Don’t let potential buyers drive by your property because the landscape is scary. The house itself can be the most beautiful updated property, but if the landscape is messy prospects will keep driving.
Overgrown shrubs, brown grass and unkempt trees send off alarm bells that the house is old and run down. Start by removing the objections, no landscape is better than a bad landscape.
The overgrown the dead and the ugly are more objectionable than a blank slate. Remove or prune the obvious visual discords first. An open landscape permits people to view the property free of dissonance and allows them to imagine the property as their own.
However in most cases even people who don’t care about landscape like to have some plant cover. Even the most beautiful home looks better with landscape. When staging the landscape remember the three Ns: nice, neat and neutral. You want it to be appealing but you don’t want to stylize. Stick to the basics, the tried and true old standards.
Grass is the most important of all curb appeal elements. A beautiful lawn viewed by most men will conjure visions of professional ball fields, golf courses and a sense of pride. Most women will envision a safe place for their children to play, picnics and a happy family enjoying games together. (Please forgive the stereotype, but in over twenty years of meeting people of all demographics nothing has been more consistently true)
Even with the recent organic movement and some negative connotations associated with the use of pesticides, a nice lawn is still a major part of “The American Dream”. The intrinsic value and nostalgia that a lush green lawn evokes is a worth the investment. Maximize lawn space whenever possible because it creates a feel of open space, but trees and shrubs are important to anchor the house.
Shrubs should be proportional to the scale of the house and trimmed neatly. All areas between lawn and planting beds should be neatly edged and mulched. Mulch is a wonderful thing when used in moderation. Don’t overuse mulch by applying it too deep and shrink the planting beds where possible. Do not use mulch with vibrant color; dark earth tones are always best.
Large trees are always the wild card; most people love them because they have a number of wonderful tangible and intangible benefits. However some people are afraid of large trees especially when they are close to the house. Make sure that any large trees on site are free of obvious dead and that the house and roof are clear by 10-15 feet. Smaller landscape trees should also be free of obvious dead and have a neat appearance.
Use flower pots to plant seasonal flowers at the entrance to the house. Be sure to use planters that match the style and scale of the property. Everyone loves flowers but you must make sure that they are cared for so they look their best. This is a very small investment in time and money, but it makes a warm welcome.
Make sure that all walks and stairs are sturdy, wide and easy to use. So many times you see a beautiful house with an undersized or failing walk that gives a bad first impression. These types of repairs can be more costly than some of the aforementioned recommendations, but unattractive or dangerous entrance can create an uneasy feel in the clients mind. If it makes sense for the value of the house make the improvements necessary and avoid the potential concerns. An entrance way that is welcoming, open and comfortable frames the showing both literally and figuratively.
In some cases major landscape projects may be needed to improve the property, but in most cases a few simple additions and subtractions will make a great improvement. At best a nice landscape will improve property value at worst it eliminates a loss in value. Landscape should be used as a tool to encourage people to come into the house, but at a minimum it should not cause objections. The fewer objections the more prospects, in turn you’ll receive more offers, when you receive more offers all is right with the world. In these difficult economic times it’s important to use every possible strategy to your advantage.
There is a delicate balance between creating curb appeal without spending too much money or making a property too busy. Just as in staging the interior, staging landscape is an art and science to enabling the sale.
Courtesy of Hartney Greymont, caring for residential landscapes and landmark properties since 1938. Hartney Greymont, Needham, www.hartney.com.