property-management-curb-side-appealIn the world of real estate, first impressions are everything. Any experienced realtor or property manager will tell you that the condition of a property’s exterior is crucial and poor outdoor aesthetics heavily influence a renter’s ultimate decision. Don’t let this happen to you! Turn your rental home into the belle of the block with these cost-effective landscaping tips.

Find the Focal Point

Stand on the other side of the street and face your rental property. What is the focal point? Though landscaping plays a big part, it should be the front door. If overgrown brush is in the way or lawn decor detracts from it, you’ve found your first to-do. Trim shrubs and replace distractions with one or two statement pieces, such as a bird bath or bench under a tree. Since everything in the yard points to the grand entry, make sure there’s something grand about it. No need to replace an only slightly-drabby door. Instead, give it a fresh coat of paint and use a series of potted plants or tasteful patio furniture for a splash of color.

  • Time: About 10-12 hours from start to finish
  • Tools: Gardening shears and a paint brush

Show the Way

An enticing invitation, a well-designed path can improve aesthetics and functionality in any front yard landscape. Especially in a yard dominated by grass, a foot path adds interest to an otherwise blank canvas. For primary paths—ones leading from the back door to the driveway or the front door to the sidewalk— consider following an easy, predictable pattern with large stones or bricks to lead the way. For these paths, mark the most obvious route to the destination. Otherwise, visitors may cut directly to the front door, walking straight through your grass or garden. Not only will this hurt your hard work, but potential tenants could see it as a major landscaping flaw. Secondary paths—those leading to a more secluded area—can be narrower and less obtrusive, according to Lynn Ocone from This Old House. Consider using wood mulch or colorful stones on these paths.

  • Time: 2-3 days or an entire weekend
  • Tools: A shovel might due, but since you’ll need to level the path and create a drainage system, consider renting heavy-duty equipment to move the job along more quickly

Plan (and Plant) Accordingly

If chosen wisely, shrubs, flowers and trees are a great addition to an empty front yard. But before you start planting, consider the direction the home faces and the amount of sunlight each plant will require. For example, if the home faces north, choose plants that don’t need a lot of light.

Also consider the long-term affects of your landscaping choices. To potential buyers or renters, trees can be an asset or a liability depending where they are planted. You want them to represent life and shade, not a costly fixture prospective owners will have to remove. When planting trees, instead of viewing them as a quick fix to a lonely lawn, think of what they will look like in 10 to 15 years. With this in mind, make sure to plant them far enough away from the home in order for them to have enough space to grow.

  • Time: 3-5 hours
  • Tools: A shovel, pickax and pruners

Get Help

If you still feel lost, consider getting a professional’s opinion. Many landscape designers offer a one-time consultation service that can help you review your options. After visiting your home, he or she can offer specific suggestions that will help you achieve the greatest landscaping return on investment.