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AARP Smart Guide to Curb Appeal

Practical ways to show your home sweet home some love

spinner image grey single-level home with white trim; sidewalk leading to driveway; gorgeous grass in front, along with mulch where red, yellow and green shrubs and trees sit
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That thing that makes you stop and stare at a home in the middle of your neighborhood while on a stroll? It’s curb appeal. And when a house has it, there’s no fighting the allure. It might be a front door with color that pops, a porch with smile-worthy seating, or landscaping that’s so flawless you’re tempted to take notes for your own lawn overhaul.

Perfecting curb appeal means your home radiates a good first impression — whether for potential buyers, guests or simply neighbors passing by.

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Some curb appeal upgrades may cost very little. Others could require a considerable financial outlay. But either way, expect to receive an eventual return on your investment: Houses with strong curb appeal tend to sell for an average of 7 percent more than comparable homes that lack a curbside wow factor, according to a 2020 study in The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics.

Want your humble abode to be a neighborhood knockout? Here’s how.


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1. Do a visual once-over

Step back and eye your home as if you are an interested home buyer or first-time passerby. Notice anything slightly askew that you had been overlooking? Perhaps the storm door is hanging just a little ajar, or maybe the shutters aren’t even. Spend an afternoon making small repairs to keep your home’s front in tip-top visual shape.

2. Tidy up

“Keeping things neat and tidy is a very easy way to make sure your home makes a great first impression,” says Bailey Carson, a home care expert at the home services and directory website Angi, formerly known as Angie’s List.

Is last fall’s project ladder still leaning on the side of the house? Are those pavers out of place and in need of being relaid? The easiest way to add curb appeal is to simply put items away. If they’re not getting put away because there’s no room in the shed or garage, it’s time to declutter and organize.

3. Get rid of the grime

Cobwebs, dirt, dead leaves — or, worse, mold and mildew — can build up on your home’s exterior and around windows, doors, gutters and eaves. So, set aside time to clean your home’s exterior at least semiannually. Pick a sunny day, look from different angles and try to see with fresh eyes what everyone else sees. There are a lot of expensive chemicals and cleaners that tout special properties, but soap and water in a bucket with a sponge go a long way.

You can also consider using a pressure washer to clean brick, sidewalks and the exterior of your home. “I’m a big fan of the pressure washer, which you can buy or rent at most home-improvement stores,” Carson says. “If you spend a Saturday putting in just a little bit of sweat equity with one, it can make a big difference on your driveway and walkways.”

4. Clean windows and door glass

Help your home shine by scrubbing away any dust and fingerprints on your front window panes, both inside and out. “Having newly cleaned, glistening windows makes a world of difference for curb appeal,” says Jennifer Davis, a broker with Maison Real Estate in Charleston, South Carolina. “When your windows are clean, light streams through and brightens all the rooms in the house.” 

5. Keep outdoor decor to a minimum

Don’t overdo the yard decor — even if that means limiting your garden gnome collection to just two or three favorites, or limiting the quirkiness to the backyard. Too much can be a distraction and make the area look cluttered. 


spinner image front doors to three different houses; first one is brown with the word welcome on it; second door is brown with a green, white and pink wreath on it; third door is blue with a wreath made out of orange leaves and small pumpkins
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6. Paint or stain your front door

Make your front door pop with a coat of fresh paint. One recent Zillow study suggests homes with black doors deliver the most curb appeal, selling for around $6,500 more than similar homes — or opt for teal, red or yellow for a cheery blast of color. If natural wood doors are more your style, liven yours up with a new coat of golden oak or rich mahogany stain.

“I’m seeing more and more people going for natural stains as opposed to painted doors,” says Charles DeBaptiste, owner of a Door Renew franchise in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. If you have a nonwood door but like that look, there are multiple products for getting a wood-textured look through paint. Search “wood grain paint kit” online to find. 

