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They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is especially true when it comes to real estate. Curb appeal is one of the most important factors for grabbing potential buyers' attention and getting them in the door. Studies have shown that people make decisions about homes in a matter of seconds based solely on the exterior. So if your landscaping is overgrown or your paint is chipping, you could be turning buyers away before they even step inside.
When digitally staging outdoor spaces, it's important to make the curb appeal shine. This could mean editing out any eyesores or distracting elements. Declutter by removing things like kid's toys, garden hoses and garbage cans from the yard. Softening hard edges of pathways and fences can also help the space look more welcoming. Strategic use of lighting and shadows draws the eye to the home's best features.
Colorist Karen Melvin shared how she boosted curb appeal for a dated brick ranch simply by changing the door to a bold blue that complemented the yard's oak trees. This vibrant pop of color made the home look fresh and inviting. Melvin says "Curb appeal is so important. That first impression can be a make or break, so you want to highlight the home's standout qualities while minimizing any problem areas."
Landscape designer James Towle explains "Having a clean, well-defined entryway and walkway guides buyers right to your door. I like using focal points like sculptures or container gardens to create visual interest." Towle also suggests planting colorful flowers by the entry. He says "Greenery framing the door makes it feel extra welcoming. It's all about staging the exterior to create a great first impression."
Curb appeal directly impacts selling price as well. According to real estate agent Maria Gonzalez, upgrading a home's landscaping increased the selling price by an average of 5%. And HOA officer Frank James notes that improving curb appeal can allow sellers to list their home 3-5% higher.
Decluttering the exterior of a home going on the market is one of the most impactful steps for showcasing curb appeal. A cluttered, messy yard will turn buyers away before they even look inside. According to real estate agent Tom Wright, "an exterior filled with clutter is a huge red flag for buyers that the interior likely has issues too." He advises sellers to store unused furniture, trash bins, hoses, tools and toys in the garage or shed.
Landscape designer Alicia Chen explains that decluttering goes beyond just removing things. It"s also about organizing what remains in a tidy, purposeful way. For example, garden tools can be stored neatly in a potting bench or cart. Hoses should be coiled and hung on hooks by spigots. She says, "Grouping like items together and containing them looks intentional rather than haphazard."
Chen shares tips for other areas that tend to collect clutter. For entryways, a small bench or table can corral shoes and bags. Built-in mailbox slots keep mail and deliveries organized. Install hooks for hanging coats and pet leashes. For patios and decks, utilize decorative bins, potted plants or screens to conceal less attractive items like recycling bins. Chen says, "When decluttering, think about how you can incorporate storage solutions that look attractive."
Realtor Ana Lopez stresses the importance of clearing flat surfaces like stairs, ledges and benches. She states, "Horizontal spaces attract clutter, so keep these areas completely empty." For items like potted plants that you want to feature, use decorative risers or stands to elevate them off the surface. Lopez also suggests concealing utility boxes like AC units with strategic fencing or landscaping.
When editing photos, digital stager Vivian Chu recommends a critical eye for clutter. Chu says, "I zoom in on all visible windows and peek under things like benches. You"d be surprised what ends up in the frame!" She clones out piles of shoes visible through a front door sidelight or children"s toys scattered on a porch. Chu also suggests selecting photos taken from flattering angles that hide problem areas.
Color is one of the most powerful tools for creating curb appeal. Carefully selecting a color palette that complements the architecture and surroundings can make a home instantly more appealing. Landscape designer Michelle Lewis explains, "Color elevates a space, sets a mood, and highlights the best features." She shares tips on using color strategically when digitally staging outdoor areas.
Lewis says earthy neutrals like warm grays, taupes and browns are ideal base colors for most properties. These muted shades blend seamlessly with natural elements like stone, wood and greenery. Vibrant accent colors can then make specific details pop. Lewis suggests picking one or two bold hues to use as repeating accent colors. For a Craftsman bungalow, she might choose a rich navy that coordinates with the home"s gray shingles and a cherry red front door.
It"s important accent colors relate to the surroundings. Interior designer Vivian Hall likes tying color to plantings. For a yard with purple hydrangeas, she"ll digitally paint the front door a complementary violet. She says, "Echoing colors already found in the landscape makes the scheme feel cohesive." Tying accent colors to materials found elsewhere on the property also creates unity. If the home has red brick, Hall echoes it with terracotta planters flanking the front walkway.
Lewis advises against too many competing colors. She states, "Stick to three colors max - a neutral base, one main accent, and one minor accent." Vibrant hues on shutters quickly look dated, while colored siding fights with brick and stone. Lewis suggests adding color with elements like potted annuals, painted front doors or colorful yard art. These small hits of color energize a space without overwhelming it.
When altering color, Lewis says to keep changes realistic. Painting a faded gray house bright white rarely scans as authentic. Instead, shift the tone slightly warmer or cooler. Fresh, neutral paint color coordinated to the roof and architectural details will give a subtle boost. Lewis also warns against overly trendy colors. While avocado green might be in now, it can hurt resale value later. Focus on flexible palettes with classic color combinations.
