The old adage that you can only make one first impression was never more true — or important — than when it comes to selling a home.
While this is probably not a highly controversial or original take, there is still a good chance that many agents don’t realize just how important this is and why it’s worth the time, effort, and expense to make sure that your first impression is all that it can be.
The Halo Effect
According to an article appearing on the Psychology Today website, the order in which we take in information matters. What we learn or experience first affects how we judge subsequent information.
This phenomenon, known as the halo effect, reveals the exaggerated impact of first impressions.
“The perception of positive qualities in one thing or part gives rise to the perception of similar qualities in related things or in the whole.”
This is true whether or not those subsequent positive assumptions are valid.
In other words, an individual who gives a positive first impression of being a friendly, sociable person will also likely be presumed to be generous when there’s no real evidence to support that.
“The halo effect distorts reality. It creates false impressions and can, for example, lead researchers to dismiss disconfirming information; businesses to become complacent; teachers to over- or underrate a student’s real performance; the police to wrongly identify suspects; banks to make careless loans.”
The article goes on to say that the debate is not so much about whether or not the halo effect is real but how long-lasting it is. First impressions do eventually give way to substance.
There’s no better example of this than Albert Einstein. Mad man or genius? A first impression might well say the former, but the lasting impression clearly declares the latter.
But here’s the thing: In a fast-moving housing market, first impressions are often the only impressions. See house. Buy house. (Or reject house.) And therein lies the importance of curb appeal.
What Is Curb Appeal?
Curb appeal is the first impression a property makes when viewing it from the street. It is the instantaneous opinion that is formed when all the visual components of the property are taken in at once: the home, the yard, the landscaping, the driveway, etc.
If the home’s exterior looks clean, attractive, and well cared for, the buyer’s assumption will be that the interior will possess those same attributes. And if the interior doesn’t quite live up to those expectations, thanks to the halo effect, a buyer might be inclined to dismiss or overlook minor disconfirming information. So, something like a carpet showing a bit of wear in high-traffic areas, becomes a minor issue rather than a red flag to the already positively-predisposed buyer mind.
What Is the Value of Curb Appeal?
Studies on the topic indicate that curb appeal can increase the perceived value of a property by 5-11%. On a $300,000 home that equates to $30,000. Dollar amounts like this give a homeowner an easy-to-justify budget for exterior improvements.
Common Curb Appeal Projects
Here’s a list of some common curb appeal projects your seller-clients should consider:
Yard & landscaping: There’s a lot you can do here. A little fresh mulch can be a low-cost/high-impact effort.
Roof: A roof’s poor condition will discourage a buyer faster than almost any other exterior item viewed from the street.
Exterior paint / siding: A fresh coat of paint or power washing goes a long way.
Driveway: If you’re not going to replace or reseal the driveway, do NOT let weeds call attention to cracks.
Front Door: Refresh it if you can; replace it if you must. Remember, this is where buyers spend up to five minutes of time while waiting for their agent to open the lock.
Selling Your Seller on Curb Appeal
As the listing agent, you have the responsibility of educating your client about the importance of curb appeal and the value of investing money and time into solidifying that first impression.
Literally stand out at the curb with your client and take inventory. Point out the strengths the property has and the opportunities for improvement. You will have a better chance to convince them to improve curb appeal if you show them the math behind it — a 10% increase in the sales price buys you a lot of home improvement.
And, finally, share with your client the idea that in today’s world, the curb is actually the internet. The online street-view photos that prospective buyers see of your client’s home will either bring them to the property or turn them away.