Curb appeal is important to many buyers, and a large part of that appeal is a home’s landscaping.
“That first impression is important,” says Frank Lucco, managing director of IRR-Residential Appraisers & Consultants in Houston. “If (buyers) don’t like the looks of the front of the house, which is mostly landscaping,” often they won’t even go inside.
A landscaping investment could potentially pay a 215 percent return in home value, says Margaret Woda, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Crofton, Md.
Here are some things to keep in mind when prepping your yard to appeal to potential homebuyers.
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Maintenance. Start by cleaning up the yard. Remove dead branches, dog droppings, weeds and anything that is broken. Planning ahead is important.
“You can’t just decide to sell your house tomorrow and expect the landscaping to be ready,” Woda says. “If you’re thinking of moving next fall, (then) this spring, you should be working on your landscaping.”
Eric King, owner of King Landscaping in Atlanta, recommends ensuring that downspouts are clean and functional, and drain pipes are properly buried and operational, so water doesn’t pool. Make sure that patios, walkways and fences are level and that roots haven’t pushed up sidewalks or patio stones.
If your deck has wobbly railings or loose steps, fix them, says King. “People don’t want a mystery.”
Remove overgrown shrubs encroaching on the sidewalk or any that are too big, don’t flower or are out of style. “They look terrible to anyone except the owner,” Woda says.
Plants. In the front yard, the landscaping should pull your eyes to the front door. While the real estate agent is opening the lockbox, buyers will be looking around at the landscaping, so have pots of blooming flowers nearby.
Trees, bamboo and other screening plants can be used to hide anything unsightly, such as your neighbor’s garage door or the trash cans, King says.
Features. In the backyard, people like a comfortable spot to hang out. And personalized options such as firepits, outdoor kitchens, fountains and lighting can make a backyard more of a paradise, says Lucco. “You don’t want to just walk out and look at a fence.”
Install a firepit, outdoor kitchen or water feature — really, anything costing over $5,000 — only if you want it, because you likely won’t recoup your money, King says. These features, however, can help an appraisal if they well-made and maintained.
Some materials are better than others. A cobblestone patio, for instance, is better than poured concrete. A stacked-stone retaining wall is more appealing than railroad ties.
It’s easy to get carried away fixing up a yard to look good for buyers. Woda discourages installing anything too personal that lacks universal appeal. For example, she doesn’t recommend keeping play equipment in the yard.
“If you purchased a $5,000 play structure and now you’re moving, take it apart and take it with you,” she says. “What are the odds that the next buyer will have children your kids’ ages who like to do the same things?”
Don’t buy too many mature plants, either. “Spend money where you need it,” Woda says. “If you have a few spots where you want privacy, buy one or two big specimen trees. For the rest, put in a 3-gallon flowering shrub.”
Fencing is another asset to buyers, whether they have kids or just want privacy, she says.