Should I landscape my backyard before selling? Experts reveal the pros and cons

Find out whether it's worth the added effort and expense

gravel garden with large rocks as landscaping features and drought tolerant plants
(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs/Future)

Q: I'm planning to sell my home this year, but my outdoor space isn't looking as good as it could. I'm not sure if it's worth my time and effort to give it a makeover, plus I'm worried that I'll be spending money unnecessarily. Is it worth it?

A: Selling a home is a stressful process. From maintenance to worrying about buyers and managing costs, it's easy to see why sellers want to get their homes sold as soon as possible. To do that, however, you should always consider the appeal of your outdoor space.

Before potential buyers even step foot inside your home, they will experience your yard first. A few carefully selected backyard landscaping ideas can make a big impression that helps get your home sold. But, it does come with a few downsides like cost and maintenance that need to be considered too. These pros and cons from expert realtors and landscapers will help you determine whether you should landscape before selling, and how to get it right.

Madison Moulton
Madison Moulton

Madison has turned her years-long passion for plants into a career writing for both digital and print publications. She covers everything from backyard trends to general plant care advice, all while caring for her own ever-growing plant collection. 

Pros of landscaping before selling

1. Curb appeal

First impressions matter. Even if you’ve spent years perfecting the inside of your home or months curating it for sale, the first thing buyers will see is your front yard landscaping. A neatly manicured landscape leading up to your front door is the best first impression you could possibly make, setting the tone for the rest of a showing.

This is also helpful if you’re trying to attract buyers locally. ‘If they drive by and they see that you have spent time and energy getting the outside to look nice, they’re going to assume that the inside looks just as nice too,’ says Jane from Green Biz Nursery.

You also want that same feeling to continue out to your backyard. Once viewers have been won over by your front yard and the interior of your home, you don't want the backyard to ruin those all-important first impressions. 

2. Increase in value

When considering any improvements to your home before selling, value is top of mind. The more value you can add to your home before you put it on the market, the higher the valuation will be. You’ll also see far more interest from buyers who are typically looking for a low-maintenance, fuss-free property.

Realtors agree that basic landscaping does increase the value of your property, sometimes up to 12% according to realtor Ryan Poppe. This is a large margin compared to some other home investments, increasing your home’s value with fewer costs.

wooden outdoor dining table and chairs on a patio

Updating your outdoor space can increase the value of your home significantly

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs/Future)

3. Draw more buyers

The goal of prepping your home and backyard for sale is to attract as many buyers as possible. More buyers lead to better offers and quicker sales, avoiding that limbo period of months without any interest. Great landscaping is one way to draw more buyers – especially those that place a high value on outdoor space.

‘Homes with landscaping that has been done well spend less time on the market because buyers typically don’t want to buy homes that need a lot of work,’ says Ryan Poppe.

4. Improve your space

The pros of landscaping aren’t completely buyer-focused. Landscaping can also benefit the seller too.

Selling a home is complex, and made even more stressful when you’re trying to complete interior projects while living in the home. A well-landscaped backyard can become a wonderful retreat at this time.

There is also no way to be sure of how quickly your home will sell. It may take several months or longer between the selling process and the transfer period. While landscaping can help speed up the process, it can also make your home more enjoyable in your last weeks or months there.

modern garden with statement furniture fire pit and patio

Features such as a modern patio and sleek fire pit can be a big draw for potential buyers

(Image credit: Caitlin Atkinson / Design: GardenArt Group)

Cons of landscaping before selling

1. Cost

The most obvious con to landscaping before selling is the cost. Realtors (and landscapers) agree that spending tons of money on landscaping a backyard before selling is counterproductive. Besides reducing your potential profit from sale, it could also be changed completely by the new owners, meaning that the money you spent ultimately goes to waste.

‘When it comes to landscaping, it's important to take a business-minded approach to what monies you’re going to be spending before you put your home on the market,’ says realtor David Sturm of Sturm Property Group. Keep it simple by focusing on maintenance, tidying and decluttering your backyard over bigger, more expensive projects.

There are plenty of budget backyard ideas that can visually improve your space without having to cost thousands of dollars. Adding some inexpensive backyard lighting or repairing and painting a fence can have a big impact, and can be done with minimal cost. 

2. Time

Unlike other home projects that often have instant results once completed, landscaping projects need some time to settle in before they look their best. As plants take a while to fill out and establish themselves in a flower bed, you’ll need to start landscaping a few months in advance to reap the full aesthetic benefits.

According to realtor Jordan Matin, ‘you should have enough time and a plan to make everything look right. This will also make you avoid leaving the impression that you had the last-minute rush to put things in order.’

If you don't have the time to replant entire flower beds, container gardening can be a more effective way to give your backyard an instant boost. A few carefully selected planter boxes on your patio can introduce some much needed color and scent, and even draw attention away from other areas of your backyard that you may wish to hide. 

steps and garden path leading through colorful flower beds

It can take several months for flower beds to fill out and come into bloom, so you shouldn't see this as a quick fix when selling your home

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs/Future)

3. Effort

Ideally, you’ll start landscaping a few months before putting your home on the market. Then, it will take a few months to find a buyer and begin the transfer process. During this time, you’ll need to maintain your newly landscaped garden, adding another task to your already long to-do list.

Salisbury Landscaping adds that these things often take longer than expected. ‘Consider whether you’ll have the resources to maintain your new landscape between the project end date and your expected time of sale. Keep in mind that delays can always occur during the sales process, so be prepared to maintain the landscape a little longer than you’d like.’

4. Differing tastes

Landscaping often comes down to personal preference, especially for larger projects with more unique changes. You don’t want to invest in a complex landscaping project that you love, only to find that it puts off buyers. The fewer changes potential buyers feel they need to make, the better.

Landscapers often recommend simple maintenance and tidying rather than complete overhauls of a space. Installing backyard paving, edging and plants that have wide appeal and make your yard look neater are all options to consider. Avoid big structural changes or bright pops of color that cost more and can turn buyers off.

The final verdict – keep it simple

Landscaping a backyard before selling your home is certainly worth the effort. ‘Almost every real estate agent will recommend that homeowners do some form of landscaping before selling. Agents want to see homes sell, and landscaping is one of the most important yet simplest strategies for getting buyers to come see the home,’ says Ryan Poppe.

But the key is to keep it simple. Don’t spend too much money on complex projects that will only add more stress to the process. Basic maintenance and tidying are all you need to increase your curb appeal and up the value of your home before selling.

Madison Moulton
Contributing Editor, Gardens

Madison is a garden writer and editor, covering all things outdoors and lifestyle. After completing a BA in History and Political Science, she transformed her years-long passion for plants into a career writing for both digital and print publications. As garden editor of several print titles, Madison focuses on trends and developments in the continuously expanding gardening industry. When not typing away at her desk, she tends to her ever-growing houseplant collection and travels frequently, photographing and reporting on gardens around the world.