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Curbing curb appeal

17 years ago

Is curb appeal cheating? When we want to sell our house do we want to add something to ease the sale believing that any prospective buyer has not done the same with their old place and doesn't understand the game? Do we suppose that no one will notice that we have recently tarted up the property and papered over the cracks? A house may sell because of the garden but too much is off putting. Is this whole notion that the only reason for working on the way our house and garden is presented is so that we can sell it on detrimental to domestic garden design?

Comments (55)

  • 17 years ago

    The first impression is what makes someone either drive by without stopping, or slamming on the breaks and going to get a closer look.

    Without those little superficial tweaks that lend a bit of panache, a lot of perfectly good, sound houses might be passed by.

    A gal could put on a bit of makeup and a pretty outfit to go out in public, or she could stuff her hair under a ball cap, put on the comfy-but-drab jeans and sweatshirt. If she's hoping to catch the eye of a nice young man, which get-up would she use? Hey - once she's bagged the perfect mate, she can go back to the hair curlers, face cream and baggy sweats 24/7. But to get a guy to stop and look, and get to know her, she needs a little curb appeal, neh?

  • 17 years ago

    I've moved a number of times, and just put our current home on the market today. I'll be shopping for a new home in another state in the coming weeks.

    My gardens will probably be too much maintenance for all but the most avid hobby gardeners, and I anticipate that at least some of it will be ripped out when we're gone, and replaced with lawn that the weekly mow and blow guys will tend to. I raked up all of the twigs and leaves that blew down in a recent storm, and pulled the weeds in the areas that had gotten away from me. The container plants that didn't look too great went on the compost pile, and the veggie garden was tidied up. Otherwise, I just brushed all of the spiderwebs down, and washed the windows on the door through which house-viewers will enter.

    I'm having my first showing tomorrow morning, so I'll make sure all the doggie turds are picked up, walks, patio, and steps clean of debris, and inside of the house spotless. When I have more time next week, I'm going to pull a couple of shrubs that didn't survive this summer's dry spell, and replace them with identical specimens from an area where they won't be missed.

    I don't think there's any point in trying to do any improvements, and frankly, I don't have the energy after my marathon of cleaning and organizing for a showing on short notice.

    I'm guessing that prospective buyers will be looking for the same things I'm going to be looking for when I'm ready to shop for a new house. I want a great location, a house with some character, in decent repair, and well priced. I would like some mature trees, reasonable energy efficiency, lots of light, at least one fireplace, and spacious rooms. I need a two car garage, minimum, attached is even better. On the plus side, I'd add nice views, a first floor master bedroom and laundry room, tilt-in double glazed windows, and a barn.

    My point is, the last thing I'll be thinking about is the plantings. Other than mature trees, I'd rather not inherit someone's snaky borders filled with mulch and a few shrubs, unless they're really well chosen and thoughtfully arranged.

    Put your efforts into repairing the things a new owner is going to see as an annoyance. A fresh coat of paint on the front door, a pot of annuals or a wreath to say you care about how the house looks, and clean windows will be more important to a buyer than the landscaping.

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    I think you've answered your own question :-) You have no curb, your home can't be easily seen from the street so why do you need curb appeal? 'Curb appeal' is a popular buzz phrase coined by the real estate industry describing a means of making a house on the market "pop" compared to its neighbors and be noticed by potential buyers as they drive by. It has little - if anything - to do with landscaping or garden design except very tangentially. Even the popular HGTV show by that name focuses on the home itself -- any landscaping is just an after thought and typically not treated with any degree of professionalism. Just fill it up with color - who cares!! If you have no intention of putting your house on the market in the next year or so, then forget about curb appeal and make some decisions about what you want your garden/property do for you. If you want to class up the entry to the drive, do it. Can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. The point is, it's YOUR garden, your property, so the only ones you need to please are yourselves. As an aside, there are some good books published for your area that outline some really great plants that will tolerate the vagaries and extremes of your climate. Look for The Undaunted Gardener by Lauren Springer Ogden. And it's got lots of great photos for inspiration as well.
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  • 17 years ago

    I think the question is, if you start a thread and someone does you the courtesy of thinking about your question and posting an answer, why would you be rudely dismissive in response?

  • 17 years ago

    Well, when I bought my house two years ago it looked like the Adams Family lived here. The truth is that it was rarely lived in for the previous 8 years as the owners moved to Florida and had some health issues that took away the plans to use it as a summer home. It had (has) a weed lawn, plants in very poor condition and out of place due to the loss of other plants, and a new paint job over several layers of unscraped paint (yellow & green nonetheless). The interior was (and to some degree is) 1968 with the exception that they replaced the avacado appliances with almond in the early 80s.

