Exterior Home Staging Tips for a Quicker and Easier Sale

Just what's the deal with exterior home staging? Many wonder if simple outdoor fixes can help sell a home. Some say cheap fixes will bring a higher price. But that's not the goal of any form of home staging. For home exteriors, staging helps you sell your home faster and with less hassle. It all comes down to the curb appeal.

Exterior Home Staging and Curb Appeal

Home sellers want to sell for as much as they can, as quickly as they can, and staging is really a means to this end. On the other hand, buyers want to buy a well-maintained home that they can see themselves living in. It's not that buyers are shopping for your clean windows or blooming flowerbeds. These are also a means to an end. Psychologically, great curb appeal gives buyers a good first impression of the property, and the seller's attention to smaller details tells buyers this home has been well maintained. Exterior home staging aims to sell a home quickly and without hassle. Realtor Dianne Bartlett notes that the goal of staging the outside of your home is fourfold:

  • Impress viewers with curb appeal
  • Make visitors feel invited
  • Enhance your home's best features
  • And eliminate problems and clutter

However, the primary factor here is curb appeal, and it's surprisingly important. A National Association of Realtors survey found 71 percent of buyers factor in a home's first impression in their buying decision. A joint NAR+Google survey found 90 percent of buyers shopped for their home online, a domain where sharp visual appeal reigns supreme. Even for those folks who drive around neighborhoods on a Sunday afternoon, your home's exterior is no less important.

Covering the Basics of Exterior Staging

Now that you know it matters, it's time to take action on your home's outside appearance. Exterior staging runs the gamut from simple fixes to major remodels, but you'd be surprised how far just covering these basics will take you:

  • Clean windows, inside and out, and repair screens.
  • Pressure wash the exterior walls, stone, and concrete.
  • Rake up dead leaves, clear dead branches, pull weeds.
  • Plan on more frequent mowing, edging, and weeding while you're on the market.
  • Put basketball hoops, toys, maintenance equipment, hoses, etc., in storage.
  • Replace exterior light bulbs. Add new (affordable) lighting if needed.
  • Freshen up your house numbers. Polish, paint, or redo them as needed.
  • Replace your storm door and front door, if needed. Get a welcome mat.
  • Fix your lawn: reseed bare patches and re-sod if you need to.
  • If you have a front porch or entertaining area, add a patio chair and side table.
  • Add fresh mulch to existing flowerbeds.
  • Add accent plants to flowerbeds and the entryway. Yellow's a good color choice.
  • Consider a fresh coat of paint, especially for shutters, doors, and trim.

On their own, these are small projects, costing the seller a couple Saturdays of yardwork or a few hundred dollars. Together, these projects add up to some formidable curb appeal, giving buyers a solid first impression.

Taking Your Exterior Staging to the Next Level

Of course, you can always do more. If your home has no garden or landscaping at all, you may want to invest in new shrub plantings, new flowerbeds, or even new tree saplings. You also might want to hire a landscaping professional if this level of garden design is outside of your wheelhouse. By some estimates, these fixes can set you back several hundred dollars, but often provide more than a 100 percent return on investment (ROI). If your driveway, patio, stairs, or sidewalks are in poor condition, these may be other areas you'll want to address. Cracked pavers, chipped stairs, and weeds or tree roots growing up through concrete and asphalt scream "deferred maintenance", which is the opposite of a good first impression. Fixing these issues can set you back as much as several thousand dollars, but the improvements could bring an ROI of up to 75 percent. A garage door can take up as much as 40 percent of the front of some house designs. If your current door is old, beaten up, or broken, a garage door replacement is another recommended mid-ticket item for your curb appeal budget. The result is like a facelift for your home, for an average cost of $1,060. Another big exterior fix worth considering is the roof. If your roof has reached the end of its life or been damaged by wind or hail, this costly repair may be worth it, making a better first impression for buyers. The latest Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, estimates the cost of a mid-range roof replacement at $20,664, with an ROI of around 69 percent.

Exterior Staging, Appraisals, and Sales Price

Of course, ROI shouldn't be the main consideration for exterior staging. In fact, most staging details are unlikely to have a big influence on a home's valuation. That's because the appraisal process employed by appraisers and lenders has to meet exacting industry and government standards. The one exception to this rule is deferred maintenance. Thus, major projects, like a new roof, driveway, or professional landscaping could have some effect on pricing. Furthermore, when it comes to those smaller fixes, your home's perceived value is unlikely to be affected much at all. A 2014 study found that more than 800 surveyed homebuyers were not swayed by a virtual house tour experiment that showed participant's "ugly" staging choices. Faced with off-putting paint and furniture, viewers appeared to understand most of these fixes were cosmetic. So it's a nice bonus if you've cleaned the windows and cleared the weeds, but buyers realize they could easily do that, too.

Avoid Slower, Lower Offers and Concessions

However, there's still plenty of data that exterior staging is a good move. Homes that go on the market "as is" without any clean-up or staging tend to sit on the market longer, get offers below asking price, and have buyers ask for more concessions. A Real Estate Staging Association (RESA) study found that staged homes spend up to 79 percent less time on the market than unstaged homes. Even homes listed and then staged at a later date moved quicker than those that remained on the market and were unstaged. Another study by the International Association of Home Staging Professionals reported that staged homes could sell in as little as 11 days, compared to 90 days for unstaged homes. Industry figures also suggest that unstaged homes may be subject to more seller concessions. Buyers tend to view staged homes as better maintained, which should be a true assessment for your home if you follow Bartlett's rules to emphasize your home's best features and eliminate potential problem areas before listing. The result here is a closing that costs sellers less.

Exterior Staging for a Quick and Easy Sale, Not a Higher Price

Great curb appeal, a good first impression, and well-maintained homes scream "buy me" to potential home buyers. Homes that check these boxes sell more quickly and with fewer concessions and haggling over the seller's asking price. This is the benefit that exterior staging can bring to you as a seller. When you stage your exterior, the focus should be on fixing what's needed to give off the best possible impression. Done right, you could be in for a quicker and easier sale.