First impressions are not only lasting, they can be a deal breaker when trying to sell a home even before potential buyers set foot inside.
Just driving up to a property and taking in the landscaping can help them form an opinion and determine whether they want to see the interior or drive off.
So many sellers make improvements to the inside of their house in preparation for putting it on the market -- painting walls, decluttering rooms, updating baths, but few give thought to the property that surrounds their house. That's a mistake, according to real estate and landscaping experts who say that investing in lawn care can add 15 percent to the value of your home.
"Landscaping your property is like putting a great pair of shoes on a wonderful outfit. It not only adds value to your home when selling, it offers an extension of living space where months of enjoyment is had barbecuing with friends and family, enjoying a game of tennis, swimming in the pool or just quiet reprieve in a garden," said Westport real estate agent Michelle Genovesi, principal of Michelle & Co., an affiliate of William Raveis Real Estate.
"The landscaping is the face of the house and you want your face to look as good as it can," said Joe Gloria, plant manager of Gilbertie's in Westport. "Clean lines, edges; those things are more attractive. Those are a plus."
Even something as simple as adding mulch can define the landscaping in relation to the house, he said.
Think about refurbishing the lawn. It can be done without too much effort or expense, Gloria said. Rake and seed the lawn. This is a good time of year to do that, he said, because, "You've got nature working for you." Precipitation by way of seasonal rainfall and snow melt will water the lawn.
It's just as important to focus on the outside of a house as the inside, experts say.
"It's a lot like staging the inside of a house," said Jed Duguid, nursery manager of Oliver Nursery in Fairfield. The property should not be too cluttered. It should look neat and simple. Edging the flower beds and putting down a layer of fresh mulch will go a long way to sprucing up the appearance, he said.
Duguid also recommends pruning or removing overgrown shrubbery, which can make a house look dated or detract from its curb appeal.
Jay Petrow, owner of PetrowGardens Landscape Design in Westport, said many properties have overgrown trees and shrubs that block the view of the house. If it's possible to prune do so, Petrow said, but recognize that major pruning could leave shrubs looking bare for several years. If a homeowner plans to place a house on the market soon and their budget allows it might be best to replace overgrown shrubbery with smaller bushes.
"You want landscaping to look welcoming," said Petrow, former vice president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, Connecticut chapter.
Petrow said the condition of a property is going to contribute to that first impression. If the grounds are not well maintained it may leave prospective buyers wondering if the current homeowners have kept up interior maintenance.
Although people who are about to sell a house may be less inclined to invest in improvements, Petrow said making some cosmetic landscape enhancements can influence a sale and even the sale price.
"In the end, you'll reap the benefits of that in the resale price ... If you give it a more up-to-date appearance you're most likely going to sell the house at a higher price or at least sell it quicker," Petrow said. Weigh the cost and the added value when considering a project, he said.
Petrow said a property should have a nice flow from the public or front spaces, to semi-private areas to private yards.
Austin Ganim of Austin Ganim Landscape Design in Fairfield said plantings can be used to create privacy screening and anything that creates privacy is desirable. "Having a fully fenced yard is seen as an asset, especially by people with children and pets," Ganim said. Deer fencing is also a plus, he said.
Use landscaping to suggest the entrance to the house with appropriate placement of plants, lighting, small pillars or other elements to distinguish between the formal front entrance and the secondary or informal entrance. "Make it clear where a guest is supposed to enter," Petrow said.
Place a pair of decorative pots near the front entrance and fill it with seasonal plantings: pansies in the spring, tropicals in the summer, mums in the fall and evergreens in winter, Duguid said.
"Color always sells but the downside is you can never guarantee it's there (in bloom when you need it)," Ganim said. This time of year it's easy to plant colorful annual flowers, he said.
Employing the services of lawn care or landscaping companies to maintain a property removes the burden from the homeowner and can provide future owners of that property with a detailed master plan.
Ganim said it's helpful for the new owners to have that landscape plan. The landscape plan would show what you've done to maintain the property and on what schedule. It would also include information about what landscaping company did the work in case the new owners wanted to employ that same company for continuity.
"If they can see it on paper it usually makes it a lot easier for them to comprehend what they have to do to maintain it (the property)," he said.