Simple tips for adding curb appeal to fill vacancies

Jim Gallant
Jim Gallant | 5 min. read
Get the latest industry insights.

Published on May 14, 2015

Whether you’re looking to fill spring vacancies or make a sale, sprucing up building exteriors and outdoor common areas can make your property a real catch—instead of one that’s tossed back into the river.

To find out how to add curb appeal to properties without putting a dent in your bank account, we asked for advice from four management pros, including one who has transformed distressed apartment complexes into hot properties.

Advice from Brian Davis

Vice President of EZ Landlord Forms

Brian Davis Profile

Did you know that we make subconscious decisions about whether we like people within seven seconds of meeting them? The same happens when people shop for homes, which is why curb appeal is so important. Here are my ideas for adding curb appeal:

  • Make sure landscaping is well-groomed, with cut lawns and trimmed bushes. Unkempt landscaping begs the question, “What else hasn’t been maintained properly?”
  • Potted plants go a long way in adding an upscale, welcoming feel. Particularly in urban areas, where concrete abounds, colorful potted plants make the property stand out. The plants don’t have to be rare orchids that need massaging by moonlight. Instead, think about hardy plants that don’t need much water so you don’t spend too much time caring for them.
  • Exterior paint shouldn’t show any signs of flaking or rust, including on the railings and trim. Repaint anything that needs it, and if you have to repaint anyway, consider bright accents that further make the property stand out, especially in urban areas where neighboring buildings are concrete. It could be a red door, or trim around the windows in the local NFL team’s color—but pause to consider ways to make your property pop.

Advice from Chris Keivit

Senior Property Manager at Nightingale Chancellors


Serving as the property manager of (mostly distressed) apartment complexes, adding curb appeal is vitally important in attracting new residents and retaining existing ones. The obvious improvements include planting flowers, painting building exteriors, and ensuring that trash is picked up around the grounds.

But here are a few less obvious projects that can make a difference:

  • Properly mark parking spaces. Do the lines and markings easily identify which spaces are for “future residents,” for instance?
  • Ensure the curb paint is in good condition. Are “no parking” areas marked in yellow and fire zones clearly in red? Are all ramps and steps clearly marked? Doing so indicates management is concerned about tenant and guest safety.
  • Make the leasing office welcoming. Consider offering hot cookies, fresh from the oven. If that isn’t possible, think about cookie- or apple pie-scented air fresheners throughout the office.

Advice from Craig Garrow

Principal at Supreme Property Management Plus

Craig Garrow headshot

Curb appeal is the silent maker or deal breaker that gives customers the “wow” factor—or completely turns them off. Here are my three quick ideas to enhance the curb appeal of your property without breaking the bank:

  • Touch up paint. No need to go overboard here, but paint fades over time, and even just touching up the trim around the house with some fresh paint can make it pop.
  • Keep a well-maintained lawn. Elbow grease and time. That’s all you really need. Rake your lawn well after the winter thaw, and keep the grass mowed nicely to make a great impression.
  • Plant flowers. A little goes a long way here. Visit your local Walmart or Home Depot and pick up flowers, mulch, and decorative stones. With some time and a little creativity, you can revitalize the look of your property without spending hundreds of dollars (or more!) on a professional landscaper.

Advice from Justyn MacFarland

Owner of Sand Dune Properties


Here are my tips for brightening up properties for prospects:

  • A freshly cut lawn is key to improving curb appeal. Additionally, check for proper functioning of the lawn sprinkler systems and set them for regular watering to ensure well-manicured yards and common areas.
  • Trim overgrown bushes or trees near and around the perimeter of the property and remove dead plants, trees, and weeds.
  • Replenish mulch or pine straws in planter beds.
  • Power-wash discolored or dirty home exteriors, including fences, curbs, and driveways.
  • Remove leaves or other debris from the rooftop and gutters for optimal aesthetics and function.

These are some of the least expensive ways to spruce up the exterior. If you have more funds, redesign hardscapes (streets, sidewalks, walls, decorative statues, etc.), add new plants and trees, and repaint exteriors. All of these approaches go a long way.

Have tips of your own for adding curb appeal on a budget? Please leave your comments below.

Read more on Maintenance & Improvements
Jim Gallant

Jim Galant is a freelance writer from Boston, MA.

Trending Stories For You
Accounting & Taxes 10 property management bookkeeping basics
Since one of the core responsibilities of a property manager is to manage an owner's assets, income, and expenses, you’re constantly dealing with accounting whether…
Laurie Mega
| 7 min. read
Accounting & Taxes How does a 1031 exchange work? What property managers should know
More and more property managers are finding their clientele shifting from accidental landlords to strategically minded rental real estate investors. And they're relying on the…
Amanda Maher
| 5 min. read
Maintenance & Improvements Multi-family winterization checklist: 18 steps to take ASAP
For most of the country, winter is at our doorstep—and as with winters past, it could bring billions of dollars in property damage nationwide. Between…
Jason Van Steenwyk
| 7 min. read

Be a more productive
property manager