Why street appeal still matters to buyers in an online market | Kanebridge News
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Why street appeal still matters to buyers in an online market

With the spring season in full swing and clearance rates stalling, street appeal is more relevant than ever

By Robyn Willis
Mon, Nov 21, 2022 9:30amGrey Clock 4 min

W e’ve all done it. A quiet night in front of the TV spent scrolling property in dream locations has replaced peering into the shop windows of real estate agents while visiting your favourite holiday destination.

For dedicated property hunters, the next step is a drive by the ‘open for inspection’ to check out what the property had to offer. But in an increasingly virtual market where online purchases have become more common among interstate and overseas buyers, it’s worth questioning whether street appeal is becoming less important.

Not so, says John McGrath, managing director and CEO of McGrath Real Estate.

“Kerbside or street appeal is still alive and well,” McGrath says. “First impressions are most important, whether it be in the real or virtual world. People are time poor and often don’t have the time available to sort through multiple images so they will exclude properties based on the hero image – which is often the facade.”

Presenting the front of your property to its best advantage, even if you have to spend a few thousand dollars, will be money well spent to draw in more potential buyers, either in the virtual world or in real life. And more buyers means more competition on auction day. Putting out the welcome mat is essential.

“All timber work should be sparkling, and planting and greenery should give instant appeal,” McGrath says. “It goes without saying that any defects such as leaking downspouts or squeaky gates should also be fixed for the eventual inspections that should be generated from online buyers. 

“I’ve found that a few thousand dollars invested in the front of the property can add 10 times that amount through attracting buyers to explore the home further.”

Even the smallest detail shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Things such as making it easy to find the street number can be a small but important detail,” he says.

Matt Cantwell, creative director of landscape design and architecture firm Secret Gardens, says the front garden and facade is the first hint to buyers of what’s inside.

“Structural details like letterboxes and intercoms can offer clues to the style of the house internally,” he says. “You might have an old semi with a modern letterbox out the front and it will tell you a bit about what you will experience once you get inside.”

Landscaping, or updating exterior structures such as fencing can be a particularly useful tool for vendors looking to refresh their property without doing a major 

renovation, as a way of inviting potential buyers to look closer.

“Definitely with that larger scale planting, the trees and hedges perform a few functions,” Cantwell says. “They are framing the view to the house and making sure your eye doesn’t wander to the house on either side. 

“Providing that scale against the house is a vital part of presenting the architecture to its best. It can also be about obliterating unsightly angles or views.”

As a general rule, Cantwell says it’s often a case of providing balance between providing a sense of openness with carefully placed trees and shrubs, while still maintaining interest, or even creating ‘wow’ factor for buyers.

“Most people like the front of the house to feel a bit open,” he says. “With the front boundary line, it’s the detailing of structures like the fencing, walling and gates that people notice. They are important opportunities to pick up on details of the house.”

General manager international marketing at Brickworks, Brett Ward, says judging by the amount of time most first time homebuilders spend on choosing exterior bricks for their facade, street appeal still figures prominently for many, whether they’re selling or not.

“It’s as popular as it has ever been,” he says. “Building a new home is about creating your individual identity and giving you control over how it will look. Our clients are looking for guidance and advice on making their homes individual and how to mix and match materials on a project to make it look stylish.”

Just as interior finishes go in and out of fashion, it’s the same for facades, says Ward. He says lighter colours continue to prove popular, with harmonising colours added for more depth.

“Clients might use a white or light cream for the front of the house and then a slightly darker cream for the portico to make it pop without too much contrast,” he says. “There’s a lot more terracotta coming through with the architectural projects.”

If in doubt, he says commercial projects can provide inspiration for residential facades. 

“The recently completed Quay Quarters site uses all three of the most popular colours we’re seeing and now that’s translating into residential design,” he says.

For those with older properties, property partner at The Agency, Tracy Tian Belcher, says vendors need to keep in mind who – or what – they are competing with.

“Clients might think because their property is close to the water that people will automatically be interested, but they are competing with much newer properties,” Belcher says. She says others can be reluctant to spend money on the front of a property they are just about to part with. However, she says it’s seldom money wasted.

“We always tell clients to put time and effort into the front garden,” Belcher says. “But it’s very difficult to convince people to spend money before they sell. In my experience though, you spend $1 and you get $2 back – at least.”

With an ongoing trade shortage expected, she says buyers are showing more interest in properties that are move-in ready.

“If you do the hard yards, people will pay for it,” she says. “ And they are going to budget more money than they should be when they make an offer.” 


