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For many buyers, a beautifully landscaped yard with show-stopping curb appeal can seal the deal. After all, who doesn’t want cascading blooms, immaculately trimmed shrubbery, and a carpet of emerald sod with their new home?
Surprise: As it turns out, there are indeed some buyers who might take one look at your sprawling outdoor oasis and think, “It will take a ton of work to maintain all of this!”
“I see many home buyers looking for yards that don’t require a lot of maintenance,” says Monica Kemp, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and accredited real estate staging professional in Leesburg, VA. “It can be generational—a lot of younger, first-time buyers don’t want to be home all day gardening or dealing with the lawn.”
Your garden should feel inviting and relaxing, not overwhelming, says Andrea Duane, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in the El Dorado Hills, CA, area.
“A beautiful garden is more of a benefit to sellers than a deterrent, but there’s definitely a percentage of buyers in the marketplace that don’t feel comfortable with that amount of landscaping,” Duane says. “It may feel daunting because they’ve never owned a home before or they just don’t have a green thumb.”
So if you’re selling a property with lots of lovingly tended flower beds and veggie gardens, how do you leverage your landscape—and not scare people off? Here’s how to reassure buyers that your yard will bring enjoyment, not exhaustion.
Declutter your yard
Be sure your outdoor space is sending the right message to buyers, Kemp says. You want your yard to say, “Sit down, have a cold beverage and relax,” rather than, “Please weed me.”
So stage the outside areas as you would the inside of your home: Declutter so that the essential elements can shine.
“Make sure trees and shrubs are trimmed, whether you hire a professional or do it yourself,” Kemp says. “Remove anything that’s dead or dying or doesn’t give you a positive first impression.”
Divide overgrown plants, so your garden looks neat instead of needing attention. And lose the whimsical gnome statues, tacky lawn ornaments, and noisy wind chimes in your garden that won’t let buyers imagine themselves in that space.
Hide the high-maintenance plants—and pack in the perennials
If you have rare heirloom roses or other specialty plants requiring extensive pampering, you might want to scale back before you put your house on the market, Kemp says.
Dig up rare or hard-to-care-for plants, and put them in pots to take with you. Be sure to exclude these on the listing, so buyers know they are not part of the sale.
But you don’t have to strip everything bare! Gardens consisting of perennial plants that grow back year after year can be a huge selling point, says Kemp, who points out such flowers and shrubs during house tours. Annuals, on the other hand, often are more vibrant and colorful but last only one year. A savvy buyer could see annuals as high-maintenance feature.
“Annuals can really make your house look nice, but I wouldn’t do an entire yardful—maybe just along your walkways, with some planters on your front stoop, or by the slider doors on your back deck, just for pops of color,” Kemp says.
Rethink your pond or water features
Water features make gorgeous focal points and help create a resortlike environment in your own backyard. But beware: Your koi pond might deter buyers.
“Personally, I think fish ponds are really cool, but I would never describe it as a selling feature because people tend to see them as added maintenance,” Kemp says. “What if the pump fails? How am I going to keep those fish alive in the winter? They might have little kids, so there’s a safety concern.”
Duane agrees that ponds are often deal breakers if a buyer doesn’t know how to take care of it.
“One option is fill in the pond,” she suggests. “I did that in my own yard, even though I love ponds and fish; it just wasn’t something I needed or wanted.”
Not keen on filling in your pond? Kemp suggests compiling some helpful care and maintenance tips for potential buyers, along with names of service companies.
Get rid of some grass
Just as a massive swath of flower beds can alarm buyers, so too can a large expanse of lawn, Duane says.
“People might be thinking, ‘That’s a lot of mowing, and that needs a lot of water,’” she says.
Plus, allergy-suffering buyers will probably not appreciate all of the pollen that grass releases in early spring. Instead, pop in a row or circle of boxwood shrubs, which can add texture and interest and need very little maintenance beyond occasional trimming.
Be proactive with tips for buyers
Maybe you do have lush landscaping—but perhaps you’ve also figured out an efficient way to take care of it. If so, point this out to buyers. For example, noting that the large flower bed consists of easy-care plants and an in-ground irrigation system tells buyers that they won’t have much to do—and ends up being a perk.
And get ahead of any kind of hesitation by telling buyers what they’re in for: Draw up a garden plan so buyers can see the plant varieties that blossom at different times of the year, Kemp says. Make sure to include names of flowers and any seasonal care tips that have worked for you.