7. Or replace your door entirely

If you’ve noticed drafts coming from your existing door — or if the door casing around it has warping, cracking or other signs of weather damage — it may be time to replace it. The good news is that you’ll get to take your pick from a range of styles and materials, including tried-and-true wood and energy-efficient insulated steel or fiberglass.

Take a nod from your home’s architecture to select a new front door that feels right for your entryway, whether traditional, Craftsman, Old World or modern. And consider both style and security when selecting whether — or how much — glass should be incorporated in your front door design.

8. Add a wreath and a welcome mat

Accentuate your front door makeover by adding a cheery wreath and a new welcome mat. It’s a one-two punch that can instantly take your house from cold to cordial. For bonus points, rotate your wreath and mat with the changing seasons so your entryway feels fresh year-round. And when it comes to choosing a wreath, don’t always default to a traditional shape.

“If your front door has two long windows, or sidelights, on the sides, rather than using a traditional round wreath, you can create two elongated wreaths that fit perfectly in those spaces,” suggests Mattie Sheppard, a strategic interior design adviser at Real Estate Bees and president and CEO of Perfectly Pictured Decluttering & Staging Experts in Jacksonville, Florida.

9. Use planters for a pop of color

Add two matching pots or planters, placed at either side of your door or porch walk-up, filled with in-season annuals such as geraniums, petunias, impatiens and chrysanthemums. This burst of color will help frame and showcase your front door. If you’re looking for inspiration, aim for “thrillers, fillers and spillers” when researching. Start your planters with a tall focal plant — perhaps an ornamental grass — and then fill out around it, using smaller annuals and vines, suggests Leslie Feathers, a designer with Belmont Nursery in Fresno, California. 

10. Add seating

If you have a front porch that’s large enough for gathering, embrace it. Add a cozy swing or bench, a colorful outdoor rug and a row of comfy rocking chairs or Adirondack chairs placed perfectly for conversation. In warmer climates, an outdoor fan helps keep bugs at bay and creates a cooling breeze. This all gives a house “a warm inviting feeling that says, ‘Come on in. You’re welcome here,’ ” Sheppard says.

11. Liven up your light fixtures

If your home has basic, contractor-grade porch lights, consider adding some pizzazz with new light fixtures. For a modern look, opt for a pair of black or muted brass lanterns or a set of painted steel fixtures that are equally at home in farmhouse or modern industrial designs.

“Even just updating the lanterns on either side of your front door can add a really nice touch — and it’s a relatively easy DIY project,” Carson says.

12. Revamp your railings

If your current front stairway or raised porch railings are rusted or rotted — depending on if they’re metal or wood — or if they wobble and are no longer securely grounded, it’s time to repair or replace them. The visual makeover will add noticeable curb appeal, plus the new, sturdier handrails and railings can help prevent accidents and falls.

13. Add a walkway that wows …

Tired of the traditional concrete walkway that leads to your front door? Consider giving it a style upgrade with pavers — stone, brick or block that’s used to cover a surface. They come in a variety of styles, from traditional cobblestones to more sleek, contemporary tiles.

“Pavers are a great way to increase curb appeal, compared to poured concrete, because the variety of textures and colors that are available is almost infinite,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes with Belgard, a leading U.S. paver manufacturer. You can hire an installer or do the job yourself, thanks to a DIY line of Belgard pavers available at home-improvement stores. “Redoing a walkway is the best DIY project when it comes to pavers, since it typically involves a manageable, smaller space,” Raboine says.

14. … And keep it weed-free

After you update your walkway, or if you need to just clean up the current one, keep weeds away by sealing the cracks. First kill the weeds and then add cement crack filler, an inexpensive and easy way to prevent weeds. There are many products available in stores and online to fill in cracks permanently.  


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15. Listen to your weeds

Speaking of weeds, these “opportunistic plants” are a response to a specific growing condition due to scalping — when you set your mower to a height level that’s lower than what’s recommended and it sends grass into shock. Look at the types of weeds you keep seeing to determine your next steps. If you’re seeing lots of crabgrass, you probably also have poor soil and scalped turf, so raise the height of your mower and consider looking into adding nutrients. Creeping Charlie? Too much shade, so overseed with shade-tolerant grass seed.

