Creating Communities with Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is a great way to add value and make your homes and communities stand out to potential buyers. When considering curb appeal, it’s important to think about both the individual houses and the community as a whole. Will the homes play well together to create an attractive and interesting streetscape? Great looking homes won’t do much good if they don’t look great next to each other.

We recently had the opportunity to dive into this topic at the 2020 International Builders Show in Las Vegas. Together with our friends Rick Overby of Stella Color+Design and Deryl Patterson of Housing Design Matters, we spoke about creating timeless elevations and what’s next in curb appeal. Here’s a round-up of our favorite tips for creating communities with curb appeal.

Create Style Driven Streetscapes

Today’s buyer wants to feel unique. They’re an individual and their home should express that – which is pretty hard if they live on a street of cookie cutter homes. A,B,C and 1,2,3 just doesn’t cut it. Instead, give the elevations names that the buyer can relate to. Offering the same home in 3 different color schemes isn’t good enough either. Instead, create style driven streetscapes. Imagine you’re offering 4 different plans, each available in 3 different elevation styles for a total of 12 plan/elevation combos. There are 479,001,600 different ways you could line up those 12 homes! We know you’d never line up all 12 homes on the same street, but this gives you an idea of the sheer number of options you’ve just given yourself to create a community with a varied streetscape and great curb appeal.

Prairie
Farmhouse
Modern

Introduce New Styles

It’s typical to create 3 different elevation styles for new homes, but there’s no rule out there that says 3 is the limit. Architectural styles are often regional, and most regions have more than 3 styles. For larger projects with several models, consider creating more than 3 styles to add variety. You don’t need to offer every model in every style – we recently worked on a project with 7 different elevation styles, but only 3 styles were offered for each model (there were 14 models in total). This allows the builder to create more variety in larger projects, without creating too many options.

Regional influence is much less important than it used to be. Networks like HGTV expose us to architectural styles from all around the world every day. More people are traveling and experiencing new architecture first hand through sites like VRBO and AirBNB. Sites like Pinterest and Houzz make it easy to quickly find hundreds of examples of just about any type of architecture you can imagine. Easy access and exposure to new types of architecture blurs the concept of regionalism.

That being said, some architecture is regional for a reason. Flat roofs are great in the desert, but terrible for snow loads. High pitched roofs are perfect in snowy areas, but can become hazardous in high wind zones. Done right, offering new styles can help set you apart from the competition. Just be sure to consider local influences, codes, availability of trades and market acceptance when selecting your styles.

This mountain shingle style home exudes curb appeal with a Colorado twist on a timeless style
Try adding a regional focus to a timeless style. This “mountain shingle” style home incorporates classic elements such as a stone foundation, stained shakes and white trim, with a mountain feel that’s right at home in Colorado.

Authenticity is Key

Authenticity is key when designing homes. All architectural styles have defining elements – think of the roof lines of a prairie style home or the columns on the front porch of a craftsman. We’re not saying there isn’t room for creativity – we love getting creative! First understand the defining characteristics of the architectural style you’re working with, and then get creative while still designing a home that speaks to those characteristics.

The same applies to materials. Materials should be used strategically to add curb appeal, but sparingly so as not to inflate the cost or make the design unnecessarily complicated. Always apply materials to look authentic, even if they aren’t. For example, a common mistake we see are shutters that are too small for the window (which in essence just makes them trim). Even if shutters aren’t functional, they should still be the right size. It’s also important to remember to wrap materials to an inside corner, otherwise you’ll end up with a spaghetti western effect. Real homes are 3-dimensional, make sure your designs are too!

Curb appeal is 3-dimensional! Make sure the wrap materials to an inside corner.
Homes are 3-dimensional! Be sure to wrap materials to an inside corner.

Staying authentic to your architectural styles, mix and applications of materials will help you avoid the dreaded blender effect. We’ve all seen homes like this – with such a crazy mix of roof lines, materials, arches, columns and patterns that it’s impossible to tell what the original intent was. While this may have been acceptable 20 or 30 years ago (though we would even argue that!), today’s buyers are much more discerning and will keep right on walking to see what the next builder is offering, and if it feels authentic.

Streetscape Versus Pricing Options

Variety is a great way to create curb appeal, but just because you offer it, doesn’t mean buyers can afford it. To create variety at an attainable price point, make sure one elevation style isn’t significantly more expensive than the others. Implementing a kit of parts for the main details of the house is a great way to make sure all of your elevation styles are similarly priced. Take the repetitive details such as window trim, window grid pattern, eaves, column details, etc. and create a kit of parts for each detail and each elevation style. This allows you to control pricing and make sure everything is priced approximately the same. In some cases, pricing all 3 styles the same might be impossible – when this happens, use a give and take approach to make up the cost elsewhere.

Add curb appeal and get the best bang for your buck by putting expensive materials such as stone at the front of the home where they can be seen and enjoyed.
Get the most bang for your buck by putting the most expensive details at the front of the home where they can be noticed and enjoyed.

Don’t be Defined by the Garage

At some point in history, garages became the prominent feature on houses. In many older neighborhoods, it’s common to be greeted by a streetscape of large, 2-car snout garages. This trend was a reflection of our love affair with cars, and drove automotive-centric land planning and architecture for decades. In today’s world people are trying to move away from this trend by being more pedestrian friendly and less dependent on cars. As municipalities work to create more walkable neighborhoods with opportunities for mixed-use, it’s important to realize that streetscapes dominated by garage doors aren’t very appealing.

Moving away from the snout garage has many advantages. Moving the garage back makes it less prominent and adds curb appeal by making the front porch the main focus of the elevation. Eliminating the snout cuts down on corners and the amount of exterior walls to cover, which creates a cost saving. It also yields a bigger backyard or outdoor living space, which buyers are willing to pay for.

Moving the garage back from the street helps create curb appeal and more pedestrian friendly streescape
Moving the garage back creates a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape.

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