    I bought it for its potential clearly recognizing that the curb appeal was helping to keep the price down. I'm hoping that with my recent changes in work I will have some time and resources to make some headway.

    The question is whether the amount of money and effort that it would have taken to make the curb appeal would be realized in the selling price of the home. I'd say no. A good paint job alone would have been in the thousands just on the outside. A presentable lawn and landscape would be a good $5k (hired out). Throw in one living room rug and a new kitchen floor and your probably above the difference in price already without touching the windows, wallpaper, and others.

  • 17 years ago

    With apologies to busyd95, I have no qualms about presenting ones self or ones house in the best light but the thrust of my question was intended to be "Is this whole notion that the ONLY reason for working on the way our house and garden is presented is so that we can sell it on detrimental to domestic garden design?" To use that clothing analogy: what if the design of haute couture was driven by how to look good at a job interview, would this change what we see on the catwalk for the better or worse? Put it another way: would the garden of the type of person that stays in one place be different from someone who moved around a lot? The answer is fairly obvious but what are the differences? Would a buyer who moves around a lot be looking for something different from someone who is looking for a place to settle?

  • 17 years ago

    Is curb appeal cheating? I don't think so. Nor do I think it is undertaken solely to speed the sale of a property. In many instances, I believe the desire for "curb appeal" is what motivates many posters to this forum.......they are simply looking for ways to enhance the appearance of their property, for themselves, for visitors, for passersby and to blend into or otherwise suit the neighborhood. That we most often see photos and questions pertaining to the front yard or entry gardens should support this notion. For some reason, usually lack of public visibility, backyards are less inclined to be of major concern, unless it is ways to improve outdoor entertaining/living areas - all those "what to plant around my patio" questions - or to screen unfavorable views and provide privacy.

    And why should this be considered cheating? Even if it is to increase or improve sale potential? As Cady notes, the intent is to cause prospective buyers to take a second look or to slow down enough to even notice. In this day and age with housing prices soaring to the stratosphere, any responsible buyer is going to investigate this kind of expensive investment pretty carefully and full disclosure laws require any serious faults be revealed. So what if the place has been "tarted" up a bit? If it achieves the intent of having someone take a look at something they might have ignored in a more disheveled state, so much the better.

    I have a much stronger feeling about the notion that one must undertake a complete re-do of the interior to effect a sale, as is the intent of a number of the newer shows on HGTV. While I'd concede that depersonalizing and simplifying the interior and making it as tidy as possible so as to accentuate the bones of the house is helpful, to virtually remodel the interior simply to get a better selling price is a bit much. Seldom will that investment in time and effort, not to mention dollars, be fully recouped and why not do it for your own enjoyment and satsifaction while you live there, rather for some new owner? And if I were buying a new home, I'd much rather adjust it to my specific preferences rather than accept a generic rendition of what the previous owners thought was appropriate.

    My daughter's father and his new wife just recently purchased a new home - brand new construction. My daughter is put out as her stepmother won't let her paint her room. The reason given is that it will affect the resale value of the property. For heaven's sake - it's just paint, the easiest thing in the world to change and about the most inexpensive thing you can do to a home. And they just moved in - are they going to put it on the market next week? What about enjoying it while they live there and stamping it with their personality? (not that the new wife has any to speak of, but that's another issue)

  • 17 years ago

    That's ok, Inkognito. I didn't realize that your's was a tongue in check question. I actually thought about going on with the analogy--to say that the inside better match the outside in terms of maintenance--you're right, you are not going to hire the person who only looks nice, you're looking for substance as well.

    I am the radical/renegade on my block (an older, small city with typical urban plots). I took out my front lawn and replaced it with perennials and small shrubs and trees that will remain small. I didn't do this for curb appeal exactly, I did it because I was tired of trying to maintain a lawn in shade throughout the summer months. I'd rather work on perennials than on lawn.

    Do I think it looks better than a lawn with bare brown patches in August (like my neighbors')? You bet.

    All my neighbors uniformly shook their heads when they saw what I was doing--thought it was going to look unsightly. The one who was most open about his displeasure walked past yesterday and told me it looked great.

    My home's "curb appeal" may intimidate some buyers. They may believe that the interior reflects the same "wierd" taste as the outside (maybe it does).

    But, you're right, I didn't do it to appeal to buyers. This is my home now and for the foreseeable future.

