Real Estate News: Appealing back yards help on-the-market homes sell


CHICAGO — Summertime is the outdoor season, and if that is when you plan to sell your home, you can be sure potential buyers across the real estate market will be paying special attention to your back yard.

The back yard is always important to buyers who are outdoors-oriented, particularly those who like to garden, but at this time of year, everyone notices the yard,” said Nicole Norwalk-Galanis of RE/MAX Signature in Chicago. “I’d say landscaping and outdoor space are high priorities for about 50 percent of buyers. For others, they are still a factor, if not a top concern.”

Especially at this time of year, buyers will respond positively if they can easily envision themselves enjoying the back yard of a home they are considering, according to Cindie Patterson, an agent at RE/MAX of Barrington in Barrington, Ill.

A well-maintained yard with an attractive seating area, whether it’s a deck or patio, along with some well-trimmed shrubs and a few flowers, help create a positive first impression for any home during the summer season,” said Patterson.

Not every buyer, however, has the same idea of what constitutes a great yard.

Some buyers prefer minimal landscaping because they don’t have time for a lot of yard work or the resources to hire someone to do the work for them,” noted Angela Lotz, of RE/MAX All Pro in Bloomingdale, Ill. “But an extensively landscaped yard is viewed as a plus by a sizable majority of buyers.”

If the appeal of landscaping crosses geographic boundaries, it does seem to respect differences in price, according to Gay Weaver, of RE/MAX Synergy in Flossmoor, Ill.

High-quality landscaping is more important to buyers of higher-end homes than to first-time buyers or those who will have to do all the yard maintenance work themselves, reported Weaver.

For homes priced in the lower portion of the market, nice landscaping can be a pleasant surprise for buyers, but it’s not something that will impact their offer much,” said Weaver. “On the high end, however, good landscaping is expected, and if it isn’t there, it will make the home harder to sell and even can negatively impact its value.”

For those homeowners wondering what the right level of landscaping might be to maximize the value of their property, Janine Walsh, of RE/MAX Showcase in Long Grove, Ill., recommends looking closely at your neighbors’ property.

It makes sense to harmonize your landscape with what’s around you. A lack of landscaping can make a home look like the least attractive one on the block,” said Walsh. “However, too much landscaping can be overkill, and many buyers won’t want to deal with it. So, I recommend that sellers work for a look that is both inviting and low-key.”

Water features also have proven attractive, especially in recent years. Buyers seem to respond positively to a water feature, even if it is only a simple birdbath.

For extra sizzle, add a fire pit or built-in grill, suggested Norwalk-Galanis.

Landscaping that enhances privacy is another way to make your back yard more attractive, according to Weaver. She estimated that 80 percent of buyers prefer a fenced yard, largely because a fence can increase privacy.

She also noted that the sense of privacy can be enhanced by plantings around the patio or deck.

Another way to add sales appeal to your back yard is to keep the landscaping low- maintenance.

In recent years, we’ve seen people move away from things like swimming pools and decks, as well as planting areas filled with annuals, because they require a lot of labor, and homeowners don’t have the time for it these days,” said Lotz.

A garden that features perennials and a deck built of synthetic lumber or a concrete patio are low-maintenance solutions that will appeal to many buyers.

From the Aug. 1-7, 2012, issue

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