It’s difficult to put a dollar value on your curb appeal. No one can quite agree on exactly what you’ll get for slaving away in the front yard a few weekends before you put your home up for sale.
Some estimates claim that a well-landscaped lawn could increase the value of your home by 5% to 20%. But other return on investment estimates are even larger—anywhere from 100% to even a whopping 1,000%. Whoa!
Doesn’t it make you want to break out the gardening gloves and hop to it? Good! Because if you skip bumping up your curb appeal before putting your home on the market, the only person who shows up to your open house might be your real estate agent.
Curb appeal is your home’s first impression on prospective buyers and, as we all know, first impressions matter. Make a big mistake in the presentation, and you’ll have a hard time getting buyers through the door.
But how do you know if you’re making a big mistake? It depends. Check out how close you are to these curb appeal disasters.
1. The outside doesn’t match the inside
Chain-link fence, overgrown lawn, no landscaping … even if your house is gorgeous inside, potential buyers might not be able to see its beauty if they need a weed whacker to get to the front door.
We’ll repeat it: First impressions matter. No matter how great your personality is, you wouldn’t go on a first date without brushing your teeth and hair and putting on pants (we hope). So you shouldn’t put your home on the market without a little TLC, either.
“There is nothing worse than seeing pictures of a home’s beautiful interior online only to find that they completely neglected the outside of their home,” says Liz MacDonald, Philadelphia-based home stager and host of the web series Shelf Help.
2. Overflowing (or visible) trash cans
Trash, shockingly enough, is a nonstarter for most home buyers. Obviously, garbage spilling over your lawn is a big no-no. But even the sight of trash cans on the curb can be a turnoff.
“Make sure to keep those trash bins out of sight and as empty as possible at all times,” MacDonald says. “The last thing you want buyers to think about when making a first impression is the trash.”
If you need to move out before the home sells, make sure to check in on things regularly (or have a friend or neighbor do it for you). Movers may leave stuff behind or the neighbor’s trash may blow into your yard—things happen—just don’t let buyers see it.
3. The half-finished house
Unless you’re selling your house as is or as a tear-down, don’t leave any outdoor home improvement projects incomplete. If the first thing that buyers see is an unfinished paint job or patchy roofing, odds are good they’ll assume the inside is unfinished as well and just keep on driving.
4. An overly unique sense of style
Love your bright violet front door? Think your flock of pink flamingos is delightfully kitsch? Are you certain your giant dinosaur-shaped mailbox is so you? We get it. Being able to display a style all your own is one of the best aspects of homeownership.
That is, until you go to sell your house.
“Keeping items like lawn art or ornaments is too specific to appeal to the masses,” MacDonald says.
Rein it in on the inside and the outside, otherwise potential buyers will just see a whole lot of weekend work ahead.
“Your best bet is to go neutral to appeal to the broadest range of buyers,” MacDonald says. That means no bright colors, no unusual trim choices, and no DIY garage-door mural (even if it is kind of adorable).
5. The barren wasteland
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to do nothing at all. No matter how clean, updated, and sellable your house is, there’s something extremely off-putting about not having any landscaping.
Houses with nothing green going on just seem, well, naked. And you don’t even have to do much—or spend much—to make your yard pop.
“Modern and minimal is always the way to go,” MacDonald says.
Add some simple shrubs that are native to your area, a few flower beds or fruit trees for some color, and voila—you’ve got curb appeal.
6. The overcrowded porch
A big, comfy porch is like catnip to buyers on the prowl, but only if you’ve done it right. If your porch is overflowing with large chairs, planters, and hanging baskets, buyers are going to feel claustrophobic—not cozy.
“Keeping it simple is key,” MacDonald says. “You want to showcase the space without any clutter or extra pieces of furniture that don’t function specifically for the purpose of enjoying your porch.”