  • 17 years ago

    Fun topic!

    We live in a very "hot" town, in a very "fashionable" area. In 16 years we've seen one home after another "pimped up", put on the block and sold off. Usually, the home has been demolished (save one wall!) to allow the new owner to build what they want within the stringent code the town has adopted. We have lamented that we didn't build a "DE-fab" home; one assembled completely with screws instead of nails... . ;)

    I'm all for "curb appeal", but I feel it should be a day to day endeavor, not implemented only when a house is to be sold. I see the latter approach all the time here. The "mow and blow" guys show up in the morning and when they leave the house/grounds look entirely different. I'm sadded when mature Aristolochia durior is ripped from an arbor, or a lovely climbing rose suffers the same fate... and the arbor is left buck-ass naked to show its "architecture". Ohhhkay... I thought it was there to support vines?

    Before we opted to build we looked at many properties. Fresh paint, newly turned earth, and eager agents extolling the virtues of the "potential" or the mouldings quickly grew "old". One particularly eager agent irritated me to such an extent that I remarked I didn't give a sh-t about the mouldings, I cared more about the perimeter drainage and the condition of the sills (into which our jacknife plunged effortlessly).

    I'm now on the horns of the same dilemma. Mum's house. Do we sell it, or do we keep it? My brother and I have taken care of immediate "issues", but will we undertake major work for a home that we will either rent or sell? No way. The home will be brought up to "good working order" and will be rented/sold that way.

    We aren't fooled by cosmetics. In reality, any home we might buy will undergo extensive conversion... pay more for a "sanitzied yard" or new paint? No. I look for location, good lines, and "potential". Those 3 things are what define "value" for me. That, and the price relative to the costs required to realize the "potential" of what I see in my mind's eye.

    When selling antique furniture the advice is to sell "as is"... there is no way you'll ever be able to accurately guage the tastes of the buyer with respect to upholstery. I feel the same way about houses/property. Clean, neat, presentable, in decent working order... that's all I really care about.

  • 17 years ago

    Busyd95,
    Your front garden concept (and attitude) sounds like mine. There is only one other house on the street with no lawn - opting for shrubs, perennials and small trees - and it is next to mine. So, we offer a unified "front" that oddly fits the neighborhood.

    Like you, I think that potential buyers might be intimidated by my style of "curb appeal" (it does match my interior decor. However, I don't plan to sell my house for at least a few decades, and even then I may rent it to student from our nearby college, who likely will love having a grove of bamboo outside their livingroom window.

    I see curb appeal as more than a tool to sell a house; it's a particular process of adding a bit of punch to what might ordinarily be a sound-but-drab house. It can be as little as a painted trim in a contrasting, cheerful color, and a big earthy basket of annuals or perennials and herbs on the front step. It's not necessary to paint the entire house -- even a house with peeling paint can have great charm if you run with the seediness by planting huge baskets of mums, a rusted toy wagon filled with perennials or annuals, a few (not cluttered) placements of vintage or antique farm implements or just plain charming found objects and "junk." It puts everything into perspective and takes the peeling paint from shabby to "shabby chic" because the surrounding, carefully placed and tended objects d'arte have a relationship to it in their planned shabbiness.

    That's just one way to handle curb appeal without spending money.

    Laag, you could likely pull it off with your Addams' Family manse. A nice rusting cauldron resting in a bed of groundcover and filled with mums and pumpkins would be curb appeal for the autumn. :)

    My house is a ca. 1925, dark brown, cedar-shingle "crackerbox" bungalow with little architectural interest outside, save for its hip roof and arts-and-crafts overhang over the small front entry porch.

    To make up for it, I have framed and softened it with uncommon plantings and lots of large container of perennials and small shrubs, dwarf conifers, herbs and annuals. I painted the front door and mailbox an antique barn red with spinach-green trim.

    Indoors it has interesting details and is built of quality wood and stone, but outdoors, its the curb appeal lent it by large container plantings and an untraditional garden that take it beyond its humble form. Cloaked in a melange of bamboo, azalea, pieris, highbush blueberry, ornamental grasses, serviceberry and wildflowers, it seems to be more than it is.

  • 17 years ago

    I've been "stewing" on the last sentance in the original post (don't know how to reprint it here for your convenience, sorry).

    I'm not sure it is "detrimental" to garden design because I don't honestly believe most homes/yards have had anything remotely close to "design" in the surrounding grounds. I think most yards are "reactionary", not planned to fulfill/enhance/encourage anything specific.

