When homebuyers have choices with lots of homes on the market, the inside amenities and outside appearance of your home set you apart from the competition.
Bedrooms, baths, square footage, garage and interior upgrades are easy for buyers to compare when shopping. That’s why most homeowners focus on updating the interiors. They are less likely to spend money on outside features, as curb appeal is more difficult to quantify and harder to justify the attention and expense.
However, a recent Wall Street Journal article cited a study in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, which used artificial intelligence and Google Street View to value curb appeal on the sales price of almost 89,000 test homes in the Denver area. The study found good curb appeal increased a home’s value 7% to 14%.
On a local level you need to be proactive to get additional value for curb appeal. It all depends on shifting a little bit of your interior focus outside and doing the following:
Walk the house perimeter. First, look at the paint. Cracked or peeling paint should be addressed to protect the wood surface and maintain value. Trim usually shows the first signs of wear. The south side exterior wall will show more wear due to abuse by the summer sun. For the DIYer, get the paint and equipment now to do the work when the weather permits. It is harder to forget to do the work when the purchased items are noticeably perched on the garage workbench. If you need to hire a contractor, now is the time to get a bid, check references and get on a contractor’s wait list.
Next, if you have a pet, pick up as many of the droppings as you can now; don’t leave them to thaw and turn to a stinky mush when the weather warms. Nothing turns off a buyer more (even one with pets) than seeing a field of landmines. If you ignore the pickup during winter and the mess gets out of control, hire a service to do the work in stages if needed.
Third, look at the yard. Does snow cover forgotten items? Put on your boots and organize the yard as soon as things have thawed enough. Keep the grass mowed and watered, garden areas cleaned, edges and bushes trimmed, and seed any bare spots caused by pets or pests.
Next, step out to the end of the driveway and look back. Could unsightly things, such as trashcans, be moved behind a fence or enclosure? While you may have gotten used to them, first impressions are important and unsightly items decrease your home’s value.
Also, look to see if your driveway offers a clear path to each door of the garage and has not turned into a single, snow-covered, bumpy lane. The driveway condition is the first thing a buyer will notice. Is it steep and difficult to keep clear? Is parking available for family and guests? Does the surface need asphalt repair or a new topcoat?
When selling in the summer, keep the driveway cleared of excess vehicles to highlight space and appeal to the greatest number of buyers. Not all buyers need room for toys or an RV, so leaving them in place will only decrease the visible usable space.
Now look at your neighbors. Whether you live in a condo apartment or a single-family home, your neighbors can definitely impact your home’s value. We’ve experienced numerous buyers not purchasing a home based on the neighbor’s lack of upkeep and what can be seen from the seller’s home. The unpleasant visual creates a negative anticipation of a bad neighbor.
What can you do with an unsightly neighbor? First, offer to help at least mow or hire a contractor to during your marketing period. A mowed yard draws less attention. Don’t wait to get feedback from your Realtor on the negative impact because you will have already missed potential buyers.
Next, contact your homeowners’ association if you have one. Sometimes property management companies, or homeowners’ associations, wait for the complaint before doing anything. Lastly, depending on the severity of problem (junk cars, abandoned appliances, etc.), you may have to contact the municipality to see what is addressed under permitted land use or zoning.
Finally, be proactive with curb appeal during your home ownership to create a circle of benefits: 1) Increase the value of your home with less scrambling to fix issues when it’s time to sell. 2) Even if you are not ready to sell, your home’s curb appeal affects the neighbor’s value when they sell. 3) When your neighbor’s home sells for more, it creates a comparable sale to increase your value, too.
Ready to start your outside to-do list? It will make you money in the long run.