As a homeowner, your curb appeal is important for several reasons. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate pride of ownership, contribute to the home’s appreciation, create a first impression for buyers, and help to maintain the overall home values in your neighborhood.
And a recent report by Nextdoor and Thumbtack found that curb appeal also affects the neighborhood and neighborly relationships. There are projects that can boost your home’s curb appeal; however, the report also found that neighbors have pretty specific complaints regarding bad curb appeal as well.
“There are more than 305,000 neighborhoods on Nextdoor and each neighborhood exudes its unique charm and character, making the perception of curb appeal a subjective experience,” explains Caty Kobe, head of community at Nextdoor.
So, what could seem out of place in one neighborhood could be charming in another. “Embracing the distinctiveness of each community is essential in appreciating the diverse tapestry of curb appeal across different neighborhoods,” she says.
However, bad curb appeal can negatively affect both potential buyers and neighbors.
“Generally speaking, when people are choosing a neighborhood, they want to know that their future neighbors care for their homes as much as the buyers will care for the home they plan to purchase,” says Bret Ceren, associate broker at Platinum Living Realty in Scottsdale, AZ.
New buyers purchasing in an area want to feel that they belong and will fit into the community. “Since homes are a reflection of our lifestyle – what we currently have or what we want – then feeling like we belong is usually a priority,” Ceren explains. And if property owners do not care enough for their own home to maintain it properly, he says it’s a good chance that they won’t be concerned about what happens in the neighborhood, either.
“This can lead to an uneasiness about future circumstances that could escalate into needing to move to a different community, which is a costly chore – as such, whether true or not, potential buyers heavily evaluate a home not only on its own curb appeal, but also by that of the area neighbors.”
And existing neighbors tend to have strong feelings as well when someone is engaging in bad curb appeal.
In fact, the Nextdoor/Thumbtack survey respondents agreed that these were the biggest curb appeal faux pas.
Trash in the Yard (81%)
The most egregious curb appeal faux pas, listed by 81% of respondents, was trash in the yard.
Ceren considers this an inexcusable offense. “We live in a first-world country with weekly trash service in the vast majority of municipalities,” he says. “Not only is it unsightly, but a health risk, and attracts unwelcome visitors, both insects and animals.”
Ceren’s view is shared by Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal in Nashville, TN, who tells us, “A yard cluttered with trash is not just visually unappealing, it can contribute to pest issues, as many types of refuse provide ideal breeding grounds for insects or can attract rodents.”
And that’s not all – it can actually be harmful to the environment and local wildlife, according to Caballero, who is a landscape expert. “Discarded items can leach harmful substances into the soil, contaminate groundwater, and pose hazards to animals.”
However, homeowners may have differing views regarding what’s considered trash. Hopefully, everyone is in agreement that household waste should be placed into a trash bag, and then a trash can – but that’s not the only definition of this term. “Trash could be a tired old swing set, old toys, clutter around the yard, a broken mailbox, or old faded house numbers,” says Michael Crisp, real estate agent for The Keyes Company in Coral Springs, FL. “Or, it could be lawn equipment, unrolled garden hoses, stacked items, old pavers on the side of the home, or just abused and tattered patio furniture.”
Overgrown Landscaping (81%)
Trash in the yard is actually tied for first place with overgrown landscaping (81%) as the worst curb appeal faux pax. According to Crisp, it’s important to cut back hedges and trim trees that may hide the home and make it feel old and dated. “Cutting and trimming can make the home and yard feel larger and more open, which in turn makes the property feel full of life – and this resonates with both neighbors and potential buyers.”
Overgrown Lawn (77%)
Survey respondents also listed an overgrown lawn (77%) as a serious curb appeal problem. “Not only is this unsightly, but it is a waste of precious resources,” explains Ceren. “Taller grass requires more water, or only those areas around the sprinklers will grow, depriving the rest of the lawn of the water it needs to be healthy, which may require future reseeding to make it grow again.”
