since they do not have cables or need electrical power.
Just wipe them clean with a cloth and soapy water a couple times a year. Style-wise, choose metal, not plastic lanterns for durability. Opt for bevelled or frosted glass over transparent as these panels will better hide dirt and watermarks.
5. Customize your entry for the final impression
The entryway is your final chance to win over buyers’ first impression. Welcome them into your home with accessories which requires zero-upkeep.
Coordinate your front door hardware, home numbers, and sconce for a cohesive statement.
A semi-gloss black is a versatile finish which perfectly accents a light colored home while also hiding fingerprints and dirt.
As with the solar lanterns, select a sconce with textured or bevelled glass—it’ll require fewer wipe downs than flat, transparent panels.
Bring color to the area with low maintenance plants in colorful glazed pots (super easy to clean with all-purpose spray or a quick hose down). Highlight the door with a coir pile doormat like this decorative Winston Porter mat or Bayou Breeze pineapple design. For the final touch, hang a wreath made of dried leaves such as eucalyptus or high quality faux materials.
Low maintenance curb appeal benefits you and your buyers
The best part about heightening your curb appeal with low maintenance elements is you’ll have little to do to keep them beautiful until you hand the keys to the new buyers.
Remember, you don’t have to spend a fortune on curb appeal to make a great impression. 70% of real estate agents recommend spending no more than $1,000, an easy budget to stick to when you follow these recommended projects.
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