How to make your lawn look great for your first open house

Homes & real estate
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How to make your lawn look great for your first open house

Homes & real estate

Clichés become, well, clichéd for a reason: there’s a big chunk of truth in them.

And when it comes to selling your home the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” never rings truer.

Your front yard can make or break a potential buyer’s interest in your home. If the first thing they see is a weedy, overgrown, ill-tended mess, that will negatively color how they see the whole house.

With so much on the line (you are looking to use the profits from selling your home to help you qualify for the best home mortgages, right?), let’s review some tips to help you bring your lawn into tip-top shape.

Gear Up

Unless you’ve got a gardener on retainer, or plan on hiring a landscape specialist, there’s no reason to make your job any harder than it has to be. Many hands and the right equipment make light work.

To that end, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all the right stuff. This includes:

  • Lawnmower
  • Hose(s) that can reach the whole yard
  • Wide, stiff-tined rake
  • Edge-trimmer
  • Sprinkler or sprinkler system
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch/Seed/Sod
  • Weed puller/organic herbicide

Don’t Rush

Just as you don’t want to be rushed from bed to breakfast to boardroom in the morning, you’ll want to give your lawn time to “wake up” from winter.

Wait until it’s become a nice shade of green before you start working on it.

Don’t Overwater

When grass first starts re-growing in the spring, the bulk of the energy is put towards developing a strong root system.

Slightly dry topsoil actually helps encourage the grass to send roots deep into the earth. (Which will also help it last through a drought.)

You can tell it’s time to water when the grass doesn’t spring back when you walk across it.

The Acid Test

A DIY soil pH tester can help determine if your lawn got too acidic over the winter and needs a thin coating of lime to neutralize it.

Seed/Sod the Bare Patches

Bare dirt is an open invitation for weeds to settle in and get cozy. If you’ve already got weeds growing, rip them out and loosen up the soil with your rake.

  • Seed: sow them and lightly cover with a little fresh topsoil and tamp down.
  • Sod: trim your square or rectangle of sod to match your bare spot and push it firmly into the dirt.

In both cases, you’ll want to water the area daily—perhaps twice-daily in hot weather—until it’s moist (not soggy).

Weed Removal

Even the best of lawns will have the occasional interloper. The ideal solution is to use a weed puller to remove them deep in the root.

If herbicides are more your speed, opt for an organic version over the poly-syllabic versions. Bring an example of the weed(s) attacking your lawn to a garden center specialist to learn which formulation will work best.

Whichever solution you use, remove the weeds ASAP to avoid them spreading their seeds.

Fertilize Appropriately

All fertilizers are not created equal. Different types of grass prosper with different types of fertilizer.

Some fertilizers are for cool-season lawns, others for warm season lawns. Take some photos and clippings to a nursery or garden specialty store and get an expert to advise you.

Also, don’t fertilize in the spring. It’s like giving Red Bull to an eight-year-old. You’ll only end up having to mow more often because you turbo-charged the already-in-growing-mode grass.

Tidy First, Mow Second

Lots of unwelcome, and potentially painful, surprises can end up on your lawn over the winter. Carefully walk it to pick up any large pieces, and then rake to remove smaller debris and any dead grass.

A good rule of thumb when mowing is to cut only a third of the grass’s length at a time. This will not only encourage the grass to grow deeper, stronger roots to keep it healthy but crowd out weeds.

And, of course, you’ll want to give your lawnmower a thorough inspection, cleaning, and tune-up before you turn it on.

At a minimum, the following should all be replaced or inspected/repaired to make sure they’re in top shape:

  • Starter
  • Battery
  • Spark plugs
  • Air filter
  • Belts
  • Bag

The blade should be sharpened as well. Dull blades rip and tear grass. Sharp ones cut cleanly.

A Well-Tended Lawn…

Can’t help but send the message, “Welcome! Make yourself at home.” And that's the first, best step to turning home shoppers into homebuyers.