Knotweed is likely due to compacted or heavy soil, so aerate in the fall and spring, or add pavers for a walkway. White clover typically means the fertility of your soil is low. It’s best to let grass grow a little longer and to water deeply but less often — which will also help crowd out the weeds. Pull them out and add grass seed, watering shallowly twice a day until established. Looking for an environmentally friendly way to kill dandelions? Try spraying them with vinegar or pour boiling water on them.

16. Check your soil

If you’re doing everything by the book and your front yard still looks abysmal, it may be time to get scientific and check your soil pH (level of acidity). If it’s too high, iron is less available, and if it’s too low, it can be toxic for plants. Many state cooperative extension service offices offer soil testing, and you can also buy home kits online and at big-box stores — though the readings will likely not be as accurate as ones taken by an extension service. Once you have your results, you can learn what kind of fertilizer (nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium) is needed to get your soil back in good health.

17. Refresh your landscaping

Refreshing or redesigning your landscape can add immediate curb appeal and real value to your home. “An overall landscape upgrade — including shrubs, mulching and a paver walkway — will cost around $5,000, but homeowners can expect to recoup about 80 percent of the costs,” Raboine says. Homes with professionally landscaped front lawns can sell for 15 to 20 percent more than homes with less attractive landscapes, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects.

So, does your home call for a lavish English garden or a more minimalistic plant approach? When it comes to landscaping, there’s no single right answer — and you can even mix elements of multiple styles, says Kevin Lenhart, design director and landscape architect at Yardzen, an online landscape design service. Just remember to make your “design choice, whatever style it is, look intentional, professional and cohesive,” Lenhart adds. Or plant a tree or two. In a few years you’ll have some nice shade. 

18. Pick the best plants

With certain areas of the country facing continuing drought conditions, there’s a growing movement to replace grass and other water-hogging front yard plants with more drought-resistant alternatives. “We’re seeing a 66 percent increase in client requests for lawn removal,” Lenhart says. Even if you’re not ready to let go of your traditional turf, you can promote water conservation by choosing native and low-maintenance landscape plants that are well adapted to your climate.

“Pick the right plant for the right place. That’s the motto,” Lenhart adds. If you’re mindful of growing patterns, the result can lead to a front yard that stands out and is a pollinator haven. Landscape architects and designers can give professional advice on the best plants to add based on your desires, and local nurseries typically have a native plant section to choose from as well. 

19. Prune overgrowth

It’s hard for your home’s intrinsic charm to shine if it’s covered up by overgrown trees, shrubs or bushes. Borrow, rent or buy a pair of sharp handheld pruners or electric hedge trimmers and get to work trimming excess limbs and branches. Generally, the best time to do deeper pruning is during the winter, but this can vary from species to species. Trimming your plants to a manageable size so that they are no longer blocking front windows, doors and walkways will help your home feel more welcoming and less fortress like.

20. Add a small fence

Another way to keep the front yard looking tidy (or to keep dogs from messing up your landscape) is to install a small fence. But before you add the picturesque white picket or classic black metal (or whatever iteration) fence, look up your city and county regulations for height and other requirements. If it separates your plot from your neighbor’s, it’s also recommended you get their buy-in, and in some cases they may even help pay for part of it. 

21. Nix mulch creep

If your mulch or landscaping gravel moves or washes away in the rain, install landscape edging or pavers to clearly define the edges of your landscape beds and to help keep ground cover materials from spilling into the lawn or onto walkways. If small bits of mulch or gravel still escape after rains or strong winds, consider trying a product like mulch glue, an outdoor adhesive that keeps mulch, pine straw, gravel, sand, dirt and other ground cover in place.

