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Q:  Marsha, I’m putting my home on the market in a few months. It’s a beautiful and well-maintained home. My realtor insists I spruce up my landscaping to receive maximum value. Is this a necessary expense? 

A:  To answer your question, consider this scenario. A couple is researching real estate websites for a home in Santa Barbara. They fall in love with a “beautiful and well-maintained home,” — your home. The interior photos are stunning.  As the buyers and their agent park to go inside, everyone gasps in unison. Overgrown weeds abound, the flowers and plants are dead or dying and the trees haven’t been trimmed in years.  “It’s a fixer,” the buyers declare, “Let’s not go in.” Ouch! That’s the power of the first and lasting impression. 

You are selling the entire package; the inside and the outside. Landscaping is always important, but in Santa Barbara it is vital. Why are homes in Santa Barbara among the most expensive in the state and the country? It’s the weather tax. We play, live, and entertain outdoors eleven months of the year. We extend our living space simply by opening the sliding glass doors to our patios. Families cherish their exterior space. This is true whether living in a 4,000 square foot house or a 600 square foot condominium.

It’s difficult to set an exact value on improvements. Will remodeling a kitchen or bathroom yield a good return on investment (ROI) for resale? Many real estate sites say no; that you may only receive 80 cents back for every dollar spent. On landscaping, however, the consensus is that you will get back money spent and then some. In an April 1, 2015, Washington Post article John Gidding, host of HGTV’s Curb Appeal said, “I have always heard the number 150 percent [ROI], but to me that is conservative. On a Curb Appeal project, I put in $20,000 and the sellers got $200,000 more than they had paid for the house just a year prior. The return was astonishing.”

What if you don’t have $20,000 to spend on landscaping? That’s not a problem. The front and back yards can still be made appealing. Begin with cleaning: power washing, weeding and a lawn mower produce miraculous results. Follow up with lots of colorful mulch, plants and flowers. It will appear simple yet appealing. People love trees; time to trim them. 

Do, but don’t overdo. Many homeowners want to enjoy the outdoors, but not spend all their time or money on maintenance. I’ve shown homes that had gorgeous gardens and landscaping that put the buyers off when they considered the high cost of a large lawn or extensive flower beds.  Currently in Santa Barbara, the best landscaping is drought tolerant and preferably low maintenance. 

Get dirty and make your home dazzle outside as well as under the roof. It will be worth the effort. 

Marsha Gray has worked in Santa Barbara real estate for over 25 years. She works at Allyn & Associates, where she helps her clients buy and sell homes and with lending services. To read more of Marsha’s Q&A articles, visit Contact Marsha at (805) 252-7093 or DRE# 012102130; NMLS #1982164.

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