If you’re getting ready to put your house on the market, one of your first priorities should be an objective overview of the visual appeal of your landscaping.
In a perfect world, you want potential buyers approaching your home to see a cheerful, neat, well-tended yard. They should understand immediately that the current owner (you) has cared enough to put time and effort into keeping the yard clean, attractive and (ideally) designed in a way that's aesthetically pleasing.
For better or worse, the appeal of your yard could make a huge difference in the interest it attracts from buyers. Apparently there's no definitive research on the value attractive landscaping can add to your home, but many real estate reps estimate it can boost values by 5 to 20 percent. Others say the ROI on landscaping investments can be as high as 100 percent.
“Despite not being able to pin down an exact ROI, a positive first impression of a home can mean the difference between a buyer driving by or stopping to take a closer look,” writes real estate broker Jill Chodorov in the Washington Post. “Just like the importance of making a good first impression when meeting someone new, with a little attention to the landscaping of your home you can increase your chances of a better outcome when selling.”
As a rule of thumb, trade group the American Society of Landscape Architects recommends homeowners invest 10 percent of their home’s value into landscaping.
Consider how these improvements might help you in your selling quest:
Groom your grass: Aim to achieve a lush carpet of green leading up to your door. Fertilize and water to the extent possible in your region, then keep it mowed, edged and raked so it appears very well tended. If it’s afflicted by dead or brown patches, you may want to hire a lawn specialist for faster remediation.
Weed away: Make sure flowerbeds, property borders, sidewalks and driveways are neatly weeded, whether that requires spraying or just plain elbow grease.
Flash those flowers: The season may not be right for quickly planting and growing new flowerbeds, but you have much more leeway when it comes to adding colorful pots of flowers near your front entryway. Create some inviting eye candy that welcomes buyers to their new abode, asking gardening specialists to recommend low-maintenance varieties that can offer some splash.
Let there be light: Think about adding solar lights in and around your landscaping, and maybe even installing new light posts or sconces. There’s something about strategically added lights that makes a yard and home seem safe and inviting.
Give yourself an edge: Adding curbing or edging around your yard may be worth the investment as well; it can visually improve the boundaries and make your lawn much easier to mow and trim.
Control those critters: If your yard is significantly infested by ants, spiders, mice, gophers or other undesirables (don’t even say the word “termites” out loud), consider hiring an exterminator who can get the problem under control quickly and efficiently.
Invite relaxation: With outdoor living becoming such a lifestyle trend, the creation of an inviting outdoor seating area may go a long way toward making potential buyers feel at home. The project may be as small-scale as displaying a few comfortable furniture items on an existing patio or porch or as large-scale as installing a pergola, deck, screened porch, outdoor kitchen, fire pit and/or water feature. Before investing, research which features sell best in your area. “We’re seeing a lot of family rooms with an adjacent outside terrace that marries the inside with the outside," advises DIY guru Bob Vila on BobVila.com, noting the trend is particularly popular in temperate areas such as Texas. "The interest in landscaping and property enhancement is a natural extension of the boom in home renovation and improvement."
Do fence me in: Homeowners tend to appreciate fences for aesthetic and privacy reasons as well as the added safety they provide children and pets. Make sure your fencing is in good repair and has a fresh coat of paint or is at least rust-free.
Go pro or go home: In some cases the best use of your time and money will be hiring a professional landscaper who understands current design trends and can see your environment with a fresh eye. Many savvy consumers can tell the difference between a yard designed by a pro and a yard designed by an amateur, and taking the higher-cost road could well provide the added boost that makes your property stand out from the crowd. A professional may be able to identify one feature — perhaps a fountain, paved stone walkway or retaining wall — that could make your yard a showplace that will draw buyers like a magnet.