From first dates to job interviews, first impressions matter. When it comes to selling your home, that initial glimpse of its exterior, aka curb appeal, is a big deal. In fact, according to a 2020 study done by the University of Texas at Arlington and published in The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, curb appeal can contribute to up to 7 percent of the home’s selling price (and even as much as 14 percent in certain real estate markets). That’s why it’s important to put your home’s best face forward.

What does curb appeal mean?

Curb appeal is the way your home looks from the outside or from the street, and how attractive it is to anyone who visits or drives past. To assess your home’s curb appeal, look at the front of your home and take it in from the perspective of someone seeing it for the first time. The color and condition of your home’s exterior, the landscaping and the overall maintenance of the outside of the property all contribute to its curb appeal.

Improving your home’s exterior and environs before listing it for sale is important. “Curb appeal is probably one of the most important and effective tools in selling a home,” explains Yawar Charlie, a Los Angeles-based estate director with the Aaron Kirman Group of real estate firm Compass. If people love the look of your home from the outside, they’re more likely to feel open and enthusiastic as they tour the interior.

8 ways to boost curb appeal

Here are tips on how to improve curb appeal, bring in the buyers and get top dollar for your home:

1. Painting the house

If your home’s exterior is looking dingy, it can be less appealing to potential buyers. One of the best ways to refresh it is with a new coat of paint. “A full exterior paint job can go a long way, especially if the paint has faded or is chipping,” says Reese Stewart of RE/MAX Properties SW in Florida. “While this can be costly, it can make all the difference if the home is overdue for a fresh paint coat.”

According to Thumbtack, a home services/contractors search website, Spring + Summer Trend Guide, requests for exterior painting services were up significantly (by 166 percent) in the spring of 2022. “Warm and earthy neutrals are said to be the hottest trend,” notes David Steckel, a home expert at Thumbtack. “Organic shades that mimic colors in the environment will compliment your lawn tastefully and highlight all of the different factors boosting your curb appeal.”

Cost: On average, expect to pay about $5,360 to paint the exterior of a 1,500-square-foot home, according to Fixr, a home remodeling resource.

2. Cleaning windows

Cleaning your doors and windows gives the impression that your home has been well taken care of. If a potential buyer is put off by filthy windows, they may not want to see what sits behind them, even if the interior of your home is actually kempt.

“Giving windows a good scrubbing is an easy and inexpensive way to remove any grime and give your home that sparkling look,” says Stewart.

Cost: If you DIY, this project will cost you nothing but water, cleaning supplies and a little elbow grease. To have them cleaned professionally, Fixr advises the cost will be about $300.

3. Repainting doors

Like a full exterior paint job, freshening up outside entryways with new paint can go a long way. According to an analysis by Zillow, painting your door black or charcoal gray could even contribute to a higher sale price. The real estate company found that homes with doors in these colors sold for an average of $6,000 more than expected.

“Painting just the front door or the garages can help spruce up the entry point, since it’s one of the first things potential buyers see,” says Stewart.

Cost: While you could hire a pro to do this job at an average cost of $275, according to Fixr, most homeowners do it themselves, with exterior acrylic latex paint costing between $20 and $50 per gallon. Your local paint shop can help you estimate how much paint you’ll need based on the size and scope of the doors in question.

4. Refreshing landscaping

Seventy-four percent of Realtors recommend sellers revisit their landscaping before listing their home on the market, and 17 percent say doing so leads to a successful sale, according to the National Association of Realtors. If that’s not enough to convince you to call a gardener, consider that your home could yield a price tag up to 20% more when you’re ready to sell.

“Take a step back and see if you need to repot some flowers or replace some bushes,” says Stewart. “Even some new mulch can go a long way.” Lawn- and yardwise, “turf has become a popular alternative to traditional grass as have drought-resistant plantings,” Steckel adds.The Thumbtack trend guide saw demands for landscaping service demands jump 144 percent in spring of 2022.

In general, “we’re moving away from a sea of grass and towards spending time creating different spaces for different uses,” says Steckel. While yard features such as gazebos and pergolas are popular, it’s not worth going to the expense of adding these elements just for curb appeal, of course. But if you already have a patio or a deck, do spring for washing it, tidying it, and making sure it’s in good condition.

Cost: The average cost for a professional landscape design, new soil, grading, grass seed, plants, patio and a walkway of a full front yard (the most important for curb appeal) is between $4,000 and $6,000; as high as $10,000 for the whole property, according to Fixr. If you have a rake and lawn mower, however, you can spruce things up for almost nothing. Paying for clean-up services — weeding, tree- and shrub-trimming, stump removal — range from $65 to $750, depending on the size of the yard and the task.

