Curb Appeal

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Local experts share easy ways to refresh the front yard and home exterior to attract more buyers—or just impress the neighbors.

By Sharon Stello


The old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” holds true in many cases, but the adage is often set aside when it comes to a home’s exterior. Right or wrong, many view a house’s outward appearance as a reflection of what may be waiting inside—an unkempt front yard hints at a homeowner who doesn’t maintain their property, which may mean hidden plumbing or electrical problems that will lead to costly repairs down the line.

Realtor Candice Burroughs, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Laguna, says curb appeal makes a big difference—she has seen homebuyers decide not to view a house based solely on the property’s lackluster look from the street—driving up and then driving away without ever stepping foot inside.

To elevate your home from boring to beautiful, the first step is some basic cleaning and hedge trimming. “When bushes are overgrown, it sort of sends a message that this owner doesn’t care that much about the house,” Candice says. Putting away children’s bikes and toys is another must to avoid a cluttered look. “If you have a neat and tidy appearance on the outside, it sets the tone for going inside,” she says.

One area that’s often neglected is the front porch, which typically needs a good sweeping. “A lot of people go in through their garages, so they kind of forget about [the porch],” Candice says. “… People don’t take the time to clear away the cobwebs.” She also recommends giving the front door a fresh coat of paint, if not the entire exterior of the house.

“That’s the first thing people see when they come to your home,” she says. “… [Homeowners] need to keep their front door fresh [and] they need to keep the plants around the front door fresh. You want to keep something at the front door that welcomes people.” For example, a nice potted plant can add a pop of color.



Landscaping helps to soften a structure’s sharp lines and edges, Candice says. It also brings the property to life as leaves and flowers change colors from season to season, adds landscape designer Facundo Malbrán of My Botanica in Laguna Canyon.

When considering a landscape makeover, Facundo recommends pruning existing plants and waiting six months to let them rejuvenate before deciding if more are needed. Additionally, inspecting the irrigation system and making any necessary repairs—or simply adjusting the setting—is key to keeping existing foliage looking vibrant, Facundo says.

If more plants are desired, Facundo points to a growing trend of mixing flowering species with edibles such as kale, rosemary, sage, lavender and avocado or citrus trees. Succulents are another wise choice, he says. “They don’t need attention, they don’t need much irrigation and they propagate themselves,” Facundo says.

Candice says low-water plants are increasingly popular, and homebuyers often remark that these gardens look easy to maintain. “People are so busy today; they want that sort of thing,” she says.

When selecting plants, it’s also important to consider the scale of the home—a multistory house calls for landscaping that mirrors the building’s height while towering trees might look out of place at a cottage. And make sure you know how big a certain species will become to avoid blocking ocean vistas in the future. “In Laguna, you have to be careful what plants you have because it can be a view problem,” Candice says.

If trees would mar the scenery, Facundo suggests bamboo, climbing vines or larger shrubs like pittosporum or ligustrum, also called privet, which provide height without getting in the way.



Once the backdrop is set with greenery, an engaging focal point can be added for visual interest, in much the same way that artwork grabs your attention inside a home.

“In your yard, it’s nice to have something—it can be whimsical … that catches your eye and draws you in … and makes it look lived-in and welcoming,” Candice says.

shutterstock_147425696Facundo suggests digging through the garage for old items that can be used creatively in the yard, such as a surfboard, bathtub or vintage child’s wagon, which could be converted into a planter. Homeowners also could give new life to an old decorative pot by turning it into a fountain (by inserting a plastic bucket and $40 water pump), or simply place a large boulder or a grouping of smaller rocks in the yard to make a natural focal point. Facundo recommends up to three focal points to create interest without overdoing it.

And, finally, Facundo recommends lighting to highlight the focal points and make any imperfections fade away. “If I have to spend the money, I’ll spend it on lighting,” he says. “… When you put in accent lights, it turns into a totally different picture.” Facundo says LED lights are the best choice because the bulbs last up to 10 years and use only one-tenth the electricity of traditional bulbs. “They look exactly the same, or sometimes even better than regular lighting,” he adds.

Whether adding lighting or landscaping, “the overall look just as to be fresh,” Candice says, adding that it’s also important to stay true to the home’s architecture. “[Don’t] try to make it something it’s not. Less sometimes is more.”

With these simple tips to spruce up a home’s curb appeal, your house will be wowing visitors in no time. And, if you were thinking of selling, the refreshed exterior may be just enough to change your mind.

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