    I was horrified to see a mature Hydrangea anomala petiolaris yanked out by a bulldozer some months ago; there were several other "casualties", too. All were magnificent, but the property had been "vacant" and barely maintained for a few years... not "appealing" to MOST would-be buyers, I suspect. But to me, they effectively eviscerated the heart and soul of the lot. I'm now watching the erection of yet another "shingle style" home... yawn.

    And I can't help but wonder how many "Endless Summers" will appear next spring, and how many crappy-ass roses will be planted only to succumb in a year/two... but Aristolchia durior and Climbing Hydrangea will likely not ever be replanted, nor will the "common" "Annabelle" hydrangea, let alone a Paniculata... nor will the ferns.

  • 17 years ago

    Chelone,
    There are different levels of "curb appeal-making." Bad work is bad work. Nothing irks me more than what you describe -- plopping in mass-produced popular plants like "Endless Summer" where they don't belong, yanking out classic, gorgeous, established plantings. That's just non-design, usually perpetrated by a clueless realtor, home owner or contractor who tells the landscape guy "Just throw in some sod and fresh bushes."

    It's the same mentality that plops McMansions on former pastures stripped bare of their rich soil and left with deep rubble, over which 12" of "screened loam" is dumped and spread.

    That's not garden design, and doesn't count in my book as legit "curb appeal" work. Savvy realtors hire garden designers (one of the reasons why I drop off my business cards at real estate offices).

  • 17 years ago

    A friend sold her Show Place Home with Amazing Garden. As some of the posters predicted, the curent owners have no idea or inclination about care /enjoyment of that garden. Now it sort of lops all over and looks real sad. If some one is an avid gardener, they might be looking for a semi blank slate, with some "Good Bones". Any one else may just be intimaidated. Some folks move because they are being transfered, or something makes relocation unavoidable. Other times, Ive heard "There is just not enough about this place that I like, so I will fix it up, and move on to greener pastures". Then the fixing gets done, long put off improvements get made, (some that the new owners may or may not love, depending on the fantasy of the curent resident) and the person looks around and says "wow If Id done all this while I was planning to live hear, Id have been enjoying life alot more. " It seems sad to me to make something the best you think it can be for some one else, When you could have done it for your own enjoyment. Just the "Be hear Now" school of thought I guess

  • 17 years ago

    I think you're right about people gardening without a plan. In fact, I started gardening as a way to solve problems (disguise this, add shape to that, etc). Most people don't even have that much of a plan.

    And I abhor yanking established plantings that could be revitalized. I've begun working as a perennial "broker" for my neighborhood (not a paying job, except in its satisfaction), as people decide they want to get rid of perfectly good specimens, because they didn't plan or read about the nature of their purchases.

    "'So-and-so' down the street has two kiwis she's looking to get rid of, they'd look great against your fence...."

    And I guess the inside of my home does reflect the same aesthetics as the outside, but it's all done with quality materials and some thought for how people live.

  • 17 years ago

    It really does depend on the buyer, doesn't it? But you don't know who it will be, or what his/her preferences will be.

    Sometimes, to play it safe while using good taste, "curb appeal" could be just some lovely container plantings tastefully arranged in the right places, and which can be disposed of or given away by the buyers if they don't want any kind of plants or garden.

    It's kind of like finding the right gift to give to someone you don't know: You don't buy a puppy for a person who doesn't have the inclination to care for a dog; you don't bring a decor item for a person without knowing his/her tastes. Instead, you go with something temporary, neutral and attractive (such as vase of flowers or a bountiful gift basket of soaps and toiletries, or jams and biscuits), which the recipient can choose to use him/herself or give to another.

  • 17 years ago

    I was out weeding and deadheading my own piece of "curb appeal" yesterday evening (a circular bed surrounding a lamppost just off the driveway) and was reminded again about two benefits of such a planting (beyond any impact on potential sales or unifying the neighborhood architectural styles) - to bring enjoyment to the gardener and help connect with passersby. I like having something interesting to look at during my comings and goings, even if it's a motley collection of deer-resistant perennials, odd exotics and common-as-dirt annuals (my giant African marigolds are reportedly detectable on Doppler radar).

    Other notes:

    The latest edition in the endless series of Better Homes and Gardens "specialty publications", now available at a supermarket checkout line near you, features an article promising 187 different ways to promote curb appeal. That should cover it all.

    Speaking of the Addams Family, my Charles Addams calendar cartoon for September features two different interpretations of curb appeal. The conventional family at left is busing sprucing up their home's exterior, cleaning windows and tending their intensely dull front yard plantings. Next door, Uncle Fester is on a stepladder, gleefully wielding a file to sharpen the barb-like points of the family's wrought-iron perimeter fence.

