Smart curb appeal

by CRE01 Nov 2017
Spring is in the air, and with it comes the universal desire of homeowners to get outside and tackle those exterior renovation projects they’ve been putting off. My husband and I were no exception – we’d been cooped up all winter, renovating the inside of our 1970s four-level side split on Vancouver Island, and we were eager to take on the backyard projects. Because curb appeal accounts for up to 28% of the value of a property, it’s important to know which exterior upgrades offer a good return on investment and which ones are going to negatively impact the bottom line.
The first impression of any property comes from the street – an attractive and well maintained yard lets people know you care about your home and take pride in the way it looks. Increasing curb appeal not only adds value to your investment, but it can also help to attract high-quality tenants.

With any renovation, it’s a good idea to start with a plan, so we made a detailed list of all the problem areas outside our home: The house had been painted an unfortunate shade of brown, which was chipped and peeling; the front door was original and unwelcoming; the shrubs and flower beds were overgrown; the grass was full of weeds; the driveway was cracked – the list went on and on. We divided the workload into two sections, beginning with the quick and easy tasks and progressively working toward the bigger, more expensive jobs.

Quick and easy fixes
Some of the highest renovation returns come from simple, inexpensive cosmetic improvements. We started by giving our house a bath. Armed with buckets of soapy water, sponges and a rented power washer, we cleaned, scrubbed and spit-polished the dirt and grime away. We used a diluted mixture of TSP, a cleaning agent found in any home hardware store, to get rid of the moss and mildew on the decks and remove the stains on garage doors. For about $200 and a weekend of sweat equity, our house sparkled.

The old, rusty mailbox and plastic house numbers did nothing to improve our curb appeal. After a quick visit to our local hardware store, I returned with a modern aluminum mailbox ($289) and matching 10" architectural house numbers ($125).

Updating our entrance was the last quick fix on the list. Our staid front door had to go, but its replacement was still weeks away from being delivered. To add a burst of color, we painted the door a warm red ($62), changed the door handle hardware ($190) and decorated the front steps with several colourful potted flowers ($115).

Professional-level tasks
DIY is an important aspect of home renovation, but equally important is knowing when to call in the professionals. Our roof shingles were only about 10 years old but were covered in moss, lichens and years of caked-on dirt. While some homeowners might be tempted to clean the roof shingles themselves, it’s almost always a better idea to hire a professional with the right tools and techniques to clean it without causing damage. The process takes about a day and costs between $600 and $700 for a 2,200-square-foot surface.

A good paint job goes a long way in adding considerable curb appeal, and this is another job best left to the professionals. Choosing a colour palette for your property can be daunting; there’s a fine line between showcasing your personal style and making a wildly bold statement that clashes with the house or neighbourhood. We decided on an eye-catching but earthy combination of light grey, taupe and the rustic red we used on the front door. The total cost for paint and labour was $7,700.

A complete landscaping overhaul was the last and most expensive item on our exterior renovation list. A visually appealing landscape can add considerable value to a property; it also helps to enrich the surrounding neighbourhood and supports local wildlife like birds, butterflies and other species that roost and feed in the area. However, weekly upkeep and ongoing maintenance can be time-consuming for busy homeowners. For landlords, landscape maintenance can also be an expensive repair when tenants fail to properly care for the outdoor spaces they are responsible for.

After consulting with several landscape design professionals, we decided to xeriscape. The driving principal behind xeriscaping is creative, well-planned landscape design using a wide variety of drought-resistant native plants, trees, shrubs and mulch, which need very little or no irrigation, fertilizers or pesticides to thrive. For us, the $14,000 price tag was an affordable, low-maintenance solution that has increased the beauty of our home and benefited the environment.

It’s important to remember that not all renovations are created equal. Don’t confuse luxury items with worthwhile exterior improvements. While adding backyard pools, hot tubs and outdoor kitchens will appeal to some homeowners, others will consider the time and money for upkeep an unnecessary expense. If the upgrade you’re considering lacks universal appeal, it will likely have an overall lower return on investment. It’s something worth considering before you begin your next renovation project.

Vanessa Roman is a licensed real estate agent in BC, property columnist and the host of HGTV’s Reno vs Relocate. Find out more at

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