5 Affordable Tips to Boost Curb Appeal

August 5, 2015 | By

A potted plant here. A power wash there. Trimming or replacing overgrown hedges and trees. A few simple changes to your front yard can yield dramatic results, without breaking the bank, say the experts.

Those changes may pay off nicely if you plan to sell your home. According to the National Association of Realtors®, exterior improvements pay you back more than 75 percent of their cost upon resale, the highest return on improvement (ROI) the organization tracks.

To demonstrate how even simple changes can boost a property’s sizzle factor, Fannie Mae challenged its HomePath® real estate agents selling modest two- and three-bedroom homes in Florida to share “before” and “after” photos on improvements made on a budget. (Fannie Mae also publishes The Home Story.)

“We strive [to] improve the front of all of our properties,” explains Bobbi Jo Johnson, the repairs manager with Horizon Palm Realty Group in Spring Hill.

“People are more likely to buy clean, tidy homes, with an inviting front area and well-maintained yard,” she notes.

The HomePath® contest just sweetened the pot. “It was great for all of the Brokers to show the great work we all do with our properties,” says Robert Cuccinello, the broker of Homes and Land Brokers in Naples.

Here are 5 tips shared by contestants.

1. Clean the Exterior

Having a clean exterior conveys a pride of ownership — and you don’t have to do or spend a lot to make a big difference, says Cuccinello. His team’s 27th Ave. NE listing was in a rural area and set back on the lot, giving its exterior often a drab and dingy appearance. “The house had no look to it, and because you had to get closer to see it [we] had to make an impression from the road,” explains Cuccinello. The team spent $599 to power wash the exterior and roof and $795 on landscaping. After this work was completed, the house went under contract in less than two weeks.

Sparkling windows are a must, adds Jo Ellyn Yturraspe, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Sarasota, because people will want to pull up to the property and look inside. “Wash them — inside and out — and remove the screens for added sparkle,” she suggests.

2. Make the Front Door a Focal Point

A front door makes an attractive focal point to your home and sets the tone of what you’ll find inside, say the pros. “Everything around that front door has to be nice and tidy and clean,” says Ryan Courson, a broker with Core Realty in Jacksonville. “A fresh coat of paint on the front door goes a long way,” he adds.

His team transformed the entry area of the Beverly Avenue listing, which had been vacant for some time, by giving it a good power wash and repainting the black shutters crabapple red. “The red around the porch made the front door pop,” says Courson. “We wanted to make this home so if you were driving by you’d hit your brakes to take another look,” says Courson. The team spent $345 on the power wash and $250 in landscaping, and now has an offer on the home.

Yturraspe’s focus with the Tee Road listing was also to add color, in this case blue, to the entry area. “The house looked really tired and sad,” she recalls. For under $2,000, they painted the exterior, cleaned and washed the windows, and replanted the triangular front garden, adding a palm tree as a focal point. “We had calls on it before signs went up, and it sold quickly.”

Big changes to the entry can be even less expensive. “It can be as simple as adding a pot of brightly colored flowers to the porch,” Yturraspe says. “People form their impressions of the home as they walk up to the door.”

3. Enhance the Landscape

Broker Gregg Hade’s Towering Oak Way listing didn’t leave a bad impression with the buyer. In fact, it left no impression at all, according to Hade. “It was a very blah, monotone home, with no memorable feature,” he says. The Orlando-based Coldwell Banker team enlarged the plant beds, added new plants and an eye-catching red mulch. “It’s amazing what a little landscaping and color can do for a home,” says Hade, who notes the upgrade, including a power wash, cost just over $1,160.

Horizon took a similar approach to improve the exterior of its Belle Haven Drive (New Port Richey) listing. “The house’s dying lawn and overgrown tree stood out like sore thumbs in this HOA community,” says Horizon’s Johnson. Almost $3,000 was spent on the upgrade, the majority for sod. “It was a real turnaround for this house,” says Johnson, who later along with his team sold the home for $264,900.

To save money, or if planting in the ground around a home is difficult, consider using potted plants, advises Cuccinello: “Our 27th Ave. NW listing had a lot of hardscape, so adding potted plants was the way to go.” For about $800 his team enlarged a front plant bed of the rural home and added plants on each side of the garage door and leading to the front porch. “It was a night-and-day change,” he says.

Also, look at the landscape with a buyer’s eye and mitigate any hazards, like a tree branch hanging over the house. “Removing those alleviates a lot of concerns,” suggests Courson, who spent less than $600 removing and trimming overgrown trees in the back of the Beverly Avenue home.

4. Make the Front Porch Inviting

Don’t overlook this key selling point. Experts advise that you should “sell” your front porch as additional square footage by staging it with as much care as you would other rooms. Abbotoni and Associates’ Adams Street listing had a dull, uninviting exterior. The team “added some potted plants, red mulch, and chairs to the porch area for about $700 to give it a homey feel,” says Miriam Ortiz, an assistant with the group. They also had the home power washed and painted for about $2,500, and finished it off by sealing the driveway and walkway for $450.

5. Don’t Overlook the Driveway and Garage

If you don’t want to completely resurface a driveway with cracks and stains, which may cost about $2,000 or more for concrete driveways, consider cleaning and painting. “We painted the RJ Circle driveway a mellowed-out red to make it pop, and added white pots and greenery for contrast,” says Jany Seibane, the short sale director at Professional Real Estate Team in Kissimmee.

The home’s garage also needed new coach lights and house numbers. “We brought this home up to the neighborhood standard for less than $800,” says Seibane, who noted that multiple offers have been submitted on the home and one is currently in negotiations.

Depending on its orientation to the house, an attractive garage can make a huge impact, agrees Cuccinello, who has painted garage doors eye-catching colors such as deep reds and browns, and added colorful mailboxes. “Just those additions changed the whole look and curb appeal of those properties,” he notes.

Spring 2015 HomePath® Curb Appeal Winners

First Place, average spend $3,252:

  • Core Realty (Beverly Avenue listing, Jacksonville)
  • Abbotoni and Associates Real Estate (Adams Street listing, Hollywood)
  • Florida Future Realty (NE 9th listing, Cape Coral)

Second Place, average spend $1,770:

  • Coldwell Banker Residential (Tee Road listing, Sarasota)
  • Homes and Land Brokers, Inc. (27th Avenue listing, Naples)
  • Coldwell Banker (Towering Oaks Way listing, Orlando)

Third place, average spend $1,486:

  • Horizon Palm Realty (Belle Haven Drive listing, New Port Richey)
  • Professional Real Estate Team (RJ Circle listing, Kissimmee)
  • Ocean Partners Realty (Eppinger Drive listing, Port Charlotte)
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