    Some of my favorite neighbors have been in the Fester mode, including the South Dakota family that used to leave the bleached skulls of their hunting kills in the yard and occasionally carried comatose relatives into the house after late nights on the town. I've always appreciated quiet drinkers. :)

  • 17 years ago

    A lot of what has previously been said is very true for my neighbourhood. I live on a street of very conservative older people with lovely, manacured lawns and beautiful crab apple and cherry trees. The street is wonderful in the spring time. But I happened to have the only property on the street that can't grow a lawn. So I decided I would get rid of the lawn and do an ornamental grass and small boulders on the lawn. I slowly mentioned to my neighbours in passing what I was thinking about doing to give them a chance to get use to the idea. By then most were very curious to see what was happening. As it took place I would have many neighbours come by to chat, since I was doing all the work. Now that it is complete everyone loves it. One neighbour has her kitchen window that can see my garden and feels like it is hers. Funny thing is, I can't see most of it because of a beautiful Blue Spruce. I did it for 2 reasons: for the beauty of the neighbours and I don't need to mow the lawn. It worked out well. Mind you there is a special little area that I do see and only those that come around the blue spruce get to see a different design of a lovely pea gravel path and curved gardens. It's one of those WoW coments but for my enjoyment. Other buyers may hate it if I sell, but it's my personal Curb Appeal.

  • 17 years ago

    The decision to buy is usually made in the kitchen, not in the street.

  • 17 years ago

    A nice south-facing house in our neighborhood had great shade from the 2 full maples in the front yard. Nothing was wrong with the trees that I could see passing by. They did block some of the view of the second story, but the lower limbs didn't interfere with sight lines to any great degree.

    I came around the corner one day- they were all gone. The next day a for sale sign was in the yard, along with a few azaleas in the tree's spots. I have thought about the AC bill for that house often, as well as the lacebugs that will find a happy home on those azaleas. I think the realtor thought the house was too dark with the trees. (I associate dark with cool in the summer! It's a good thing to me.) But it sold in good time.

  • 17 years ago

    i think i would like to have the streetside side of my house express some of the things i like most about the site.... give a hint to the things inside the house i enjoy living with... light, atmosphere... and provide a little shelter from the feng-shui whammo of a subdivision street t-boning the center of my lot. because this is an older house, a 60's split on yellow clay, a little further develepment and expression of the good things would benefit my palazzo, for sure. the makeup analogy is not too far off... enhance what you know you've got happening and you don't have to depend on other peoples insight (usually in short supply).

  • 5 years ago

    Curb appeal is so that prospective buyers don't drive by...and keep going.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Good old annoying Inkognito. I wonder if he is still with us?

    Yes, designing for curb appeal can be detrimental to the practice of landscape design. When that becomes the primary focus to the exclusion of all other considerations, the landscape becomes not much more than another form of capitalist consumption. It can separate humans not only from a sense of place, but from the living biosphere we are driving to the sixth great extinction and that we can not live without.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    You know, when I sit down to eat dinner, the number one thought I am usually consumed with is taste. Above all other things, I generally hold out great hope hope that the meal will taste awesome. But my love for taste is not at the exclusion of the other less important characteristics of the meal. I still want textures, colors, smells, temperatures, surroundings and dining company all to be awesome, too! Nevertheless, none of these things diminish the fact that for me, taste is paramount. Rather than thinking this makes me a freak of nature, I think it demonstrates that I am, well, just an average human who learned from day one that food reigns supreme in the list of all human needs.

    When it comes to landscape design and we are talking about the front yard, I cannot see that curb appeal is any different in the landscape hierarchy than is taste in the dining hierarchy. The home is an extension of the human being. The vast majority of humans have concern, which varies from casual to rabidly obsessed, about how they present themselves to the world. As people care for their faces and clothes, they also care that whatever other property they own meets their appearance standards, as it is an extension of them and a reflection on how they will be seen by others. Some people drive dirty, dented cars. But most people aspire to newer and shinier if it is possible for them to achieve it. I don't see how one could make a case that appearance SHOULD be unimportant to humans. The history of our nature has it that appearance always has been of utmost importance in every facet of life. Wherever and whenever humans are involved, better appearance commands greater interest and it's proven by higher prices when it's achieved. NEVER in the quest to achieve cub appeal, have I considered that it's focus is "at the exclusion of all other considerations." I don't think others commonly view it this way either. Curb appeal means making the best presentation that can be made from the street (or some comparable position) but it is just an umbrella objective that in order to be achieved, must consider utility, outward bound views, maintenance, and a succession of lesser factors.

