Concentrate on Curb Appeal
A little effort on the outside goes a long way toward selling a home.
How important is curb appeal when selling a home? Think of it this way: Landscaping is your home’s hairstyle and you don’t want your split ends to show.
“If you’re going on a date, you’re going to wash your hair first,” says Phyllis Harb, a Los Angeles super agent who’s sold more than 1,000 homes in the Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena area. “Most people look at photos online first and drive by if they’re excited. We want them to be excited.”
And curb appeal helps them stay that way. “When the realtor is at your front door struggling with the lock box, what are your buyers doing?” Harb says. “They’re looking at the landscaping. No matter how things look inside, that first two-minute impression sets the tone.”
A little love in the front yard goes a long way: According to Harb, a small amount of money up front can bump up the bottom line. “”Every market is different, but I recently listed a house where a $1,500 investment in curb appeal could get the sellers another $15,000.”
Built in: 1834. Bought in: 2007. Size: 2,400 sq. ft. “We love it now, but this house was in a sorry state when we bought it," say homeowners Patty and Mark Malcolm. "We restored it with new siding and windows, then repainted and also updated the landscaping.” Mark trims the dappled Japanese willow to the right of the door a few times a year so it maintains its tidy round shape.
Built in: 1923. Bought in: 1996. Size: 2,300 sq. ft. “We’ve spent countless hours lounging on our porch over the years," say homeowners Terry and Walter Woodlief. "Its wide columns and French doors that open to a sunroom were a major selling point.” Pink wax begonias and yellow marigolds bloom in the long planter that spans the first-floor window.
Potted Plants and Flowers Beds
Ponytail palms, a variety of succulent, grow in terra-cotta pots that flank the front steps. Thanks to the warm Florida climate, they can stay outside all year. Sun-loving crotons and yellowish-orange marigolds on both sides of the front steps require little care—just occasional watering.
Built in: 1925. Bought in: 1949. Size: 1,920 sq. ft. “This home has been in my family since I was a toddler," says homeowner Rosalind Heinz. "It’s known for the ginkgo tree in the yard, which I tried to pay homage to with the exterior colors.” Every fall, the leaves on the ginkgo tree turn yellow and drop to the ground.
Door Knocker and Mail Slot
Brass fixtures—like a lion head knocker and a mail slot—shine against the backdrop of a black door. Lion Head 7 1/4" x 4" brass door knocker, $78, brassgallery.com; Brass Accents solid brass 13" x 3 5/8" A07-M0010-605 magazine mail slot in polished brass finish, $45.50, build.com
Emily and Jon Hjelm bought their Minneapolis, MN home (built in 1923) in 2009. Since then “we haven’t changed the exterior at all,” they say. “Its charming design is what drew us to it in the first place.” The unpainted cedar shake siding and roof, which are original to the house, have a historic look that fits the neighborhood.
Boxwood Hedge + Flower Beds
Dense evergreen boxwood shrubs border the brick-paved front patio. The Hjelms loved the existing front yard landscaping—lots of greenery offset by pops of color. They kept all the flowers the previous homeowners had planted along the curb, including hostas and orange daylilies.
Bench and Pillow
A bench painted coral and a cheery blue pillow let visitors know a fun family lives inside! Jiti Designs Mosaic 12" x 20" polyester pillow in blue, $61, outdoorpillowsonly.com; Achla Lutyens wood garden bench in eucalyptus, $239.50, wayfair.com; Paint: Coral Gables by Benjamin Moore
Door Handle and Strap Hinges
For a historic cottage feel on a newer front door, install strap hinges and a matching handle. Fusion Hardware Scalloped two-piece handleset in brass finish, $348, myknobs.com; Weathered bronze dummy strap with heart design in forged bronze, $29.50, houseofantiquehardware.com
White shutters pop against the gray cedar shakes (on the top half of the house) and the siding (on the bottom half). The moon cutouts on the shutters are fun and unique to the neighborhood. Classic Collection 14" x 36" composite wood shutters with moon cutouts, $550 for a set of 2, atlanticpremiumshutters.com for stores
Double Doors, Square Planters + Porch Lights
The outer wood door is painted the same blue as the front door. Together, they give the entry a layered look. Sturdy planters on the front stoop hold sweet potato vine and purple fountain grass. Antique-looking porch lights mounted on either side of the front door hint at the home’s age.
For a mix of heights and textures, Shanesy planted tall ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass, red bee balm, and fast-growing blue dune grass around the stones. Large granite rocks give Shanesy’s yard rugged texture that contrasts with the smooth steps. The stones’ red veining adds a welcome hit of color in winter.
Xeriscaping and Gravel
The Blanzes chose to xeriscape their yard, meaning they planted drought-resistant plants that get most of their nourishment from rainwater and don’t need much additional upkeep. The yard includes (clockwise from top left) a sago palm, blue agave, red yucca, and ball cacti. Instead of grass, crushed limestone provides ground cover.
Ways to help buyers see the forest for the trees:
Massive cutbacks – Get out the clippers and go to town. “Everything should be cut back so you can see the house,” Harb says.
Hue’s your daddy? – Let colorful flowers and plants guide buyers to the good stuff. “Think about where you want the eye to be drawn,” Harb says. “Maybe you have a beautiful bay window out front. Put a pop of color under that.”
Put it away – Don’t decorate your yard with things that belong in the garage. “You don’t want a hose on the lawn,” Harb says. “Put the trash cans back where they go.”
Look around – Even if your lawn looks great, a problem could be right around the corner. “Buyers aren’t just looking at your house; they’re looking next door and across the street,” Harb says. “I’ve had clients whose neighbor’s lawn was overgrown, so they offered to pay for a gardener.”
Give yourself time to improve the area before listing the house, but don't do so much that it looks high maintenance. “Landscaping shouldn’t be overwhelming, it should enhance the home,” Harb says. “We don’t want buyers to say, ‘That’s the most gorgeous bougainvillea I’ve ever seen.' We’re selling the home, not the landscape.”