Article Written by Kris Sontag

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The picture of your backyard may not be the first photo that potential buyers see online when they’re looking for a home to buy. But it can be the picture in the lineup that breaks the deal — even before a buyer has come to look at your home in person. If your yard looks like it’s going to need a lot of work, or it’s messy and weed-ridden, you might lose a possible sale. You can get your backyard or patio camera-ready with a few changes.

Seeing Green

Get the lawn in shape. The lawn is the first thing potential buyers see in the exterior photos. It’s also the biggest element that can make your yard look better. That means regular mowing, edging and watering.  It’s important that you mow properly long before it’s time for a showing, as green grass doesn’t happen overnight. Be sure to mow your grass with sharp blades, and to never cut off more than 1/3rd of the length of the grass blade length.  If this seems like too much work, hiring a professional will run you $45 to $52 per service for a standard quarter acre lot.

If it happens to be early spring (late February to early March in DFW), you may need to apply pre-emergent herbicide. A manicured, thick, green lawn will always look good on camera, and will always make your yard look more organized. It also makes it more likely that a potential buyer will linger on a photo, imagining themselves enjoying the outdoors.

Flower Beds

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Few things are more photogenic than flowers. Clean up any flower beds by weeding, watering, and fertilizing. Replace any diseased or dead plants, and prune your bushes. A clean and thriving backyard is the foundation of any attractive picture.

Storage

You want your patio furniture to multitask. An outdoor bench can double as a storage trunk for toys, tools, or anything else that accumulates in this space. An outdoor ottoman can also store clutter, and a standard potting or gardening bench should come with shelves where you can store your gardening tools. Even better, buy crates to organize your tools, spare pots, bags of soil, and fertilizers. Place the crates on the shelves of the gardening bench for a polished, magazine-ready look, instead of a disorganized mess. Or, you can buy a potting bench that comes with cabinet doors. You can achieve this look inexpensively. Just shop around online and at your local home improvement and gardening stores.

There’s no consensus on whether a shed will give you any return on investment. But many real estate professionals agree: A shed will increase the marketability of your home. That’s because a shed can hold any multitude of messes, from a plethora of yard tools to foldable patio furniture. You can spend anywhere from a few hundred bucks on a prefab shed, to tens of thousands of dollars on a custom-built structure on a poured foundation. If you have a small backyard or only a patio, a storage cabinet will do the trick.

Hardscapes

Even the most luxurious hardscaped area won’t impress anyone if it’s dirty or grungy. Power-wash the patio and any concrete or stone walkways. Toss any outdoor furniture that’s broken, rusted, chipped, dated, or mismatched. In its place, buy (or rent from a house staging company) a matching set of up-to-date outdoor furniture. Remember, less is more. You want to highlight the amount of space available. Accessorize it with some grouped containers of herbs or flowers, and a clean grill or smoker. The idea is to help potential buyers imagine themselves using and enjoying your backyard or patio. Don’t make them think too hard about it. You want them to see the picture, click on your house and come see it in person.

Outdoor Lighting

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Daytime pictures are preferable, but some buyers will look at your home at night. Add some landscape lighting and have your photographer snap a photo at dusk. This shows the backyard is functional in the evening.

You may have painted all your interior walls the recommended neutral color, and gussied up the front porch, but don’t let buyers get turned off by the backyard. Think of it as an extension of your home. It will take a little elbow grease and a few dollars, but getting your backyard or patio camera-ready will pay off at your closing.

Kris Sontag is a designer who enjoys redecorating older homes. She has a special flair for backyard gardens and outdoor kitchen areas.

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