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Up Your Home's Curb Appeal Without Upping Your Budget

Have you ever been driving around and noticed a house that really catches your eye? What was it about that house that drew you to it? Was it the colors of the house, trim, and shutters? Or maybe it is the newly painted door and the cute, decorative wreathing hanging next to it. Could be the inviting shade, trimmed shrubs, and the freshly mown grass? When we talk about how pleasing or charming a house is, we are talking about its curb appeal.

Up Your Home's Curb Appeal Without Upping Your Budget

So what does curb appeal mean, exactly? Think of it as what a person sees if they stop on the street in front of your house, starting at the sidewalk and going up to the front door. What do they see? I think it's safe to say that you are going to want people to see a house that appears cared for, clean, and neat looking. What they don't need to know is that your beautifully cared for house was done with a budget in mind. 

You will grab the most attention for clean lines and neutral colors. Not neutral colors like the ones hanging in your closet (can you imagine an all black exterior? Yikes!), but the greens and greys of the plant world. Save the wildflower garden and large flower beds for the backyard.

Not that flowers of all sizes growing riotously in a tumble of colors aren’t beautiful, of course they are; blooms bring a smile to our faces. But, flowers growing in a carefree eye-catching mix instead of a carefree eye-catching mess takes work (and lots of it). Work as in maintenance; weeding, watering, transplanting, dividing plants, removing old flower heads (deadheading), and weeding. Yes, weeding was already mentioned but, time-consuming weeding deserves to be mentioned at least twice.

Do not rush to the garden store

With the spring and summer months, comes lots of pretty blooming plants and shrubs. It makes some of us go crazy wanting to stop in at every home improvement store and nursery that we pass, looking for plants to add to our collection. Resist the temptation to buy everything in sight, it will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. 

The first thing you should do is clean up what you already have. Trim the bushes, prune your plants, and clean up the edge of your driveway and walkway. That alone will make everything look so much better. Mulch is next, and don't skimp with it. Depending on the amount of space you need to cover, you may be better off ordering a half or full pallet of mulch. It is better than filling your trunk with six bags and realizing you need nine more bags. Chances are, if you mis-estimate once, you'll do it again. You'll be making multiple trips back and forth from the store cursing yourself knowing that you should have ordered that pallet to save yourself some time and money!

Spread the mulch around covering any bare ground and under bushes. Aim for a layer two to three inches thick. Deep mulch helps control weeds and reduces the need for watering. After you have spent all weekend landscaping, take your sore body down to the curb and look back at your house. All of your hard work should have paid off and made a huge difference. The best part? The whole thing should only cost you about $100-$250. What an easy way to improve your home's curb appeal while still staying on budget.

While you are admiring your handiwork notice what else does or does not stand out. How does the front door look? Does it look dirty or is it missing paint? Maybe the door blends in and doesn’t stand out at all. These things are easily changed and add significant value to your home's curb appeal. If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association check to see if you can change your door color without committee approval first.

Front Door or First Impression

If you are in an older home and the front door is wood, treating that finish or refinishing will take a little extra work. For things to consider and recommendations on how to refinish it, take a look at Better Homes and Gardens' article. If you have a steel door, all you need is a couple of days of good weather. Paint will spruce up the door, improve your curb appeal, and will be a fun pop of color for your home. Plus there are so many colors for you to choose from. The DIY Network put together a list of popular door colors to help get you started.  The hardest part of redoing your front door is the brush strokes. This guide from a blogger who has recently redone her front door should help make it easier for you. 

With a front door that looks like new, one or two other finishing touches will help transform the area. Consider a wreath or other seasonal display. Wreaths don’t always have to hang directly on the door, off to the side looks great too. If wreaths aren’t your thing look at new hardware for the door. A new entry door knob, kickplate, or even a knocker are ways to dress up the door and add some personality. 

Now that a couple of weekends have passed and just as many projects have been done; we are sending you back to the curb. Look at your place now! Hopefully you are feeling more satisfied with the way your home is looking.


Remember that weekend when you were spreading mulch? Did you wish that you had a tree or two to help escape from the sun? Trees are an important part of any house. As they mature the shade will help lower cooling costs for your house, and give you something to relax under during the hot summer days. Depending on location they may also help provide a rain and wind break at the door. Mature trees add value to the resale of a home and also help increase its curb appeal. .

Some things to remember when buying a tree include the growing zone. Bozeman and Helena are both zone 4B while Butte ranges from 3B-4B. Be sure your choice will survive the winters. Also think about mature tree size, you don't want your trees overtaking your front yard, large branches hitting your house, or the roots breaking up the sidewalk. Talk to the person at the nursery, they should have some good recommendations on what will be best for your needs.

If the tree drops fruit or berries stop and think about having berries smashed on the sidewalk or drive. Not only will they need to be cleaned up but they will be tracked inside. The lovely service-berry tree is a good option, if you are looking for a fruit bearing tree. It is not overly large, has branching limbs that provide visual interest, pretty spring blooms, and nice yellow fall leaves. The small berries are loved and quickly devoured by the birds. Just avoid planting over walkways and driveways.

If your budget will allow, try to buy more mature trees. That way you will enjoy all of their benefits sooner and you will have to spend less time nurturing the tree to grow to full size. 

What Next

You've done all of the hard work. Everything is mulched and tidied up. A couple of new trees are anchoring the space and the front door invites friends to knock. What finishing touches would you like to see? These decisions will be influenced by your budget. Also, think about the amount of time you want to spend on more improvements now and how much time will be required to maintain them in the future.

New light fixtures will have a big impact. Perhaps they can be repainted instead of totally replaced. You could also add extra lighting to show off your hard work and improve visibility along the walkway by adding solar lights. This can be done at a reasonable price, and can add to the overall curb appeal of your home. 

Take a look at your house numbers. Are they the ordinary ones from the home improvement store? If you are relying on decals slapped on the mailbox; it is just a matter of time before they are peeling. Time to change it up and upgrade those numbers to be more eye-catching. Check out these ideas for easy ways to update your house numbers without breaking your budget.   

Add a simple planter or two. If you decide to have a couple of planters make sure they are large enough to hold bold plants that can be seen from the curb. It only takes one or two well placed planters to have an impact. Remember it is the plants that make the impact, so make sure you pick plants that will have lots of bold colors and have fun with arranging them. Once you decide where you want them make sure to notice whether it is full sun, shade, or something in-between. Not only are they fun to put together, but every time you – the person doing all this work pulls up to your house – it will give you a reason to smile. 

All that is Left

You sure have accomplished a lot this summer and have really increased your home's curb appeal. The only thing left to do is, enjoy it. Sit in your front yard and enjoy the shade of your tree, or simply look out the window once in a while to see who is admiring all of your hard work. No one knows you stuck to a budget. Hope you took before and after pictures to show all of your friends the easy ways that they can improve their curb appeal. 

Need help financing your curb appeal projects? Download our guide to the Home Equity Line of Credit to learn more about your options.

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