Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Retail
Curb Appeal


July 6, 2009
By Michelle Brisebois

Topics

In real estate terms – we’ve entered a buyer’s market. For several years now, home sales have been brisk. In many cases, houses sold quickly for bids at or sometimes exceeding the asking price. Those days, for the moment, are gone. Home sellers must bring their “A” game to the process. They need to think like marketers – their home is now a “product” for sale. As with any product, it’s got to get noticed first and then make the buyer’s short list. An attractive exterior is the real estate equivalent to a catchy label on a consumer packaged good. The exterior communicates a lot about what’s inside and gardens are a major component of that first impression. Home stagers are professionals brought in to ready a house for the real estate market and long neglected gardens are often part of that process. Herein lies the opportunity for garden centres.

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In real estate terms – we’ve entered a buyer’s market. For several years now, home sales have been brisk. In many cases, houses sold quickly for bids at or sometimes exceeding the asking price. Those days, for the moment, are gone. Home sellers must bring their “A” game to the process. They need to think like marketers – their home is now a “product” for sale. As with any product, it’s got to get noticed first and then make the buyer’s short list. An attractive exterior is the real estate equivalent to a catchy label on a consumer packaged good. The exterior communicates a lot about what’s inside and gardens are a major component of that first impression. Home stagers are professionals brought in to ready a house for the real estate market and long neglected gardens are often part of that process. Herein lies the opportunity for garden centres.

Stacey Haluka, owner of Staging Spaces, a home staging service in St. Catharines, Ont., emphasizes the important role attractive gardens play in making a real estate sale. “Often, people will drive by a property before actually making an appointment to check out the inside. In fact 76 per cent of people research homes on the Internet, which is why it is important to have great photographs. Out of that group 75 per cent will then drive by the home to get a feel for what the house looks like. If the curb appeal and landscaping turns them off, they’ll never make that appointment.”

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Tracie Giesbrecht, sales representative with Royal LePage, also in St. Catharines, agrees that first impressions are a make or break point in the process. “If a buyer has driven by the property prior to the official showing and hasn’t liked the look of the property from the road, I often have to practically beg them see inside of the house too,” says Giesbrecht. The statistics echo these sentiments. According to the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN) research, people looking at rental residences such as single-family units and townhouses base 28 per cent of their decision on curb appeal with another 28 per cent of it attributed to the common areas/entrance. “If 56 per cent of a renter’s decision is made before they even see the inside of the unit, you can just imagine how much more important this first impact is for a home purchaser,” says Giesbrecht. The challenge for most home sellers is time and money. They often need to spruce up the property within a few days to a week to ready it for market so major renovations or landscaping initiatives are not in the cards. What these sellers need is the most bang for their buck.

Most home stagers will counsel their clients to clear out clutter and personal touches that might make too much of a statement. For the garden, this may mean pulling out weeds, trimming shrubs and bushes and edging the beds. Those funky fountains or lawn ornaments that delight the homeowner will need to hide out in the tool shed until the sale is over. “It’s really about getting the seller to detach a bit from their home so they can see it as a product to be marketed. You want the home to appeal to as many people as possible so it needs to feel welcoming but not overpowering,” confirms Haluka. “Bark chips are a great way to neaten a garden quickly,” says Tracie Giesbrecht. “Solar lights are also inexpensive to buy and install and will show the house off nicely at night in the event prospective buyers drive by to see the house after the sun goes down.” Mature plants will give the impression that they’ve been there forever. “Balance and symmetry are key to pleasing the eye,” says Giesbrecht. “Colour should draw the eye to the front door, which is the welcoming point of the home.” Let’s face it: people are often anxi-ous when looking at a property. Buying a house is a big decision and they have to be able to picture themselves living there. So when home owners want to ready their property for sale and need solid “bang for buck” – what landscaping tactics should they employ?

“Landscaping might not sell the house, but the house surely won’t sell quickly without it,” points out Stacey Haluka. “A house has to bloom where it’s planted, and that’s never truer than when it’s for sale. You don’t want to overdo it, because then people see nothing but maintenance. The best strategy isn’t to camouflage the lot with a riot of flowers, but to tidy up overall and judiciously add plants to draw attention to positive features, such as a spacious porch, and draw attention away from eyesores, such as a metal fence that corrals trash cans.” Haluka also highlights the front door as an important focal point. “Mixed arrangements in urns are a great way to draw attention to and add to a cheerful front door appeal. You can buy a pre-planted mixed basket and take off the hanging hooks. Plop the whole thing into a freestanding planter or urn, and it’s done. You won’t have to even sweep up any dirt. In the winter months fill the urns with sticks and splashes of evergreens. The upside of this is that the homeowners aren’t wasting their money as they can take the planter or urn with them to their new home when they move.”

So how can garden centres take full advantage of the real estate market? Partnering with real estate agents and home stagers is a great opportunity to get your business out there. You can potentially reach several new customers all at once: the real estate agent, the home stager, the home seller and the new home buyer. A seminar about preparing one’s property for sale could also be a powerful outreach strategy. Garden centres could invite real estate agents and home stagers to present their services at the garden centre. Displays using garden centre plants would function as teaching tools to illustrate the concepts presented. Many home stagers use props brought in just for the home showing. If a garden centre had some nice patio furniture, pop-up gazebos, urns and other accessories available for rent to home stagers, that would be a great way to liaise with the real estate sector.

In sales lingo gardens may not be the “closer” but they sure function as foot in the door. A strong landscaping presence is clearly the way to entice the home buyer to come inside. It’s a make or break point in the sales process and therefore it must be done right. Look for ways to partner with the real estate sector and together you can create homes that really start to grow on people.


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