From first dates to job interviews, first impressions play a significant role. Naturally, that also goes for real estate. For prospective buyers, a striking home exterior is what first catches their eye, even before they see the house in person. Consider the amount of time prospective buyers spend cruising real estate sites like Zillow. A home’s exterior is likely to be the main photo, and that can determine whether they’re willing to click on the listing. “If we are able to create a home with good curb appeal, we usually use the exterior shot as our lead in photo galleries and marketing materials,” says Sarah Maguire, senior vice president at the Aranson Maguire Group at Compass in Boston. “That’s how important it is!”
Research proves it: According to Remodeling’s 2022 Cost vs. Value Report, the majority of projects that provided the best return on cost were actually exterior house renovations. But improving your home’s ROI isn’t just about replacing big-ticket items. Some of those projects, like replacing a garage door or putting on a new deck, can cost between $1,000 and $7,000, respectively. But like many things in life, it’s all in the details. Here, check out eight smaller updates you can tackle in a weekend—like a fresh coat of paint on a front door or new lighting—that directly influence the amount of money a buyer is willing to spend on your property.
1. Inspect the roof
Replacing a roof can cost $8,000 on average, according to Forbes Advisor. However, a roof that’s in its midlife may not need to be replaced, but you do need to give it a little TLC. Maguire recommends having a professional come out to perform routine maintenance and alert you of any red flags. Certain areas of your roof may get more wear and tear based on the direction it faces, or whether it’s subjected to water pooling. Make sure you tell prospective buyers and real estate agents the upgrades you’ve done because, trust us: Everyone asks about the roof. “This gives buyers a huge reassurance and allows you, as the seller, to get out in front of it,” Maguire says. This is particularly important if you live in an area with inclement weather and harsh winters.
2. Power wash the exterior
We know how satisfying it is to see dirt and decay removed, as hours spent watching cleaning videos on TikTok or Instagram can attest. A prospective buyer will feel that same sense of satisfaction, since a dirty home exterior can negatively impact their first impression. “Power washing your home is a relatively easy task that you could complete in a day,” says Quinn Veysey of Fisher Real Estate in Nantucket, Massachusetts. When it comes to the equipment, you can purchase a pressure washer for around $200 to $500. However, you can also rent one from your local appliance rental store for $40 to $100 a day. Just be sure that before you start, you consider the exterior material of your home. “Make sure to do research on which surfaces are acceptable for power washing,” Veysey says. “Vinyl is easily stripped of dirt, but power washing shingles is not encouraged.” Weathered brick, especially in homes older than 80 years old, can also be damaged by a pressure washer, especially if the water pressure is above 100 PSI.
3. Paint the front door
The front door is the passageway to the rest of your home. Not only does it provide an initial focal point, but it also sets the entire tone for your property’s exterior. “The front door is a great place for bold color on a façade. I always recommend stepping out of your comfort zone with front door color,” says John Gidding, designer, Masonite curb appeal expert, and host of HGTV’s Curb Appeal Xtreme. He advises picking a rich and saturated tone that expresses your personality and catches the eye. You can make a strong first impression for about $30. And here’s a bonus: No need to remove the door from its hinges to paint, Gidding says. Just be sure to protect your floors and tape off the hardware.
4. Fix rotting wood
Before you add anything new to spruce up your home’s exterior, focus on what’s already there. “Any rotting wood should be addressed, since this is the first sign of deferred maintenance,” Maguire says. “This goes for trim work, doors, and windows.” Fascia—the long boards that frame the roof—are a vital component of your home’s roof and gutter system, protecting your home from moisture-related damage. But they also face chronic exposure to the natural elements, which means regular maintenance is vital. If yours are in bad shape, Maguire recommends hiring a professional to remove and replace wood. Even though composite material is pretty much the industry standard these days, it’s more expensive than natural wood. However, many brands come with lifetime warranties, which looks extremely attractive to prospective buyers. For smaller spots of wood rot, say on window trim, patch up with Bondo wood filler, and then sand and repaint.
5. Improve exterior lighting
“Let’s get lit” takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to illuminating your home’s exterior. After all, nobody wants to buy a house that conveys a sense of doom and gloom. “Adding a very visible, oversized light fixture is quick, easy, and on-trend,” Gidding says. “It will illuminate your front door and create a warm, welcoming glow for guests.” Improved lighting also creates a genuine sense of safety for prospective buyers. For instance, motion sensor lights cost around $50, and are very popular for people who park their cars in a driveway overnight. Also, lighting that’s on an automatic timer and goes on after dark means you don’t have to bother to remember to turn it on yourself.
6. Replace hardware
Accessorizing with smaller updates can make a large difference. Mismatched and rusty fixtures lack appeal. That’s why spending a few bucks on a house number, door knocker, and door knobs, is a solid investment. All metal accents on hardware and fixtures should match both in material and style to create a cohesive design, Gidding says. For instance, if you have a modern-style home, avoid ornate wrought-iron hardware you’d normally see on a more traditional-style home. “You may love the look of a funky new font, but if it doesn’t reflect a similar design of the rest of your home, it will start to feel like a confused mixture of styles,” Veysey adds. “Consistency is key.”
7. Rev up the landscaping
There’s a good reason people call nice front yard landscaping “curb appeal.” After all, prospective buyers are much more likely to enter a home that looks inviting on the outside. Start with general lawn maintenance, like pulling weeds and mowing, and edging. Then, focus on the fun stuff. “Over the past few years, homeowners have started to think of their front yards as an extension of their interior living spaces,” Gidding says. “Curated landscaping and greenery can increase your enjoyment of the space.” Although new trees tend to be pricey, you can improve a property’s curb appeal significantly with a quick visit to a local flower nursery. Maguire recommends adding a few potted and seasonal plants, particularly in areas that lead to the home’s entrance.
8. Touch up paint
The average paint job for a house exterior can cost between $6,000 and $12,000 (depending on the number of levels you have). “A fresh coat of paint can go a long way in improving the personality and curb appeal of your home, but you don’t have to repaint the entire house,” Gidding says. He suggests focusing on painting the trim, which provides a significant facelift without requiring you to tackle the entire structure. Opt for a crisp color that makes the trim stand out. If your house is made of brick and doesn’t have much trim, touching up shutters can be the boost your house needs. “If you have a ladder and paint supplies, you could do these minimal touch-ups on your own,” Veysey adds.