22. Refresh your existing mulch

Now that you’ve got your mulch staying in place, you might notice it needs a refresh. Many companies now sell easy-to-spray mulch dyes that typically become colorfast in a few hours. Make sure to wear old clothes and to move away any pavers or other items that could get stained. 

23. Try a new mowing pattern

Keep your grass well-trimmed and, for an extra wow factor, mow in a circle, spiral or stripes, based on the size and shape of your yard. Some people go as far as using a lawn roller to force the blades of grass down in one direction in order to create a clean, stripy finish. 

24. Add clean lines

Make your lawn look professionally manicured by using a trimmer or edger. Edging creates a neat cut line and prevents the grass from growing onto the sidewalk. You can also use it to neaten up the space between grass and mulch and to create clean lines.

25. Grow grass for your area

Tall fescue or zoysia? How about St. Augustine or Bermuda? Kentucky bluegrass or buffalo grass? Each region has grasses that will grow better in its zone, and seed companies are consistently developing grasses that tout greater resilience and less maintenance. Typically, your local big-box garden center will sell grasses meant for your area and a few other varietals. But do your research and consider seed strains that are already growing well in your yard.

26. Furnish a focal point

Give passersby something to notice when they glance your home’s way — whether it’s an attractive flowering tree, a front courtyard seating area or an eye-catching fountain or sculptural piece. “The right focal element is an expert way to add a bit of personality to your front yard,” says Cassi Hallam, chief marketing officer at System Pavers, a California-based outdoor living design and installation company.

“When it comes to your focal point, don’t be afraid to go big,” Hallam adds. “Scale the element to fit the yard. If it’s too small, it’ll just add visual clutter. You want it to be big enough to hold its own. Frame it, flaunt it. Make the most of your focal element, and design the bulk of your yard around it.”

27. Install window boxes

If the style of your home can accommodate them — think Cape Cod, cottage, Craftsman or even mid-century ranch — add window boxes to your front windows for an instant charm upgrade. Fill them with a mix of annuals such as begonias, impatiens, petunias or vinca, which grow only around 8 to 12 inches tall, so they won’t block windows, Feathers says. To maximize the cuteness factor, she suggests including trailing ivy or other hanging greenery to add softness as well as visual texture.

28. Add some lights

Turn heads toward your home’s exterior at nighttime as well by installing landscaping lights around walkways and in your landscape beds. You can work with a professional contractor — expect to pay an average of around $4,000, according to HomeAdvisor — or opt for a DIY lighting kit from your local home-improvement store. For added flair, use lighting to spotlight a focal feature, like a prominent tree, Sheppard suggests. “At night, when it’s lit up, it will give a beautiful warm, inviting feel,” she says. If you’re looking for a fast, low-cost way to add lighting, add solar walkway lights. 


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29. Paint the exterior

Repaint your exterior in a new tone, especially if your current paint is dull, dated or cracking. Or, if your house has natural brick that looks stuck in the 1970s, give some thought to painting it. Expect to pay around $3,000 for an average-size home exterior paint job, according to HomeAdvisor. But the curb-appeal impact is worth it. “I think painting your house is probably the biggest thing that you can do to really showcase its features — it’s the biggest surface area of your home, and the first thing people see,” says Dierk Herbermann, chief operating officer at Colorado-based Kentwood Real Estate.

To stay on trend, opt for white or off-white colors, which are the preferred 2022 exterior paint choices of home renovation experts, according to a recent survey by Searching for color inspiration that’s sure to feel fresh? Set off your white exterior with black trim, a look that’s being embraced in neighborhoods across the country.  

30. Stain your brick

If you’re ready for a new look but you can’t bear the thought of painting over brick that’s in good condition, try another masonry makeover technique such as staining, whitewashing, limewashing or German smear. These refresh options can give your brick new life — without completely hiding its natural beauty. Two advantages of staining your brick rather than painting it: Brick stain can last 20 or more years — far longer than most paint jobs. Plus, staining lets the brick continue to breathe and doesn’t trap moisture like paint can. 