A home's architectural details give it personality and style that catch a buyer's eye. When digitally staging the exterior, it's important to highlight special features that showcase the property's best assets. Architectural designer James Smith explains, "You want to draw attention to any distinctive or historic design elements. These become focal points that define the home"s character."
For Arts and Crafts style houses, Smith spotlights classic craftsman features like exposed beams, overhanging eaves and tapered porch columns. He may digitally enhance dark wood tones or add more defined light and shadow to make details stand out. On a Victorian, Smith highlights the ornamentation. "I like to exaggerate spindles, brackets, relief panels and other trim to play up the opulent architecture." Digitally painting the front door a contrasting vibrant hue also accentuates the home's personality.
Realtor Carla Torres says accentuating architecture gives buyers a better feel for the home"s style. She had a digitizer boost the diamond grid pattern on a mid-century brick ranch to spotlight its retro modern aesthetic. Torres explains, "That striking geometric facade tells buyers this is not your average suburban house." She says while staging interiors is still important, accenting distinctive architecture at the curb leaves an impression.
Landscape designer Martin Davis uses hardscaping to accent architecture. For a home with vertical board and batten siding, he designed a path edged in thin brick pavers spaced precisely the same width apart. Davis says, "Repeating those architectural lines draws the eye straight to the intricately detailed doorway." Pavers in a color complementing the stone or brick on a house also forges a visual connection.
When accenting details, be mindful not to create features that do not exist. Digitizer Vera Chen warns, "You don"t want to misrepresent the home"s actual architecture." She suggests using lighting and other enhancements to spotlight existing details rather than digitally altering or adding architectural elements. Chen says subtlety is key for a natural look, stating "I may give a spire more definition with shadows or make an arched transom window really pop with vivid color behind it."
Strategically drawing the eye to specific areas of an outdoor space helps highlight the best features and guide the viewer"s gaze in a purposeful manner. Landscape designers utilize focal points to create visual interest and emphasize the most appealing parts of a space when digitally staging.
According to landscape architect David Chen, "The human eye naturally looks for a focal point to rest on. Using focal points allows you to control the viewing experience and showcase details you most want noticed."
Chen says one of the simplest but most effective focal points is an entryway. A cleanly framed front door immediately attracts attention. Flanking attractive potted plants or yard art draws the gaze naturally to the welcoming entryway. Chen suggests using focal points to highlight architectural details as well. A textured wall, spiral staircase or arched window placed at axis of a path or view becomes a natural centerpiece.
Bold pops of color also readily attract the eye and make dynamic focal points. Landscape designer James Hayes says, "Vibrant flowers, painted adirondack chairs or even a brightly colored front door capture attention." He likes to digitally add a crimson bench beside towering green hedges to contrast and accentuate both elements.
Hayes explains that focal points work best when utilized sparingly. He states, "Too many competing focal points become chaotic and diminish the effect. I usually incorporate one or two strong focal elements per outdoor space."
Interior designer Anne Taylor agrees. She digitally stages outdoor living areas to highlight the furniture arrangement itself as a focal composition. Taylor says, "The seating area becomes framed like a vignette, with the furnishings, fireplace and greens acting as an artistic still life."
Lighting design also naturally guides the eye. Landscape lighting designer Luis Ramos says uplighting trees or structures creates dramatic focal points at night. He explains, "Shadow and illumination add depth and mystery that pique interest." Ramos suggests placing lighting to showcase architectural details and landscape features from the curb.
Water elements make excellent natural focal points that soothe and spark curiosity. The motion and sound of fountains and ponds draw people in. Landscape architect Martin Zhou digitally added a multi-level water feature as the centerpiece of an empty side yard. He says, "The simple addition of a cascading fountain and koi pond completely transformed the space from boring to beautiful."
Proper lighting design can completely transform an outdoor space, setting a mood that showcases the property in its best light. Landscape lighting designer Alicia Thompson explains, "Outdoor lighting at night needs to invite and excite visitors rather than overwhelm them." She shares key lighting techniques for digitally staging exteriors to create ambiance that wows.
Thompson suggests lighting design should complement the home"s architecture. For a stately colonial, elegant sconces on brick pillars frame the entryway. Small path lighting illuminates a brick walkway without glare. Thompson says, "The goal is to highlight, not overwhelm the facade. Soft, warm lighting enhances classical details."
For a modern or contemporary home, Thompson takes a bolder approach. "I frame the home"s sleek lines with linear lighting that accentuates those strong geometries." Path lighting emits a vibrant glow across smooth concrete. Up-lighting creates dramatic shadows under overhangs. The contemporary vibe comes through sharp and clear.
The lighting design should also match the home"s surrounding environment. Landscape lighting professional Diego Ortiz explains, "You want to set a mood that feels cohesive with the location." For a suburban property, Ortiz suggests classic elegance. Strategic floodlights showcase weeping willows and flower beds, while stone-lined paths glow gently underfoot. The effect is welcoming and timeless.
