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Don't Let Your Yard Sabotage Your Home Sale

With the hum of lawnmowers starting to flow through the neighborhoods, it is that time of the year where we assess our yards and see how it faired over the winter. As you get ready to list your home, your lawn is an important feature for how your property will show. I came across this interesting article on the dos & don'ts of landscaping in today's market. 

Will your landscaping pull in buyers or make them drive on by? Outdated or extreme styles, high-maintenance features and invasive or overgrown foliage can kill interest. Here are the experts' dos and don'ts.


For one buyer, it was the koi ponds that killed the deal. While the house they looked at had its appeal, its elaborately bricked-in backyard and large network of fish ponds seemed like too much work. It was a little overwhelming the buyer stated and provided little room for the family to play games or throw a ball to their dog. 

These days, elaborate patios, outdated or high-maintenance landscaping and invasive plants and trees can kill buyer interest in a home almost as quickly as an outdated kitchen or orange shag carpeting, according to landscaping experts and real estate agents. Landscaping often makes the difference between a prospective buyer getting out of the car for a closer look at the house and simply driving on by. Indeed, agents say, good landscaping can provide more bang for your buck than almost any other home improvement -- provided it's done right.


A few dos -- and 6 don'ts

Buyers today expect landscaping that's easy to take care of and water-wise, and offers benefits like shade or privacy. A pot of bright annuals by the front door isn't going to do it for most discriminating buyers.

There's really a trend towards landscaping that is both functionally and environmentally correct. You want to have the right plants in the right place.

Here's a look at the top landscaping turnoffs for buyers and what homeowners can do to make sure their landscaping efforts enhance, rather than detract from the value of their home.


1. Your father's landscaping

Rounded junipers, squared-off boxwood and holly bushes, and topiary shrubs scream that the house is a throwback to the 1960s and '70s. People now want their landscaping to look natural, with more native plants and interesting, varied foliage. Shrubs with poodlelike puffs are also out, landscapers say. Big pine trees and other evergreens planted decades ago also can be a turnoff to buyers. These trees can get too big and must be continually hacked off at the top (a bad look) or taken out entirely to avoid roofs and power lines.


2. Gnomes gone wild

It should go without saying, but put the lawn ornaments away. Other buyers may not share your love of lawn globes, gnomes and plastic deer. The same rules for depersonalizing and de-cluttering inside your home apply to the outside, as well.


3. High-maintenance yards

While many buyers fancy themselves green-thumb gardeners, few want to invest serious time in pruning, spraying, mowing and fertilizing. Beds of non-disease-resistant plants such as hybrid tea roses can eat up a buyer's weekends with pruning and applying fungicide. They may be beautiful when they are in flower, but it's a nightmare to keep them from getting sick. 

One agent remembers one property he showed with an elaborate English country garden that dominated the backyard. A key inside the house mapped out the names of all of the manicured shrubs, roses and gardenias, as well as the contents of the adjoining vegetable garden. People were just mesmerized. For a minute they would say 'I've always wanted a place like this.' Then they started talking about it and said this must take a long time to maintain every week. The house stayed on the market for quite a while, specifically because of the rigors of its landscaping.

What we are hearing from our customers is that they want more flower power with less maintenance. That means fewer annuals with short bloom times and more native plants and hardy perennials. In his area, he recommends planting newer flower varieties with longer bloom times, such as continuous blooming hydrangeas; knockout roses, which flower abundantly and require little pruning or spraying; and some of the newer types of azaleas that bloom twice a year.


4. Over-the-top outdoor living spaces

The line between the indoors and outdoors has been blurring in recent years, with more homeowners building elaborate outdoor living spaces complete with fireplaces, kitchens, outdoor showers and custom stone work. In many parts of the country, these areas are a big selling point, making the house seem larger. But when the work gets too ornate or extensive, it can sometimes detract from the value of a home -- especially in colder climates.

Homeowners who put in these improvements should not expect to recoup their total investment at resale. One man's $80,000 outdoor kitchen may only be worth an extra $30,000 to another. People have to remember that this is their own personal preference. In essence, you're renting this lifestyle and you probably won't see the bulk of the money back. If you go overboard, you are going to limit the number of people interested in the property.


5. Too much green?

Many people are asking for smaller expanses of grass so they spend less time pushing the lawn mower and running the sprinkler. People don't want a yard that makes huge demands on their time but that doesn't mean buyers are ready to give up color. You don't want everything to be a moonscape or desert garden.

And just as important, consider the landscaping in relation to the house. One listing had a four-bedroom house with intricate xeriscape landscaping with cactus, gravel and walkways, instead of back and front yards. Since most of the people looking at the house had families and pets, it took a long time to sell. If you're going to have a four bedroom house, you better have a yard.

Most important maintain whatever landscaping you have. Overgrown hedges, dying flowers and leggy bushes send the message that the inside of the house is ill-kept, as well. Maintenance is key to maintaining your value. 


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