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Landscaping tips to make your property more saleable

You must grab a buyer's interest from the curb if you want to sell the home for top dollar. Home buyers will sometimes refuse to go into a house with an unkempt yard, sagging doors or peeling paint. Even if you can't afford to paint, get that yard in tip-top shape.

Creating curb appeal is one of the best ways of improving your chances of making a quicker sale. Most people make a judgment on the property as soon as they see it based on what they see. If they see overgrown shrubs, dirty windows, stained gutters and peeling paint, they immediately have made a negative snap judgment about the property without ever seeing the inside.

If you've neglected your landscape over the years and are now faced with the prospect of selling your property and you don't want that neglected landscape to create a bad first impression, here's a few tips that you can use without spending a fortune.

Clean up the property: dead leaves, fallen branches definitely are a big turn off except for people looking for neglected properties they can easily flip. Clean up all this debris. Rake whatever planting beds or edging so it's clean.
Obviously, you want all of your windows to be sparkling clean. Maybe consider putting some fresh paint on the front door if it's a paintable door, or if it's a wood door, some new poly-urethane.

Make sure the lawn is neatly mowed: if you're going to be showing your property during the growing season, make sure the lawn is neatly mowed, and the sidewalks and driveway has been edged with a power edger (rent one if you don't own one). If you have a few weeds, spot treat them to get rid of them. If your lawn is full of weeds, better to leave them alone as a lawn full of weeds is better than a bare, weed-free yard.

Trim back shrubs: many neglected landscapes usually have some type of shrubbery around the foundation of the house. Make sure these items are are neatly trimmed. If you have trees that obscure the house, have a professional come in and remove some of the lower limbs so they don't block the house.

Mulch everything: pine-bark mulch applied around all the plants goes a long way in creating a neat, well-tended impression, even if you've never mulched anything before. Make sure the weeds and bare dirt around the foundation are completely covered. Don't skimp. Apply a good 3" - 4" of mulch. Don't pile the mulch high around tree trunks. Not only does this not look good, but it can kill the tree.

Plant some flowers: depending on the time of the year, plant some flowers. You don't have to plant 100s of them, but just a few pockets here and there will do wonders. Yellow flowers are especially inviting. Consider purchasing a few large clay pots you can put near the front door to create an especially inviting front entry if they're planted with geraniums and some spiked grass.

Concentrate your efforts on the front: take a quick walk down the street. How does your property compare to your neighbors? Then walk back to your property and try to look at it objectively. What's the first thing you notice? Whatever that thing is, fix it. What is the best exterior feature of your property? Can you enhance that feature, or make it more visible?

Don't ignore the back: first impressions are made from the curb, but lasting impressions are created when they enter the house and look out the back door. Make sure the back yard is neat and tidy too. Clay pots are your best friends. Clay pots are inexpensive, can be filled with potting soil quickly and planted with colorful flowers that will make a big impact. Don't forget to keep them watered, especially during hot summer days.

Put in some planting beds: if your property is completely lacking any planting beds, now might be the time to install some basic curving beds, that are neatly edged. Use plenty of mulch, group your plantings together. During the growing season, annuals make the biggest splash and are the least expensive.

Install landscape lighting: landscape lighting can be a fairly inexpensive way to create a little drama from dusk into the night when some prospects are out cruising the neighborhoods. These lights shouldn't be overwhelming... that is, too many. Six or so will be just about right for an average sized house. Bury the low-voltage wire under the mulch. Make sure the lights themselves are properly installed and not leaning. One or two spot lights can create a dramatic impact either highlighting an architectural feature or pointed up into a tree.

Additional tips for staging your home

My brother-in-law has been in the real estate business for years and he's always telling me about how some homeowners do their homework and really staged their homes for quick sales, even in tight real estate times.

These successful home-sellers know the importance of curb appeal and have made every effort to create an inviting entrance. Once inside the homeowners have removed as much of their household furnishings as possible and still have it livable. That means renting a storage space and loading up lots of boxes. They empty the closets so they look expansive. They clear the kitchen of small appliances. They create small vignettes of arranged furniture. They remove all personal items (photos, refrigerator magnets, etc.) and replace them with plants, mirrors, pillows, and baskets. Put some fresh cut flowers out.

Bathrooms are clean enough to eat in-- really! No a hint of mold, mildew, water stains, or stray hairs.

Odors are also a big turn off whether they come from cooking, smoking or pets.

What you really want to do is address all 5 senses: sight, touch, smell, sound and taste. Make your home so that a person can imagine themselves enjoying all of their senses in one way or another. But remember: it all begins at the front with great curb appeal.

Read more about improving real estate value with landscaping >>