7 exterior upgrades for a home on the market - Q&As

DateApril 16, 2019

Leah Baker and Rushika Patel graduated from the University of Tennessee’s architecture program and set out to San Francisco where they both began their careers in design. Fast forward 5 years and they are now CEOs of their respective practices Graphite and Holos A+D.

Graphite is the only freelance platform of its kind specifically for architects – where clients are matched with the perfect architecture team to help take their project to completion without the overhead costs typically associated with a traditional architecture firm. Holos Architecture + Design is a firm based out of southwest Florida that provides a range of design services including e-design, and now features its own unique and growing home decor line of products – Holos for home.

Together, Leah and Rushika shed light on some of the most requested topics in the home design industry today through an article series of Q&As! Here is the first of four articles about how to boost your home value before selling. They answer common questions about exterior improvements to a home on the market.


1. Do exterior improvements make a big difference?

Leah – Yes! Just think about it…if you’re walking down the street, which homes catch your eye? The ones with curb appeal, of course! First impressions make a huge difference when trying to sell your home. Not only does an attractive exterior help peak the interest of those walking or driving by, it helps your home stand out in the minds of potential buyers who have seen more homes than they can remember.

Another thing to remember is that even if you’ve done a great job improving your home on the interior, potential buyers may be turned off by an unsightly exterior and not even give the interior a chance. Even if you do get buyers in the door, it may leave them thinking that the exterior doesn’t match the quality of the interior, and therefore, may not match the price tag you’re asking for.

According to Consumer Reports, adding some curb appeal to your home can increase the value of your home 3-5%. While that may not seem like a lot, some small changes could earn you up to $30,000 in value on a $600,000 home.

Here are a couple of examples of some houses with good and bad curb appeal….

Studio Zerby, Liz Morrow Design


2. What are some must-do exterior improvements for a house on the market?

Rushika — The exterior of your house should probably rank number one on your priority list. Investments made on exterior improvements yield a much higher return than ones on interior improvements. When buyers are paying so much attention to curb appeal, some of the best things you can do to improve your home’s resale value is, apply a fresh coat of paint — this will instantly give your house a facelift!

Thoughtful and well-integrated landscaping & lighting is another way to appeal to your buyers. While most potential buyers will be visiting your property during the day, a well-staged evening exterior shot of your home with on-point lighting could be a swaying factor. Highlight your trees for dramatic contrast, switch out those old wall sconces for something more impactful.

A well-curated outdoor living space can do wonders for your first impression too! Paint an evocative picture for your buyer through thoughtful staging and set up an outdoor living space conducive to relaxation and entertainment! Treat your outdoors as an extension of your home.



3. What are some bigger budget improvements that can increase my home’s functionality and value?

Leah — If you’ve got a few more bucks to spend, these upgrades will go a long way. These go beyond the cosmetic finishes and ensure the functionality of your home is maximized for the new buyer. They will give the new owner peace of mind to know they won’t have to worry about these repairs or upgrades after just having spent all their money on the down payment.

  • New Roof
    A typical asphalt shingle roof will last anywhere from 15–25 years depending on the quality of shingles. Metal roofing usually lasts anywhere from 30–50 years. And clay tile or slate roofs, anywhere from 50–100 years. EPDM rubber roofs last 5–15 years and PVC and TPO membrane roofs last 20–30 years. If your roof is approaching these age limits or shows noticeable signs of wear or damage, you should definitely consider replacing it, because it will show up in an appraisal anyway.
  • New Windows
    Buyers today are more concerned than ever about energy efficiency. Many will ask for up to 2 years of utility payments before purchasing. Heat gain and loss through windows account for 25–30% of residential heating and cooling energy use. If you’ve got an older house, replacing the windows with new high-efficiency ones can lower your home’s energy bills by 7–15%. While the cost of this upgrade is rather pricey, the increased value of your home may still surpass the cost depending on the climate you live in.
  • Add skylights
    Skylights can make such an instant improvement to your spaces. They help to open up a space and bring light to dark areas like bathrooms. They come in a range of sizes and operability options. They can be fixed or operable; manual, solar powered, or remote controlled.
  • Parking
    Having a spot to park at least one car off the street can increase the value of your home immensely, especially if you live in a dense urban area like New York or San Francisco. In these locations, off-street parking is coveted and hard to come by. According to a report by Paragon Real Estate Group, 80–90% of buyers put parking on their must-have list for a new home. This report also stated that adding off-street parking to a San Francisco home can increase its value by 10–12%. Even if you don’t have a garage on your property, consider putting in a small driveway or gravel area.
  • Privacy fence
    In urban and suburban neighborhoods, houses are typically very close to each other, or even touching. This inherently means that back yards are very close together as well. While many will already have some kind of fence dividing the property, make sure it is in good condition and able to provide ample privacy.

