Landscape Rescue and Curb Appeal

You spend a lot of time, effort, and resources on making sure your house is in tip-top shape before showing it to the buyers. Everything is cleaned up, fixed up, and some upgrades are done – you are ready!.. But guess what? After all that, your home itself is NOT the first thing the buyers see and get influenced by! – It’s your landscaping.

Of course, the assumption in this case, is that you have some landscaping to be concerned about. If you are selling an apartment, a condo, or a town home without much landscape to speak of, this may be not your headache. If you have a traditional home with a backyard or a garden and a front yard, read on, ‘cause it might help you grab the attention of some of those “drive-by” shoppers.

“People buy on emotion and justify with fact,” says the old real estate wisdom, and if you want to sell your home, you need to pay attention to what emotion your home’s curb presentation elicits. Do people shrug and keep driving? Do they stop, look for a second, then move on? Or do they stop the car, get out and can’t wait to see more of your property because they are already falling in love with it? Would you buy your home if you saw it off the street?

OK, enough questions for the day.

Before I make you feel that you need an Extreme Makeover landscaping team in your yard and a Hollywood-size budget to make a difference, take heart. This is actually a semi-simple project for most people to take on on their own, or with just a little bit of help.

Here’s a small checklist you can use to make sure that your home will pass the “drive-by” test of a today’s busy home shopper:

  • Take away, give away, dump or hide anything in the yard that is not going to be sold with the house (For good looks’ sake, the garbage cans should be the first to go in a side yard or a hide-away spot – if you have one of course. Anything that does not add to the home’s portrait qualities, should go: things like old “edging” cinder blocks, broken or unsightly planters, maybe even some plants if they have seen better days).
  • Anything that falls into “It’s not completely fixed, but it might be useful if we fixed it” should not be hanging around –  old BBQs, gas canisters, pet carriers, etc. should be taken away from the property or packed in a shed if you want to keep them – away from visitors’ view.
  • If you have any hardscape installed, check to see that none of it has become a trip hazard over time. We live in a state where the ground moves on its own every so often, so it doesn’t hurt to check that the potential buyers will not get turned off to the property by tripping on their way to see it.
  • If you have trees in the front, consider trimming them (if needed) or hiring someone to do it for you.
  • If there are dead spots in your lawn (happens to everyone; welcome to our dry California weather!), you can “fix” the grass two ways. If you have a bit of time before the house will be shown (2-3 weeks), you can head to Home Depot, Lowes, or your favorite home-n-garden supply store and grab some Winter Rye grass seed. Spread it over the dead lawn spots and the new grass will “fix” the bald ground spots. One word of caution: you may have to cover the seed with some soil right away to keep the birds from having a free takeout party. If you only have a week or less to get everything in order, you can buy squares of grass turf and literally patch the lawn as you would an old blanket: cut patch to size, pin it down, water, and see your new lawn without blemishes.
  • Add landscape lighting. If you loathe having to install new lighting system and don’t want to hire anyone, opt for solar: pull it out of the box, stick it into the ground and enjoy. Solar will usually not be as bright as the regular wired lights, but it’s a quick fix to a dark walkway and will add to your home’s curb appeal for those evening shoppers.
  • Consider “Dressing up” the shrubs, trees, or flower beds by adding colorful mulch or bark around them. It is usually inexpensive, especially if you get it by the scoop at a local orchard or nursery, and it has an instant facelift effect on the front yard’s looks.
  • If you have flower beds that have gone without attention for a while, consider planting a few fresh flowering plants to pick up the look.
  • Fruit trees are wonderful, as long as we do not let old dried-up fruit stay on the branches. Check them out to see if some fruit has “overstayed” past its expiration date and needs to be purged off the trees.
  • Water the yard before visitors arrive. Freshly-watered vegetation always looks better and will add to the well-cared feel of your home.