When Christina and I first started flipping houses, I really didn’t think that we needed to spend money on landscaping. Then I took a look at the lawn on one of our first flips. It looked completely pathetic, with patchy, yellow grass and weeds everywhere. We’d done a lot of really high-quality work inside the house, and I knew that anyone who walked inside would be blown away. There was just one problem — that lawn — no one was going to walk inside, because it seriously brought down the curb appeal and made the place look trashy.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot of DOs and DON’Ts for landscaping, including the kinds of landscaping jobs that will look beautiful, but might actually hurt your chances of selling a property. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through what Christina and I have been through — trying to sell houses with unimpressive lawns, or trying to convince people that their lawns won’t be too hard to maintain with all the intricate work we’ve done. Instead, you can learn from our mistakes and do just the right landscaping, with these tips we’ve learned over the years.
When to Sod and When to Seed
If you know that your rehab is going to take a few weeks, and it happens to be the right time of year, you might be able to get away with just seeding the lawn and letting it grow in, while you work on your rehabs. However, if your contractors are going to be walking back and forth over the lawn every day during rehab, you might not have the best luck with this. Likewise, if you’re looking at a really quick turnaround for your rehab, your grass won’t have time to grow in before you need to show the property. In these cases, sodding is the better option, since you’ll get an instant improvement.
Take Care of (or Remove) Water Features
If the property has a fountain, a birdbath, a pond or any other water feature, you need to tend to it. If it’s in decent shape, you’ll want to spruce it up and maybe add some shrubbery around it. If it’s looking rundown, don’t be afraid to remove it. Then you can start over with some landscaping that won’t require as much maintenance, and won’t cost as much as rehabbing a dilapidated water feature.
Before You Commit to a New Feature — How Much Upkeep Will It Take?
Christina and I made a really good move with one of our houses a while back, by adding a kitchen garden with peppers and vegetables. Our buyers loved it, but it was a bit of a gamble. With that property, we knew we had a feature that some buyers would love and others would have no use for. Basically, we knew we had to sell that house to people with green thumbs who would be excited about growing some of their own food.
If you’re thinking of adding a piece of landscaping like a garden or other specialized feature, you need to think about exactly how much maintenance it’s going to need, and about your neighborhood and the people who live (and will want to live) there.
If you’re rehabbing in a neighborhood where most of the houses have intricate landscaping and people expect either to spend a good amount of time doing yard work or paying someone else to do it, then you can go for it. If there’s any question in your head about this, however, go with a simpler plan that won’t require as much work for your buyers.
With these tips, you should have a better idea of how to landscape your flip houses. Remember to check out the comps, look around the neighborhood and think hard about what will sell your house, before you commit to any landscaping plan.