For more stories like this, order a copy of the launch edition of Kanebridge Quarterly here


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Capri Coffer socks away $600 a month to help fund her travels. The Atlanta health-insurance account executive and her husband couldn’t justify a family vacation to the Dominican Republic this summer, though, given what she calls “astronomical” plane ticket prices of $800 each.

The price was too high for younger family members, even with Coffer defraying some of the costs.

Instead, the family of six will pile into a rented minivan come August and drive to Hilton Head Island, S.C., where Coffer booked a beach house for $650 a night. Her budget excluding food for the two-night trip is about $1,600, compared with the $6,000 price she was quoted for a three-night trip to Punta Cana.

“That way, everyone can still be together and we can still have that family time,” she says.

With hotel prices and airfares stubbornly high as the 2023 travel rush continues—and overall inflation squeezing household budgets—this summer is shaping up as the season of travel trade-offs for many of us.

Average daily hotel rates in the top 25 U.S. markets topped $180 year-to-date through April, increasing 9.9% from a year ago and 15.6% from 2019, according to hospitality-data firm STR.

Online travel sites report more steep increases for summer ticket prices, with Kayak pegging the increase at 35% based on traveler searches. (Perhaps there is no more solid evidence of higher ticket prices than airline executives’ repeated gushing about strong demand, which gives them pricing power.)

The high prices and economic concerns don’t mean we’ll all be bunking in hostels and flying Spirit Airlines with no luggage. Travellers who aren’t going all-out are compromising in a variety of ways to keep the summer vacation tradition alive, travel agents and analysts say.

“They’re still out there and traveling despite some pretty real economic headwinds,” says Mike Daher, Deloitte’s U.S. transportation, hospitality and services leader. “They’re just being more creative in how they spend their limited dollars.”

For some, that means a cheaper hotel. Hotels.com says global search interest in three-star hotels is up more than 20% globally. Booking app HotelTonight says nearly one in three bookings in the first quarter were for “basic” hotels, compared with 27% in the same period in 2019.

For other travellers, the trade-offs include a shorter trip, a different destination, passing on premium seat upgrades on full-service airlines or switching to no-frills airlines. Budget-airline executives have said on earnings calls that they see evidence of travellers trading down.

Deloitte’s 2023 summer travel survey, released Tuesday, found that average spending on “marquee” trips this year is expected to decline to $2,930 from $3,320 a year ago. Tighter budgets are a factor, he says.

Too much demand

Wendy Marley is no economics teacher, but says she’s spent a lot of time this year refreshing clients on the basics of supply and demand.

The AAA travel adviser, who works in the Boston area, says the lesson comes up every time a traveler with a set budget requests help planning a dreamy summer vacation in Europe.

“They’re just having complete sticker shock,” she says.

Marley has become a pro at Plan B destinations for this summer.

For one client celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary with a budget of $10,000 to $12,000 for a five-star June trip, she switched their attention from the pricey French Riviera or Amalfi Coast to a luxury resort on the Caribbean island of St. Barts.

To Yellowstone fans dismayed at ticket prices into Jackson, Wyo., and three-star lodges going for six-star prices, she recommends other national parks within driving distance of Massachusetts, including Acadia National Park in Maine.

For clients who love the all-inclusive nature of cruising but don’t want to shell out for plane tickets to Florida, she’s been booking cruises out of New York and New Jersey.

Not all of Marley’s clients are tweaking their plans this summer.

Michael McParland, a 78-year-old consultant in Needham, Mass., and his wife are treating their family to a luxury three-week Ireland getaway. They are flying business class on Aer Lingus and touring with Adventures by Disney. They initially booked the trip for 2020, so nothing was going to stand in the way this year.

McParland is most excited to take his teen grandsons up the mountain in Northern Ireland where his father tended sheep.

“We decided a number of years ago to give our grandsons memories,” he says. “Money is money. They don’t remember you for that.”

Fare first, then destination

Chima Enwere, a 28-year old piano teacher in Fayetteville, N.C., is also headed to the U.K., but not by design.

Enwere, who fell in love with Europe on trips the past few years, let airline ticket prices dictate his destination this summer to save money.

He was having a hard time finding reasonable flights out of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., so he asked for ideas in a Facebook travel group. One traveler found a round-trip flight on Delta to Scotland for $900 in late July with reasonable connections.

He was budgeting $1,500 for the entire trip—he stays in hostels to save money—but says he will have to spend more given the pricier-than-expected plane ticket.

“I saw that it was less than four digits and I just immediately booked it without even asking questions,” he says.


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