If there was ever a buzzword in real estate, “curb appeal” would be it. To date, the #curbappeal hashtag on Instagram has over 359,000 posts. Local magazines boast holding the secrets to great curb appeal in the region. HGTV has a show called “Curb Appeal,” for Pete’s sake.
It’s colorful, it’s fun, it’s en vogue—but the trouble with a hyped concept like curb appeal is the details get lost in translation.
So what is curb appeal, exactly?
The true meaning of curb appeal: Can such a catch-all word be defined?
If we had to explain curb appeal in a 15 second elevator ride, we’d say this: Curb appeal is how attractive a house looks from the outside. As a focal point for a house that goes up for sale, curb appeal encompasses all of the external factors that shape a home buyer’s first impression of a property the moment they lay their eyes on it from the street. (Phew, we’re out of breath!)
Web sources vaguely note that use of the term “curb appeal” reached fever pitch during the housing boom that preceded the subprime mortgage crisis. Digging into this claim a little deeper we looked at the available data tracking this trend over time.
Google NGram which tracks how often a term gets used in books, shows that mentions of curb appeal started around 1960 and then had hockey-stick growth from 1980-2000.
Source: (Google NGram)
Meanwhile, Google Trends data shows that searches for “curb appeal” on the web spike fairly consistently every April, no doubt as the weather starts to thaw and homeowners start thinking about putting their house on the market for spring selling season.
From desertscapes to lush lawns: Different shades of curb appeal by the region
The image you have of curb appeal in your head is likely different from people who live in a different region or on the opposite coast. Location, climate, and architectural styles influence what makes curb appeal attractive. Cape Cod cottages line the Northeast coastline, while traditional Tudor homes span across the Midwest.
Here’s what you can expect for curb appeal in the various regions of the country:
- Coastal curb appeal:
Coastal cottages and beach bungalows boast nautical blues and natural elements like stone and wood. Clean white exteriors are complemented by blue shutters and large windows that overlook the porch rockers. Ready to handle any ocean breeze, landscaping is kept simple.
- Midwest curb appeal:
Traditional suburban neighborhoods take on four seasons in the midwestern states. Freshly painted fences surround large, tree-lined yards that are consistently trimmed and raked. Seasonal plants add color and dimension to large Tudor, brick, and stone homes.
- Southwest curb appeal:
Water-wise rock, sand, and cactus landscaping give stucco Southwest ranches manageable curb appeal. Light stone pavers and energy-saving windows and doors are ideal for the hot, dry climate.
- Pacific Northwest curb appeal:
Modern mountain homes with clean lines and neutral palettes stand out in the northwest foliage. The damp climate is perfect for slate stone and wood landscaping elements that contrast with evergreen grass.
- Southern curb appeal:
Classic colonial homes sit on large lots in the southern states. Preserved original pillars and porches charm buyers who pull up the long driveway. Warm welcome mats and wreaths make the old houses feel like home.
Curb appeal is more than a pretty sight: It’s cash in the bank, too
Curb appeal’s visual interest and dramatic makeover potential make it great TV and wonderful fodder for browsing those shocking before-and-after photo essays. But does all that reality TV encouragement to spruce up your home’s outdoor appearance hold water, or is curb appeal as vapid as the ever-entertaining House Hunters?
Experts in the real estate field and ROI research echo the same truth: curb appeal matters big time—especially for home sellers. Check out these stats if you don’t believe us:
- A well-landscaped home is likely to fetch 5.5 – 12.7% more than one with no landscaping.
- 94% of Realtors have suggested sellers improve their curb appeal before listing a home for sale while 99% believe curb appeal is important in attracting a buyer.
“First off, it’s going to be how well the house and the yard are maintained,” says PJ Hartley, a top-performing real estate agent in Tyler, Texas who’s sold over 74% more properties than the average agent. “Now the inside of the house can be a total let down, but I think the front yard being pretty and attractive sets the stage of paying more for the house.”
From the street to the front door—curb appeal is everything in between
To better unpack the abstract idea of curb appeal, we’ve broken it down into three different levels representing different areas of a home’s frontward presentation from the bottom up.
Curb Appeal Level 1 (Bottom): General landscaping, bushes and shrubs, flowers and decorative plants.
Starting from the lowest point of a buyer’s line of vision, landscaping is the first level of curb appeal.
Standard lawn care service is the number one project that appeals to buyers and is estimated to return 267% of the cost, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Remodeling Impact Report.
“Where the plants are and how they grow into their shape makes a big difference in how well the front of your house shows,” says Hartley. “In the South where I am, the grass is still a big deal. Buyers want it green, healthy and trimmed.”
If there are areas of the yard that look disheveled or unkempt, Hartley recommends using a few beautiful elements to draw buyer attention away from the negative.
“I have a client who, in 30 years, never really did much in the way of landscaping and we didn’t have a whole lot of time,” says Hartley.
“We put pots with beautiful plants around her really nice looking front porch. It drew people’s attention away from the fact that it wasn’t heavily landscaped all the way to the ends of the house.”
Work with your real estate agent to figure out the best way to landscape your home within your budget and timeframe. If possible, consult with a professional landscaper to add or remove plants where necessary. At the very least, trim bushes and cut the grass to keep your yard looking prim and proper.
Curb Appeal Level 2: Porch, windows, and the front door entryway.
As buyers enter the home, they will spend the most time on the porch and the doorway. They’ll hold onto the railing, walk the length of the porch, and look at the details of the home’s entrance.
“Many people live by going from their garage to their house daily. They don’t really go on their front porch,” says Hartley.
“The buyer has plenty of time to check out the front porch while they’re waiting for the agent to get the door open.”
For ultimate curb appeal, create a charming front entrance. Here’s how to enhance your curb appeal with your doorway and porch:
- Clean dirt and dust around the doorway.
- Give your front porch and door a fresh coat of paint.
- Replace old, used decorations with clean, simple touches.
- Replace porch light bulbs and update fixtures if necessary.
- Clean the windows on the outside.
- Sweep the porch.
The siding of your house is also in the direct line of vision for approaching buyers. Make sure your siding has been maintained and is visually appealing. Fix chipped siding with fresh paint and power wash siding to remove layers of dirt.
Curb Appeal Level 3: Roof, gutters, and windows.
Stand on the curb in front of your home and scan the house from the bottom. The last section of curb appeal is the top of your home. A decrepit roof and low-hanging branches are dollar-signs in buyers’ eyes. Dirty windows and broken shutters make your house look rundown.
Clean the windows on the inside and outside to make the glass shine like new. Carefully paint the trim around each window for fresh contrast. Lastly, paint or replace worn shutters to make the windows pop.
Check off the final category of curb appeal with a clean, maintained roof. Hire a professional pressure washer to remove dirt and mold and give your roof a new look. Cut any low hanging branches that could cause problems down the road. Then, clean the gutters and the chimney to bring it all home.
So there you have it: What is curb appeal?
Curb appeal is the first thing buyers notice about your home. It’s the collective elements of the front of your house that determine whether buyers are excited to see more or bummed they wasted their time.
Strong curb appeal has the power to bring more buyers through the door and, ultimately, help your house sell for more money. Talk to your real estate agent to enhance your curb appeal and sell your home successfully from a buyer’s first “hello”.