By John Egan
Curb appeal is in the eyes of the buyer. But as Texas Tech University researchers Emmett Elam and Andrea Stigarall point out, the precise factors that influence a homebuyer’s perceptions of curb appeal are debatable. What is not debatable is the lift that curb appeal gives to the value of a home. Improving the curb appeal of your home can boost its value by as much as 17 percent, the Texas Tech researchers found. They say curb appeal ranks second only to home size in weighing a home’s value.
While the notion of curb appeal has been around for decades, its appeal keeps rising. Mischel Schonberg, a spokeswoman for Mason, Ohio-based garage door manufacturer Clopay, says: “Home improvement shows and magazines have drilled the importance of curb appeal into the minds of homeowners looking to increase the value and appearance of their homes.”
Here are five top-of-mind trends for curb appeal in 2016.
1. Update the Front Door
A fresh coat of paint can spruce up a ho-hum front door and help make a better first impression when someone is eyeing your home.
Veronica Solomon, owner and lead designer at Casa Vilora Interiors in Katy, Texas, says: “Painting a front door a bold color is my favorite curb appeal trend. It creates interest and a focal point to the façade of the home. It gives the home personality. It is inexpensive to do, but has an immediate and big impact.”
Pat McGeehan, CEO of a real estate investment company in Spring Lake, N.J., suggests contrasting the color of your front door with the color palette of your front yard. He also recommends installing a new knob on the front door — one that’s shiny and ornamental.
If you replace the front door altogether, beware that you’ll need to pony up more money than if you just touch up the door with a fresh coat of paint. According to the Remodeling 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of replacing a front door on a home is $1,230 (steel) or $2,926 (fiberglass), with an owner being able to recover 102 percent of the cost for the steel door or 72 percent of the cost for the fiberglass door.
2. Lighten Up the Exterior
Outdoor lighting can add a touch of elegance to your front of your home. Furthermore, it can enhance the safety of your house. Outdoor lighting should go beyond ordinary lampposts and wall-mounted lighting to make your landscaping really stand out. Try installing stylish and modern lighting on your front porch.
A 2012 survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that 90 percent of homebuyers rated exterior lighting as an “essential” or “desirable” feature.
3. Liven Up the Landscaping
Flowers and fertilizer can be your friends when it comes to bumping up the curb appeal of your home. A study by Alex X. Niemiera, a horticulture professor at Virginia Tech, shows that a well-landscaped home holds a higher value than a home without proper landscaping. The advantage ranges from 5.5 percent to 12.7 percent, translating into an extra $8,250 to $19,050 for a home worth $150,000.
Of course, landscaping goes beyond flowers and fertilizer. Trim any overgrowth and pull weeds to spiff up the front lawn, McGeehan says. “Neatness will make the yard look bigger and will make your plants look greener and more vibrant,” he says.
McGeehan also says you consider putting up a low-height fence around the front yard to create a “welcome boundary” and make the front yard look larger. While you’re installing that fence or planting those bushes and shrubs, don’t overlook the lawn itself. According to a 2015 survey by lawnmower manufacturer Briggs & Stratton, 62 percent of American homeowners say the lawn influenced their home-buying decision.
4. Put Furniture on the Porch
Placing a bistro table or a couple of chairs on your porch can cost an average of $800 to $1,200 but can yield a return on investment of 40 percent to 60 percent, according to Styleathome.com.
“Nothing is more inviting than a pair of matching rockers on a front porch that are visible from the street,” McGeehan says.
5. Upgrade the Garage Door
One of the easiest ways to improve your home’s curb appeal is upgrade your garage door. Schonberg says: “Garage doors can represent up to 40 percent of a home’s curb appeal, especially in markets where lot sizes are narrow and builders have no choice but to position the garage on the front of the house. That much real estate presents a huge opportunity to enhance or detract from a home’s appearance.”
According to the Remodeling 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of replacing a garage door on a home is $1,595, with an owner being able to recoup 88 percent of that cost.
Schonberg says that 10 to 15 years ago, garage doors weren’t considered a key element of exterior design. Now, she says, replacing the garage door ranks among the top 5 home improvement projects.
“It’s no longer about just about getting a steel door in a different color or with windows. Homeowners can customize their door to fit their home style perfectly and make a statement,” Schonberg says.