Also, overgrown lawns (and landscapes as well) can host pests and diseases. “Thick, uncontrolled vegetation provides perfect hiding and breeding places for insects, rodents, and other pests,” Caballero says. “Overgrown plants are also more prone to disease, as the lack of airflow can create a damp environment that many plant diseases thrive in.”
Parking Old Cars, RVs, Vans, or Boats Out Front (64%)
Another major curb appeal issue, listed by 64% of respondents, is parking old motor vehicles in front of a home. “Repairing vehicles is as much an American pastime as baseball, so the desire to do so is respected by many,” says Ceren. And he understands that some projects may be delayed or forgotten. “The problem is that the materials for these projects take up a lot more space than just a workbench in a garage.”
And he notes that it’s one thing to park old vehicles behind a backyard fence, but says it’s another thing entirely to let them spill out into the front yard. “And, they can also attract reptiles, rodents and other vermin to live in them, creating another safety hazard.” And in addition to being unsightly, Caballero notes that unused vehicles can leak oils and other fluids, which can seep into the ground.
“It may be worth your while to speak to a storage facility or yard to store old vehicles there,” Crisp recommends. “It is a huge distraction from the property when they are a major barrier just taking up space.”
Poorly Maintained Fences and Exterior (58%)
Next on the list, 58% of survey respondents were turned off by poorly maintained fences and exteriors. Ceren says deferred maintenance is a red flag to potential buyers, and it doesn’t sit well with neighbors, either. However, it’s more than just an eyesore. “Over time, issues like rot, rust, and general wear and tear can compromise structural integrity, potentially leading to safety issues,” Caballero explains. And the damage can escalate over time if not addressed, and may result in more costly repairs in the future.
Depending on the type of fence, Crisp recommends pressure washing it, as well as the driveways and sidewalks. “And many items such as fences can be changed drastically with a little paint or spray-on stain that will add a warm pop of color,” he says.
Home’s Exterior Needing a Wash or Paint Job (57%)
The last major bad curb appeal issue was a home’s exterior in need of being power-washed or painted (57%). Ceren says this is another example of deferred maintenance that could be a red flag to potential buyers. And it can also be frustrating to neighbors trying to maintain their own home’s property value.
Nicholas Oliver, principal broker at HomeDax Real Estate in New York, NY, says this is even a problem with the townhouses that he is involved in selling, buying, and renting. “Townhouse sellers often overlook the need for facade cleaning prior to listing, as pigeon poop is a recurring problem (birds often perch on window ledges or cornices of townhouses),” he says. “The accumulation of bird droppings and feathers not only makes the townhouse look neglected, but also reduces natural light.”
And since most NYC townhouses aren’t particularly bright to begin with, Oliver says any reduction in lighting can deter buyers – especially those transitioning from apartments. “Façade cleaning is particularly important for narrower townhouses, which in NYC is anything less than 18′ wide.”
And beyond aesthetics, Caballero says, “An unclean or poorly painted home exterior can have implications beyond aesthetics, since mold, mildew, and dirt can accumulate over time, and cause damage to the home’s exterior surfaces if not cleaned regularly. On the other hand, he says a good paint job acts as a first line of defense against weather, insects, and other potential damage to the home’s exterior.
Bad curb appeal is a turnoff to both potential buyers and neighbors. However, as it relates to the latter, Kobe warns against being judgmental or jumping to conclusions. “While curb appeal can undoubtedly enhance the aesthetic allure of a community, it’s important to recognize that every neighbor’s circumstance is different and external appearances seldom reveal the true depth of someone’s character.”
For example, she says a neighbor’s lawn may be overgrown because they’ve been facing health challenges and are not currently able to address their front yard. Or a neighbor may have lost their job and doesn’t have the funds to move an old vehicle or repair their fence. “If someone’s aesthetic doesn’t match yours, it could be a great opportunity to lean in and learn more about your neighbor,” she concludes.