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What is Curb Appeal and Why Does It Matter?

If you’re looking to sell your house, then its curb appeal could end up being just as important as its interior design and layout when it comes to getting the best price. And to help you understand why, we’re going in-depth on the topic, including answers to questions like “what is curb appeal anyway?” and “just how important is it?”—plus some quick and budget-friendly tips for improving your curb appeal and getting more enjoyment out of your home’s exterior.

So, what is curb appeal and why does it matter so much? Here’s what every homeowner needs to know about this often overlooked home selling essential.

What is curb appeal?

Curb appeal refers to the exterior design and features of your home. Think of it like your home’s first impression, with the exterior giving potential buyers (or even just people who are walking through your neighborhood) a sneak peek at the quality of home that they might be able to find inside.

The more attractive the exterior of your home, the more curb appeal it has. This goes beyond the architectural style of your house and encompasses various capital improvements that you might have made while living there, including things such as:

  • Landscaping, including the appearance of your lawn, trees, and plants

  • Lighting design

  • The color and quality of your exterior paint and/or siding

  • The quality of your roof

  • The style of your front door

  • Additional exterior features like a front or rear porch, water feature or pool, or fire pit

When coming up with a tidy response to “what is curb appeal?”, it’s important to think beyond improvements and additions. The attractiveness (or lack thereof) of your home’s exterior has as much to do with maintenance and the quality of materials that you use as it does with targeted updates. For this reason, it’s important to invest in and take great care of your home’s exterior, particularly if you have plans of going on the market in the near future.

Curb appeal by the numbers

Owning a home comes with a lot of different cost factors, from regular home repairs and maintenance projects to design and remodels. It can be tough to figure out where you need to prioritize your spending, but these curb appeal statistics show that there’s a lot of value to dedicating at least some of your yearly budget to your home’s exterior.

Here’s what the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2018 Remodeling Impact Report has to say about the importance of curb appeal and how it can increase the value of your property:

  • 100% of costs related to landscape maintenance and tree care are recovered at the time of sale.

  • 99% percent of NAR members believe that curb appeal is important in attracting a buyer (79% say that it’s very important; 20% say that it’s somewhat important).

  • 97% of NAR members believe that curb appeal is important to a potential buyer (66% say that it’s very important; 31% say that it’s somewhat important).

  • 94% of realtors have suggested to sellers that they improve their curb appeal before listing their home on the market.

  • Among homeowners who invest in curb appeal, 75% say they have a greater desire to be home since completing the project, 59% say they have an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home, and 63% say they feel a major sense of accomplishment when they think of the project.

As for the dollars and cents of exterior improvements, that depends. How much you spend on curb appeal will have as much to do with the size, age, and condition of your home as it will with the quality of materials that you use. Labor is a big cost factor too, and the cost of curb appeal will go up if you decide to hire professionals instead of undertaking the job yourself. (Though it’s worth noting that some improvements are best left to the pros, such as repainting the exterior of your home.)

Exact numbers can and will vary, but here’s what Brick and Batten has to say about the average costs involved in a major exterior home makeover:

  • Exterior painting – Average cost: $2,802.

  • Home landscaping – Average cost: $3,240 (though you can make major landscaping improvements while spending a lot less than this).

  • Trim painting – Average cost: $235.

  • Front porch railing – Average cost: $600.

  • Exterior home decorations (including porch furniture, lighting, and miscellaneous additions) – Average cost: $800.

There are also more costly additions that you can make, such as adding on a brand new front porch or rear deck, or having a new fence or pool installed.

Don’t get discouraged though by high price tags. Boosting curb appeal doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor, and there are plenty of things that you can do if you’re working with a tight budget—especially if you’re willing to do the labor yourself.

7 low-cost curb appeal ideas

There’s good news for the homeowner on a budget, which is that it’s absolutely possible to make serious curb appeal improvements without spending an arm and a leg. And to prove it, we’re sharing some of our best budget-friendly tips for improving your home’s street appeal without spending a lot in the process.

  • Spring clean from the outside in

It’s not just the inside of your home that can benefit from a semi-regular deep cleaning. Each spring (or whenever else works for you) devote a full day to exterior cleaning projects, including scrubbing down your front door and exterior trim, power washing your siding and walkways, and cleaning the outside portion of your home’s windows.

  • Rake, mow, prune, and weed

You don’t need to go all in on a stunning flower garden in order to improve your home’s landscaping. Rather, sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest difference, like taking the time to impeccably maintain what’s already there. Get on a regular landscaping maintenance schedule that includes all of the basics, and work in other tasks like re-seeding the lawn when and if they become necessary.

  • Update your front door

The front door is an excellent place to bring an unexpected pop of color to your home’s exterior. But even if you keep it neutral, a fresh coat of paint on the door will work wonders for your home’s first impression. The same goes for other cheap front door updates, such as adding on new hardware or an understated wreath. While you’re at it, put down a fresh doormat, too.

  • Decorate and declutter

A few simple outdoor decorations can go a long way. On the flip side, however, too much clutter can be a big detraction. Find your perfect balance, adding (and taking away) decorative items until you hit that elusive sweet spot. This includes big ticket items like porch and patio furniture as well as smaller items like garden décor, flags, and seasonal decorations.

  • Add window boxes

Buy or build wooden planter boxes for your windows for an easy and super-charming update. Once they’re in place, you can use them to plant flowers, herbs, or other types of greenery, and you can even put in fake plants if you don’t want to take on the responsibility of care.

  • Clean up your driveway

Fix any minor cracks in your driveway, or have it completely resealed for an affordable but impactful improvement. Other things that you can do to streamline this space include edging the sides of the driveway with stones or plants, as well as adding in pathway lighting on either side for a modern look that also lends quite a bit of utility.

  • Bring in new light fixtures

Sick of the same old sconces? Buy new ones or use your DIY skills and some spray paint to update your existing lights. You can also add in more lighting with those aforementioned pathway lights (opt for solar powered ones so you don’t have to worry about wiring), as well as some well-placed string lights on your porch or in the backyard.

The answer to “what is curb appeal?” is going to vary from home to home and neighborhood to neighborhood. Focus on the improvements that not only bring you joy (and the promise of a good return on investment) but that also look great in accordance with your home’s general surroundings.

Even if you’re not planning on selling your house any time soon, boosting your curb appeal is a great way to love your home even more than you already do. So whether you spend big or not, include exterior maintenance and improvement projects in your budget and do what you can to great a “wow” worthy exterior.

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