by Leah Shafer
Much is said about creating curb appeal when you put your home up for sale. But is it really that important in our sizzling real estate market? And what projects will get the biggest bang for the buck and attract the right buyer?
Why not ask Realtors? They’re on the front lines with buyers, hearing comments and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
“Curb appeal is one of the most important factors when it comes to the marketing of your home,” said Brandon Travelstead, a Realtor with Dallas City Center Realtors. “It’s all about what the potential buyer sees when they pull up out front, get out of the car, and walk to the front door—you really have 30 to 45 seconds to capture that buyer’s attention before they form their first impression.”
“I work with a wide range of buyers, sellers, and investors in the readiness and prep to get the most of the home’s appearance,” Hammett said. “Whether listing a $200,000 or a $2-million property, you only have one chance to make that first impression—I’m always looking for that ‘wow’ factor that will attract potential buyers.”
We asked top Dallas Realtors to weigh in on curb appeal improvements sellers can make to their properties. We’ve divided their answers into budget-friendly, mid-range, and high-end so you can easily see where to best spend your money. Let’s hear what they have to say!
BUDGET CURB APPEAL UPGRADES (under $500)
Curb appeal from a budget standpoint means focusing on what features your property already has and making it shine.
“This can be accomplished by trimming back overgrown bushes, weeding flower beds, raking leaves, cutting a limb or two from mature trees, or even as simple as cutting the grass,” said Kyle Lyon, Founder and President of The Kyle Lyon Realty Group. “Ultimately, these small tasks and a little old fashion TLC can make a budget property stand out among the rest of the competition.”
Here are our Realtor suggestion for budget-friendly improvements:
MAKE WINDOWS SPARKLE: Clean windows are a must. Take the time to wash the exterior and interior of glass. There should be no visible dirt of streaking.
TRIM AND MULCH: Mature trees are a selling feature, but can distract if limbs are blocking large portions of the front of your home. Hire a tree trimmer or do it yourself and make sure buyers have an unobstructed view of the front of your house. Make sure all shrubs are nearly trimmed, too.
Adding mulch to beds provides a neat and clean canvas for potential buyers to visualize their own color selections. Consider kicking it up a notch with some nice pots with seasonal color, but make sure these fit the scale of the home and entry.
“Make sure landscaping is fresh and interesting,” said Lee Lampl, an Ebby Halliday Realtor. “Don’t just focus on adding colorful perennials to beds—consider adding colorful pots, benches, or colored chairs in the yard. All of these things can draw the consumer’s eye to your home.
MAKE YOUR GRASS PRETTY: Take inventory of your front lawn and add sod plugs to bare spots. If it’s looking thin and brown, consider reseeding in the spring or fall. The thin areas will start growing grass within a few weeks.
“Get the yard green or overseeded—it makes the house look fresh and young,” said Charles Carneal, an agent with Dave Perry-Miller & Associates. “A large lawn looks more inviting in green than an expanse of dormant, cut-back grass. Large expanses of dirt are usually better with ground cover, even if it is just sprigs.”
POWER WASH: You can rent a pressure washer from most home improvement stores for under $75 a day. They will take years of dirt off your house and keep buyers paying attention to positive features.
“Don’t forget to powerwash the front porch, especially around doorway, to remove any dirt or pesky cobwebs, as well as the driveway, walk, steps, and brick that may have become stained,” said Edwina Dye, an Ebby Halliday Realtor.
PAINT SHUTTERS, TRIM, DOOR: Paint is the least expensive tool you have to improve curb appeal. Neutral, soothing colors always play well with potential buyers, and a pop of color on the front door can go a long way.
“Painting the trim with an attractive color is much less expensive than painting the whole house,” Carneal said.
REPLACE FRONT DOOR HARDWARE: Your front door should be stylish and inviting. With a fresh coat of paint and hardware, you’re well on your way. There are so many chic options available today that there’s no excuse for lackluster.Plus, hardware can be replaced fairly inexpensively compared to buying a whole new door, Lampl says.
LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON: Potential buyers often drive friends and family by a house they’re considering, and this often happens in the evening. This is an excellent opportunity to showcase your outdoor lighting and that beautiful chandelier in the dining room, Hammett says.
MID-RANGE CURB APPEAL UPGRADES ($500-$2,000)
Properties that hold an average list price in a city may need to step up their curb appeal to gain a buyer’s interest.
“Traditionally, when buyers search for properties online, the first photo they [see] is the exterior of the home—the seller then has a split second to convince the buyer to look at more photos of their home,” Lyon said. “I encourage my clients to do something unique to the property to make it stand out.”
Here are some mid-range curb appeal ideas from our Realtors:
BUY A NEW FRONT DOOR: This is an easy way to add on trend design elements and provide a focal point. It can dramatically change the look of a house, especially if the old one was dated or beaten up.
“Consider replacing that old front door with a more contemporary wood and glass one,” Dye said. “It will provide lots of light both inside and out of the house.”
ADD LANDSCAPING: If your front lawn is ho-hum, overgrown, or bare, consider bringing in a professional for a design consultation. He or she can suggest options to maximize curb appeal based on the size and shape of your house, how it relates to the street, and the style of your home. These contractors typically charge by the hour, anywhere from $50 to $100, and can give you a rough design plan to follow as you DIY the landscaping.
A soothing water feature is also a nice touch in front landscaping, says Robin Moss Norcross, a real estate agent with Nathan Grace Real Estate.
REPLACE DATED OUTDOOR LIGHTING: This is an easy way to showcase the entry and complement your landscaping. Consider gas lanterns, which come in a range of styles and sizes can add a touch of elegance to your entry.
REPAIR THE DRIVEWAY: If you have a driveway in the front, make sure it’s not distracting buyers. Powerwash the driveway and walk and patch all cracks, crevices, and holes (talk to a specialist at a home improvement store for product recommendations). Finally, use a polymer-based cement resurfacer, like Ardex All-Purpose Concrete Resurfacer, to create a thin layer of new concrete on top. Your driveway will look like new.
HIGH-END CURB APPEAL UPGRADES ($2,000+)
Knowing your buyer is something Realtors emphasized again and again.
“When making changes to your property, it’s important to identify the target buyer demographic and select items that are important to them,” Hammett said.
If your home is in the luxury range, then your curb appeal needs to reflect that.
“Since this is a higher price point, the home [should have] some sort of landscape lighting, an upgraded front door like rod iron and glass, and installation of a water feature such as a fountain,” Lyon said. “If it is in the budget, add a circle drive, which is great for entertaining, or even a porte-cochère.”
Here are some of the other upgrades our Realtors suggest for high-end upgrades:
CHANGE ARCHITECTURAL LINES: Consider adding a covered front entry and create a nice focal point for the property with an inviting entry.
REPLACE FRONT DOOR WITH A CUSTOM, IRON, DOUBLE-HINGED DOOR: Iron doors come in many different styles and are very much on trend with builders.
REPLACE WINDOWS WITH LARGE PANE GLASS: Select windows that fit the style of the home and are energy efficient. Bonus if they’re steel, one of the bigger trends gaining momentum in 2016. Steel windows create a distinctive look with narrow sight lines and a sophisticated aesthetic. The strength, durability, and versatility of steel frames make them not only a unique component, but a lasting one, as well.
INSTALL A MODERN WALKWAY: Hammett suggests one with alternating rectangular concrete pads, a look very much in fashion right now. Plus, it will add an architectural element to your home.
PLANT LARGE TREES: Generally speaking, the taller the tree, the bigger the price tag. But a more mature tree adds tremendous beauty to the curb appeal. Go as big as you can afford.
ADD TREE LIGHTS: Tree lights are big in Dallas, Hammett says, and create a soothing moonlight effect on your front lawn and drive, especially when they are on the ground and in the trees. Interior and exterior lighting are key to presenting a property.