People fall in love with a house from the outside in. That's why curb appeal is so important. It's also where a building materials supplier can play a major role in helping its builder and remodeler clients succeed. That happens by creating strong relationships with manufacturers and helping builders find the most cost-effective ways to achieve the appealing exterior that will get buyers to stop and look at a house.

Ann Arbor, Mich., building products industry consultant Mark Johnson notes that roof texture and window pane details, as well as siding style and shadow lines, begin to stand out at about 50 yards away from the house—or as a prospective buyer is driving down the street toward the house. At 25 yards, trim details and door color become visible. From the curbside, door details and exterior lighting fixtures yards can be seen. "It's a richer experience the closer you get to it," he says.

James W. Wentling, founder of Philadelphia-based James Wentling/Architects, says that the top method for improving curb appeal is to remove the garage from the front elevation completely. But that's not always possible or practical. When it's not, Atlanta-area active adult builder Windsong Properties pulls the garage back behind the front door, managing partner Steve Romeyn says. To dress up the garage and make it less obtrusive, he incorporates architectural features such as pediments and gables above the doors "that draw your eyes up instead of to the door."

Architectural shingles are another important product choice for curb appeal to Windsong. That's because nearly all of the houses it sells are 1 or 1 1/2 stories. Edward Andrews Homes in Marietta, Ga., takes an interesting approach to improving garage appearance; when it has a plan with a three-car garage, a metal roof and a cupola often are added to that space. They also add extra trim color detail and dress up driveways with brick aprons and landscaping beds.

"Everybody has to have a driveway and a garage," says Andy DiMarzio, vice president of sales and marketing for Edward Andrews Homes. Bob Borson, an architect with Dallas-based Bernbaum-Magadini Architects, says that he pays special attention to the experience that people have getting from their car to the house. Sidewalks from the driveway to the entry "aren't just a three-foot wide strip of concrete 20 feet from the curb to the porch," Borson says. "They're wider and broken up with a palette change." Sometimes, that plays out by interspersing concrete sections with stone or brick pavers for a texture change or just letting grass grown in between sections. "It's a really simple technique," he says. "You have to do the formwork anyway." Borson likes to create a sense of arrival and welcome to his houses by incorporating a type of courtyard, often with a low wall to define the space. It's another take on the front porch, an architectural feature that is high on the wish lists of most of today's buyers.

At Windsong Properties' homes, porch floors are concrete, brick pavers or stone, depending on the budget. Support columns may be square, round or tapered with stone or brick bases; the material for the column itself generally is recycled material or PVC. "In our business, we want a very low-maintenance product," he says. The tops of the columns often feature brackets. "Those add a lot of character without a lot of additional expense," he says. Windows and doors are the final two essential architectural elements of curb appeal. Romeyn notes that it is simple to dress up windows, both with the style of window itself and the features around it, including different types of pediments and shutters. The front door often is the first feature of a house that a prospective buyer actually touches. Borson says he is a fan of oversized doors—3 to 4 feet—that are wood and warm to the touch. "The door knob is not the star," he says. "The door itself is the star."

Exterior colors are trending toward lighter tones, DiMarzio notes, so Edward Andrews Homes uses a mahogany-stained door to create a strong focal point. They add planters to either side of the front door and paint the shutters green or blue to add a pop of color. Any one of these elements by itself may not make much of an impact, but they add up when they're combined. "People tend to notice things that are slightly different from the norm," Borson says. "From the car to the house, they may not be aware of all the layers we put into place, but they'll notice one or two of them. I'm amazed how often people will say, 'I like this.' When you ask why they like it, they'll say they don't know why. It just feels right." That's curb appeal.

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