20 Landscaping Mistakes That Make Home Buyers Walk the Other Way

Selling a home is all about first impressions. Don’t let potential buyers take a pass at your place because your landscaping isn’t up to par.

Your Landscaping Can Help Sell Your Home

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Your Landscaping Can Help Sell Your Home

If you’re selling your home or planning to sell, you know you need to make sure everything is in order. Your paint may need touch-ups, carpets should be cleaned, and all your knick-knacks need to be put away. But what about landscaping? Because first impressions can make or break a sale, be sure to steer clear of these 20 landscaping mistakes that can make home buyers walk—or even run—the other way.

RELATED: Landscaping: A Good Investment

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1. Large Water Features

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Large Water Features

Sure, man-made ponds and water features can help create a relaxing outdoor space, but they can also attract insects such as mosquitoes. Plus, it takes work to keep them clean and well maintained—work potential buyers might not be up for. Morgan Knull, a broker with Re/Max Gateway, told the Washington Post that buyers are often intimidated when it comes to a water feature’s maintenance, such as dealing with clogged filters and leaky liners.

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2. Invasive Plants

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Invasive Plants

Some invasive plants may look pretty, but they are definitely a turnoff for home garden-savvy buyers, since the plants can quickly take over a yard or plot. Invasive varieties often destroy native, more beneficial plants, and can be costly to control. According to the California Invasive Plant Council, in California alone, invasive plants cost the state at least $82 million each year to control.

RELATED: Grow This, Not That: 12 Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants

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3. Large Trees

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Large Trees

While the right tree can offer shade or some textural contrast in your landscaping, big trees that are too close to the house can be a red flag. Depending on the size and age of the tree, large trees may cause buyers to worry about damage due to falling limbs or roots damaging pipes. Plus, tree removal can be pricey, with extreme projects costing as much as $2,000, according to HomeAdvisor.

RELATED: Solved! What to Do When a Tree Falls On Your House

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4. A Huge Lawn

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A Huge Lawn

A healthy lawn can be a plus when selling your home, but there can be too much of a good thing. For some potential homeowners, a huge lawn may be overwhelming. Since not all home buyers enjoy doing yard work, big, open lawns may mean an investment in time and energy they just don’t have to offer. Plus, eco-conscious buyers often prefer native and low-water options.

If you have a big open lawn, there are some things you can do: Consider installing a large patio, creating some smaller native plant beds to break the landscape up, or setting up multiple outdoor living areas, depending on your space.

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5. A Poorly Made Fire Pit

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A Poorly Made Fire Pit

A fire pit can be a draw for buyers who love backyard entertaining, but a poorly made fire pit can definitely put off buyers. It also can be a fire hazard. If you have a DIY fire pit in your backyard, make sure it is a safe distance away from any structures (at least 10 feet is standard). You’ll also need to make sure you adhere to any city or local government requirements.

RELATED: How to Build a Fire Pit That’s Easy and Cheap

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6. Too Many Annuals

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Too Many Annuals

Too many annual flowers may cause buyers to walk the other way. Since you must buy them each year, annuals can be expensive and a lot of work to maintain—especially for a novice gardener. If you have large flower beds, consider swapping your annuals for a few native perennial plants or shrubs and mulching to fill in.

RELATED: Upgrade Your Winter Garden with These 9 Colorful Perennials

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7. Dog Urine Spots

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Dog Urine Spots

A lawn full of brown urine spots from your dog could make some buyers think twice, as it may say you don’t bother with upkeep. Spots of dead grass will usually repair themselves over time, but, for a quick fix, Consumer Reports recommends cutting out the dead spot and filling it with plugs cut from a strip of sod.

RELATED: The Best Artificial Grass for Dogs for 2022

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8. Lawn Chemicals

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Lawn Chemicals

With more homeowners turning to organic ways to keep their landscaping lush and healthy, chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, are big no-no’s for some buyers. Instead of spraying chemicals, there are ways to target certain weeds. Aeration works to fight dandelions, while corn-gluten meal can help fight crabgrass.

RELATED: 7 Fertilizer Mistakes Most Home Gardeners Make

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9. Cracked Concrete

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Cracked Concrete

Cracks in your home’s concrete patio or walkways aren’t just unsightly, they can be dangerous. They can also be costly to fix, with HomeAdvisor estimating the cost of filling smaller holes or cracks at $100, if you do it yourself. Large repairs can set you back up to $20 per square foot.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Dress Up a Drab Concrete Patio

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10. Unconventional Containers

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Unconventional Containers

Some feel using unconventional containers adds humor or a unique touch to the yard. Think old tires used as planters or an old clawfoot tub upcycled into a small flower bed. You’ll find some people even use old toilets to hold plants and flowers. This style just doesn't appeal to everyone and can be off-putting. Opt for a little more order and color.

RELATED: 20 Plants That Are Perfect for Window Boxes

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A Messy Yard

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A Messy Yard

For those thinking of selling their home, a messy or unkempt yard can give potential buyers a bad first impression. For sellers, be sure to mow regularly, weed flower beds, keep the yard clutter-free, and put away toys when not in use.

