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Spring cleaning: getting your yard ready to sell

"Just make sure your lawn is green and manicured," says Dwayne Perry, Williamson County director for the UT Agricultural Extension. This listing at 504 Leanne Way in Franklin's a great example of that.

Spring is a time of change – changes in weather, changes in plants and vegetation, and sometimes a change of residence. For those thinking about putting a house on the market this season, it’s time to get the yard under control for potential buyers. Some local landscaping companies say that yard presentation does matter when selling a house.

In vogue this spring...

J.T. Cunningham, president of Grassland Lawn Care in Franklin, names a few plants in vogue this season:

Blue Chip butterfly bush

“The butterfly bush gets up to about two-and-a-half feet tall. They’re kind of new on the scene. They’ve been around a couple years, but they’ve been working out well.”

Knock Out rose

“I like to use these with the butterfly bush, because the light pink with the light blue is a nice contrast.”

Purple Pixie loropetalum

“It’s a low-growing evergreen, crimson ground cover that doesn’t grow any higher than 18 inches. They’re not very expensive but they’re delicate-looking. It’s good to use for borders and spreads water. If you mix it with plum yew, it looks really good together. They can handle sun or shade, but they look good in the shade.”

“Curb appeal is probably the most important part of selling because that’s the first impression people have of the house. When they pull up and see a well-kept yard, it gives a prospective buyer a sense of relief. If someone is taking care of their yard, more than likely, they’re taking care of the inside of their house,” said J.T. Cunningham, president of Grassland Lawn Care in Franklin.   

“The trick is to get out of your house as quickly as you can, and most lawn cleanup is less expensive than a mortgage payment. You’re competing with other houses on the market. We’ve been to several houses that were on the market a long time, but we came in to clean up and they sold over the weekend,” he added.

Cunningham and a few other local companies offer a few tips for getting your house market-ready.

Control weeds

The late winter has had its advantages, allowing more time for homeowners to prep yards and wrap up cool season crops, said Dwayne Perry, Williamson County director for the UT Agricultural Extension. But with winter finally ebbing away, now is the time to prepare for summer lawn care, a large portion of which is weed control.

“This is the time of year we’re finishing getting down crabgrass control. We call them crabgrass preventers. And March is usually the time to get the fertilization out,” Perry said.  

“As far as planting, it’s still too early. It’s not safe until April 15, but right now, you can use pre-emergent herbicides to control weeds and fertilizer that will help you with grass,” said Oscar Jaramillo, owner of Franklin’s Goldstar Landscaping.

Cunningham recommended a cheap but effective pre-emergent herbicide called Treflan, available at Home Depot.

Do now

Cunningham said that if ornamental grasses haven’t been trimmed yet, now is the time to do so.

In addition, good yards come to those who plan, so decide on flowers and plants and where to plant them in advance.

“You have better results if you plan instead of going through Home Depot and saying, ‘I like this and this,’” Cunningham said.

Finally, invest in pine bark mulch.

“It doesn’t stink, and it doesn’t mold like some of the others, like hardwood and black. If you don’t sell your house quickly, you don’t have to worry about a prospective buyer walking by and seeing a big moldy mess right there,” Cunningham said.

“Also, Tennessee is sitting on a big limestone slab, so the pH level of our soil is higher than optimal for plants. The pine bark mulch helps lower the pH, which makes the greens greener. Pine bark doesn’t draw termites, but most people like it because it’s pretty.”

And of course, it’s best to snap a picture of the house when it’s looking its best while the weather is good and the trees start blooming.    

Aim for neat over natural

Perry said in general, people prefer a uniform look rather than a garden gone wild, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to get the basics right.

“Just make sure your lawn is green and manicured. Have the shrubs appropriately pruned to have a neat appearance that catches your eye. A natural appearance may look sloppy to some people,” Perry said.

Cunningham added that generic color coordination rarely fails, and that landscaping with the intent to sell is not the time for taking risks.

“Keep whites together. Have an area of pinks. Make it make sense. Don’t have too many varieties. Don’t buy three of this and five of that. You want to landscape in such a way that no one can have anything bad to say about it. You don’t want to try anything. Stick with plants that are proven,” he said.

If nothing else…

Mow and trim. These are two of the most inexpensive lawn maintenance practices, and the ones deemed most important by realtors.

“I work with several realtors and they just recommend trimming bushes and mowing,” Jaramillo said.

Cunningham advised mowing once a week, and when trimming bushes, don’t go for an unnatural look.

“Trim your shrubs, but don’t just square them off. No plant looks like a box. Make it look natural,” he said.

Miscellaneous cleaning

Preoccupied with the planting, pruning and weeding aspects of landscaping, many often overlook some very simple parts of improving outward appearance. Cunningham said not to miss the little things that don’t cost a fortune, but make a big difference.

“Pressure wash your sidewalks and driveways. If you’ve got windows in your garage door, clean them. Don’t have cobwebs on your porches,” he said. 

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