17 Exterior Mistakes that Decrease Home Value and Curb Appeal

old windows

Selling your home can be a big decision, and getting it ready for sale can be a bigger task than anticipated. Many homeowners focus the majority of their attention on the interior of the home, and while this is important, the exterior of the home is the first thing people see. Failing to pay attention to proper maintenance and design of the façade can lead to major renovation and improvement costs that went previously unseen. Don’t let this happen to you. Here are some top exterior mistakes that decrease home value and curb appeal.

1. Painting Mistakes

Not using a primer or prepping the surface of your exterior walls properly is the number one way that homeowners can ruin the surface of their home. If you're going to spend the money, do yourself a favor and take all the right steps towards getting your siding, brick, or concrete ready for paint, even if it’s “just to sell.”

This usually means cleaning the surface with a power washer ahead of time and removing any other dirt and debris that may be covering it. Always wait for good weather, and purchase paint that is made specifically for the exterior surface that you have. You wouldn’t want the paint to start peeling when you’ve just listed your home.

bright pink house

2. Overgrown Garden Space

We love residential garden space, and front lawns can be excellent real estate for a neat and tidy perennial garden or rows of veggies. Lawns aren’t as essential as they used to be, but that doesn’t mean potential buyers want to see a tangled mess of foliage, overgrown plants, or gardens that haven’t been tended to.

If you’re going to do some planting, make sure you have the time to maintain it. While gardening can be a chore to some, general upkeep and professional landscape design will add around 20% to your overall home value.

Don't forget to regularly trim or remove any climbing vines on the sides of your house. They can be an interesting feature, or quickly become an eyesore.

3. Unkempt Lawn

On the same track as garden maintenance, lawn upkeep is just as, if not more important. A lawn that’s been severely neglected can take a lot of time and money to get back to looking fresh and green again, and that’s time you may not have when selling.

Do the regular maintenance yourself like fertilizing, weeding, and mowing, or pay a landscape crew to take care of it for you. If lawns seem like a lot of work (which they are), consider alternatives to grass like groundcovers, or perennial gardens which don't take the amount of time and resources to keep up once established.

4. Wrong Colors

garish colored house

We’re all for making a statement with bold paint colors, but sometimes hot pink just isn’t the right choice! Remember the similar rule for interior walls for the exterior—the color you love so much may turn away a potential home buyer.

Very rarely can you go wrong with creams, light beiges, and greys, and if you are set on something more vibrant, take a look around your neighborhood, and see how different colors work on homes around you.

You don’t have to follow in line (unless an HOA says you do), but working within your community’s palette can often have positive effects.

5. Small Shutters

Adding shutters to your windows can be an easy and effective way to increase curb appeal, but there are tricks to pay attention to. The main problem homeowners run into is installing shutters that are too small. The other is not choosing a design that fits in with the rest of the house.

This doesn’t mean that contemporary shutters won’t look sharp on a century-old home, it’s just something to take into account when choosing window dressing. Consider doing this upgrade in tandem with exterior painting and getting a design specialist to help you pick out colors and styles that go well together.

6. Not Replacing Old Windows

No sense putting new shutters on old windows, and best not to spend money painting them, either, if they need upgrading. New windows not only make your home look better, they decrease the cost of heating and cooling your home with a better seal and improved energy-efficient glass.

This will save you and potential homeowners a lot on yearly utilities. Look for rebates to help, as new windows can cost around $10,000 for an average home.

While window upgrades can increase your home’s value significantly, especially if they were in very poor shape, ask yourself if the cost is worth the potential gain, and more importantly if you have the time to get the project done before you want to sell. It would be a mistake to take on this project too late in the game.

7. Hidden Entrances

One of the worst designs in residential architecture is the front-facing garage in many suburban homes. The idea was practical, and often saved space while offering an easy option for storing and parking your car, but it didn't take curb appeal into consideration.

These garages often hide the actual door to the house, and an inviting, open entrance is a big detail that potential buyers look for, even if they don’t know it.

Try and make a closed-in or hidden space more open, and don’t cover your front door with overgrown trees and bushes, or add a deck that ensconces the entrance, either. You want to create a welcoming space that’s well lit, unobstructed, and with a clear path to the door.

8. Junk Piles

junk pile

You may be tempted to leave that one bike, skid, or tire out in the yard until you find a place for it, but soon, the junk pile will multiply! Make a regular habit of tidying up any yard space at least once a month to maintain a neat and orderly outdoor area.

Potential buyers don’t want to see your rubbish lying around and will have a hard time looking past it to see the potential your space may have. Put away shovels and rakes, collect any toys, and definitely clean up any dog poop or garbage.

