Once the receptacle for the world’s most important form of communication, the mailbox remains an essential home feature, though today it holds a lot more Amazon packages than handwritten letters. Beyond functionality, American mailboxes are uniquely expressive, with few legal regulations leading to a wide range of custom designs which can boost your home’s curb appeal for prospective buyers:
“The funny thing is, the mailbox and the post are typically the first visual statement the buyers are going to see when they’re approaching the home,” remarks top Philadelphia real estate agent David Batty, speaking from his 10 years of experience in the real estate business. “They are often the first impression before the buyer even gets to the door.”
Home sellers would be wise to give the mailbox a little TLC before their house hits the market. Whether you’re looking to bring your current mailbox up to date or to find a new, more fashionable model, we’ve compiled a detailed guide so your mailbox gets the makeover it deserves.
Decide whether to repair or replace
A new mailbox can set you back $50 for a simple, plastic design to $1,000 for an ultra-custom model. If you’re getting ready to sell the house and your mailbox is already in good repair, simply give it little TLC for the best return on investment.
Start with a deep clean
First, deep clean your mailbox to remove any dirt buildup and cobwebs. If you have a post style mailbox, straighten the post so it stands at a perfect 90-degree angle to the ground.
To tidy the ground around the post, level the soil, remove weeds, and plant fresh flowers or shrubs. If paint is peeling off the mailbox or post, sand down affected areas and apply matching touch up paint, using an anti-rust specialty paint such as Rustoleum for metal surfaces.
Remember, the state of your mailbox is an indication of how well you’ve cared for your home. If the mailbox is in physical disrepair, it raises a red flag for buyers. Batty elaborates:
“When you have things that are clean and in shape and tidy, it helps a buyer say, ‘This house is well maintained.’ If the experience is consistent or better as they go through the home, then it really increases the buyer’s confidence. It also helps the seller net more money and ensures the transaction goes a lot smoother than it may have otherwise gone.”
Update the style with new colors or house numbers
Next, evaluate whether your mailbox still suits the style of your home. If you’ve repainted the house or remodeled the front yard, you may need to adjust the color or style of your mailbox accordingly.
If you decide to repaint, follow a DIY guide to hit all the steps:
- Sand down chipping paint and rust deposits using grade 3 steel wool.
- If rust persists, apply a towel soaked in a white vinegar or baking soda and water to affected areas for an hour. Remove the towel and scrub the rust off. Repeat as many times as necessary.
- Thoroughly wash the mailbox to remove dirt and remaining particles from sanding. Dry the surface with a chamois or microfiber cloth.
- Use painters tape to cover the flag and any other areas you want to protect.
- Spray the entire mailbox with a coat of anti-rust primer. Apply a second coat once the first is completely dry.
- Paint your color of choice with a spray can to apply paint without brush strokes. If you have a custom color in mind, use a paint sprayer for even application. Apply a second and third if necessary, letting the paint dry completely between coats.
DIY Playbook provides a fantastic step-by-step guide to repainting the mailbox, post, and house numbers. This blog’s before and after photos perfectly illustrate how a refinished mailbox can add warmth and personality to the front yard.
Your neighborhood usually dictates post or wall mount style
If your mailbox has substantial damage, you’ll need to replace it. The neighborhood you live in will usually dictate whether you opt for a post or wall mount style. If you see a lot of consistency around, there may be a homeowners association or other neighborhood guideline that you need to abide by. The USPS also has set requirements for all mailboxes, however most manufactured mailboxes will fit these as they are quite loose.
Standing proud at the front of your property, post mailboxes not only receive your letters and packages, they often indicate your home address with prominent house numbers. The most popular style of post mailbox is the “tunnel,” resembling the shape of a half dome box. The tunnel mailbox was invented in 1915 by U.S. Post Office employee and engineer, Roy J. Joroleman to create a standard style for mailboxes across the country. Today there are an infinite array of styles in this shape to choose from.
Wall mount mailboxes
Wall mount mailboxes are usually bolted on a wall next to the front door or on a pillar, fence or wall near the street. They come in vertical and horizontal shapes, often featuring hooks to hold your newspaper (though don’t expect the paper deliverer to actually use them!) Wall mount mailboxes are initially more subtle than post styles, but may receive a more detailed inspection from buyers waiting at the front door.
Select a mailbox style to complement your home’s aesthetic
Think of your mailbox as an accessory to the overall style of your home. The design and finish should integrate into the greater exterior design.
For traditional homes, a black mailbox featuring an American eagle is a classic look that will appeal to the majority buyers. Select a model with embossed gold text or add gold address numbers to the box or post to create dimension and help identify your home.
