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When we think about getting a house ready to sell, we often focus on the structure itself. We ask ourselves if the walls need painting , should the carpets be cleaned or replaced, do any of the plumbing fixtures need to be repaired, etc. However, the item that is seen first, by every potential buyer that drives by your house, is your front lawn and garden. Spending some extra time on your landscaping before you list your house with a real estate agent can make a big difference in how long it takes a house to sell. Think of it this way - would you feel comfortable with the idea of seeing a doctor if all the plants in his waiting room were dead? It sets up some negative emotions, doesn't it? The same thing happens when people drive by a house that is surrounded by dying, weedy grass, overgrown bushes, and cracked sidewalks. Since the impression is on a purely emotional level, it may be difficult for your buyers to overcome. There's a good example of this problem right now, in my neighborhood. Although houses in my city are selling ast this summer, and they don't stay on the multiple listing service for very long, a 'For Sale by Owner' sign has been in the window of a house down the street for months. The owner lives out of town, and probably purchased the house as a rental. Now that home prices are higher, he's ready to sell, but he can't take care of the yard himself because he lives too far away. He did recently hire someone to cut down the overgrown grass, but I suspect he did so only in response to a complaint from the city authorities. This attitude on the part of the seller reminds me of that ancient saying "penny-wise, pound foolish". Fortunately, it doesn't take a whole lot of money to get most yards looking good, and it can make a huge difference in the curb appeal of your house. It does, however, take time - especially if the grass has been neglected for too long. Some regular watering might revive it, but if things have gone too far, you may need to reseed the grass and start over. This might also be true in the back yard, if a large puppy or a team of budding football stars has worn ruts in the grass. The most important thing for the grass is to get it green again, and keep it mowed. If dandelions have taken over, a neighborhood kid might be willing to pull them out, if the price is right. If bushes along your fence are badly overgrown, they may need a hard pruning. Some ornamental shrubs and small trees can be pruned at almost any time, but others must be approached with more caution. To see exactly how and when your shrubbery can be pruned, do a Google search for the particular type of plant, or find a good book on pruning at your local library. Overgrown Arborvitae growing near the house may need to be removed, as would any other fast-growing shrub that refuses to stay within its allotted space, and which would be nothing but bare sticks if it you cut it back. If you do need to remove overgrown or dying foundation plantings, they can be replaced with fast-growing annuals or perennials. First dig the soil as deep as you can and add compost and plant food to improve the soil's fertility. Then ask your local nursery for suggestions - they'll be able to show you which plants will grow the fastest and fill in the empty space. If you put out a drip hose and attach a timer, you won't need to do much more than pull an occasional weed to keep it looking nice. A friend of mine recently sold her house, which was surrounded by a beautiful cottage garden that took her years to build. She knew that most people don't have time to care for so many different plants, and would prefer to simply water and mow the grass - so she made sure to list her house when her garden was at its peak. Even if her buyer has to remove all those flowers because he can't take proper care of them, they still helped to create a positive impression with all that color. Her home, surrounded by masses of color, was on the market for only a few weeks. You can easily add a few spots of color to your yard without planting a perennial border of creating a cottage garden. One exceptionally easy trick is to buy a large planter that matches the color of your house, fill it with one small shrub from the nursery surrounded by fast-growing annuals, and place it just beside your front door. It doesn't take much time, but it can add that little touch of life that makes your house feel more like "home" to your potential buyers.







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