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Valuing Curb Appeal

Abstract

We recover the value of curb appeal in residential housing by using photos obtained from Google Street View, a deep learning classification algorithm and a variety of hedonic controls. We show that own property curb appeal is worth about twice that of an across the street neighbor. Together, neighbor and own property curb appeal together may account for up to 7% of a house’s sale price. The curb appeal premium is more pronounced during times of housing market weakness and greater in neighborhoods with high average curb appeal. Results are robust to a variety of spatial controls and curb appeal specifications.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    100 images for every curb appeal category. The classified images, model, labels and python code are publicly available at: https://github.com/erikbjohn/curb_appeal/tree/master/Replication. This will enable replication of training and model creation used in this paper.

  2. 2.

    Importantly, although the web interface allows for time-series selection of photos, the API only returns the most recent photo from the location. In the results section, we show that our results are robust to changes in the photo/sale date time windows. Thus, it appears that curb appeal scores are relatively stationary. This obviates concerns about the most recent photo restriction. This is consistent with the findings of Glaeser et al. (2018).

  3. 3.

    For example, if the assigned probabilities for curb appeal categories 1, 2, 3 and 4 are 0.01, 0.01, 0.03 and 0.95 respectively, then the weighted average curb appeal score is calculated as: 0.01(1) + 0.01(2) + 0.03 (3) + 0.95(4) = 3.92

  4. 4.

    We do not use the interaction of neighborhood and sale year dummies owing to the limited number of observations after applying the filters

  5. 5.

    It could very well be the case that most of the houses were built to be in the mid-curb appeal range with a smaller volume of houses that have the best curb appeal. The houses in the mid-range of curb appeal transform into lower curb appeal houses for a variety of reasons.

  6. 6.

    Due to the annualized data, in the event of a repeated sale within a given year, only the first observation is used and any remaining repeat observation during the year dropped.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Ferdinand Wang and an anonymous referee for their comments. We also thank seminar participants at the DC Real Estate Valuation Conference, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Regional Economics workshop and the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Annual conference for their suggestions.

Author information

Correspondence to Sriram V Villupuram.

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Appendix

Appendix

In sample classification diagnostics

First, we start with the in-sample classifier accuracy by classifying photos used in the teaching sample. We compare the ‘ground-truth’ scores to their highest probability scores with a confusion matrix in Table 12. Overall statistics are shown in Table 13.

Table 12 In sample confusion matrix
Table 13 In sample fit statistics

Class diagnostics are provided in Table 14. Discussion of the diagnostics may be found at https://topepo.github.io/caret/measuring-performance.html. Importantly, Precision is the same as size and Recall corresponds to Power.

Table 14 In sample class diagnostics

Out-of sample classification diagnostics

We next examine out of sample analysis by manually scoring approximately 100 photos into each of the categories and compare the model predictions. The diagnostic statistics are similar to the in-sample training analysis, but with a bit less accuracy as is to be expected.

Overall statistics are shown in Table 15.

Table 15 Out of sample fit statistics

The confusion matrix for the out of sample classification is shown in Table 16. Class diagnostics are provided in Table 17 and in the manuscript. Discussion of the diagnostics may be found at https://topepo.github.io/ caret/measuring-performance.html. Importantly, Precision is the same as size and Recall corresponds to Power.

Table 16 Out of sample confusion matrix
Table 17 Out of sample class diagnostics

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Johnson, E.B., Tidwell, A. & Villupuram, S.V. Valuing Curb Appeal. J Real Estate Finan Econ 60, 111–133 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11146-019-09713-z

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Keywords

  • Machine learning
  • Hedonic valuation