RELATED: The 16 Biggest Reasons Your Neighbors Are Likely to Report You

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12. High-Maintenance Trees and Shrubs

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High-Maintenance Trees and Shrubs

They may add beauty to your landscaping, but think twice before adding any high-maintenance trees or shrubs to your landscaping. These require a lot of upkeep and may take their toll if you can’t maintain them. For example, bamboo might seem like a great idea for a zen garden, but the invasive type can be hard to control. Certain kinds of hedges and fruit trees may need pruning or clipping several times during the year or the need to pick up fallen fruit regularly. 

RELATED: 12 Things an Arborist Wishes You Knew

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13. Overspending on Landscaping

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Overspending on Landscaping

Before you start planting anything, you’ll want to set a budget since it’s easy to overspend when it comes to landscaping plants and materials. Consider this: Real estate experts suggest spending 5 to 10 percent of the value of your home on landscaping. One easy way to cut landscaping costs is to replace some annuals with perennials. Since annuals cost more over time, try putting them in pots near entrances and along walkways. Opt for native perennials in larger flower beds and borders. 

RELATED: 14 Landscaping Features That Can Hurt Home Value

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14. Pesty Plants

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Pesty Plants

You may not have signed up for pests, but some plants tend to draw in more pests than others. Fruit trees and bushes, including raspberry bushes and cherry and apple trees, are notorious for attracting pests like ants. In addition, certain garden vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, peas, and tomatoes can attract pesky insects. 

While some garden pests are harmless, others may severely damage or even kill your plants. If you decide on a plant or tree that’s notorious for attracting pests make sure you have a plan to keep bugs at bay, whether it’s through organic treatments, such as placing other plants nearby that are known to repel pests, or by using a net to keep bugs away.

RELATED: 10 Plants to Grow for a Pest-Proof Yard

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15. A Sloping Yard

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A Sloping Yard

Homes that have a sloping yard can present quite a challenge when it comes to landscaping. Not only is soil erosion a problem, but maintaining the sloping section of a yard can be a never-ending nightmare. Instead of having nature take its course, try using a slope to your advantage. Break it out in tiers with pavers or large rocks, build a retaining wall, or even try adding some steps to cut down on maintenance and prevent the soil from eroding over time.

RELATED: Dos and Don'ts About Building Retaining Walls

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16. Improper Drainage

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Improper Drainage

If your landscape doesn’t have the right drainage, you may be left with a muddy, messy pit for much of the year, not to mention a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Adding downspouts and downspout extensions can certainly help, just make sure they don’t empty out in an area of your yard that can easily flood. Adding pea or crushed gravel to encourage drainage can also help. In addition, aerating your lawn, creating a rain garden, and adding water-absorbing plants such as globeflowers, violets, and primrose can help with drainage.

RELATED: 6 Smart Ways to Prevent a Soggy Yard With Every Rain Shower

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17. Too Much Water

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Too Much Water

When planning your landscaping, consider how much watering you (and potential buyers) are willing to do. Large flower beds containing annual plants will require much more water than native perennials. Keeping a large, lush, green lawn looking healthy will require plenty of water in the summer, as will a large vegetable garden. You’ll also want to put a lot of thought into how much watering your landscape will need if you live in an area that often has watering restrictions in place. 

One helpful tip to cut down on the amount of water needed is to group plants with similar watering needs together to maximize water resources or to opt for low-water native plants for beds and native grasses for lawns.

RELATED: 25 "No Effort" Plants for a Foolproof Landscape

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18. Poisonous Plants

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Poisonous Plants

If you have pets or young children, you’ll want to steer clear of some poisonous plants. Some common landscaping plants that are poisonous to dogs include gladiolas, daffodils, milkweed, and ivy. Plants such as rhododendron, Lily-of-the-valley, and hydrangeas are popular and are known to be poisonous to humans.

RELATED: The 25 Most Dangerous Plants for Your Pet

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19. Damaged Landscape Features

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Damaged Landscape Features

Nobody wants to see rotting landscape features such as crumbling retaining walls or rotted flower or garden bed boxes as they can be both unsightly and dangerous. Depending on the severity of the damage, you may be able to fix some retaining walls yourself, or you may need to hire out for the project. Often, you can replace flower and garden boxes yourself.

RELATED:  How to Repair a Retaining Wall

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20. Lacking a Color Palette

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Lacking a Color Palette

Be sure to give your landscape color palette some consideration before you start planting. The best way to do this is by using color theory, which is a collection of guidelines designers use to create appealing color schemes. For example: Houses in neutral colors can be easy to work with since nearly any color flower will complement beige, gray, and brown backdrops. 

If your home is a pastel color, look for flowers to create a contrast, such as bright orange flowers against a pale blue house. You can also use color to create the appearance of depth by placing warm colors in front of cool colors.

RELATED: 14 Plants, Shrubs, and Trees That Can Help Sell Your House

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