Curb Appeal Tips: Outdoor Living Spaces
Good curb appeal isn't only about a tidy exterior and attractive landscaping. "The main purpose of curb appeal is to create a look and feel that projects 'welcome,'" says Norma Lehmeier Hartie, author of the book Sell Your Home Fast in a Buyers' Market.
Few things are more welcoming than cozy outdoor living spaces, but too often, they're tucked into backyards and hidden behind fences. Boost your street chic by creating front-and-center outdoor living areas that will make passers-by pause and prospective buyers swoon.
Top Priority: Porch Power
As far as bang for your buck (or your time investment), nothing says "we live a good life here" like a cozy seating area on a front porch. "You want to convey the idea that the home's occupants enjoy relaxation and comfort," Norma says.
Make sure you don't add too much furniture, however; scale it to the size of your porch area. Narrow porches might do well just to add a bench and a small side table, while more expansive porches might be able to have a host of cozy rocking chairs, a porch swing or an outdoor table with a few chairs for friends.
And don't forget that outdoor living spaces need some decorating panache, too. "A cozy throw and a few pillows help create an enticing place where prospective buyers can envision themselves enjoying morning coffee, afternoon lemonade or evening wine," says Gina Samarotto, principal of Samarotto Design Group in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
When you're decorating your front porch, potted plants can offer both privacy and panache, says Yossef Hermon, real estate agent with the Metropolitan Property Group in New York City. He emphasizes that adding some green to any outdoor living area, no matter the size, can make a huge difference in curb appeal perception. "I've sold studios in Manhattan faster because of window boxes full of flowers, so I encourage owners with real patio space to use as much live greenery as possible," he says.
If you don't have a real patio or porch but do have a front lawn area, you can still create an "outdoor living" space. "A patio can be as simple as some flagstone or small rocks that set an area apart from what surrounds it," Norma says.
Good Idea: Make the Yard Yours
While you don't want to overdo street-view outdoor living areas, you can add small details off the immediate front-of-house area. For example, if you have a lovely front garden, tucking a small bench in the area can add a nice touch. Homes with very large lots or acreage might even consider a gazebo (if it would fit the style of the home — a modern home with a country-style gazebo will not make good visual playmates). Just make sure that any details meant to be inviting don't end up becoming visual distractions: Curb appeal is about different elements of home adding up to create a street-view snapshot of domestic delight.
Major Mistake: Crowding and Clutter
Designing a street-visible outdoor living area that you actually enjoy and use is the ultimate goal, but there is a potential downside: clutter and crowding. For example, if you love hanging out on the front porch chatting with neighbors and sipping tea, that's wonderful. But if you leave the remnants of that visit where others can see them? Not so great. Same goes for kids' toys, lawn and home improvement tools, and even trash bins.
"The reality is that we all have some clutter and dirty stuff in our homes," Norma says. "But with curb appeal, it's about looking at a home and seeking perfection — the life we dream of having for ourselves." Because the space is so small but also so critical to how others view your home, outdoor living areas in the front of the home must be kept clean and tidy.