by Lorene Edwards Forkner – Angie’s List

Not paying attention to your landscape can actually detract from the true value of your home. In today’s challenging real estate market, smart homeowners are looking to do everything they can to maximize value and sell quickly.

“Moving is expensive,” says real estate agent Lisa Wallace-Baker of highly rated Lake & Company Real Estate Inc., in Seattle. “Helping people decide where to best spend their time and money is a critical aspect of the Realtor/client partnership.”

Her advice: prioritize. Make sure your yard is clean and tidy. A neatly mown, edged and debris-free landscape offers the impression of a home that’s been well cared for. Keep the front walkway clear and uncluttered, and consider landscape lighting for evening showings to create a warm and welcoming entrance.

“A commitment to ongoing property maintenance is the highest priority and worth every penny,” Wallace-Baker says.

Don’t forget to prune. You can’t sell your home if it can’t be seen. Prune overgrown trees and shrubs to frame and show off the house. Unobstructed windows highlight a home’s architecture and flood the interior with favorable light. Branches in contact with the house are a red flag for appraisers checking structural integrity and potential pest damage. Safety issues, such as dead wood and dangerous trees, are sure to show up on costly work orders.

On the other hand, if your front yard is devoid of plants, consider planting a tree as a focal point. Consider color. First impressions are largely emotional. Use color to attract and focus attention on positive aspects of the landscape. A single substantial container brimming with blooming bulbs and fresh spring color creates a bigger splash than the same number of plants scattered throughout the front yard.

Maintenance is especially important with color — faded bulbs and burned out plants mid-summer are off-putting. Plan to trade out and refresh container plantings with seasonal shifts.

Enhance distinctive details. Unique features help your home stand out in a crowd. Starting with your address, which should be clearly visible and attractively displayed, distinctive finishing touches should have a wide appeal and offer pleasant sensory details without over stimulating. A trickling fountain is a memorable detail without the perception of complicated upkeep, which a pond might engender.

“Keep details fresh, on trend and contemporary to appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers,” Wallace-Baker says.

Tell your garden’s story. It may be cold and gray outside but snapshots of a flower border in full summer abundance show off your landscape’s hidden potential. If your garden has more intricate plantings, offer potential buyers a walk-through later in the season as plants emerge from winter dormancy or put together a brief outline of seasonal highlights and maintenance routines.

Lorene Edwards Forkner is a Northwest-based freelance writer, food enthusiast and garden designer. Visit to read about her thoughts on life, work, home and garden.

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