Staging the Landscaping for a Quick Sale and Sanity Preservation

curb_appealIt’s a little hard to imagine spring while most of the country digs out from under feet, not inches, of snow. However, before you know it, spring will arrive at our doorstep, and that signals the beginning of house-selling season. Sellers, it’s time to stage your landscape for potential buyers. In this market, all other things being approximately equal—square footage, interior layout, amenities, etc.,—the landscape can close the deal—or kill it.

Staging the landscape goes far beyond curb appeal. While curb appeal is critical in getting potential buyers to your front door, your property will sell on its merits and proper pricing. According to the Journal of Environmental Horticulture, you receive a return of $1.35 for every $1 you spend on the landscaping.

Many homeowners consider the patio and backyard an extension of the house. When properly staged, a hospitable outdoor environment is an additional selling point for those buyers.

The hardest part about selling a home is realizing that it’s no longer about your likes and dislikes; it’s all about what the potential buyer likes. Staging creates appeal for the widest range of potential buyers. A well-staged house and landscape sell quicker and bring a higher price per square foot.

Staging the landscape can reduce upkeep. Instead of spending hours manicuring the landscape, you can spend what little time and sanity you have left during the house-selling ordeal keeping the inside in a company-ready state.

If we look at the basics of interior staging and apply them to the landscape, it looks something like this: declutter, add common appeal, create vignettes with sparse furnishings, and add a few accessories to freshen the look.

Of course you must keep the lawn in good condition and mowed to a reasonable height. Walkways and garden edges must be properly trimmed, and the yard must be free of toys and other clutter.

Follow the steps below to achieve a clean, welcoming landscape.

Declutter – The first step is to banish the clutter. Half-dead trees and shrubs must go. Grass that has invaded the gardens must go. In fact, if the gardens are in constant need of weeding, you can permanently (or at least until you sell the house) choke out weeds with old newspapers . Everything about the yard, patios and entryways must whisper “right this way.”

Walk the entire surface of the yard, picking up sticks and tree limbs as you go. If you’ve got moles, get professional help quickly. The last thing you need is a potential buyer spraining an ankle on the mole tracks. This is not a quick DIY job.

Spruce Up –Assess your outdoor living area. Toss or repair old, cracked containers and pots. Toss those little pots that sit on mismatched old saucers. Spray paint chairs, tables, grills, anything that screams “worn out.” If the cushions and umbrella are faded beyond recognition, replace them. Otherwise, give them a good scrubbing. You don’t want the potential buyer to associate “worn out” with “ill maintained house.”

Arrange – Arrange outdoor furniture in conversational groupings. Less is more.

Add/Replace – Add fresh splashes of color—pillows, side tables, a few lush plants. A little goes a long way; you just want to add a few points of interest.

Tips and Tricks

  • Add low-maintenance splashes of color. Instead of petunias and geraniums that require hours of watering, deadheading and clean up, think purslane and portalaca. They require little watering, no deadheading and minimal cleanup—and they don’t stain concrete like geraniums do.
  • Avoid fragrant plants. Fragrance bothers many people, and others find it offensive. I’m just sayin’… you want to sell your house, right?
  • Select replacement shrubs such as barberries, laurels or others that can grow a little “wild” without looking unkempt. It eliminates frequent trimming.
  • Avoid fast-growing vines that can quickly create a tangled mess. Opt for one of the slow-growing hydrangea climbers.
  • Stick to greenery with little splashes of color. You have no idea what color potential owners hate. Hostas work well with their mostly white, unobtrusive flowers. You can’t go wrong with ferns, ginger plants and tropical foliage.
  • Add a freestanding water element in the outdoor living area to create the illusion of relaxation. By using a stand-alone water element, you do not give the potential buyer the impression of additional upkeep.
  • Mulch garden beds, and if you have enough lead time, quickly water the mulch before showing the house. It makes the gardens look early-morning fresh.
  • Add drip irrigation. The minimal cost saves hours of watering.
  • Turn liabilities into features. If you have a shaded area that refuses to grow grass, invest in bales of pine needles and create a make-shift woodland area, outlining it with rocks. If this area is shaded by pine trees, refer to it as “The Pines.” Oak trees? “The Oaks.”

Put yourself in the potential buyers’ shoes and think about how you can provide a hospitable, seemingly carefree, outdoor environment. Remember that the effort you spend in staging the landscape will give your property a distinct advantage over comparable properties, minimize upkeep and can increase the sale price of your house. Once the staging is complete, it will help to keep you sane when every other aspect of the house-selling process is conspiring to do otherwise.


MJ Plaster has been a professional writer for more than two decades, originally an instructional designer and trainer, more recently specializing in lifestyle topics. She also serves as managing editor of the Florida Turf Digest. A former master gardener, when she’s not writing, she’s practicing alchemy in her gardens or helping friends to design and plant their gardens.

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