As you walk around the house, inspect the landscaping in the front, rear, and side yards. Specifically, look at the lawn, shrubs, and trees. A nicely landscaped area greatly enhances the beauty and value of the house. However, do not jump to a hasty conclusion about the house based on the landscaping. I have seen many neglected houses with beautiful landscaping and many well-maintained houses with poor landscaping.
A lawn serves two purposes. It adds to the aesthetic beauty of the property, and, more important, it prevents erosion and washout of the topsoil. If you find that a large portion of the lawn consists of crabgrass and other weeds, do not be distressed. With a planned program of weed control, seeding, and fertilizing, you can upgrade the lawn so that it can be the “showcase of the neighborhood” within a few years, and at not too great an expense.
If you find holes or sunken sections in the lawn, they should be filled in, since they represent a potential tripping hazard. Occasionally, sunken sections are caused by the collapse of rotted, decayed, or deteriorated construction debris buried on the site years before. In new homes, all construction debris should be removed from the site rather than buried there.
In some parts of the country, moles are a problem in lawn maintenance. They burrow in the ground near the surface in search of food (grubs, caterpillars, and insects) and in the process create soft ridges (mole hills) that spoil the lawn’s appearance. If you see ridges over portions of the lawn and they feel soft when you walk over them, suspect moles. This condition can generally be controlled through soil treatment and should be discussed with the proprietor of a local nursery.
Some lawns have steep sloping areas that from a maintenance point of view are quite difficult to mow, even when mowing across the slope. Because of the danger involved, sit-down riding mowers should not be used when cutting the grass on a steep slope. These mowers have been known to topple over and severely or fatally injure the driver. In some homes, the steep sections of the lawn have been replaced by terraced areas with steps that lead from one level to another. If there are terrace steps on the lawn, you should inspect them for cracked, loose, missing, and deteriorated sections. Also, check for uneven treads and dimensional variations in the risers (a tripping hazard). In addition, if there are more than two steps, a handrail is recommended.
If you are planning to buy a newly constructed house, find out whether it will be your responsibility or the builder’s to establish a new lawn. If it is yours, it can be quite expensive, depending on the size of the lawn and whether topsoil needs to be added. Over 100 tons of topsoil is needed to cover an area one-third of an acre to a depth of 2 inches.