    Given that you've mentioned the phrases, "another form of capitalist consumption" and "driving to the sixth great extinction" I have to suspect that you are smoking a little too much weed. And reading all the wrong books!

  • 5 years ago

    It's all about keeping up appearances. Well put, Hyacinth.

  • 5 years ago

    The issue I have with many requests for "improving curb appeal" is that it is like putting lipstick on a pig.....all show with very little substance. More thought needs to be assigned to the underlying elements and less to just "prettying up" the place.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    "a good view from inside materializes automatically in accordance with a good view from the street."

    All these years, many long years, so, so many of my clients have not known that and most lived in the high end fancy neighborhoods with gates. The neighbors curb appeal better be up to snuff. I hate kitchen sink windows.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    " As I see it, the goal of curb appeal doesn't negate them at all. It merely demands that in addition to taking care of them, we end up with a finished product that shows well from the street. "

    I never said curb appeal negates them.....only that many times 'curb appeal' is undertaken without any consideration to these as well. Too much hoohaw on shutters or not or door colors or even paint colors (is anyone able to make a decision on their own without input from strangers??) and very little concern about how the house relates to the landscape and vice versa. Not always but more often than not. And typically with the proviso that it needs to be cheap! Hence the observation that it tends more towards just window dressing or the lipstick on a pig analogy and far less on actual design considerations.

    Also living in an area that tends towards large, almost rural propertes (even though I am in a so-called bedroom communit for a large metro area, this is more country than city) or those that are heavily wooded, I have issues with the term "curb appeal". How does that relate to properties were there is no curb or the residence not being visible from any curb that may or may not exist??

    Many may not agree with me but I think the entire concept is superficial at best

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    "I have issues with the term "curb appeal". How does that relate to properties were there is no curb or the residence not being visible from any curb that may or may not exist??"

    I think you are taking the term too literally. In order to talk about something, we have to assign a word to it. Street/curb appeal is what we call making our front yard look attractive and appealing to someone as it is first seen. Since the overwhelming number of people live in houses that sit just behind a curb or street, the term describes the concept pretty well. It's probably used mostly by realtors and that's where they want the house to show from. When a house is hidden behind a "natural area," or even a wall, there is a point of the approach when one gets their first complete view of its face, in its setting, and the term applies just as well. One could call it "first view." But that term doesn't have ring that "curb appeal" has, and the speaking-public has voted by keeping the latter. IMO, the term aptly describes the concept so I have no problem with it ,,, unlike I do with "foundation planting." But I'm relaxing about that. :-)

  • 5 years ago

    What annoys you about "foundation plantings"? I'm curious to know.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    The origination of the term makes sense in that there used to be many houses built such that a good looking house sat atop a more or less, ugly foundation. This has been for some time much less the case with newer homes, as often the ugly foundation is either non-existent, or minimal. I think the term itself promotes an outdated planting scheme of ringing the outside wall of a house with solid planting, obscuring things that neither need to be, or should be hidden. There is also the perception that planting only needs be applied to the house in a 3' depth band, as if it were a fluffy exterior baseboard, in order to do its job. I think that if it weren't viewed as the foundation hiding bed, it would be easier to free the mind to consider that it is instead, a home enhancing bed, which might vary in depth and be considerably deeper on average than 3'.

  • 5 years ago

    I still think the entire concept of "curb appeal" is largely a real estate industry related contrivance and has little to do with the actual landscape design process. Anyone is of course free to think differently but I pay it very little heed in my approach to design.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    Addressing the front view of the home is a great way to draw interest during a home search. I'd say the majority of home shoppers start online and the first photo they see (by law I believe, but could be wrong) is the front view of the home. If the curb appeal isn't there, you risk losing that potential buyer. You also run the risk of attracting the bargain shoppers if you do not address it. Your landscape is an extension of your home and it should be treated as such.

  • PRO
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    "... I pay [curb appeal] very little heed ..."

    Because a landscape is something that is used by people, it must perform to some minimum degree of functional standards. That's a given. But after those problems are solved by the designer, the goal becomes appearance. (In some cases, designers are so obsessed by appearance that they erroneously shortchange function.) I'm saying that appearance of landscape features, from whatever viewpoints exist for a given property, is always a concern. Where and how is it not?