Hold regular garage and yard sales to get rid of things that are taking up prime real estate in your garage or shed, too. The less stuff you have, the more appealing your exterior space will be.

9. Old Swing Sets

Perhaps that old swing set had its time in the sun when the kids were young, but now it’s time to say goodbye to old swingy! Unless you have a brand new, well-built kid's play area, don’t keep old playground equipment like swing sets and kiddie pools around, especially when showing the house.

If you want to keep the kiddie pool for your next home, store it away somewhere out of sight. Playground sets can add resale value if they are in great condition and your potential buyers are families, just remember to decide on whether the playset or any equipment is an inclusion in the sale or not.

10. Dirty Pool

Cleaning your pool should be a no-brainer when it comes to prepping your home for a viewing. Don’t count on them looking past the dead leaves or dirty water, but instead give them the best version of your pool: sparkling, clean, and inviting!

Pools can add or detract from home value depending on the situation, much like any outdoor play equipment. If other homes in the area have pools, then yours should, too, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Even if a pool may detract some buyers, keeping a well-maintained one is a lot cheaper than ripping it out.

And, who knows, selling on a hot day may even win some people over when they see a beautiful, refreshing, cool body of water!

11. Sloping Yard

sloping yard with stone steps

Sloping yards and uneven ground can be a deal-breaker for some buyers, especially families with young children. While retaining walls and excavation can be very expensive, consider whether or not the “ROI” or return on investment is worth the cost.

12. Standing Water

If people see any kind of standing water, especially near the foundation of the home, they will instantly pass more often than not. A simple sump pump or proper ground sloping can be the solution to what appears to be a major issue.

Rain gardens can also be excellent solutions to standing water while adding a touch of garden beauty.

13. Rotting or Broken Deck

A full deck redo may not be in the budget before selling your home, but this is where maintenance along the way really makes a difference. Decks or fences will last a lot longer if they are cleaned with a power washer and properly sealed or stained.

Doing this work on a semi-yearly basis will prevent major damage or work later on. Make any safety improvements, too, like securing shaky posts and handrails, and nailing down wonky floorboards.

Make sure to stage your deck just like you would any other room in your house before selling. It’s essentially an outdoor living room to potential buyers.

14. Dilapidated Garage

A clean garage that’s in good shape can be very appealing to new homeowners, whereas one that’s almost ready to fall down is obviously not. No one wants to inherit a derelict structure. Evict any squirrels and wildlife that may have taken residence, too.

Some simple, humane traps can do the trick, or call a professional to help rid them for you. Again, there’s a cost to consider, but at what price? Don’t let these problems get out of hand or too much damage may be done before you can fix it without tearing the whole thing down.

On the other hand, don’t sink too much money into the garage unless you know it’s a complete eyesore. Oftentimes buyers will look past the garage if they love the home and the area.

15. Roof Neglect

damaged roof

Nothing screams run away to a potential buyer than a roof that’s falling apart. If it’s merely old, but still in decent shape, you may want to forgo the cost and let the buyers decide what they are willing to deal with.

For something in really bad shape (leaks, sags, missing shingles), you may be able to get away with fixing a few spots here and there, but a full replacement will get most of your ROI back after the home sale.

Plus, you’ll get more interest from potential buyers, instead of only a few people who are willing to do the job after the sale. A new roof will instantly add more curb appeal to one that’s old and falling apart. This can lead to quicker sales with fewer headaches, which can also save you money in the long run.

16. Gutter Buildup

Don't forget the eaves and gutters! Do the yearly cleaning out of any leaf buildup, paying close attention to where they meet downspouts, so they're clear of debris.

It’s a thankless job until a problem emerges. Not allowing rainfall to make its way down can cause huge issues like leaks and other water damage.

Replace any broken gutters, and make sure downspouts exit onto a slope in the driveway. They should be far enough away from the home so rain flows toward sewer drains, garden beds, or lawns where plants can soak up the extra water.

Running your downspouts into a rain barrel or a rain garden has become popular with eco-conscious home buyers.

17. Ugly Additions

Increasing your home’s square footage can often increase its value, but a poorly planned addition can add an ugly factor just as easily. Take the time to plan any extra structure, whether it’s a wrap-around porch, deck, attached garage, or ground-level addition.

Take the rest of the home’s design into consideration, as new builds that don’t fit in can be eyesores. Whatever you do, don’t block a neighbor’s view or encroach on their property. Even if you’re planning on selling, it's just bad home karma, and potentially a lawsuit.

Working on your project a little every now and then will save you time and money in the long run. Sweat equity will always be the cheapest option, but investing in good help can be priceless.