Curb Appeal Standards Are Changing. Here’s How.

Let’s face it: Nice signage and perfect hedges don’t cut it anymore. Then there’s online.

The aesthetic allure of a rental building and grounds can make all the difference. Properties with curb appeal can elevate the perception not only of the asset but also the neighborhood and the brand or owner at large. Curb appeal shows a property is well-cared for and inviting, and, hopefully, increases its desirability and perceived value.

Curb appeal today, however, means more than flowers and choosing a homier font for signage or branding. At many buildings, the concept has been expanded to include lighting, sculptures, art and even Google reviews. Here are some of the best new—as well as time-tested—ways to create visual appeal and make the right first impression.

Keeping the grounds clean, well water and picked up is essential to good curb appeal. Versailles at the Lake in Schaumburg, Illi., does just that. Image courtesy of RMK Management Corporation

Keeping the grounds clean, well watered and picked up is essential to good curb appeal. Versailles at the Lake in Schaumburg, Ill., does just that. Image courtesy of RMK Management Corp.

Digital curb appeal

Most experts agree there are two main types of curb appeal. One is what residents, prospects and investors see when they visit the physical site. The other is your online presence. While some managers and marketers debate which is more important, there a growing consensus that the two reflect and complement each other.

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“It’s critical that your in-person curb appeal aligns with the expectations you have established online,”

Some of the most important elements of digital curb appeal, according to Libby Ekre, IREM’s 2023 president-elect, are ratings, high resolution images and quality floorplans.

“Digital curb appeal is probably the most important first impression,” said Ekre. “It’s everything now. It’s the first look at you and your website, and it is when residents decide if they want to come and visit you.”

Images of amenities and shared common spaces (fitness center, pool, coworking areas and outdoor green space) and easy-to-read floorplans frequently do well in attracting potential residents. People want to envision what their lives would be like in the community. Easily readable floorplans help residents imagine where they would put their furniture, favorite painting, or dog’s bed.

To truly allow all prospects to have a glimpse at what life would look like, however, digital curb appeal must be inclusive, Ekre said: “For so many reasons, we’re making sure that there are photos of all people. You have to see yourself in the property.”

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Everything about digital curb appeal should make future and current residents’ lives easier. Ekre said they should know what their future home looks like, how to get there and who to call with questions. Different digital applications can be used to allow people to use their phones to access everything they need to know about the site, even including leasing tours.

“It’s up to the customer how they want to experience it,” said Ekre. Doing what makes the customer feel most comfortable is the first step in showing them the comfort they could find should they choose to call that community ‘home’.

“First impressions start the relationship and set the tone of the beginning of a great relationship,” said Ekre. “Once that vision is set in someone’s mind it will be hard to overcome that impression.”

To put together a community’s digital allure, however, you must first have a tangible curb appeal worthy enough of photographing. “Prospects are not fooled by website photos, and they may drive by the community or ask friends to drive by to confirm how a property really looks,” said Diana Pittro, executive vice president of RMK Management Corp.

Integrating art

The Anthem House mural, located in Baltimore. Image courtesy of Bozzuto

The Anthem House mural, located in Baltimore. Image courtesy of Bozzuto

The first on-site impression is crucial. If the drive-up or walk-up raise eyebrows, second chances can be out of the question. One way to prevent that is through art.

“As social media continues to play a major role in how we market our multifamily communities, it’s important to remember to create instagrammable spaces,” said Luanne McNulty, vice president of ZRS Management. “The use of murals has become very popular in multifamily communities as well as themed topiaries etc.”

Tess Guinn, vice president at Bozzuto Development, told MHN that one of the firm’s favorite ways to bring vibrancy to a project and its front door is with art.

At Anthem House in Baltimore, Bozzuto hired a local artist to create a mural on a large retaining wall. The mural, situated on a highly trafficked road, features prominent Baltimore figures.

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“We took the opportunity to help explain the brand of the project, introduce it at that location and bring some life to that section of the city,” said Guinn. “We took something that initially wasn’t too architecturally pleasing and created something beautiful out of it.”

Bozzuto completed something similar at The Aster, where two local artists painted a vibrant, abstract mural on the underside of a glass-enclosed amenity bridge connecting two buildings.

“We loved the fact that that was an opportunity for the personality of the project to spill out,” Guinn explained. “Before you even stepped foot in that project, you already had a sense of what the aesthetic was going to be.”

Impactful moments at a community can naturally create organic marketing and branding. “In this day and time, excellent curb appeal in a lot of cases translates to an instagrammable moment,” said McNulty. “If it’s appealing enough, then your prospect will take a photo, post it and tag your property. Win, win.”

People walking under the painted amenity bridge featured on The Aster. The mural was painted by a local artist. Image courtesy of Bozzuto

People walking under the painted amenity bridge featured on The Aster. The mural was painted by a local artist. Image courtesy of Bozzuto

It’s the little things

Curb appeal does not always have to be as grandiose as a magnificent mural may be, experts say. Sometimes the little things can go the distance, but they must be well-executed. Smaller touches can include:

  • Clean, branded door mats.
  • A signature brand scent. Many brands have created a signature or seasonal scent implemented across all communities. At every property, the same candles are constantly burning, creating a lasting impression across a variety of locations as well as utilizing more senses than just sight.
  • Backlit signs. Residents don’t always tour apartments during the day or in ideal weather. Make sure your signs can be read at any hour and in the bleakest of stormy days.
  • Painted curbs. Of course, curbs count as curb appeal.
  • Fresh flowers, not just around the grounds, but in the office and front desk areas.
  • A cohesive color theme.

“The most effective curb appeal idea or tactic is setting the standard high, consistency and teamwork,” said McNulty. “It takes everyone on the team focused on delivering the very best curb appeal. As the old saying goes, you have one chance to make a first impression.”

Read the March 2023 issue of MHN.

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