  • 5 years ago
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    Valid point Yardvaark. The terms 'foundation plantings' are architecturally old fashioned and irrelevant these days. I prefer that terminology over curb appeal though. I just think of it as connecting the house, the people and the landscape to the foundation of the earth.

  • PRO
    5 years ago
    Old post
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Very old post. Brings back memories. It is full of articulate thoughtful commentary and chock full of interesting stories and observations on selling houses. The Adams Family make several appearances and you will learn GG is burned out on curb appeal.

    I highly recommend getting comfortable and taking the time for an enjoyable read.

  • 5 years ago

    Curb view is exactly that. It's the view from the street. It may be the entrance to a long driveway with no house in sight. It's still very important, to me never mind buyers. It'.s so important it deserves its own discussion, so I will post a picture of mine and solicit opinions on how to improve it...

  • PRO
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Gardengal and Christopher, what term do you use for the beautification aspect of landscape design for the front yard of a home?

  • 5 years ago
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    I just call it garden or landscape design. I seriously don't give much thought to how it looks from one limited view from the street. The client's desires and use of the space, even if limited to just walking through comes first. Making the garden look good to the client who will actually exist in that space, automatically makes it have a good view from the street, if said street even exists. 'Curb Appeal' is not a primary priority ever.

    Now mind you I am quite fond of curb appeal. So much so I went straight for 'Roadside Attraction' for the view of my house and gardens from the scenic byway. It can and does bring traffic to a halt. Lord knows how many and where pictures of my house live on the internet.



  • 5 years ago

    Like Christopher, I just consider it part of the overall landscape design plan per the client's brief. A "curb" may or may not be part of the equation and in my case, curbs or any visuals from the road often tend to be non-existant. Many of my clients are more concerned about privacy than showing off their house and screening the view from the road is paramount. I design to their wishes, not to appeal to some random passers by!

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    I think we are on different pages, so let me try to refine the question. There is a point at which a house has a first view by anyone who is visiting the property. If a street exists, this might occur when they are driving by. If the property is concealed by plantings or a wall, it would occur as one drives down the lane and approaches the house. At some point they're going to see it for the first time in its setting. Whatever impact the scene has (the sum of the house plus the setting), if it is positive and profound, is there any term you could use to describe that sum impact? And I mean the first view impact as it would differ from areas seen later (back and side yards.) Many people spend a lot of money making the front of their homes look good for guests, neighbors (and themselves!), or to get the attention of those who drive by. What term can describe the result of this extra effort for this first view of the front of a property? (It is an effort that is almost always much more than what is applied to a typical side yard.)

  • 5 years ago

    " It is an effort that is almost always much more than what is applied to a typical side yard."


    To a side yard...yes. To a backyard.......not necessarily. In fact, IME, more clients are concerned about and focus on their backyards than they do on the front. In many cases, they only require the front to be tidy and serviceable but the backyard - their private space - is where they focus their time and attention and where the bulk of their landscaping dollars are concentrated. So I am not sure I would refer to the front or its impact in any particular terms. It is just part of the overall design. If anything more specific, it is the entry garden

    And I still contend that the phrase "curb appeal" is a real estate industry construct that has little to do necessarily with landscape design. It is not something you find outlined in any landscape design text I am aware of and was only coined in the mid 70's espressly to attract potential home buyers. Not to define any sort of landscaping.

  • 5 years ago

    It’s just semantics I think but.... I call the front garden ‘the public face of the garden’. I give more consideration there to what would please the neighbours and people passing by, so it is a more flowery and colourful space than the private backyard. The sideyards are transition spaces - colourful at the front side, quieter towards the back. One neighbour (a very active gardener herself) calls our front garden ‘eye candy for the neighbourhood’.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    What term can describe the result of this extra effort for this first view of the front of a property?

    As used above, I would just simply call it the front garden. I think there is a bit of west coast vs east coast different pages thing happening here too. Yardvaark's observation that plenty of people put all their effort out front and have a dog patch out back they would never dream of inviting guests in to is completely valid. Outdoor privacy, found in the back yard not the front, and privacy in general was valued a lot more out west.

    Much like 'foundation plants' had a certain ethos and design style associated with it, 'curb appeal' these days does too. Inkognito's original question way back at the height of the housing frenzy before the crash was "Is this whole notion that the only reason for working on the way our house and garden is presented is so that we can sell it on detrimental to domestic garden design?

    Yes it is. As the wealth of working people is clawed away from them in service to the god of vulture capitalism's endless greed for growth and profits, homes are ever more considered their last available investment and asset that will likely have to be sold off for people to survive their decrepitude with any amount of dignity. They can never really expect to grow old and die peacefully at home. This is an investment not a home.

