Curb Appeal Power Upgrades for the Not-Handy

While I pride myself on not being a total slouch as real estate in general goes, I am not the handyman, born-with-a-hammer-in-my-hand type. I don’t know if this is an experience common to others in the real estate biz but I’d always feel like a bit of a phony whenever I’d give property improvement advising to someone who’d just bought a house.

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As such, whenever I encounter one of the many, many “curb appeal improvement” articles that casually suggests the construction of a porch, arched brick entryway with adjoining rock wall or redoing your siding and trim I always get this sensation of ineffectual discouragement. So, for people like us, here are some curb appeal power-upgrading improvements that even I can do. And if I can do it, you definitely can.

Clean Up, Spruce Up

This seems like a sort of no-brainer but it’s something that’s way too often overlooked (based on the condition of the properties I see with “For Sale” signs in their yard). Stand in front of your property, suspend your bias and familiarity and look at it like you’re seeing it for the first time. What looks good? What looks bad? What looks messy? What looks neglected, dusty, dingy or overgrown? Once you’ve got an eye for it, identified your targets and listed them out- attack.

Mow the lawn and keep it mowed, trim those meandering bushes or shrubs, weed your beds or garden, wash your house off as best you can with a jet-spray hose attachment, clean out your gutters, wash your windows, sweep up, clear away any cobwebs, keep clutter out of the yard, polish your brass, wipe down your doorknobs, clean your door, get some broadleaf weed-killer for those dandelions, etc. Whatever your house and property needs.

Cut a Gravel Walkway in Your Lawn

This one is a pretty inexpensive DIY project that can really jazz up that first impression (and all those that follow).  It adds elegance to your plot and relieves any visitor ambiguity regarding how to reach your front door. Use pebbles about 2/3 the size of a golf ball or slightly smaller rather than pea-sized stones and under for a cleaner look. There are any number of good how-to step-by-steps on the net.

Create a Flagstone Walkway

If you’re not all that enthused by loose-pebble walk-up, consider flagstones. They look great in almost any lawn and the process can be as simple as cutting a series of evenly-spaced homes for them and securing the slabs. For an extra, exotic touch, plant ground cover plants between the flagstones. Ground cover that doesn’t mind being tromped over- sedum, ice plants, varied breeds of thyme and succulents- looks great, is impressively hardy and can be found out virtually any nursery.

Edge Things

While there’s no way I could build your deck or apply your siding, I could definitely dig a straight little trench and fill it with a clean-line-establishing edging product- pavers, a line of bendable galvanized steel edging strip, cedar shingling, etc. And it’s not just that gravel or flagstone path that a nice edge confers with a sharp and satisfying border, edge your driveway, flowerbeds or whatever else. Dropping a circular edging around a tree and the lawn beneath it, perhaps with a bed of mulch and some potted plants, creates a feature where once was a tree and the suffering, root-broken grass beneath it.

Add Freestanding Lights

Beyond the edge of that edging put up a row of low-voltage landscape lighting, perhaps solar powered. Lining them up on either side of a walkway or driveway not only creates great symmetry and bumps the curb appeal up significantly, it’s also an effective safety enhancement. Ring your flowerbed or newly-created tree-feature with landscaping lights to accentuate and draw attention to something you are and should be proud of.

Improve Your Place with Paint

I’m not talking about a total, full-house color scheme makeover or anything, but you’d be surprised how much better a front door and your trim look with a fresh coat of something nice.

Make Your Mailbox a Planter

Stick your mailbox in a planter, secured by big rocks and a soil-fill. Plant some flowers, succulents, herbs or whatever else in there and you’ve got an instant improvement.


I mentioned it before with the lights, but creating symmetry by planting a couple of tasteful trees or adding some other striking feature to frame the approach to a house, a walkway or driveway is simple and satisfying.

Whether you bought a place to flip or have no plans to move, a few simple and easily accomplished touch-ups, additions, subtractions and improvements will raise your property value, beautify your property and most importantly- you’ll feel better about it.

Frank Bateson is a retired appraiser who is now dipping his toes into blogging. He is considered an expert on windham ny real estate. When he’s not plugging away at his keyboard, Frank enjoys tracking the stock market and lowering his golf handicap.

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