You’ve heard the phrase a million times: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
So, when you’re on the hunt for your first home, it’s no wonder that your list of wants consists solely of interior details, like a renovated master bath and mud room, and includes nothing about the driveway, landscape, yard size, or front door.
Even though you’ll spend a large portion of your time inside your house, don’t write off the importance of its curb appeal. From yard maintenance to roofing renovations, your home’s exterior can have a big effect on your happiness with your purchase — and your wallet.
Here are some factors you might want to consider when evaluating a home’s outside before you buy.
Siding and Roofing
Granted, the materials covering the exterior walls and roof of a house aren’t necessarily the most glamorous features to look out for (although you probably have distinct opinions on brick vs. stucco or wood vs. vinyl). But it’s critical to evaluate their condition before signing your mortgage.
Check for things like peeling, chipping, or fading paint, and be sure to ask about damage the eye might not be able to spot, like water damage, mold, or mildew.
While siding does require regular maintenance, and certain materials need to be replaced every eight to 10 years, you don’t want to be stuck with a large repair right after you’ve settled in — a siding replacement project can cost anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $20,000.
The same goes for roofing. While certain roof materials like metal and slate can last 50 to 75 years, a typical shingled roof generally lasts about 20. Keep in mind, that timeframe can vary depending on your climate. Super cold or humid climates can cause materials to degrade more quickly.
When considering a house, ask about the roof’s age, check for missing shingles, sagging, and water damage. Even if you aren’t facing a full roof replacement, a smaller repair can still cost several hundred dollars.
Windows and Doors
The windows and doors of your home play an important role in keeping the outside out. When air and moisture remain where they’re supposed to, it helps keep the inside insulated — and your energy bill lower.
That’s why it’s important to know whether the windows and doors are in good condition (sealed well, no cracks or broken panes, etc.) But beyond their functionality, these features are also a major factor in the overall appearance of a home’s exterior.
If you don’t love the windows or front door of a home, simple aesthetic fixes, like a fresh coat of paint and new hardware, can dramatically change the look of a house and its general curb appeal. Shutters can also make a big difference. Adding them typically costs a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the material and number of windows — a significantly more affordable option than window replacement.
Yard and Landscape
A house’s yard, or lack thereof, can absolutely make or break the property. But you should consider several factors beyond a big or small backyard.
For example, fencing around your yard could be a priority if you have pets or small kids (or want them in the future), or live near a busy street. Or if you love to entertain, finding a home with a large area like a patio or a deck might be enticing.
Other things to think about are landscaping components, like bushes and flower beds, which can add curb appeal but may also mean more maintenance and upkeep for you. Trimming hedges, watering flowers, maintaining bushes, and replacing mulch periodically can all be more taxing (and more costly) than you might expect.
Finally, if you like natural shade or a little additional privacy, having tall trees in your yard may provide both. But more trees mean more leaves, which may create the need for additional lawn care during the autumn months. And, if you live in an area that’s prone to big thunderstorms, hurricanes, or other extreme weather, large trees add risk of potential damage to your property.
Driveway and Sidewalk
While the driveway may not be your first consideration when it comes to curb appeal, the size and shape of it can definitely play a role in how your home looks to you and passersby. Especially if you don’t have a garage, you may want to think about how visible your parked cars are from the street. Or, if the driveway is too small for your vehicles, you’ll have to be okay with parking on the road out front.
Finally, the presence of a sidewalk isn’t something you’ll have much (if any) control over, since towns and cities typically determine their existence. If living on a street with sidewalks is important to you, or might be down the road, keep this detail in mind while house shopping.
On the flip side, if you prefer living on a street with less foot traffic, avoid homes with sidewalks directly out front.
When it comes to a home’s exterior, your reaction to its curb appeal often happens instantaneously: You either like it or you don’t. But the physical appearance of a property can often be revamped with cosmetic fixes. So, when you’re evaluating a house, don’t forget to consider a multitude of factors, like the landscaping in the yard and the condition of the siding. Because what’s visible on the outside of your home can affect your livelihood and finances just as much as what it has going on inside.
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