Getting real: what's the deal with "curb appeal"?

Once you get your house hunt on, you’ll undoubtedly start hearing lots of terms getting thrown around. From “pre-approval” to “closing costs”, it can be tough to suss out exactly what all of these things mean, especially if it’s your first time looking for a home.

This time, we’re tackling "curb appeal." Everyone kinda gets it, but really, uh...what is it? No matter if you’re just starting out or have been on the market for a bit, sometimes a little clarity can go a long way.



What is curb appeal, exactly?

Simply put, it’s a first impression.

Like it or not, the way that a home looks from the street can have a huge impact on our overall opinion of it. Similarly to how you would put your best foot forward on a first date or job interview, homeowners--especially those in the market for a buyer--often put extra effort into making their home’s exterior look good.

In real estate terms, curb appeal can be anything that adds either functional or aesthetic value to a home's exterior. As the buyer, you’ll want to factor these types of details into your home search. As you look at listings, make sure to keep an eye out for elements of curb appeal and to make a note of how they sway your opinion on the home.

That being said, it’s important to keep a balanced perspective. Sometimes curb appeal is not indicative of what a home will look like once you head inside, so it should never be used as your single determining factor for whether or not it's worth taking a look at a home.

Key factors to look for

Now that you know what curb appeal is, it’s time to get a little deeper into the different elements that go into creating a home that is aesthetically pleasing from the outside.

Typically, these items can be divided into a couple of different categories. They are:

  • Structural Items: Be sure to take a look at the condition of things like the home’s roof, gutters, and siding. While aesthetics are good to have, functionality is arguably more important. Evaluate if these items look well-maintained or if they will probably require some work to get up to snuff.
  • Landscaping: How does the overall landscaping look? Has the lawn been mowed recently? Are there any trees or bushes that look like they may need pruning? Did the seller put effort into decorative landscaping with flowers and plants? Landscaping upgrades and maintenance can both add up.
  • Functional Elements: If the home has any functional elements like a pathway to the front door or exterior lights, take a moment to evaluate those, as well.
  • The Entryway: The last element of curb appeal is the entryway. Ideally, the front door will look especially inviting. Has the front door been freshly painted? Are the address numbers predominantly displayed?

Again, these elements shouldn’t make or break your decision on whether or not to make an offer on the home. However, as you look at a property, it’s a good idea to take these factors into account since if you do decide to make an offer, they'll be inputs into deciding what's a fair offer price.

Consider the costs

At its core, curb appeal is actually a financial matter. One way or another, improved curb appeal does come with a cost.

A home that looks better from the outside will likely fetch a higher sale price than one without any of these small touches. However, if you decide to buy a property without these small touches, you may need to pay for them in the long run.

If you do decide to go with a property that’s a bit more of a fixer-upper, keep in mind that you don’t have to take care of everything all at once.

While some of the projects listed above are smaller, things like roofing and professional landscaping can end up costing thousands of dollars.

We suggest doing your research and budgeting carefully before undertaking any DIY projects.

But, boosting curb appeal also boosts equity. If you do decide to invest in some of these projects and improve the look and function of your home over time, you should see that benefit come back to you when you re-sell it. You'll also find that you’ll take pride in enjoying your investment throughout the duration of your time in the home.

Looking for your next home? Use Open Listings' all-in-one homebuying site to house hunt 24/7, book tours, make offers online, and save an average of $9,604 when you buy with us.

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