Curb Appeal Case Study: Finding Value in the Crafty and EccentricFebruary 1, 2012 by Ashley Halligan
First impressions are lasting impressions. When it comes to rental properties, enough cannot be said for the importance of curb appeal. As Cris Sullivan, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Operations at Gables Residential states:
“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. No matter how great the service is, or how great the programs are, if the property doesn’t look good you’ll never get the chance to go farther with that prospect. Curb appeal is very important.”
Property owners are familiar with the usual roster of curb appeal improvements, such as repainting the property, mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges. Basic steps like these should be done when preparing any property for rental.
But beyond the usual, what are some additional ways to enhance curb appeal? To shed some light on these questions, I picked the brain of Jared Meadors, the owner of Medusa Properties, a niche rental company in Houston.
Justify Investments in Curb Appeal
Boosting a property’s curb appeal does require an investment, but it’s an investment that can pay off handsomely in terms of higher rent and quicker occupancy turnaround.
Meadors explains, “That’s the thing about improvements in general. It pays for itself 5-10 times over.”
In addition to charging higher monthly rates, nicer properties rent faster than their counterparts. “You have someone moving in right behind the person moving out because everyone loves your place,” says Meadors.
By investing a little more in restorations and adding a sense of flair to rental properties, a property owner can create something unique that stands out against other properties over time.
“It took me a decade before I learned that competing on price alone is a race to the bottom,” Meador explains. “Apple products are the most expensive in every category they compete–but they dominate those categories, and make more money than everyone else while doing it.”
Three Curb Appeal Boosters to Stand Out from the Crowd
So what makes Meadors’ properties so attractive to renters? He shares three areas he focuses on to stand out from the crowd.
1) Restore Character
Many older homes have lost their original architectural and stylistic character over time due to tenant and owner neglect, cheap maintenance work and other factors, but restoration is in vogue right now. Homes that look authentically old have instant curb appeal. It’s cool to live in a vintage, or even thoroughly modern home. Establishing a sense of character is a great way to attract renters to your property.
Meadors chooses investment properties that act as a canvas for appealing modification. As he notes:
“The style of the building itself is really important. I usually buy a property that’s kind of boring–maybe a 1920s or 1930s house. The architectural details may have been stripped as fashion’s changed, so the property’s lost its original character. From an architectural approach, I take the coolest elements of an era and apply them to a building.”
2) Add Fencing and Creating Privacy
Fencing is multi-functional and desirable to renters. It adds architectural interest and character, frames a property’s boundaries, enhances security, is ideal for pet owners and offers building blocks for landscaping. You can add visual interest to the property by doing something different, and without spending significantly more than standard fencing.
With some clever design, fencing can also establish private spaces on a property. As Meadors explains, “In a really dense urban environment, any kind of buffer you can give your tenants from the street is really nice. Rather than having a big, open yard, add a cool fence or wall and consider adding a private patio. Now they have a buffer from the street and a private space.”
3) Get Creative with Landscaping
Planting interesting or unusual foliage can be an eye-catching maneuver. Some varietals can even act as privacy mechanisms, as an alternative or complement to fencing. And fencing or walls can double as a foundation for landscaping.
Meadors notes, “Fencing gives you something to build off of with your landscaping. You can plant climbers on them, like jasmine.” And voilà, artistic landscaping becomes functional and appealing.
And might I add, there’s a rental house in my neighborhood with a giant stone gorilla in the front yard. I can’t say I haven’t considered asking my landlord to consider adding a similar sculpture in my own yard.
Collectively, these personal touches offer a significant way to stand-out among rentals. Simple landscaping, tame grass and a fresh layer of paint only go so far. Laughing, Meadors adds, “You could put a five thousand dollar paint job on a Yugo, but it’s still going to be a Yugo.”