31. Check gutters and downspouts

Make sure gutters and downspouts are in good repair and diverting rainwater properly. Clogged gutters can look unsightly and cause staining to your brick or siding, and downspouts can also clog or come unhinged over time. 

32. Invest in a new garage door

If your home has a basic steel, windowless garage door, dial up your curb appeal by swapping it out for one with a little more personality. In addition to steel, today’s garage doors come in an array of materials — from solid wood or wood composite to aluminum, vinyl and fiberglass — as well as nearly limitless design styles.

A garage door can cost between $300 for a standard panel door to $5,000 or more for a French or carriage-style look, depending on materials. But the investment will improve not only the look, but also the value of your home. According to Remodeling magazine’s “2021 Cost vs. Value Report,” homeowners can expect to recoup 93.8 percent of the cost of a new garage door in increased home resale value.

33. Revitalize the roof

Most roofers suggest replacing asphalt shingles — the most commonly used roofing material, representing roughly 90 percent of the residential market, according to Maciek Rupar, technical services director with the National Roofing Contractors Association — every 15 to 30 years.

When it’s time to replace yours, don’t feel locked into traditional single-tone black, gray or brown shingles. The roofing market is increasingly offering multicolored roofing options, such as bourbon, Owens Corning’s 2022 shingle color of the year. Bourbon includes blended hues of brown, black, gray and rust. A new roof costs an average of $7,000 to $24,000, so look for shingles that are weather- and impact-resistant, as well as energy-efficient, to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth. 

34. Replace siding

If your current wood siding is dated or in disrepair — or you’re simply tired of the painting, waterproofing and other routine maintenance it requires — it may be time to look for a new option. That’s particularly true if you live in an area that’s prone to hurricane-force winds or fires, both of which are becoming increasingly common due to climate change.

While traditional wood siding products can be susceptible to termites, rot, fire and wind damage, fiber-cement siding (also known as Hardie Board siding) is low-maintenance, available in an array of colors, noncombustible and able to withstand hurricane-force winds. Another bonus: It lasts for as long as 50 years. For a less expensive option, look for modern vinyl siding products that are fire- and fade-resistant and can withstand winds of at least 110 mph.  

35. Don’t forget the driveway

As one of the largest features of your home’s front footprint, the driveway plays a major role in overall curb appeal. Clean up small stains with a pressure washer or by scrubbing with dish detergent, vinegar and water. Fill in cracks with asphalt or concrete patching compounds. If your driveway is severely damaged or unlevel, consider hiring a contractor to replace it — and anticipate a bill of between $2,300 to $7,500 ($4 to $15 per square foot) for a new concrete one, according to Angi.


spinner image number five sign hanging in front of a house in chatham new jersey; house has stone and yellow siding
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36. Showcase your digits

Even the tiniest details can pack a big punch. Case in point: address numbers. Replace dated, shiny metal numbers with something more modern. Create a sign with the address of your residence and hang it near the doorbell, Sheppard suggests. Or install more trendy black or matte metal oversize numbers near the front door. Even minor upgrades like these will “show you are keeping up with trends and care about giving your home a little bit more of a polished look,” Carson says.  

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37. Upgrade your mailbox

Your mailbox is more than just a utilitarian drop zone for bills and magazines. Show it some love — and show off your personality — by

installing a stylish curbside or doorside box. “Upgrading your mailbox isn’t just for the mailman. It can give your home an updated, elegant feeling,” says John Maxim, a house flipper in Salt Lake City. Plus, a shiny new mailbox can signal positive vibes about its owners: “People who care about their mailbox typically pay attention to the small details inside their homes as well,” Maxim adds.

38. Install front door hardware that pops

Top off your front door refresh by replacing dated, basic doorknobs with a more modern option. Choose from black or matte metal pull-variety handle sets, lever-style handles or traditional knobs with chic, flat circular fronts sometimes called a Bowery knob or a contemporary round rose knob.



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