Does quality landscaping and finely maintained grounds with clean, crisp lines add any value to your property? You bet it does! Curb appeal is your first opportunity at a showing to impress a would-be buyer that you have been a good steward and cared for your home in a responsible manner. That first glance sets the entire site visit.

Real estate and re-sale studies support the fact that curb appeal adds to the value of a home. A Gallop survey found that quality landscaping can add between 7 and 15 percent to a home's value.

A home with "excellent" landscaping can expect a sale price about 6 to 7 percent higher than equivalent homes with "good" landscaping; while improving landscaping from "average" to "good" can result in a 4 to 5 percent increase. (Source: Clemson University.) Ninety-five percent of the members in the Society of Real Estate Appraisers thought that quality landscaping adds to property value, and more importantly speeds the sale of homes. (Source: Society of Real Estate Appraisers study, 2002.)

As a licensed landscape architect in Minnesota for over thirty years, I have had numerous opportunities to assist homeowners to add value and "curb appeal" to their home. Following are some of the tips and suggestions to help you increase the curb appeal of your home:

  • Create sharp, clean, crisp lines. Tidy up edging around landscape and flower beds. Trim along all edges so there are no long grasses or weeds.
  • Keep your yard mowed and looking sharp.
  • If you are short on plantings, whether it be shrubs or perennials, purchase and install some, it is worth the effort.
  • Freshen up mulch in planting and landscape beds to provide that "cared for" look.
  • Remove dead branches and suckers from trees on your property.
  • Prune leggy and unkempt shrubs so they look neat and attractive.
  • Remove debris and clutter from the yard. A clean and clutter free yard is a key to a positive first impression.
  • Use potted plants and hanging baskets at the entrance to your home. This creates an invitation to visit and makes your home feel warm and welcoming.
  • Use potted plants and planters on your deck and patio to indicate that these areas are an extension of your home and often used.
  • Dead head (cut off) spent blooms on your annual flowers. This will keep your home surrounded by fresh and blooming flowers.
  • Make color work for you. If you have a small yard use flowers that are blue, purple or light pink. These colors recede and give the impression that the yard is larger. Bright colors such as yellow, orange and red jump forward at you leaving the impression that the yard is smaller.
  • Organize your garage or shed and clean them thoroughly so they are not only neat, but to make them appear larger.
  • Re-paint or touch up decks and fences. Peeling paint will make a prospective home owner think that the first thing they will have to do when they move in is re-paint.
  • If you have dogs, clean the yard from any of their "piles". Stepping in a fresh pile is going to spoil that first impression.
  • Clean your grill and have all the grill tools tidied up and ready for use. After all, your deck or patio is a high use extension of your home and an outdoor living area.
  • Roll up those hoses. Think about placing a splash pad under hose bibs.
  • If you have an irrigation system, be sure it is timed to operate during off-hours so a showing is not interrupted. Recently I was doing a site survey on a property when out of the clear blue the sprinkler system activated, causing me to scurry and throwing my schedule off. If that would happen during a house showing, prospective buyers may just turn around and leave without even looking inside the home.
  • Check all your outdoor lighting to make sure all is in working order.
  • If you feed birds, get rid of all feeders that look unsightly and purchase several new attractive ones. Clean all of the others. Make sure all feeders are filled and active.
  • In the fall be certain to keep the yard raked or use a mulcher mower so that the site looks well cared for.
  • Also in the fall mice are a reality, especially as winter approaches. If you have mousetraps or bait boxes in your garage, make sure they are hidden. You don't want a prospective buyer to think you have a problem with vermin.
  • During winter showings make sure all walks, steps and drives are thoroughly cleared and "slip free". Remove ice dams and icicles from the drip line of the roof.
  • If you have nice photos of your yard and landscaping from spring, summer and fall, place them in a nice photo album opened on a coffee table so visitors can see what to expect.
  • Finally and most importantly, work with your realtor. They are professionals with a great deal of knowledge in presenting your home for the best impact. Typically they will have great advice on preparing for those visits by prospective buyers. Here is an example: Some years ago I was selling my home which had a white picket fence around the yard. We had planted Heavenly Blue Morning glories which covered the fence and it was approaching September 1. The morning glories were open by 10:00 each morning and began to fade around 3:00 in the afternoon. My realtor suggested that we should show the home during the period of peak performance of the blooms. As a result the home was showed during this time and sold for the asking price by the first person to view it. Were the morning glories solely responsible, probably not, but they undoubtedly contributed to the great results. I have always felt that the lesson learned is that curb appeal does work.