When designing and constructing a new fence, make sure to research and comply with any city or neighborhood specific design guidelines. Also, consider using shrubs and hedges along the fenceline to create more privacy yet add a bit of greenery to your yard.

Home to love, Deuce cities henhouse


4. Are there any upgrades I can do myself to modernize my old house?

Rushika — Absolutely! There are tons of little upgrades you can take a DIY approach on. Attention to detail is often more rewarding than you might think. Something as small as replacing your house numbers with minimalist fonts, or upgrading your standard old mailbox with a modern piece in a complementing finish.

While you may not be able to take on a full exterior repaint job, you can certainly try your hand at repainting your front door and adding a little fun pop of color to your exterior. It might also benefit some to entirely switch out the front door for something more energy efficient, or perhaps a door with glass to brighten up a dark entry. While you are at it, home buyers are increasingly impressed by smart home features like automatic locks, entry doorbell with integrated cameras, etc.

Gather some tools and manicure your yard by trimming back trees and shrubs, switching out exterior light fixtures, installing landscape edging — l like the minimal steel edging for a modern and clean look.

The effortless chic


5. How do I choose the right colors for my home?

Rushika — The most important thing is to keep it minimal and neutral. The simpler the color scheme, the larger the audience it will appeal to. Paint colors can be very subjective, so when selling a home, it is always beneficial to play it safe and stay away from out of the ordinary colors like purple for example.

Start composing your color scheme by picking out a primary color (this will cover a majority of the exterior, so it should be something like white or ivory if you are going with a light color scheme, or a gray or black if you have a dark color scheme), secondary color (something that will provide some contrast to the primary color, like greige, beige, or white and ivory for a dark color scheme. Take the color of your roof into account as well and try to stay in the same family of either warm tones or cool tones), and finally a tertiary/accent color (this can be the little pop of fun color — it is safe to go bright here if you wish).

For a more modern and minimal look, opt for a dark secondary color like black, charcoal gray, or bronze. This will look stark against a white or ivory backdrop and give your house a nice clean look. The primary color will cover all the exterior walls while the secondary color can be applied to fascias, gutters, downspouts, shutters, and trims. For a more simplified color scheme, you can choose to eliminate the secondary color altogether. Your accent color will typically be applied to your front door only — don’t go crazy with it!

Hector Sanchez for Daniel Keeley, Mcgee & Co.


6. What are some landscaping tips to consider?

Leah — When considering what landscaping upgrades to make, consider the following:

  • Choose species that are low maintenance — this allows you to upgrade the landscaping months in advance of selling your home and you will have little work to do to keep them looking nice until you are able to sell. It will also be attractive and easy for those buyers who may not be avid gardeners.
  • Choose species specific to the climate — plants that are native to the particular area you live in will thrive more easily. For example, in California, due to the dry climate, one should choose drought tolerant specific plants. Whereas, in Florida, there’s lots of rain, so tropical plants are great! Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder, to search for plants native to your area!
  • Choose plants and shrubs that are pet and kid friendly — Set potential buyers’ minds at ease that the plants in their new backyard aren’t toxic. If they are, they’ll be faced with immediately ripping them out and replanting.
  • Add some new mulch — spruce up the flower beds with some mulch to keep it looking maintained and fresh.
  • Shape and prune existing plants and trees — If you already have existing landscaping, give it some love!


7. What are the best components to include in an outdoor living area?

Leah — Having a usable outdoor living space is very attractive to new home buyers, especially in the millennial generation. It expands the usable area of the home when designed to be functional and welcoming. The best components include:

  • Shading — consider a trellis, canopy structure, or even existing trees to make the space usable on hot, sunny days.
  • Power outlets — This modern upgrade always comes in handy. It allows you to plug-in heaters, grills, phone chargers, or other tools you might use outdoors.
  • Fire pit — These are not only functional on chilly nights, but provide a focal point for a group of seating.
  • Built-in seating — With a bit of a higher budget, consider doing built-in seating benches to frame the area rather than relying solely on patio furniture. These can be made from durable, low maintenance materials and keep the space look nice and tidy.
  • Pavers — Laying down simple pavers can be easier to install than building a wooden deck or pouring a concrete pad.
  • Accents — bring some greenery into the area by adding some accent planters

Chris loves Julia, Homes to love


There are so many great options to consider with an outdoor living area. In fact, it would need a whole separate article of its own. And since it’s almost summer, we plan to write one soon!

So what’s next?

Stay tuned for the rest of the series in which we will talk about interior improvements, staging tips, and receive words of advice from an experienced realtor. Look for our next article on interior improvements coming soon!

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