If black is too harsh for your home’s color palette, bronze provides a neutral alternative that is lower maintenance than white. Complete the look by surrounding the post with your state’s flower or a low maintenance alternative.
If your home is more contemporary, a sleek, metal mailbox is as cool as it is consistent with modern exterior design. Trending models feature negative house numbers cut out of the metal. Match the color of the metal to your home’s trimmings or hardware to further tie the design back to the home.
If you’d prefer to have a standing mailbox, a rectangular base made of wooden planks is an outside-the box alternative to a post. The wood base paired with the metal mailbox is a balanced design, the wood adding an organic component to soften the metal.
Incorporate plants in or around the mailbox to keep this modern style from appearing too cold. Some mounted mailbox designs include a built-in planter for succulents and air plants. To accomplish a similar look with a standing mailbox, pick plants of outstanding structure around the base and fill the gaps between the plants with gravel, stones, or even recycled glass.
You can also add or reface hardscape elements in your front yard to boost curb appeal and even use leftover construction materials to create a custom post for your curbside mailbox. This look is tailored and gives buyers the impression that you’ve accounted for every detail of your home. Ask your contractor for a quote or take on a DIY project with a stone mailbox post kit.
Eye Level offers a selection of stone frame posts with easy installation. With this kit, all you need is an 8 foot tall, 6 x 6 inch wooden post, ready-mix concrete, post level, drill, and a mailbox of your choosing. Following these simple steps, you can build your own custom mailbox in a couple hours time:
- Dig a three to four-foot hole, deeper than the frost line if applicable
- Insert the wooden post using a level to ensure it stands at a 90 degree angle to the ground.
- Poor ready-mix concrete into the hole. The concrete will take 20-40 minutes to set.
- Slip stone post over the wooden base. To set further, pour concrete on the inside of the frame.
- Drill the mailbox brace onto the post. The brace should sit 41-45 inches above the ground, use a level if needed.
- Drill the mailbox onto the brace.
- Set the white cap onto the post.
- For an added touch, drill vertical address numbers to the base or paint them onto the mailbox using stencils with this detailed how-to guide.
For the world traveler, a Swedish mailbox design can add color and personality to your home. Swedish mailboxes feature a horn, symbolic of the time when post horns were used to announce the arrival of mail in the 18th and 19th centuries. Built to withstand baltic winters, these mailboxes are as durable as they are stylish. Swedish mailboxes come in a variety of colors, as well as in black and white; stock for these mailboxes is often low due to their trending desirability.
Mid-century home design has reached new heights of popularity, especially with millennial buyers. Whether your home is a bonafide Mad Men dwelling or a contemporary construction with clean lines, you can incorporate a bit of mid-century nostalgia with your mailbox design. This highly rated retro Tedstuff Store mailbox even comes with an optional LED light kit, helping identify your home at night in style.
Ride the upcycling wave and find a unique, vintage mailbox to complement your home. A rustic mailbox will especially suit a home with a blooming English garden or weathered stone features.
Take care that your mailbox fits the overall vibe of your home; buyers can tell the difference between intentional vintage styling and old and broken down. To pull this mailbox style off, the rest of your home’s exterior needs to be in excellent condition from a maintenance point of view (i.e. freshly painted, healthy landscaping, nothing in a state of decay).
Novelty conversation starter
Due to the few restrictions placed on mailboxes nowadays, homeowners can express their creativity to great lengths.
“I had one client who had a manatee as a mailbox. The manatee, at the time they installed it, was an endangered species. They were into marine science; it was always a passion,” Batty shares. Another of Batty’s clients decorated his mailbox with golf balls. The golf theme even tied back to the home’s interior with a golfing theme den in the lowest level of the house.
While novelty mailboxes may not match all buyers’ interests, they’re an undeniable conversation starter. We don’t recommend installing a new one to help you sell your home, but if you already have one, you don’t necessarily need to replace it either. Batty reaffirms,
“You can have something that’s quirky and unique about a mailbox that people are indifferent about. That is a very easily changeable item—it’s not a very costly investment. So if my client had to decide between the value of the interior of the home relative to the mailbox, typically the interior is going to trump it all day long.”
Back to the big picture
Whichever direction you take, your mailbox is a fantastic opportunity to add style to your home’s exterior. Don’t let your attention to this detail go to waste by overlooking other important aspects of curb appeal such as landscaping, painting and lighting. The culmination of all these elements working in harmony will have buyers dreaming of retrieving their own post from your newly revamped mailbox.
Header Image Source: (Sean Patrick/ Pexels)