‘Kerb appeal’ is not an estate agent riff, says, who urges you to put your garden in order if you want to attract house-buyers’ attention
In the decisive few minutes before a prospective buyer steps inside your house, they will pull up by car and judge the horticultural package framing their domestic hopes and dreams. If they are greeted by shrieking cock-a-poos, sinister tall grasses waving from the gutters, a curious ascending crack in the render and an apologetic obstacle course passing for a front garden — how would you react?
Now we’ve unwittingly raised expectations, making it absolutely crucial that the interior design triumphs will outshine the shaggy, unkempt approach. Getting to the golden number you need to leap up the property ladder or to downsize and put a healthy chunk of change into a retirement, can depend on that two-minute journey from the vehicle to the front door.
‘I spy’ DIY
It’s an even shorter distance in a feverish viewer’s mind between relatively minor but visible maintenance issues and the spectre of a property with serious problems under its skin. Stroll up to the house from the public approach and whip out a pair of binoculars to make a ruthless assessment of slipped ridge tiles and dank, forgotten corners. Call in your rudest neighbour for a walk-through — the one with no editing facility on their opinions.
Ensure any gates around the drive and garden are level, painted and swing cleanly and quietly (do I have to say WD40?).
Blocked, rusting, badly hung gutters declares (think of the jaundiced surveyor) that you don’t take care of your roof and rainwater system.
White PVCu gutters, fascias and soffits should be cleaned back to white. Otherwise, leave roof repairs to a seasoned, insured, VAT-registered roofer.
Ensure shores and soak-aways at ground level are swept out and in working order. Power-wash all cemented, paved and tarmac areas. Don’t start gunning away at brickwork or render which can detach in clumps. Investigate cracks in render or brickwork larger than 3mm with the help of a structurally engineer.
If the paintwork on the facades, window frames, sills and entry doors is five-seven years old, it’s probably time to paint/stain the whole place. Investigate any integrity issues with the framing and seals of windows and doors while you’re at it.
Is privacy fence-level, straight, undamaged? Screen bins, a lousy view, an oil tank or A/S heat pump.
A spray of colour to timber using something like the Ronseal Precision Fence per panel takes as little as four minutes per 1800mmx1200mm section (€40). Don’t tear down established climbing plants that may have wound themselves into the exterior fabric. Take expert advice.
Your windowsills should not be treated as shelves. Clear them off to one or two key pieces, and ensure nets, sheers, windows and frames are sparkling.
Choose a determined colour for the front door. A couple of specimen size topiary style trees set on either side of the main entrance — instant upscale. Olive trees with fragrant flowers are a current rage. Spirit them away with you when you leave — those Olea Europea are expensive.
Imagine your garden as the first “room” your viewers will enter and then make peace with throwing a little money and muscle at it. The procession will be front garden to the house, through the house with tantalising glimpses of the landscaping/view and finally the big reveal through a logical inside/outside conduit.
Gardens with hard areas under gravel and rockeries with evergreen mound-forming planting and grasses appeal to busy professionals. Well maintained lawns for soft landings is vital for families with children.
Conjure charm, scent and signs of enthusiastic horticultural effort. Check your local garden centre for some plug ’n’ play blossoming annuals and inexpensive shrubs to cheer up beds and borders.
If you and the garden are truly desperate — hire in a landscaping firm to put a polish on the place. Prune out dead branches and clip shrubs interrupting any pathways or views in the garden. Dead or mortally wounded plants? Shredded, gone, goodbye.
Cut the grass (obviously) and neaten edges. Use an edging spade to make crisp borders between lawns and paving. Deploy a shake-out lawn seed product with integrated fertilisers to stitch in a thick sward over bald patches. If you live beside a busy road, high planting and a water feature are a distraction from the outside world. Weed out gravel driveways and paths and order more gravel if necessary. There’s nothing like that nice deep scrunch underfoot.
Dedicate at least one day to clear and manage the garage — possibly the only outbuilding on offer. We are a shed nation, and if you don’t believe me just stroll around Pinterest. Order the contents to show off its full potential. Add some pavers to create a small level patio for a gardener’s chair.
Project the dream
We’re selling a lifestyle. Create the impression that the garden or even a small hard-surfaced yard is a vibrant, recreational area pulsing with potential for relaxation by day and even by night. Garden furniture of some kind is an absolute must. This could be a full set of chairs and table or simply a wooden bench set against a sunny wall for occasional basks. The Newbury Bistro set in wood starts at under €59, Argos. No BBQ? Try a chiminea for focus, from €95, Hanleys of Cork.
All windows should be clean, but any glazed French door/slider or bi-fold inviting us in and out of the house should be absolutely glistening. To keep on top of a lot of floor-to-ceiling glass try the WV1 window vacuum from Karcher, €55.
Ensure plastic furniture is clean and dry (power-washing or a wipedown with a cream kitchen cleaner will lift most green gunk). Stain timber furniture well in advance with a water-based micro-porous product. Put out dry garden cushions and a perfectly clean garden umbrella. Arrange some hefty terracotta pots around the patio area drifting to the ground with flowers and with fragrant herbs.
Out of sight: animal feeding bowls, bins, damaged garden toys and any rubbish due for the dump hiding around the garden or paths by the house. Wind up the hose neatly.
Having washed them down (no, I’m not kidding), keep the bins neat and snapped shut — all we need now is a vagrant rat.
No-one needs to see fluttering underwear. There should be no washing out on the line on viewing days. It personalises the garden in the wrong way. Remove the dog if he is either a snarling lunatic or likely to knock down viewers with his enthusiasm.
If the afternoon is overcast, switch on your outside lights as a beacon of welcome and check that any IR-operated security lights are working.