Chapter 3: Exterior Renovation

While interior renovations are critical, because this is where a property sees the most use, it’s important to remember the exterior as well. According to David Sciamarelli, vice president of MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, the highest value property renovations an owner can do include, “modernizing/updating the exterior of the building and the common area fixtures.”

Now that we’ve spent a bit of time discussing interior renovations, let’s shift our focus to the exterior of your building.

Why Should You Renovate the Exterior of Your Building?

The exterior of your building is crucial when it comes to creating first impressions. People make snap judgments all the time — about people, companies and, of course, buildings.

Even before most people set foot in your building, they will already have formed an impression of what the inside will be like, and of what kind of business you are. Maybe their impression is right and maybe it’s wrong, but they’ve still formed it. As the building owner, it’s your job to make sure this impression is a good one.

When someone sees the outside of your building, they will automatically assume the interior reflects the exterior. If the outside is clean and well-designed, with a well-groomed lawn and a nicely paved parking lot, they will assume you’re a business that knows what it’s doing. On the other hand, if your paint is peeling and the parking lot is full of potholes, they will form a less favorable opinion.

If the exterior of your building looks run-down, it often doesn’t matter how spectacular the inside is. People will be less likely to visit your building simply because they’ll assume the inside looks outdated and unpleasant. If you want to entice new customers and clients, it’s up to you to present a nice exterior that invites them in.

Your job in renovating the exterior of your building is to make sure they form a positive impression. This means dedicating time, money and energy toward making the exterior of your building look great.

According to the 2018 Remodeling Impact Report, here are the top three projects that produced the highest value in resale for residential homes: Landscaping maintenance, overall landscape upgrade, and standard lawn care service.

Here’s what a few local commercial realtor experts had to say about curb appeal in commercial real estate:

Frank Dillow from Long & Foster: “Commercial is not that much different from residential in this regard.  The curb tends to be the parking area, rather than the street, but the point is the same.  Nothing should look shabby nor ill kept, if paint is peeling, signs are not attractive nor contemporary, or plantings are half dead, or the ground area is barren or weedy, it’s going to detract.  So things need to be neat, attractive, and well maintained.  The commercial market is extremely competitive and the buildings need to present themselves well to be desirable, even if they are industrial or warehouse type buildings that are not always very concerned about their appearance.”

Amy Pelletier from The D’Anthony Group: “Painting and new landscaping/scrubs are cost effective and cleans up the look of the property and is the first thing a buyer notices.”

David Sciamarelli from MacKenzie Commerical Real Estate Services: “Keeping the trees trimmed and changing out flowers on a seasonal/bi-seasonal basis helps make the property ‘pop’ from its curb appeal.  Most owners try to keep the landscaping minimal due to the costs.”

Robin Amato from Real Estate III Commercial Properties: “Paint, landscaping, clean up the property, resurface the parking lot and/or re-stripe the parking spaces, and create outside space for employees.”

Priorities of Exterior Property Renovation

While there are many things you could choose to focus on when you begin your external property renovation, here are some of the most important:

  • Landscaping: This includes everything from the lawn and trees to the patio and raised flower beds. These may seem like finishing touches, but they play a large role in tying your whole property together neatly.
  • Irrigation: Irrigation systems can ensure your lawn and plants get the water they need and look great all year. Automatic systems are water efficient and convenient for you. Irrigation can also include water features.
  • Lighting: Lighting your building’s exterior is sure to get you noticed. If you’re open at night or early in the mornings, exterior lighting is even more important for your clients’ comfort and safety.


“For an older office condo complex, exterior landscaping can go a long way towards making the property more attractive,” said Frank Dillow. “If there are attractive greenscaping and gardens with shade and seating areas where tenants can work outdoors and use the grounds as a meeting area that can be very attractive.”

Designing Outdoor Spaces

Designing outdoor spaces is a bit different from interior spaces. If you’re unsure of how to complete external property renovations, the key is greenery.

This means incorporating grassy spaces, medians with trees or bushes, flowerbeds and more. It includes laying out the sidewalks and parking lots necessary for your building, while still making your clients and customers feel like they’re surrounded by a little bit of nature.

One important thing to realize when it comes to planning outdoor spaces is the distinction between hardscaping and softscaping.

  • Hardscaping: Hardscaping refers to the non-living elements of landscaping. This includes elements such as stone walls, benches, fountains, fences and more.
  • Softscaping: Softscaping refers to the living elements of landscaping. Think of things like grass, trees, shrubbery, flowers and more.


In an ideal scenario, hardscaping and softscaping blend seamlessly together to create maximum curb appeal and property value. They help tie the entire exterior of the building together and create a positive impression on the visitor to your building.

The Benefits of External Property Renovation

When done correctly, exterior property renovations elevate the value of your entire property. Yes, it costs money to complete these renovations, but it will almost always lead to a positive return on investment.

The outside of your building is the first thing people see. You want to make a good impression. You want them to look at your building and think, “Wow! The outside looks amazing! I bet the inside is just as nice.”

A beautiful exterior is a perfect way to tell your visitors you take pride in your property, and you treat it well. It leaves visitors with the impression that you care about them and will treat them just as well.


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