Making an impression, from basic landscaping to prepping the roof
Landscape project by Sweeten landscape designer Michelle
Homeowners who put their house on the market want it to be shown in the best light, and nowhere is this more important than with its exterior. Curb appeal provides the critical first impression to prospective buyers, creating the desire to step inside and see more—or to keep on driving.
Another advantage to strong curb appeal is that it makes for a pretty picture. Most house hunters start the process by looking at homes online and the first photo from the street can help draw buyers in and entice them to reach out to their realtor.
Deciding to improve the home’s exterior at resale is really a balancing act. Perhaps the first question to ask is: why do anything? It’s a valid question in a hot seller’s market where houses go on sale on Monday and are in contract by the next weekend. But an improvement can also keep negative impressions out of a buyer’s mind. Few people are wowed by a nice roof, but everyone can notice missing shingles, discoloration, and other signs of disrepair. Here, Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, outlines the best areas for sellers to focus on for the best return on their budget.
Consider the buyer’s POV
Curb appeal involves many different elements, from a well-manicured lawn to an eye-popping entryway to a new roof or siding. Deciding which projects to tackle comes down to what needs to be renovated or at least improved—if something is worn or damaged, it should be replaced or fixed—and based on the budget, what the improvement can add to the resale value of the house.
“Check around the neighborhood to see what is most prevalent with other homes,” said Sweeten contractor Majid. “You want your home to fit in with the culture of the surrounding area. For example, you don’t want to install vinyl siding in a neighborhood with homes that are predominantly stucco or brick because people who are searching that particular neighborhood are looking for that specific look.”
Landscaping project by Sweeten landscape designer Brook
Another obstacle is how homeowners perceive their home. Someone who has lived in the house happily for a number of years may not be aware of its flaws. “It’s good to get an opinion from someone else,” said Kyle, a contractor with Sweeten. “Some of my clients call me and say they are looking to sell their house and wonder what they should do.”
Working with a qualified general contractor not only gives you the benefit of their expertise, but they can refer you to tradespeople they have worked with and trust—a valuable resource when trying to find a good contractor.
Improving the look of the landscape may be the easiest and least expensive way to enhance curb appeal. “The landscaping and its health are very important as a well-manicured lot will naturally draw attention to the home. It contributes to the overall look and feel of the place,” said Majid.
Start by making sure the lawn is neatly trimmed and the planting beds have a fresh layer of mulch. Add color and texture by placing seasonal plants in pots around the entry. Ringing trees with mulch will give a kempt look to the yard. While this may sound simple, such attention to detail or hiring a landscape designer to do the work provides your front yard the professional polish it needs.
If there is a fence, give it a fresh coat of paint, whether it is a picket fence in the suburbs or an ironwork fence in the city. Its square footage measurement will determine the cost, as well as what shape it is in. “More labor is required if the fence is in bad condition,” explained Kyle.
Other more involved and expensive projects include adding a new front walkway or redoing the driveway, a key detail. Kyle said, “If the driveway is all beat up, the buyer is thinking, ‘I am going to have to replace it.'” The cost of renovating a walkway is also based on the square footage. This is the same for driveways except the cost is measured over the “blacktop, concrete and pavers. Another aspect that plays a part in the price is the elevation,” he said.
Remodeling and resale highlights
Both the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Remodeling Impact Report and Remodeling‘s 2018 Cost vs. Value Report survey their audiences to estimate how common improvements affect resale value. Much of the data is based on the opinions of the professionals who were given descriptions of the project. The groups used different methodologies and the results do not perfectly align; however, the results extrapolated below could prove helpful for a homeowner making a renovation decision.
Smaller-scale projects run the gamut from a fresh coat of paint on the front door to replacing the entry and garage doors. Larger improvements include repairing the roof to pass inspection.
Entry door replacements range from installing a steel door at a cost of about $1,400 to $1,700 to a fiberglass door that can cost as much as $9,000. A custom door for a 100-plus-year-old brownstone will be priced higher. In general, installing a steel door will recoup a higher percentage of the original cost, mainly due to the lower upfront cost. But location also plays a role. In New York, a fiberglass door fetches 90 percent of the original cost, while the national average is 68 percent.
In fact, very few projects actually earn back more money than they cost but keep in mind the goal is to bring foot traffic and potential buyers to your door. The exception: garage doors. The National Association of Realtors ranked replacing a garage door third among its eight projects surveyed that earn back their full cost. (A new roof was #1, followed by new vinyl windows). The report also stated that 24 percent of the realtors surveyed suggested to sellers that they replace the garage door, but only 3 percent cited that factor closed the deal with a buyer. On the bright side, the improvement added more than the cost of the project to the value of the home in the New York area.
Roofing, siding, and windows are big-ticket undertakings that can cost $10,000 to $30,000 and projects that homeowners should consider carefully. Thirty-two percent of the realtors said that a new roof helped close a sale. “Roofing is important because the home inspector looks at it carefully,” said Kyle. The inspector will estimate the age and evaluate the condition of the shingles. New siding and windows helped close deals in the single digits.
Renovation by Sweeten contractor Bud
Making a decision
What’s the timetable? If you plan on moving in a few years or so, then a major improvement may be more attractive because you can enjoy it while you are still living in the house. Then there is the budget and the many things to consider here: the cost of the project, what it adds to the value of the house, the seller’s equity in the house, and how long will you get to enjoy the improvement before you move.
“The last thing you want to do is have your home stick out like a sore thumb,” said Majid. “Overall, your safest bet as far as resale value is concerned is to stick with the general look of the neighborhood and neighboring homes.”
Assessing the condition of your home, whether its a series of small projects to larger-scale mends, will get the “welcome factor” you need for a successful resale.
Putting your home on the market? Read our guide on renovating for resale.
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