If you are trying to sell or let your property, first impressions count. With so many properties on the market at the moment it isn’t enough just to make sure that the bins are hidden from the front of your property on a viewing day, or the fallen leaves and wind blown litter are swept up. It may be time to invest a little on the potential ‘first sight’ falling in love with thing, and design a simple, welcoming front garden.
Keep the front garden in keeping with the property. For small urban front gardens, consider removing that tiny, useless piece of lawn that is always overgrown. There is nothing worse than the prospect of lugging the lawn mower, possibly though the house, on a Sunday morning for potential buyers or tenants.
Planning permission may have to be sought to pave the car standing area, but you could use a decorative aggregate. There is some fantastic gravel on the market now from Quartz to duck egg blue Japanese pebbles. These could be laid on a porous membrane with planting through it. You would probably need to contain the gravel by means of an edge; this could be a brick to blend with the house or, if a modern property, a stainless steel strip. Always make sure that there is a good strip of paving before the entrance to the house as small gravel will hitch a ride on shoes with tread and let go, once in the house.
Instead of planting the front garden, how about pots? An ideal alternative as they can move with you to your new home! Terracotta is the obvious choice, and widely available in garden centres, but there are now slate, terrazzo and polished marble, stainless steel and resin containers in all shapes, sizes and colours available through good garden design practices and over the net. There are anti-theft systems so they stay put, but if big enough, once filled with soil, no one will move those babies!
If you do decide to plant the garden, use low maintenance plants such as ferns for shady damp areas, lavenders, Cistus and small grasses for sunny sites, an architectural feature plant for the modern property may be all that is required. Keep the colour palette limited and use cool colours like blues, whites, creams and purple shades. Try to find fragrant plants too, bit like baking bread or peculating coffee in the house before a visit, it’s comforting and welcoming. Don’t be tempted to ‘overdo’ the planting; prospective purchasers may not be into gardening and won’t relish the thought that they will have to tend the garden and potentially fail!
Make sure you weed and tidy the area regularly; people often look at the property from the outside perhaps more than once, before they book a viewing. If possible, paint your front door and window frames too, clean the window sills and remove old cob webs that have gathered in corners as this adds to the uncluttered, clean impression of how they will find the inside of your home, (bit like hiding all children’s toys in the shed before a viewing).
Wheelie bins are a pain and unsightly, but everyone has them so think of an original and attractive way to make a screen, not just a bit of fencing. Depending on your budget it could range from a glass brick wall to a curve of planed timber poles or a ‘hit and miss’ screen. Whatever you choose there are plenty of fantastic colours available to stain it to blend into the surroundings.
Pathways ALWAYS need to take the shortest and easiest route to the front door and be wide enough to enable you to walk with bags of shopping, buggies, children and/or dogs! So think, as you park on your drive, exactly what route you will take to the front door because that’s the one that needs paving!!
Interview for the Independent newspaper 2008