Imagine you drive up to a property that you found in an online listing.  You see cracked blinds through dirty windows, peeling paint on the front of the building, weeds a foot high, unruly shrubbery and low-hanging trees.  What is your impression?  What kind of tenant will this property attract?
Curb appeal is the exterior attractiveness of your property.  It is the first impression your prospective tenant has of your home.  The phrase “curb appeal” is real estate jargon for how the property is perceived from the curb and what that implies about the landlord/owner.  Curb appeal is a key factor in attracting good, responsible tenants.

People tend to look for properties that reflect their personality and values.  Sharp looking properties attract a higher quality tenant.  Attracting responsible tenants will often lead to lower maintenance costs as these tenants will be much more likely to take proper care of your property types.  They also are more likely to obey the rules and be a good neighbor.  Sloppy looking properties tend to attract tenants who want less scrutiny because they don’t always follow the rules.  They may not care for the property or be respectful of others.  A property with high curb appeal is more likely to attract quality tenants and repel bad ones.

Curb appeal also suggests to prospects what type of landlord owns the property and how responsive they will be to maintenance issues.  A property with the lawn mowed and edged, the windows and porch clean, the flower beds tidy and a fresh coat of paint suggests to prospects that the landlord will deliver a good experience.
A property with high curb appeal can also bring in higher rents for the owner.  Great curb appeal can lead to less negotiation on rent and less time on the market.  Curb appeal is often a low-cost, high-value process.  It can require little effort or money, but can make a huge difference in the amount of rent you can charge.  The following are tips on how to increase curb appeal:

•    Mow and edge the lawn.  This small amount of work will make the house look cared for and show tenants that the details are important.
•    Clean up the landscape.  Pull out dead or dying plants, cut back shrubbery that hides the property and try to make everything look open and bright.  For a small amount of time or money, you can plant flowers with new mulch.  These don’t have to be high maintenance plants; perennials or other easy-to-care-for flowers will do just fine.
•    Make sure the trees around the property are well-trimmed and cared for.  Low-hanging trees or branches rubbing against walls or roofs will not only turn away tenants, but will eventually damage the property.
•    Repaint the soffit and fascia of the property, if necessary.  Make sure the garage and front door are repainted in a neutral tone.  You may like purple, but your tenant might not.
•    Make the home look attractive with a small amount of exterior decoration.  A flowerpot on the porch makes the property look welcoming.
•    Staging the home by having some furnishings may also be a welcome way to improve curb appeal while the property is on the market.  A model apartment is an example of staging.  Items such as a table and chairs, some nice pictures on the wall or attractive window dressings can be a great way to help tenants see potential.

Curb appeal doesn’t have to be a gamble.  There are several television programs (for example, Designed to Sell, House Doctor and Flip This House) which can help you explore ways to increase the curb appeal of your property.  A software program called Curb Appeal allows you to explore “visual alterations,” which will let you test any changes you would want to make before spending the money on the improvement.
As you go about cleaning carpets, repainting and doing the myriad of other things required to get the interior of the property ready for a new tenant, don’t neglect the outside of the property.  Curb appeal may be the very thing necessary to draw in that ideal tenant and start seeing revenue again.

Chuck Slone is with Keyrenter Property Management.  Reprinted with permission of Utah’s The Landlord Times.

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