As a landscape architect, I’ve been helping my clients maximize curb appeal for years. But some of my favorite projects were about helping the client get ready to sell their house, which is a completely different ballgame. It’s fine to stage your front porch to make the entrance more welcoming, as long as they are not distracted by other “issues” such as the decrepit silver maple right next to the house with nothing growing under it, or the paint peeling off the shutters, or the negative drainage next to the foundation. Or this or that. To fix EVERYTHING would be too costly, so what do you do?
1. Stand across the street and look back at your house.
When I suggest this, clients look at me like I have three eyes. Then they say “Oh. I’ve never noticed that before.”
What jumps out (good and bad)? Make a list, attach costs to each item, then prioritize. Be realistic. Can you handle it yourself, or need professional help? Perhaps you could do it if you had guidance. I find that most people are very willing to put in the effort, but lack the confidence to see it through, so they do nothing.
2. Don’t procrastinate!
Even if you’re not listing for a year or two, get going on that list! Life has a way of sending curve balls smack into the best laid plans. What if that negative drainage (when the ground slopes toward the foundation) situation leads to repairing the foundation or redoing the landscaping. Many things have seasonal limitations and are time consuming, especially if you have to wait for a contractor. Good contractors are hard to find and usually have backlog. Start sooner than you think you need to.
3. Remember, it’s not about you.
Think like an average buyer, which is easier said than done. Most people don’t like red mulch. Most people don’t care about your handmade this and that you have cluttering up your yard. Most people don’t like the pattern of spirea, barberry, spirea, barberry, spirea, barberry. Instead, go for clean & simple.
4. Consult with a professional.
Many real estate agents have an appreciation for the needs of the home’s exterior yet may not understand the nuances of the landscape and the related costs. A landscape architect or designer can see the big picture, which is the same picture potential buyers will see the second they pull into the drive.
5. Create a Conversation Garden.
Look for potential conversation pockets visible from the street, such as the front porch, space between the front walkway and the house, and parts of the front landscape. The goal is to create a small intimate and inviting space. Add seating, colorful pillows and potted plants to grab the buyer’s attention and draw them in. Tip: The color red works well in these situations because it is a complimentary color to green, creating high contrast.
If the front of the property does not lend itself to a conversation garden, look for this opportunity in the back. It might be on a deck, patio, or simply tucked into a corner of the backyard. The goal is the same; to let the buyer see themselves in the space relaxing and having conversations with friends and family.
My client, Kim, planned to list her home in one year. She only asked for plant suggestions for her front foundation, but I could see she need much more that that or the house would never sell. An hour and a half later, she had a three page To Do list. It included everything: how to kill creeping Charlie, when to seed, paint scheme, how to fix her railing, specific plant suggestions, and more. Kim is doing all of the above steps, and when she’s done, it will be the cutest house on the block!
“I knew that my house and yard needed work, but I did not know where to start. Lynn quickly came up with a detailed plan that will be easy and affordable to implement over the next few months. I’m looking forward to seeing the change, and I have no doubt that it will make a difference when I put my house on the market.” -Kim Francis
There you have it. Do what Kim did. Use these tips and see what happens. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the impact of a few small changes to the exterior of your home. Good luck!