For rural estates, Ortiz likes mimicking the drama of moonlight. He dims open fields to silhouettes and illuminates soaring trees like natural sculptures. The resulting chiaroscuro effect feels peaceful and secluded. Ortiz says, "The right lighting translates the emotions you want to evoke."
Ortiz and Thompson both caution against over-lighting. Thompson explains, "Too many competing spotlights feel garish and mask natural beauty." Instead, she suggests seven to ten thoughtfully placed lights. Groupings of three work well to usher visitors towards entryways. Thompson says, "Think about lighting like a stage production. A few well-positioned lights set the perfect scene."
Hardscaping elements like patios, walkways and retaining walls can make a dramatic statement while serving practical purposes. Thoughtful hardscaping design showcases a property's best architectural and landscape features. Landscape designer Martin Davis explains, "Hardscaping is like jewelry for a home, accentuating its defining styles and characteristics."
For contemporary style homes, Davis likes using sleek, linear hardscaping to complement the architecture. A straight walkway made from smooth concrete pavers leads the eye directly to the front door. Rectangular patio spaces framed by thin aluminum edging repeat the clean lines found throughout the home. Davis says, "Those bold geometries make a strong contemporary statement."
Home stager Vivian Chen recently transformed a dated backyard by creating a geometric paved patio and fire pit area. The rectangular pavers and angular seating now seamlessly fit the mid-century modern residence. Chen explains, "The crisp lines and simplicity reflect the era and architecture beautifully while creating an inviting entertainment space."
For more traditional homes, classic hardscape materials like brick and stone enhance character. Landscape designer Anne Smith incorporated bluestone steps leading to brick-columned terraces beside an older brick Georgian. Smith says, "The weathered patina of the materials looks like it"s always been there and highlights the home"s historic charm."
Smith also recommends using hardscaping to accentuate architectural details. A curving cobblestone path can draw the eye to a rounded portico porch. Vertical stone walls amplify the strong lines of a Craftsman style home. Precisely placed pavers can frame peaked roof gables or repeating window designs. Smith explains, "Let the lines and shapes of the hardscaping accentuate the most distinctive architectural elements."
Functional hardscape features like walls and fences serve double duty by defining outdoor "rooms" with purpose. Landscape architect Luis Chen incorporated cedar fencing to create intimate yet open dining and conversation areas within a sprawling lawn. The warm, natural wood lines make a welcoming statement. Chen says, "Think about how hardscape elements can delineate activity zones that promote your home"s livability."
Lighting designer Alicia Thompson used accent lighting on stone walls to lead visitors to a home"s entrance. Uplighting creates visual interest on textured materials. Thompson explains, "Illuminated hardscaping sets a mood while enabling it to be part of the exterior"s nighttime allure."
Strategically placed plants and greenery play an integral role in staging outdoor spaces by providing visual interest while softening hard edges. Thoughtfully designed landscapes highlight a property"s natural assets and architecture. Landscape designer Anne Hayes explains that foliage acts like "nature"s jewelry that embellishes the home". From flowers and trees to hedges and grasses, greenery transforms bare lots into welcoming oases brimming with texture, color and life.
When digitally staging, Hayes suggests using plants to draw the eye towards the home"s best features. Flower beds bursting with colorful blooms beckon visitors to the front door. Carefully trimmed hedges march viewers along an entry pathway. Hayes says "strategic greenery acts like a frame, spotlighting the most appealing parts of a home and yard." She recently used billowing grasses to accentuate the sweeping curves of a contemporary home"s architecture. The wispy greenery softened the sleek lines while calling attention to the home"s fluid design.
Interior designer David Chen incorporates greenery to create outdoor "rooms" for entertaining and relaxation. Lush borders of lilacs and lilies form intimate yet open dining spaces. Lower hedges divide seating areas on patios. Chen explains "plants enable you to define different functional zones while maintaining an airy, seamless feel." Trees also help delineate spaces. Chen clustered yellow river birches around a firepit to distinguish the lounging area. The golden fall foliage will add seasonal drama.
Chen ensures plant choices compliment the architecture and design style. For a modern home, he opts for structural succulents and graphic grasses that echo the sleek lines. Hedges are trimmed cleanly. At a historic colonial, Chen incorporated traditional English boxwoods and rose bushes. He says "using period-appropriate plants enhances the historic character."
When selecting greenery, Chen also considers year-round impact. Evergreens like spruce and pines maintain their luster in winter. Fruit trees provide blossoms in spring and lush greenery through summer. Shrubs like blue hollies brighten the property with red winter berries. Chen includes a mix of deciduous and evergreen plantings to ensure lasting appeal.
Realtor Michelle Lopez highlights curb appeal when digitally staging. She says "the right plants make a great first impression." Lopez avoids blocking the entrance or obstructing views of the home"s facade. Lower foundation plants and carefully pruned bushes showcase the architecture. Window boxes and vibrant potted plants flanking the front door pop against neutral walls. The bold foliage draws visitors straight to the entrance. Lopez states "greenery must highlight, not hide, the home"s standout qualities."