The One Thing You Should Never Do to Your Yard Before Selling Your House

published Apr 11, 2021
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There’s a lot of preparation involved in putting your home on the market. Cleaning, tidying, decluttering, and de-personalizing are just a few of the ways sellers get their houses in tip-top selling shape. A home’s curb appeal is another supremely important consideration — how people feel when they pull into your driveway sets the tone for the rest of their tour.

But rather than go crazy sprucing up your yard in the name of curb appeal, one horticulturist says you should avoid new projects. In other words, don’t bother adding anything to your landscape, explains John Clements, horticulture manager at the San Diego Botanic Garden.

“Cleaning up the garden is the single most important thing one can do to prepare a home for sale,” he says. “If money is tight, trim and clean, but there’s no need to add anything to your garden. A new tree or bed of flowers is moot if the garden itself looks messy.”

Projects around the yard can also get expensive, which is another reason to avoid them ahead of a sale. New plants and trees cost a pretty penny, and it’s very possible that a buyer is going to end up re-doing the entire landscape anyway. 

“Paying to re-do your landscape to sell is counterproductive,” Clements says. “If your fence or deck is falling apart, fix those things rather than addressing the landscaping.”

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Even those small projects can add up — according to Clements, repairing a deck or fence could easily be a four-figure job. His advice is to listen to your real estate agent and consider any of their suggestions before going full-force and hiring a landscape architect. 

And once you feel ready to start cleaning up the garden, Clements recommends starting with an outdoor version of decluttering.

“Gardens look awful with junk strewn about. I suggest getting rid of old tools, piles of pots, and dead plants. If you’re a person with lots of random plants in mismatched pots all over your deck or front entry, get rid of them.”

According to Clements, too many plants outside can read as dollar signs to potential buyers. “New buyers likely won’t share your same taste in plants. You may love your plants, but to potential buyers, it looks like work.”

“Remove all the weeds and trim and cut back messy and out of control plants,” the landscaping expert says. “You don’t want your garden to look like the jungle has reclaimed it.” 

Clements also suggests mulching. New mulch looks nice and fresh, and can often be obtained for free from your town or city. If you can’t figure out where to get mulch nearby, try calling a local landscaper. They may have some mulch laying around for purchase, or will be able to point you in the right direction.