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A lot has been written about landscaping yards for curb appeal because buyers see the outside first when they drive up to a home. So it makes sense to make this area as attractive and inviting as possible. Doing that requires thinking about what would really make a property alluring.

I recently posted a comment on my blogs about how foreclosures are creating new business. In searches on the Internet hundreds of companies are popping up and offering cleaning out services. They're called Trash-Out companies and they're raking in the business because foreclosed homes are often left in such disarray. These companies are hired not only to take out the trash, but also to offer help with the lawn and cleaning up the landscape (although buyer beware -- one reader told me, "some companies are spray- painting the lawns to make them look green" -- not exactly the tender loving care you'd hope for).

While I wouldn't recommend going green that way, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars landscaping a home when you're about ready to move out. Instead, investing a few hundred dollars could make a huge difference to a buyer. In fact, curb appeal can be the sole reason prospective buyers ever end up entering a home. That's why listing agents will often give their sellers tips to help them fix up their homes. Here are a few things you can do.

1. Color is key.
An attractive landscape usually has color. Many people add flowering plants along the walkway and porch area to create a focal point on the home. The colorful plants add a cheerful welcome and create a memorable landscape. Remember, buyers will generally visit numerous homes in a day, so anything you can do to help them remember yours, in a positive way, will increase the chance of a second visit or even an offer. Colors that grab the most attention are red, orange, and yellow. Cooler colors such as blues and purples help to relax people and can be perfect in meditation gardens.

2. Use colorful mulch.
Maybe you have an area that needs some sort of mulch. You don't have to use the traditional wood chips, which soon deteriorate, to fill in planter boxes or backyard playgrounds. Rubber mulch uses recycled ground rubber that comes in several different colors including green, brown, blue, and cypress. "Make sure any recycled mulch you buy is tread-free. You don't want to have any steel. You don't want to have a lot of tread. You need to look out for that. There are companies that just offer black tires recycle and that's usually going to be pretty dirty," says Paul Parker, owner of San Diego Backyard Adventures.

It can be bought in small quantities such as 40-pound bags or large super sacks. "It will not deteriorate; it's going to last," says Parker. A 40-pound bag will cost approximately $20. Parker adds, "This product is going to look good for literally five or 10 years and, if you're concerned with the short-term, you can put the [mulch] down and it's going to add color and be pleasing to the eye."

An added benefit is that if your home has a backyard playground and you put mulch underneath it instead of wood chips, you gain a higher level of protection and an additional selling point to feature. "It's definitely going to add value because oftentimes if you put a play system on a hard surface there's no safety—but if the [rubber mulch] is already there, it's going to add a lot of value," says Parker.

3. Artificial grass.
Green grass is a beautiful feature in a yard but keeping it green can be a challenge no matter where you live. Using synthetic grass in various areas of your yard can transform an ugly area of dirt into a lush-looking yard. Parker cautions homeowners to choose the grass products carefully, "There are some products out there that are being cheaply made. So [the grass] has a single blade rather than a much thicker weave. You want to make sure the grass you buy has at least a 10-year warranty," says Parker.

4. Illusion of space.
Hide boundaries such as fences and walls. Make them appear boundless by breaking up the line of the wall which can create a closed-off feeling. Paint and the placement of plants help give an illusion of more space. Using tall but thin plants in your yard (as opposed to wide ones) can make a small area look bigger. Curved lines can help soften the look of a home that is constructed with too many straight lines or right angles.

5. Clean up the driveway.
If you've been a do-it-yourselfer with your automobiles (oil changes, etc.) then maybe it shows on your driveway. Oil spills are highly unsightly and will, if not chase away prospective buyers, at least create a memory of your home that you don't want. Clean up the spills and move the parked cars to give buyers a chance to take in the entire residence. Many will snap photos and make notes to review for later. Don't let an oil mark leave a black mark in buyers' minds.

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