    Not that 'curb appeal' implies completely ignoring everything else, but when it becomes a primary and most valued focus of applied residential landscape design, is it driving standard residential landscape design towards the banal beige of real estate agents wet dreams? When does it really become just another form of capitalist consumption that has to be changed out every so often like paint and wallpaper to keep things fresh? What about real homes and a sense of place? What about real gardens filled with life and individual personality?

    "Oh great. You have fabulous curb appeal. Do you garden?"

    Added:

    Yes you can read this as an extreme take on things. Few things are that black and white or all inclusive. It's not like the term 'curb appeal' makes my skin crawl. There is also a valid need to stage homes when they go on the market. It's more about how the ethos contained in this thinking takes hold and affects people's thinking and expectations about what gardens are really for.

    No matter, there will always be the Hyacinths who continue keeping up appearances.

  • 5 years ago

    Is it spelled curb in the USA? We have kerbs over here. Kerb appeal is not much bothered with.

  • 5 years ago

    The rapid turnover (5 years average) of homes in the U.S. contributes to our generally atrocious landscaping. A drive down my road is a showcase of all of the short sighted, short cutting decisions made by people trying to solve a problem quickly up to their last one, which is unloading the place. The worst are the crowded rows of towering conifers, once planted as screens but now baring dead or now branches to 30 feet or more, and often molested on the way up by utility companies. It's willful ignorance on the part of the OPs (original planters), and innocent ignorance on the part of the subsequent owners who haven't the knowledge, means or ability to prune/manage trees. I contrast this with a Japanese neighborhood, in which every house is usually meticulously landscaped to an appropriate scale. Plants grow much faster there thanks to abundant precipitation, which enables one to replant and recover from errors, but I think the larger factor is the availability of skilled labor. It doesn't hurt to have landscapes that are an affordable size. I look at a lineup of 30 bare legged Norway spruces gracing the curb/kerb/qrb of a modest house and think, at a thousand dollars or more to take down each one...which owner will be left holding that bag? Or will it be the town?

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    Curb appeal is coiffing the hair and putting on make-up vs. going out with stringy hair and unmade face. It's getting dressed up vs. sweats and flip-flops. It's making sure the paint is clean and in good shape vs. peeling & stained. It's tidy and well arranged plantings vs. unkempt shrubs and scraggly trees. It's tidy and serviceable vs. neglected. It's putting a little extra effort in the appearance for the sake of the "public" (whoever might see you.) If the "extra effort" is as minimal as possible, the motivation might be so one doesn't embarrass one's self and be mistaken for homeless. If it's a lot of effort, it might to increase status.

  • 5 years ago

    Ha ha and Oh My God! You have just described my primary purpose in life. I am the Outdoor Maid for the people who can afford to have that done by the help.


    It's not curb appeal. It's the Yard Maid.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    In this day and age, improving the curb appeal is far from cheating. It actually gives the new homeowners one less thing to have on their to-do list. And one less thing for them to think about spending additional $ on.


    James

  • 5 years ago

    How many landscape designers in here ever try to sell clients on sustainable landscape designs? The definition of sustainable, as defined by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, can be found at sustainablesites.org if you are interested.

    Have you ever worked on a project like converting a large lawn area to a meadow or designing a sustainable site for a new build? Can curb appeal and sustainability coexist on the same plot in your mind?

    Im sure its easier to sell the customer what they expect, but do you ever mention or talk about alternatives with clients? Is it something you even thing about? Is it an "only by request" kind of thing?

    Do you factor ecosystem services and supporting productive food webs into your landscape designs? That seems to be what this thread is brushing up against and the concensus amongst the professionals seems to be something along the lines of

    "My client wants pleasing constructs and decorations around their house to make it look taken care of."


    "As of 2007, 40.8 percent of the land area in the lower forty-eight U.S. states had been converted to some form of production agriculture (www.ers.usda.gov/StateFacts/US.htm). All but 5 percent of the rest of the land is now a giant matrix of urban, suburban, and exurban landscapes (Rosenzweig 2003). Only 3.6 percent of the United States is protected within the National Park Service"


    "According to a NASA study using satellite imaging, lawns in America cover 40,411 square miles, an area larger than the state of Kentucky. That makes lawns the country’s largest irrigated crop."

    "According to the Safer Pest Control Project, 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides are added to U.S. lawns each year. We use three times as much pesticide on our lawns per acre as we do on our agricultural crops."