I talked about curb appeal going too far a few days ago. A pretty face can make a huge difference, but there’s an even larger kind of curb appeal that can make a difference in selling a house for a good profit or not, and that’s the surrounding area. That’s the “location location location” thing you always hear about. Now, is this under our control? Maybe. We can at least be a good influence. I’ll share a couple of stories of how curb appeal of the surrounding area has influenced my decisions. I’d love to know how the “curb appeal” of the surrounding location has affected homes you’ve bought, sold, or renovated!
When we were looking for a retirement property, we drove all around the counties surrounding Austin, trying to decide where to build. The Hill Country was full of beautiful estates, but was out of our price range. The area east of Austin was more affordable, but it was full of small properties that varied widely in their “curb appeal.” You’d see a place that could pass for a junk yard or antique farm equipment collection with horses and cattle stepping gingerly among the rusted junk, and right next to it would be a well maintained ranchette with neat outbuildings and healthy livestock. When we went north of Austin, we saw much larger properties, most with well maintained homes. The area is sparsely populated, and the prices per acre were good. That’s where we decided to go, because the whole area had a peaceful feeling and the land owners obviously care for their properties, for the most part.
Now, the area we built our retirement house in is pretty pleasant. The next town, though, might be a reason why some folks would choose to buy elsewhere. Like many small towns, the largest employer moved away a few years ago, taking jobs and tax base away. The town simply looked sad, especially five years ago when we first looked. It was one of those places you’d just drive through quickly. I noticed some of the other small towns in the area had worked on sprucing up their downtowns, built some new business buildings, etc. I kept thinking I wish I lived near one of those places.
Luckily, new folks have been taking leadership roles, and there have been a few nice new business buildings going up, or old ones getting renovated (the local large construction company took a sad building and made it look modern and nice). We fixed up three houses on the main road, ourselves. But that’s not all. Just a couple of weeks ago, some pretty signs pointing to various locations around the town popped up. Wow! That helps!
So, we did help spruce up the surroundings to make them more inviting, along with other interested folks.
And I saw in the newspaper that there are grants available to fix up the signage and facades of local businesses, especially downtown. That is needed. I happen to know a couple of downtown eyesores are going to be renovated by a large corporation, so all that may well bring more people to downtown, where there are now three or four nice destinations–a coffee shop in the oldest building in town, a thriving boutique, a massage therapy shop, and who knows what else! I’m really impressed at what the Chamber of Commerce and other town leaders have been doing lately.
When we first moved to the Austin/Round Rock area 20 years ago, the neighborhood we build our house in was rather desolate. Few large trees, no places to shop nearby, one sad park, and that was it. That explains why the house we paid $200K for back then could be bought for $350K in a neighborhood closer to Austin with more amenities. We went for the price, and hoped infrastructure would come. By the time I moved out last year, there were shade trees, a community center, trails through the greenbelt, and many more beautiful parks. Day care centers, doctor’s offices, and even some restaurants are now build or in process. I have a friend who is dying to buy there, because it is so nice. When we bought, they were practically giving houses away.
You might guess where THIS one’s going. It’s going to San Antonio, and the house that took forever to sell because of its location. Not only were some of the surrounding houses in poor condition, it backed to a fast food restaurant. No matter how nice the house itself looked, the surroundings were going to be a challenge. I see that in other places, too, where the renovating expert fixes up some old house, but the one next to it looks like it’s going to fall down. It takes a special client to buy those, one who places proximity to downtown over the shape of the neighborhood, or one who believes the area is “gentrifying.”
And I wonder how great it is to gentrify if that’s forcing others out of the only homes they can afford. I’m glad to see most of the fixer uppers I know of bought abandoned or empty houses. I just wish more of them fixed up houses to be affordable by the current residents. I digress, which I guess I can since it’s my blog.
So, I hope these examples of how curb appeal extends past the property line of the house you’re renovating, buying, or selling gets you thinking about your own projects. We’d love feedback!