Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell.
But which projects pump up curb appeal most? Here are financially smart ways to boost your home's equity.
#1 Wash Your House’s Face
Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $100 to $250 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.
Wash your windows inside and out, wipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of one-half cup of trisodium phosphate dissolved in one gallon of water. TSP is available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers.
You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will finish in a couple of days, but will cost $150 to $300 plus dollars depending on the size of the house and number of windows.
#2 Freshen the Paint Job
The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it. Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $360 to $1,600 on paint; $20 to $50 per hour on labor, excluding materials.
Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser may mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.
#3 Fix Up the Roof
The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.
You can pay for roof repairs now or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to the "Remodeling Impact Report" from the National Assoication of REALTORS®, the national median cost of a new roof is about $12,000. And if you install a new one, you'll likely get it back. A new roof has an ROI of 100%.
Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: Call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $300 to $1,400 to clean professionally.
#4 Neaten the Yard
A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.
Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.
Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly. The "Remodeling Impact Report" from the National Association of REALTORS® found that using professional standard lawn maintenance, defined as six standard seasonal applications of fertilizer and/or weed control, could bring an estimated 217% return on investment.
#5 Add a Color Splash
Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.
Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.
Beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.
Related: Colorful Plants with Curb Appeal
#6 Glam Up Your Mailbox
An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out.
High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $20 to $2,000. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers.
These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $30 to $222. Brass house numbers range from $10 to $20 each, depending on size and style.
#7 Add a Fence
A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, but appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community.
Expect to pay $1,600 to $2,200 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.
If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.
#8 Keep Up With Maintenance
Nothing looks worse from the curb -- and sets off subconscious alarms -- than hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint.
Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:
- Refasten sagging gutters.
- Repoint bricks that have lost their mortar.
- Reseal cracked asphalt.
- Straighten shutters.
- Replace cracked windows.