How You Can Benefit from the Magic of Curb Appeal

Kitchens sell houses; right? Well

A home with a fresh and drool-worthy kitchen or bathroom renovation is going to sell. That’s common sense. Living rooms, bedrooms, offices, heck, even laundry rooms- they’re basically just floors, lights, and walls.  Kitchens and bathrooms are where you find all the expensive crap. So yeah- if kitchens and baths are nice, people love the relief of not having to spend gobs of money changing them (unless you’re like me).

But-

I almost don’t even want to say it out loud. I’d hate to inadvertently contribute to more HGTV-ification. But here it is, folks. Here’s what a decade of house hopping (buying then selling after two years) and market analysis has taught me. Kitchens and baths aren’t really what sell houses.

 Curb appeal sells houses.

I’ve seen it over and over again– curb appeal has the most impact on how fast a home sells or how long it languishes.  

I believe it comes down to psychology. When you’re thinking about buying a home, you often start out by dreaming. Think about your dream house for a minute.

You’re dreaming of beautiful homes and what do you picture first? A freaking beautiful exterior! When you take me to your dream home, where are we going? To the pretty, charming, or sleek yet understated one! Go ahead, show me your dream home- I bet you’ve never been inside.

This logic doesn’t apply to just dream homes either. Drive around any neighborhood and you’re always going to be drawn to the nicest looking homes.

When you’re looking through listings, just browsing that first exterior photo- what are you thinking? You’re thinking—“Oh, I like this one!” or you’re thinking “No way. That place looks haunted!”. You get the drift.

First impressions have consistently proved to be important. This article details a Princeton research study on the power of first impressions. Their research shows an impression is made in a tenth of a second. What do you want people to think about your home in such a short amount of time?

Use that psychology to your advantage as a buyer and a seller.

If you want a great deal as a buyer, start by looking for homes that are okay on the inside, but have terrible curb appeal.

Peeling exterior paint is like a listing death sentence. Every single house that I’ve gotten a great deal on, it had peeling paint and terrible curb appeal. I once bought a house that had been on the market for two years. TWO YEARS!

It wasn’t even that bad inside. For the price, the condition was decent. To give you a visual, it was a classic bungalow with a finished attic. But the exterior was a very ugly fleshy peach color, and the paint was badly peeling. I wondered, “Jeeze, can’t people see that when this house gets a new paint job, it’s going to be super fresh?” Nope! They couldn’t.

 My partner and I bought it, painted the exterior in an attractive blue-green, spruced up the porch, took out all the weeds, and put it back on the market. Initially, it was supposed to be a rental but plans changed and we decided to sell it.  We received an offer the day it was listed!

On the flip side, the example above shows that curb appeal is important for sellers too. If people regularly drive by your home and always think, “Damn, I’d love to buy that house if they ever decide to sell it”, you’ve got the easiest sale ever. Someone has considered buying your house before they even know anything about it! That’s some Inception-style magic right there!

Curb appeal is powerful. Plant those inception seeds!

Do you have a kitchen that’s meh and terrible peeling exterior paint?

What if you can only afford to tackle one of those things before listing your home? Don’t let that agent tell you your kitchen needs an expensive update. I think that’s bad advice. Let me explain.

We already discussed the psychological impact of having good curb appeal.

Now, let me give you some data to support why spending on your exterior is a better strategy than spending on a kitchen renovation.

The NAR and NARI’s 2022 Remodeling Impact Report confirms my suspicions. Looking at exterior spending, a roof’s cost recovery came in at 100%, garage doors at 100%, siding updates were in the 80th percentile range, and cost recovery for a new front door was 63%.

Meanwhile, a kitchen’s cost recovery came in at 67% and bathroom at 71%. See the full report here.

They didn’t even account for things like nice house numbers, a rocking chair, and potted plants. When you bring all those exterior visuals together, it’s often money better spent.

Now that I’ve revealed my biggest home buying and selling trick, start investing in your curb appeal too!

Already have a fresh paint job or maintenance-free siding? Power-wash your exterior, windows, and driveway. Add dimension with easy landscaping or potted plants. Clear out the clutter and junk. Put some furniture or accessories in the front to make it appear welcoming. Add a winding walkway or a sidewalk made from pavers. Install a beautiful mailbox. Spruce up that garage door.

I swear, curb appeal sells houses. But hey– that’s just like, my opinion, man.

What do you think? Have you had a different experience? I’m curious!

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