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I first heard that truism more than 30 years ago, and home builders, real estate agents, and home buyers agree, it’s still true today. When looking to purchase a home, buyers often use the home’s exterior – and specifically its curb appeal – when deciding whether to consider that home further.

Style is perhaps the most obvious aspect. The three homes pictured below all share the same floor plan inside, but the different exteriors present their own unique appeals and cost-drivers.

Portsmouth - #8638 Elevation

The Portsmouth (plan #8638) may be referred to as “Traditional,” “Farmhouse,” or even “Craftsman.” It offers the simplest and likely least expensive rooflines, exterior siding, trim, and windows, but the covered front porch adds expense.

Woodworth - #8639 Elevation

The Woodsworth (plan #8639) exemplifies French Country styling and while it eliminates the cost of a front porch, its stucco exterior and sophisticated rooflines are pricey. Artistic touches such as the window brackets and shutters, the eyebrow louver dormer set into the roof, and the arched window in the front office add to the home’s price as well.

Collinswood - #8640 Elevation

The Collinswood (plan #8640) is a Craftsman-inspired elevation with a less expensive hip roof due to the lower pitches (slope of the roof) but there are wider overhangs. The home’s shake shingle siding, while a bit more than standard horizontal siding, is considerably less expensive than stucco. Still, the detailed windows and front porch with tapered columns add expense.

Rules of thumb regarding exteriors and new home costs. 

Rooflines. Gable roofs are usually less expensive than hips; complex roofs with multiple breaks add cost, and the steeper the roof, the more expensive it will be. Siding materials. Traditional siding is typically the least expensive, whereas masonry materials such as brick, stone, or stucco cost more. Windows and doors. Using standard sizes, configurations, and materials will save money, whereas more sophisticated design windows and trim details add cost. Porches and outdoor living spaces (front and rear). Such amenities add to the home’s appeal and to its price. 

Teglia Farm - #42482

The Teglia Farm’s (plan #42482) detailed elevation makes it stand apart. Board and batten siding, bracketed shed roofs over the garage door and front window, stone accents on either side of the garage door, and glass in the front and garage doors add to its appeal. But those charming details add cost. What would the home look like without those details? 

42481 Teglia Place

The Teglia Place (plan #42481) focuses on affordability – it has the same floor plan and the same basic exterior for thousands of dollars less. Still, consider resale value. The features that may attract you to the Teglia Farm over the Teglia Place would likely attract future buyers as well who are willing to also pay a premium for the home’s visual appeal. In a Design Basics’ April 2020 Facebook poll, 73% of the participants preferred the Teglia Farm over the Teglia Place.

Most people’s eyes go to the shed dormer above the garage, cedar shake siding in the reverse gable, and tapered porch columns atop stone bases when looking at the Keyser Springs (plan #35124). Would this home have the same appeal without those features? The Keyser Farm (plan #35123) shares the same floor plan and basic elevation, without the expense of the shed dormer over the garage or costly porch columns. But again, details matter, even if they add to the expense. With its pricier design details, the Keyser Springs home plan still outsells the Keyser Farm.

Keyser Springs - #35124

Keyser Springs

Keyser Farm - #35123

Keyser Farm

Garages.

Finally, garages can be another significant cost driver. The preceding homes all feature a standard 2-car garage that enters from the front. About the only difference there is the varying prices of the garage door styles. 

But some neighborhoods prohibit (and some buyers prefer to not have) garage doors facing the street. Having the garage enter from the side increases the home’s price due to having to add visually interesting elements where the garage door would have been facing the street. Compared to the front load garage Cedar Glen II (plan #42229), the Cedar Farm (plan #42385) has additional windows and shutters where the Cedar Glen II’s garage door was located. And, entering from the side requires a longer, more expensive driveway, unless you happen to have a corner lot.

#42229 Cedar Glen II

Cedar Glen II

#42385W Cedar Farm

Cedar Farm

Style…rooflines…siding materials…windows and doors…porches…details…garages…balancing these and other factors to achieve the look you want at the right price is one of design’s many roles. Another is the floor plans themselves, which we will look at next time.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

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