You can tell a lot about a house just by its appearance from the street. After all, that is the first impression made by every home – and the whole point of improving “curb appeal”. But judging a house based solely on what it looks like from the curb is a bad idea for house hunters.
Imagine you’re driving through a neighborhood and you see a relatively nice house with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the front yard. From what you can tell at the curb, the place looks nice and the lawn is well kept. Based only these things, would you sign the deed and buy the home right there on the spot without looking any further? Not a chance!
This is an important lesson that realtors know can be applied in any home selling or buying situation, however you’d be surprised at just how common it is for people to judge homes from the curb.
Let’s go over the principles surrounding the notion of how we perceive a house from the street, whether cruising by slowly or parked at the curb. We need to know how much we can rely on what we’re seeing from the outside for a first impression, as well as recognizing the impact of what we can’t see.
What Can We See From the Curb?
First, let’s take a quick look at what we can usually deduce by looking at a home from the street as we build our initial impressions of the house. Here’s a quick list of those elements and what they mean.
*Front of the House: The condition of the home’s exterior is of course the most visible feature. You can determine the overall wear on the exterior, the condition of doors and windows, paint quality (and color appeal) and sometimes interior draperies or blinds.
*The Front Lawn: One good rule of thumb that helps us out here is that the back yard often resembles the front yard. If the front yard is overgrown and untended, chances are the back is no different. In any case, look at landscaping quality, the type of grass and how well the yard is maintained.
*Sidewalks and Driveway: The quality of the pavement can help you with your first impressions. Is it just standard concrete, brick or inlaid stone? Are there a lot of cracks? Can you see grass or weeds growing from the cracks? The home might also earn bonus points for accent lighting alongside them.
*The Garage: Make sure the garage is in good shape, structurally sound and has no broken windows
*The Mailbox: Usually this only matters if it’s an especially expensive or high quality mailbox. Home owners who install a “luxury” mailbox tend to take good care of the home as well.
What Can’t We See From the Curb?
*The Home’s Interior: The inside of the home is obviously the biggest setback to the limited visibility we have from the curb. There’s no way to properly appraise a home without going inside, and a pristine exterior tells us nothing about what could conditions are like on the inside.
*The Back Yard: While you can sometimes get a good idea of how well the back yard is kept by looking at the front yard, you still can’t get the whole picture. For example, there could be a nice patio or deck, it could be filled with trees and shrubbery, not mention even a swimming pool. Or it could be hiding eyesores like tree stumps and rubbish piles. Can’t tell from the curb!
*The Foundation: One of the most important determining factors of the value, condition and quality of a home is the foundation – and you can’t see it from the curb. You might be able to make out a few subtle features that indicate foundation quality, but not enough to truly make an appraisal.
*The Basement: It’s pretty much impossible to see the basement from the road, but it needs to be seen for a proper evaluation. You’ll want to know whether it’s finished or not, whether it is structurally sound, whether it’s prone to flooding (which could lead you to the back yard or foundation), and how much room is available for storage, etc.
*Utility Installations: Another crucial aspect of the home are the utility installations. This includes the water heater, furnace, air conditioning, plumbing and drainage, electrical boxes, washer/dryer units and any other large, critical appliances and hardware related to your utilities. These things can’t be seen from the curb, but if any of these items are missing or damaged, the costs will be sizable.
*The Roof: It’s possible to see a portion of the roof from the curb in most cases, which can occasionally offer a glimpse at the quality of the roof. But in order to make an accurate appraisal of a home, and to pinpoint any potential problems or repair opportunities, someone will eventually need to hoist up a ladder (preferably someone who isn’t afraid of heights).