Staging a Backyard for Cheap

by Kevin on November 4, 2010

Trying to sell your house, but don’t have green thumbs? Problem.

The first thing potential home buyers see is your yard. Whether they are driving through your neighborhood and see the sign in your yard or if they are looking at real estate listing online… the first thing that is seen is your yard.

Now there are all kinds of articles (and TV shows!) dedicated to staging your front yard. It’s all about curb appeal and getting people to stop, get out, and come inside your house.

That’s a good thing and is something we’ve focused on in trying to drive foot traffic to our home.

But you can’t stop there.

We’ve looked at many home listings (both in looking for our next home and researching our competition in the marketplace) and we’ve been shocked at how poor some of the back yards look. The front yards look great, but the backs have left a lot lacking.

Some back yards have been maintained, but have no character. They tell no story. Just the same old privacy fence, no trees, and plain grass. No flowers, no color, no story.

Others have been far worse. They look worn down. The deck needs painting or re-staining. The grass is overgrown.

It makes me want to scream “Come on people! I can’t see myself living there!”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look at how to fix this issue inexpensively.

Staging a Backyard

In the opinion of this brown-thumbed landscaper, a backyard needs to be…

  • well kept
  • green (with some color)
  • inviting

Let’s look at these in further detail.

A Well Kept Yard

When I say “well kept” when I mean is no weeds, the grass is cut neat, nothing is overgrown, and no toys, gardening equipment, or other crap is sitting outside.

I don’t want to see your kids playground equipment (“Jungle gym to stay!” — no thanks!).

A Green Yard

Yards and landscapes are green when healthy. Your backyard should be the same.

Brown spots, small or large, are not a good sign. Something isn’t living when it should be. Fix it.

I also say with some color. This is just my opinion, but yards with all kinds of crazy flowers and colors of every kind … are just overwhelming. I see yards like that and immediately think “I’m going to not know how to take care of all of this, it’s going to die, and then I’m going to feel bad AND have to do work to remove it!”

It goes back to decluttering. Less is more. You want the yard to look nice, but not so nice that I can’t place myself in it, taking care of it, and enjoying it.

But that’s just me.

An Inviting Yard

A yard is an extension of your home. It should be an inviting space where buyers can envision themselves grilling out with a bunch of friends or watching the sun set.

We all know that in the real world that this doesn’t happen as often as we would like. For the most part your yard sits there, requires some maintenance, and is used occasionally.

But that doesn’t matter. It’s all about the buyer seeing themselves there.

In my next post I’ll share what my wife and I did to stage our backyard without breaking the bank. I’ll throw in some photos so you can see how big a difference was made for a little amount of cash. Stay tuned!


Joe Parent November 4, 2010 at 9:00 am

Totally disagree with the jungle gym, a seller who spent anwhere from $1000-2500 on a playhouse and it took 4 weekends to build/setup isn’t about to tear it down just so the backyard looks more inviting. Play the odds and hopefully the buyer will be super excited that its already there and setup for their kids…now or in the future.

Golfing Girl November 5, 2010 at 6:40 am

I think it’s 50/50 for the buyers when it comes to playground equipment. But you are totally right about the backyards. I’ve been looking online and the pictures are so disappointing–privacy fence, just grass. We have lots of very mature trees (and a few new little ones) in our backyard, despite being a new development, and it’s going to be a huge selling point when we’re ready to sell. FYI, putting in perennials (think tulips, daffodils, etc.) is a great way to get a nice backyard that’s low on maintenance.

As for curb appeal, you might also have to appeal to your next door neighbors. What I mean is that there is a lovely home on the market, meticulously manicured in our neighborhood that hasn’t sold. Why? The neighbor on one side has a jungle–looks like she’s trying the whole English garden thing, and the other is a house that’s sitting empty and for sale as well, but barely maintained and full of weeds, with little grass. It would benefit the seller of the cute home to do the weedy yard next to him too–and maybe tell the lady next door to cool it on adopting a new plant every week to plant in her yard for a while till he sells. (Maybe a “I’ll mow for you for the next few months if you let me pull up all those random, dying plants in your front yard…”) It’s a shame, because both of those yards are really exceptions to the rule in our neighborhood.

Edith July 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I have over 1 1/2 acer back yard and dont have alot of money to buy what I would like to put in the space. The only thing that I have back there is a swingset for my grandkds and a quick set 16′ pool and they still are getting lost back there please help…..any ideas would be great.

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