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For homeowners, REALTORS and property managers, it is critical to take advantage of any - and all - opportunities to attract buyers in this economy. Current market conditions make that responsibility essential, because a glut of inventory demands creative solutions. Which is to say, the easiest and most immediate way to distinguish a listed property is with the right lawn care.

By beautifying the grounds themselves, by making a low-cost investment in properly maintaining a home - and visuals matter, since potential buyers will flee from seemingly decrepit properties - everyone wins. That is, owners have an interest in having a well-kept lawn (and neighbors second that sentiment), while real estate agents, management companies and banks - the latter control a large portfolio of foreclosed properties, which risk falling into disrepair - need an affordable solution that easily works. This recommendation gives everyone a chance to quickly transform a property into a striking example of vitality, which can improve the chances of a home getting more views and offers.

In many respects, this suggestion is obligatory since homeowners and realtors have a vested interest in preserving the curb appeal of a featured property. With the right lawn care, a home signals the right look, an invitation for prospective buyers to go inside and discuss more detailed issues.

The challenge is finding the right product or service to accomplish this goal, because the sheer number of items - from chemical treatments to pesticides to third-party providers to aggressively advertised consumer goods - often fail to achieve any results. Think of the expense of these products, too, which can leave homeowners and Realtors frustrated and unsure whether lawn care is necessary or important. In point of fact, lawn care can mean the difference between a buyer deciding to pass (and thus losing confidence in the advice of his or her real estate broker) or wanting to learn more.

The same rule applies to property managers, a group that must oversee a variety of residential communities. In that situation, where you want to draw a large pool of tenants or applicants for tenancy, you need to make a good impression. Yes, the interiors - the flooring, plumbing, appliances, security, parking and amenities - matter; but buyers and tenants will not get to that point if they see grass that has not been maintained, worsened by an overall appearance of neglect. And that point deserves repeating: lawn care - rather, the right lawn care - need not be expensive, environmentally dangerous or hard to use. Part of this exercise involves some basic research -- get the right information about what works, read the testimonials from consumers and respect your budget.

This comment about respecting your budget is important because, from the perspective of a bank or holding company that now must take care of hundreds of foreclosed properties, the options are stark. Either cease all lawn care, which will alert everyone that a property is vacant (which, in turn, draws squatters and vandals), or make a small investment in products that can at least beautify the exterior and maintain the necessary curb appeal to attract buyers. This choice is simple; it is not an issue of cost or labor, since effective lawn care should not be a full-time job.

Also, other home improvement choices can be extremely expensive. For example: the cost of installing a new kitchen, or the price of transforming a backyard into an oasis with new decking and a swimming pool or spa, can easily run tens of thousands of dollars -- with no guarantee of future dividends. Most homeowners or management companies do not have the resources to make those purchases; and nothing suggests a new kitchen or remodeled yard will translate into a sale. But failure to maintain the appearance of a property, starting with the lawn, virtually guarantees that potential buyers will look elsewhere.

Given these choices, we should make lawn care a priority. The benefits promise to reward everyone.

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