Trying to sell your house? Think curb appeal

Caron Dwyer is an avid gardener, but when she got ready to put her Lynnwood house on the market, she realized her yard needed a little oomph to help it sell.

Most of her front yard was filled with perennials, drought-tolerant shrubs and trees, and a dry stream bed. While it served as a relaxing retreat for her, Dwyer wanted to make sure it would appeal to potential buyers.

On the advice of her landscape company, she took out some plants that didn’t fit and filled in other spots that were bare. She also freshened up the yard with colorful primroses.

It doesn’t necessarily cost a lot to spruce up a yard, said Jessica Bloom, the owner of Northwest Bloom Ecological Landscape, the Mill Creek company that consulted with Dwyer. Bloom’s company focuses primarily as a design-build landscape firm but it also provides consultation services to people who want to spruce up their yards before their homes sell and routine yard maintenance as the house sits on the market.

Bloom said most buyers fall into two camps: people who need to sell their home quickly or people who want to get the most possible money for their home. Those in the latter camp can spend thousands on staging the outside of the house with the services of a professional decorator and extras such as outdoor furniture, lighting and expensive planting containers.

“It’s the same thing some people do with an interior designer inside,” Bloom said. “Through color spots and containers, you’re more likely to charm a buyer.”

Home sellers with even small budgets can add spots of color. One of the most cost-effective ways to do that is with hanging baskets or containers next to the entryway. It will be too cold for a few more weeks to put out summer annuals but homeowners can use hardy annuals such as primroses or spring bulbs such as daffodils now.

Be prepared to keep those pots of flowers fresh and well cared for. It defeats the purpose of adding a color spot if the flowers are dead, she said.

A common mistake is using many small pots. Use fewer but larger pots for impact, perhaps two flanking the door. If you choose a neutral container, you can take it with you to your new home, she said.

Her company and many others provide help choosing and designing containers. Expect to pay $100 to $300 for a well-designed container, although cost varies based on the plants and size.

Everyone regardless of budget can do a few simple things that dramatically improve curb appeal, she said. Most importantly, get the yard cleaned up. Clear away dead plants and leaves. Weed and get rid of the weed pile. Mow the grass. Store the personal stuff that sometimes accumulates in the yard such as stray tools, plastic toys and hoses. The goal is to create a space that feels clean and uncluttered.

Real estate agents often tell their clients to clear the inside of the home of personal belongings so potential buyers can visualize themselves in the home. Do the same with the yard, Bloom said.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people use the outside of their house like a closet,” she said. “Nobody wants to think to themselves, ‘I’m going to have to visit the dump four times before I can relax back here.’ “

One of the simplest ways to give the yard a cleaned and cared for look is to edge the lawn. Use a half-moon stepping tool, an electric trimmer or both if the lawn has never been edged.

“A lot of homeowners look past that because they don’t know or care,” Bloom said. “Edge the lawn and it adds a nice crispness, sort of like keeping your carpets vacuumed.”

Mulching beds is another way to give the yard a face-lift, she said. When it’s done right it makes the yard look clean and prevents weeds. Avoid beauty bark, which turns some people off, Bloom said. For long-term landscape health compost is excellent, but for a short-term solution it also might allow weeds to germinate. She recommended a dark bark, which can be purchased in bulk and delivered. If you don’t have time to spread it, many landscape services will blow it onto the beds with a giant hose, but these firms don’t tend to do small jobs and they can be pricey, she said.

If you have time but no money, she said arborist services and tree-trimming companies will often deliver wood chips for free, and these can be used as mulch in a pinch. Wood chips are a good option also if you have a lot of area to cover, she said.

A caution on mulch: If there are weedy areas to cover and you don’t have time to weed, avoid simply dumping wood chips on top or using those sheets of black plastic. Instead, use a biodegradable sheet mulch such as newspaper or cardboard that will feed the soil and prevent weeds from poking through. It’s also cheaper.

Bloom’s final piece of advice: Keep up the yard maintenance until the house is sold.

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or

Northwest Bloom


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