Curb appeal is the name of the game in resale and homeowner satisfaction. Even our colleagues building hotels or retail centers will always say, “Put the money up front.” Just as the lobby is the most impressive room in a hotel, the street front of the house is the introduction to what lies beyond.

Everyone knows of “plain-Jane” homes that have the right amenities and are in good neighborhoods but which seem to sit on the market for too long. They just don’t impress. Perhaps because there’s no sex appeal to make a buyer latch onto this beauty. If a home is going to be remodeled, the front should at least hint at the great personality within.

The entrance is of primary concern. It should offer shelter and welcome while immediately drawing the eye to the front door. Consider emphasizing the entry with a porch or deck, which adds character and distinction to a house and can provide a useful living area at a fraction of the cost of a fully heated interior room. Why add another drywall box to a house when it may need a different type of space altogether — one that takes advantage of good weather and provides a quick face-lift as well.

Here Comes the Neighborhood
Illustrations: Dick Kawalek

When it comes to investment in a home, remember that not everyone will see that great master bath or family room added to the back of the house. But any improvement to the front of the house is an upgrade to the whole neighborhood — the streetscape benefits and the community itself appears to be on the upswing.

If a house is old enough to need a total remodel, the front has to change also. There’s no point hiding such a major commitment behind the old façade. Nothing can disguise the age of a structure more than having a new face-lift to help conceal the design clichés of the past. Simple things such as entry canopies, shutters, window boxes, bay windows, or trellises can add immeasurable value to a home’s appeal.

Check local codes to make sure that the proposed frontal additions are allowed. Many communities permit steps or stoops within the designated front yard setback. Even bay window projections and porches are sometimes allowed forward of the setback line, but most of these are governed by municipal ordinances. Variances are also not out of the question when the addition is an obvious improvement. Don’t forget the importance of landscaping. Make it part of the remodeling project by teaming up with a landscaper. Landscaping often creates the best front enhancement to a home remodeling project.

Above all, remember that putting the effort up front is neither vanity nor cosmetic indulgence. It’s a matter of prudence, for both the eventual resale, and the everyday pride that comes with driving up to a more distinguished façade. Considering the amount of time, effort, and capital involved in a large remodeling project, it’s the front appearance that provides the most visible and dramatic return on the investment.

—Dick Kawalek, a registered architect for more than 30 years, is founder of Kawalek Architects, in Cleveland;