Curb appeal is that undefinable something that draws you to a home at a glance. It is a combination of visual charm, good upkeep and attention to detail.
An attractive entryway or appealing landscaping can make or break a sale. If your home lacks curb appeal, many prospective buyers will reject it without looking further, or will try to lowball you on price.
In a 2014 Zillow survey, real estate agents named curb appeal one of the five most important factors in selling a home. Agent Kevin Kieffer told Zillow that homes with strong curb appeal fetch prices about 10 percent higher in his East Bay area of California.
"Your house needs to be framed up: It needs to look like a picture when people pull up. They expect to see tasteful paint colors, well-trimmed grass, new bark, fresh flowers -- the whole deal," Kieffer said.
A small budget goes a long way, especially if you do some jobs yourself.
Here are 17 ways to bump up your home's curb appeal.
1. Bust clutter
"Clutter," of course, is in the eye of the beholder, so think of it this way: Buyers need to imagine your home as their own, with their possessions and their style. Go for a clean, streamlined look. Tips for doing this around your home include:
- Remove bikes, skateboards, trash cans, garden tools and other evidence of bustling family life.
- Walk around the house with a garbage can, tossing scraps of paper and plastic, branches, leaves, dog waste and anything else that doesn't belong in the yard.
- Eliminate all but a few carefully selected pots and pieces of outdoor furniture.
2. Freshen the entry
Clean the front door and give it a couple of coats of paint. Repair, replace or remove damaged screen doors and storm doors.
Remove everything, including furniture and pots, from the porch, deck or entry and give the entire area a thorough cleaning. Repaint or touch up where needed.
Finally, consider a new or custom front door to give the home a well-tended look. Polish any metal knobs and fixtures. Place a big planted pot on each side of the front door.
3. Add front-door color
A bright note of contrasting color can bring a home's front door to life. The trick is to choose colors that complement your home's exterior landscaping and colors.
4. Add living space outdoors
If your porch, deck or garden allows, install furnishings that expand the home's living space into the outdoors. Outdoor rooms are a trendy attraction for homebuyers.
Suggestions include adding an inexpensive indoor-outdoor rug, a porch swing, deck furniture, mood lighting, dining or barbecuing areas, or an outdoor bar.
5. Repaint the exterior
Repainting the outside of your home isn't a low-budget option. But if the home is ready for a paint job and you can swing it, a new coat of paint seriously pumps up curb appeal.
Take a neighborhood tour to research colors and shades that appeal to you and that fit in with the neighborhood. If you see a paint color you like, ask the homeowner for the color name and brand.
6. Paint trim
If you can't paint the entire home, paint the trim -- or just the window trim -- in an accent color. This is a relatively simple upgrade that provides plenty of pop.
7. Replace entry fixtures
Old fixtures often seem dated and unappealing to buyers. By contrast, new exterior light fixtures can quickly give a home an updated look.
While you're at it, replace the house numbers, the entry-door lock set and front-door mailbox. Brushed nickel gives a contemporary look, while an oiled bronze finish works well in traditional homes.
8. Power wash
Rent a power washer if you don't own one and clean decks, the carport and pavement. If you can't repaint, use a power washer carefully to clean and brighten the home's siding.
Power washers can damage wood if used incorrectly, so get instructions from your rental company.
9. Clean and repair paving
Patch and repair concrete and asphalt paving, and apply a new coat of sealer to the asphalt. Spread a fresh layer of gravel on gravel drives and pathways.
10. Clean the windows
Have the windows cleaned or do it yourself, but don't put your home on the market without sparkling windows, inside and out.
11. Clean and repair the roof
If your roof has moss, weeds or mold, clean it until it looks great from the street. Replace missing or broken shakes or tiles. Clean the gutters.
12. Mow, weed and trim
Keep the lawn carefully mowed. Spend a weekend shaping, pruning and cutting back overgrown shrubs. Mow neglected and overgrown areas.
Prune trees and remove limbs that hang over the house. Weed gardens thoroughly, and cover beds with mulch or compost.
13. Add high-impact landscaping
Tasteful landscaping can define a home's exterior. Better Homes and Gardens says "passers-by will notice plant groupings more than individual flowers, making greater streetside impact."
Also, get instant results by installing a few trees in pots to fill holes or bare spots in the landscaping.
Frame the front door or entrance with symmetrical pots holding small trees or medium-sized perennial plants. If your budget is limited, concentrate purchases on buying plants that will create a beautiful entrance.
14. Improve the lawn
It's hard to make a home look great when the lawn is weedy or sickly. (Get great ideas for boosting your lawn's health inexpensively by reading "11 Tips for a Less Expensive Lawn.")
15. Shrink the lawn
Homebuyers today are all about low maintenance. Reduce the maintenance and the water bill by removing a section of lawn and replacing it with drought-tolerant landscaping.
Create new garden beds filled with low-water plantings. (To learn more, read "12 Excellent Drought-Resistant Plants.") Installing an irrigation system is another low-maintenance amenity sure to prove attractive to buyers.
16. Install outdoor lighting
Path lighting is an inexpensive, high-impact upgrade. You can install it yourself.
Use a low-voltage outdoor system, or skip the wiring altogether and use individual solar path lights. The solar lights are less bright, but path lighting doesn't require blazing light, only visual cues for safety and attractiveness.
Also, replace or add lighting fixtures to the home or garage exterior. Again, skip glaring floodlights. They can be blinding, creating a hazard.
17. Edge the garden
Adding a border or edging to paths and garden beds gives landscaping a clean, professional appearance and adds to curb appeal. You have a choice of many materials, including stone, concrete, manufactured stone, wood, brick and metal edging.
Be wary of plastic edging. It can look cheap and flimsy, turning off buyers.