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Curb appeal is one of those “intuitive” topics that only gets media attention once, maybe twice a year. If you search the internet, you’d find millions of websites that talk about curb appeal. Because the concept is based on accepted lore, my guess is that most of those sites regurgitate the same ideas. Everyone has some understanding of curb appeal. And if asked, they will give you their opinion on improving it to get a higher home sale price. Everyone agrees that curb appeal can increase home buyer traffic. And most agree that curb appeal can increase the home’s sale price.
The idea of curb appeal is not science, or is it? I like to present empirical studies to help you understand if widely accepted real estate traditions and principles are accurate. Unfortunately, curb appeal is one of those subjects that doesn’t get much academic attention. However, there are two very compelling studies.
One of the first studies to empirically confirm the connection between home sale price and curb appeal was published in 2013. Chen, Evans-Cowley, Rutherford, and Stanley (An Empirical Analysis of Effect of Housing Curb Appeal on Sales Price of Newer Houses. International Research Journal of Applied Finance. 2013, Vol 4 No 11, p1407-1419) examined how a home buyer’s preferences of a home’s exterior influenced the sale price. Not a surprise, they concluded that there is a connection between a home’s exterior and the sale price. They also quantified the relationship, saying that even small improvements to curb appeal can increase the value by as much as eight percent.
It’s not just the yard and exterior home maintenance. Chen’s study also discovered that architectural elements also determine the home’s sale price. They discovered that the demand for higher cost “modern” homes is relative to what’s contemporary. Meaning that today’s highly desirable new homes and floor plans could be less desirable and sell for less in the future.
A more recent study went further and developed a measurement of a building’s curb appeal. Freybote, Simon and Beitelspacher (Understanding the Contribution of Curb Appeal to Retail Real Estate Values; Journal of Property Research. 2016, Vol 33, No 2, p147–161) found that there are three dimensions of curb appeal that can be measured: atmosphere, architectural features and the authenticity of a building.
A home’s atmosphere describes the general landscape maintenance as well as emotional aspects, such as how relaxing, inviting, and vibrant the home feels. Architectural aspects rate the visual aesthetics of the home, highlighting modern design and interesting features. A home’s authenticity relates to its charm and how genuine it feels (can the home buyer picture themselves living there). The study concluded that curb appeal is not only connected to sale price, but can be accurately measured. The two dimensions that affected sale price the most were atmosphere and architecture. The authors also suggested that the atmosphere dimension has a social component (which may be associated pride of ownership).
Although authenticity was not found to be as influential on sale price, it is notable. A home’s authenticity (as described in this study) is probably one of the least thought of aspects when preparing a home for sale. If the home staging, including landscaping and exterior elements, is over-the-top or does not portray the home accurately, a home buyer may be less interested in making an offer and negatively affect the home sale price.
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Success in Potomac, MD. You can access more information at DanKrell.com.