Looks aren't everything, but when it comes to your home, it sure doesn't hurt to be the prettiest property on the block. And it turns out that the projects that gussy up your home's exterior can also pay off in unexpected ways.
"Curb appeal is everything - it's not just for looks, especially if you're looking to sell your home," says Rob Williams, a Washington, D.C. real estate agent and managing partner of DC Home Buzz. "A house can be amazing on the inside, but if the exterior is in disrepair or the landscape is overgrown, you can turn off a large number of buyers because they don't like the way it looks."
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Curb appeal can also add to your home's safety and energy efficiency. Surprising, right?
Keep reading to learn more about how curb appeal can benefit more than just the eye.
Benefit #1: You Can Sell Your Home Faster
Sure, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But unfortunately, when it comes to shopping for a property, that's exactly what prospective homebuyers do, says Williams.
"We've had properties that owners tried to list on their own or worked with other realtors, and they just weren't moving for months," says Williams. "Then after a fresh painted exterior, a new entry door, and addressing the landscape, we've gotten multiple offers."
So, what are some things that people pay attention to when they're driving by? For starters, your entry door is one object that can capture a potential buyer's eye.
"A new door adds lots of pizzazz," says Williams, who adds that a door with glass insets allows more natural light to pass through your home, which could be an added bonus when selling."But if you can't afford a brand new one, a fresh coat of paint will do the trick on the cheap."
Another project that will help sell your home - and yield a return on investment (ROI) - is replacing your garage door. Williams says this project can be completed for anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. It all depends on what budget and style you're going after.
"New garage doors definitely have a big impact," he says. "There are lots of cool designs, including new doors that look like old carriage doors with great hardware and slatted fronts. The only time you wouldn't get much return on a new garage door is if your home's garage doesn't face the street."
And another area to consider is landscaping, which Williams says really determines whether a house "shines or falls flat" when making that first impression on a buyer as he or she walks up to the property.
"A yucky or barren lawn will really turn a buyer off," he says.
Benefit #2: You'll Have Less Home Maintenance
Sounds a little too good to be true, right? That taking the time to DIY or hire out a curb appeal project can actually make the upkeep of your home easier in the future? Well, believe it. According to both Williams and Sean Murphy, DIY expert at Build.com, there are some projects that do payoff in this way.
"Landscaping is a big one," says Williams. "If you make sure shrubs and plantings gently slope away from your foundation, you could save thousands in potential water damage in the basement." Essentially, the incline will help runoff and excess rain to drain away from - not toward - your home. This will prevent you from having to perform additional maintenance tasks to keep your basement dry and mold free.
Another suggestion that Murphy has is removing your downspout from your rain gutters and replacing it with a rain chain that will divert rain runoff and prevent soil erosion.
"They look great and really keep your gutters clean," he says.
What's another curb appeal project that can lessen your home maintenance? Beautifying your exterior with vinyl siding.
"Today's vinyl siding offers all the character and charm of wood siding without maintenance worries, rotting, splitting or insect damage. And vinyl siding never needs paint," according to a publication by the Vinyl Siding Institute. "Unlike other exterior cladding, vinyl siding only requires simple, periodic cleaning with mild soap and a garden hose."
Benefit #3: A Groomed Landscape Can Deter Criminals
No one likes burglars, but what good is an alarm system if your home's appearance is constantly making it a target for intruders? Think about it - a property with little upkeep means there are more shadowy places to hide.
"Overgrown bushes can create dark spots where burglars can hide," says Williams. "Cutting them back will make your home safer so you can see what's going on your property."
Add to the mix some path lighting, too, says Murphy. "Outdoor lighting can eliminate trouble spots so intruders can be seen and also make it easier for you to walk on your yard at night if it's un-level."
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) offers similar sentiments.
"Your home's walkways and landscaping should direct visitors to the main entrance and away from private areas," notes an NCPC guide, titled "Lock Crime out of Your Home." It adds that "the landscaping should provide maximum visibility to and from your house."
Benefit #4: Save on Heating and Cooling Bills
Depending on where you invest your dollars, spending money on curb appeal could actually save you money in the long run by lowering your heating and cooling bills.
For Williams, it's all about good shade trees. Plant a bunch of these babies on your lot, let them grow, and one day they can cut down your energy cost by creating a shield over your home in the summer and keep heat in during the winter.
Looking to save even more? Then window replacement might be a smart option for you, as there are stunning designs available today that can work with any style home, historic or modern, says Murphy.
"Upgrading to double pane windows can be expensive, but have amazing benefits," he says. "Not only are they harder to break into, they really can help you save money on heating and cooling because they're so energy efficient."
Double pane windows also allow for more heated air to stay put in the winter and cooled air to stay inside during the summer. This means you won't have to crank your HVAC any more or less to stay comfortable during more extreme temperatures.
Benefit #5: Build Community
Believe it or not, according to both Williams and Murphy, keeping up your home's appearance can make you happier, your neighborhood friendlier, and your community nicer.
"If you do your landscaping and fix up your home, it kind of shames your neighbors into doing it as well," says Williams. "Not only will your home look great, but if you're spending time mowing the lawn or painting, you're maybe more likely to see your neighbors out there doing it as well, and you can say hi and interact more often."
Murphy agrees with Williams' theory.
"The value of a neighborhood could even see a slight uptick if you take care of your home and your neighbors begin to say, 'Hey, so and so's yard looks great, we should think about doing that to ours.' "
Murphy also identifies another psychological boost that curb appeal can create:
"When you're coming home from work, if your yard looks unkempt and your home trashy, you're probably going to think 'Here we go again,'" Murphy says. "But if the house and lawn look great, there's definitely a sense of pride there, and you're setting that tone for the day instead."