Landscaping and Hardscaping May Prevent Buyers from Escaping


When you decide to sell your house, it’s important to show off its best features: the updated kitchen, the vaulted ceilings, the hardwood floors, and other amenities. However, if you forget to pay attention to the landscaping and other exterior features, prospective buyers may never set foot inside your house. According to recent studies, attractive landscaping can help your property sell faster and increase the sales price.

Most Realtors are aware of situations where prospective buyers have driven up to a house and refused to get out of the car to go inside. Their rationale is simple: if the sellers cannot take care of the outside, why would they waste their time looking at the inside? This reinforces that old adage about only getting one chance to make a first impression. And Murphy’s Law being what it is, those prospective buyers who drove away were probably the ones who would’ve made the highest offer.

Leaving the exterior unkempt is a mistake, but thankfully one that can typically be rectified with a few weekends worth of yard work and maybe a couple trips to Mendo Mill.

While good landscaping makes prospective buyers excited to see more, be careful not to over-landscape. You don’t want those buyers imagining they’ll have to spend every spare moment of their lives trying to keep up the yard. I’m picturing the perfectly manicured flowers that greet you at the main entrance to Disneyland. Are they attractive? Certainly. Would I want to be responsible for their upkeep? Not unless I had an army to help me.

Upkeep is not the only landscaping consideration. You’ll also want to think about water consumption: we’ve had many years of drought and a lawn that requires massive watering may not be appreciated. A low-maintenance yard that employs mulch effectively can reduce maintenance requirements and conserve water while providing an attractive view.

And don’t forget to look at the trees. Are they arranged to provide relief from the summer sun but allow winter sun to add warmth and cheer? Deciduous trees (the ones that lose their leaves) should provide shade in August when it’s 110 degrees but welcome sunlight through its bare branches in January and February. Are the trees too close to the house? When winter storms soak the ground and trees fall, it’s far better to lose a fence than a living room.

Once you’ve got the landscaping attended to (i.e., trees, shrubs, flowers and lawn), it’s time to look at the hardscaping—concrete walkways, decks, fire pits, pools, ponds and lighting. Are tree roots lifting the concrete path to your front door, causing a tripping hazard and looking messy? Is that deck railing that prevents a 10-foot drop sturdy enough to lean against? For safety and visual appeal, make sure your hardscaping is in good repair.

If you like yard ornaments, feel free to use them, but do so sparingly. It’s best if your yard resembles a cover shot from Better Homes and Gardens as opposed to a yard that looks like it was recently attacked by a flock of flamingos. With both interior and exterior décor, it is not the seller’s taste that matters; it is the prospective buyer’s taste. Less is more. Neutrals are better than extreme colors. Provide something close to a blank canvas that the prospective buyer can paint on with his or her imagination.

If you have used your yard as a de facto dog park, it may be worth hiring a professional to spruce things up, or at least create a plan to do so. The elbow grease can be yours, or as some of us have learned, that’s why God invented teenagers.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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