Another quick and easy option is to add a few pre-potted plants to the walkway or porch. At a cost of no more than $100 or $200 (depending on the plants), you’ll add color and pop to the entry area, and can take the plants with you after you sell.

5. Power washing the driveway

Leaves, rain and snow can wreak havoc on the surface of a driveway, especially a concrete one. “If your driveway is discolored, get it power washed,” Charlie recommends. If there are a lot of unsightly dings, bumps, gouges and cracks, you might even want to spring for having it resealed (especially if it’s been three to five years since you last did so).

Cost: On average, the cost to pressure-wash a 600-square-foot driveway is $225, according to Fixr. If you want to do it yourself, you can rent an electric pressure washer for $39 per day, with a deposit, from Home Depot. Sealants cost anywhere from $15 to $165 per five gallons, according to Angi.

6. Hitting the lights

Clean, functioning and well-placed exterior lighting not only looks nice, but also can be an important safety/security feature.

At the very least, inspect and refurbish what lighting you have. “Make sure that it is clear of cobwebs and dust and that [all] the bulbs are still working,” Stewart says. “It can ensure your home is well-lit if any potential buyers visit around sunset or drive by at night.”

And in terms of new lighting? “To boost curb appeal, I would suggest taking an ambient approach and including both uplighting and downlighting,” says Steckel. He adds that “most folks are going with a softer color like 2400 or 2700 Kelvin and a lower wattage because this light is less disruptive to the animals and insects that share the neighborhood.”

No need to go overboard. Mainly, all you need is “smaller, softer lighting to help define space, highlight features and of course make it safe to traverse,” Steckel adds. “String lighting is a simple and cost-effective way to do this.”

Cost: This DIY project can cost you nothing, unless you need to install the lights or purchase replacement bulbs. According to Fixr, you should budget an average of $400 for outdoor motion sensor lights and about $200 for ambient string lighting.

7. Fixing the roof

The condition of your roof can be a sticking point for buyers. If there are broken shingles or tiles or other issues, it’s best to take care of them with the help of a professional roofer before they come up during the home inspection.

Cost: For minor repairs (such as repairing links and replacing 100 square feet of asphalt shingles), the average cost for a professional repair is $750, according to Fixr. This can vary depending on the type of roof and the extent of the repairs.

8. Upgrading the mailbox

It’s small but significant. The mailbox is one of the first things a prospective buyer will see when they arrive at your home.

“If your mailbox is faded or is looking worse for the wear, it’s time for an upgrade,” Stewart says. “It might be a small project, but it’s one that can help improve overall curb appeal.”

Cost: If your mailbox just needs to be cleaned or painted, the cost is next to nothing. If it needs to be replaced, you can find mailbox and post kits at Lowe’s starting as low as $29.

Common curb appeal mistakes

Once you have an idea of which curb appeal ideas to tackle, you don’t want to waste time or money. Here are some curb appeal goofs to avoid:

  • Going overboard – Don’t get caught up in making every upgrade possible. “One of the common mistakes I find when it comes to curb appeal is a homeowner doing too much,” Charlie says. “There can be [such] a thing as too many trees or too many flowers.” Stewart agrees: “While a full garden may look beautiful to a seller, potential buyers may see it as difficult for upkeep.”
  • Investing in projects with no return on investment (ROI) – A feature you may love could be seen as a liability to the next potential owner. One prime example is the installation of a lawn water feature like a fountain. “Fountains are beautiful to look at and create a very relaxing environment through their natural auditory appeal, but they technically cost more and are a recurring cost through [their water] consumption,” Steckel explains. “There is no ROI to a fountain but there is a significant ROI to saving water from a cost and planet perspective.”
  • Making bold changes – Stick to neutral shades, especially for exterior paint. “One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is painting their homes a loud, outrageous color,” Charlie says. “Veer towards more of a classic look that will appeal to a variety of people.”
  • Not consulting your HOA – If you live in a home governed by a homeowners association, confirm that your planned upgrades are within its rules. “Sellers should check the bylaws before making any improvements that must go through the HOA for review,” Stewart says.

Curb appeal is probably one of the most important and effective tools in selling a home

— Yawar CharlieEstate director with the Aaron Kirman Group of real estate firm Compass

Quick tips for hiring a home pro

If you’re hiring a professional to execute any of your curb appeal ideas, remember to:

  • Check online reviews. Look to see what past clients say about the contractor you’re considering.
  • Ask for recommendations. Real estate agents, friends, neighbors and family members can be great resources for finding good home pros.
  • Get a firm bid. To make sure there are no surprises when it comes time to pay your bill, ask for a bid rather than an estimate. An estimate is like window shopping, according to Charlie, but a bid puts hard numbers to the project. “When you decide to use a vendor, make sure that they give you a final bid for what the work is going to cost, so there are no surprises down the line,” Charlie says.