Declutter for a Big Return

When you first start a fix-n-flip project, you need to decide how much to invest on landscaping the front and back yards and include this in your funding request. If you decide to stick to the minimum, bring the yards up to the standards of the neighborhood but not much higher, you are looking at the declutter, clean, maintain, and disguise course of action.

Clutter weighs us down, stresses us out, destroys focus, and creates a terrible first impression. Clutter can also be hazardous and ugly. Most fix-n-flip investors, landscapers, and remodelers have a line item on their budget sheer for performing maintenance and cleaning up. This is the first level of landscaping, the cheapest and the most necessary. First impressions are so important that the labor and materials required to clean up the front porch and yard and the driveway and backyard should definitely be included in your renovation budget.

Make Safe

Inspect the yard for hazards like glass, pieces of metal, and chemicals and clean these up first so later workers and home buyers will not be injured. Clean out downspouts, gutters, and window wells, replacing any missing or damaged parts. Repair fences, level and repair walkways and patios, replace broken patio or porch railings or steps. Paint.


Next, you can declutter the landscaping, digging or pulling out weeds and plants that are dead, refreshing mulch, planters, and container gardens. recommends removing plants that are ugly, messy, or overgrowing a sidewalk or porch, simplifying the landscape. Since you have already made the property safe, you can pay high school students out of school for the summer to help you with these removal, maintenance, and cleaning activities.

Disguise also lists some inexpensive remodeling tricks that can be done to or with backyard structures, like garden sheds, equipment boxes, and walls to disguise garbage bins or a neighbor’s driveway. These structures can be renovated into beautiful features instead of eyesores without too much expense using repurposed materials, like rough barn wood and antique hinges, antique doors and gates.

Adding Plants While Protecting Your Return

Now you may want to consider adding plants and amenities that will appeal to buyers. At one time you certainly would get back any investment you made plus some in landscaping both front and back. In an article written in 2013, “Landscape your Home to Sell: 5 Tips to Save Green,” Debbie Abrams Kaplan interviews real estate experts for on what landscaping techniques might sell a home faster. Margaret Woda of Maryland says that you could recoup as much as 215% of your landscaping investment, but only 68% of your kitchen renovation expenses.

On the other hand, Frank L. Lucco, a Houston appraiser and realtor, interviewed in the same article, says that installing a deck, patio, fire pit, outdoor kitchen, lighting, and fountains are a good ideas, but added that you should “install them if you want them, but you won’t recoup the costs.”

Reduce Maintenance

Add plants sparingly and add plants that grow well in the environment you are in, so they do not require too much water, fertilizer, or pruning. Add flowering plants to add a spot of color. suggests investing in an irrigation system, using perennial plants that come back every year and are adapted to the climate in a yard because these reduce the amount of labor and attention involved in maintaining a landscape.

Whether you add or subtract plants and amenities from the landscape, reducing your costs in the renovation should translate into reducing your buyer’s labor while they live in the home, an important selling point. Buyers at a minimum want to fit into the neighborhood they buy into without too much labor or additional outlay of money.  They also want to come home to a house that is safe and does not consume all their free time in lawn and garden care.

Our fix-n-flip loan program is one of our most popular real estate loan programs. Competition for houses to fix-n-flip is tight. The ability to get fast funds to buy and remodel a property is important. As a broker and a direct lender, it is my job to help you get a hard money loan easily and quickly. Private Lenders, not banks, are willing to help you fund your project based on the value of the property and its after renovation value. We have money to lend and you need money quickly. A perfect fit is out there.

Call me or e-mail me for a quick response.

Patrick StCin, 512-213-2271,

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Draw People to the Door

It is no secret that the yards surrounding a house can appeal to or repel potential buyers. They can be turned off by an ugly yard that is cluttered with trash, bare and dusty, or overgrown by weeds. On the other hand, they can also be intimidated by extensive flower beds and manicured lawns that look like they require a lot of weekend maintenance and mowing, as well as high water bills and expensive chemicals for fertilizing, weeding, and pest control. If you can create a landscape that is attractive and not intimidatingly difficult to maintain, it can be an amenity that will draw people to the door of your property, extend the living space outdoors, and become a place where people want to gather.

Inexpensive and Sustainable

One inexpensive way to make a landscape more efficient and sustainable in a dry climate is to reduce the area covered by lawn. This will reduce reliance on water, which is becoming more costly as it becomes shorter in supply. One alternative to grass is gravel.

Gravel includes pea gravel, river rock, crushed granite, and slate chips to name the ones that are easiest to get.  Lava rock and ground up glass are also alternatives. Gravel is attractive and easy to use to reduce grass by replacing parts of it with walkways, patios, and gardens.

Gravel Paths and Walkways

A walking path from the street to the front door is an easy addition that reduces the amount of lawn that needs to be watered, mowed, or fertilized. Usually, a walking path is 24 to 36 inches wide and set at ground level.  To build the walkway yourself, outline the walkway with string or garden hose, giving it some interesting curves.  Then excavate 6 to 8 inches below the final ground surface. Pick a gravel that is local (less expensive) and pleasing in color and texture. Add an edging of brick, wood, stone, rubber, or metal and fill the excavated walkway with gravel so that it is level with the surrounding ground. Then compact it by walking on it.

Gravel Patios

Inexpensive to install, gravel patios drain quickly, require little maintenance, and supply attractive anchors for outdoor furniture, fire features, and pools. They can be of any size, surrounded by raised beds, walls, shrubs, and terraced with steps from one level to another. Like paths, excavate 6 to 8 inches below the final ground surface. Then, fill the space with gravel. The Better Homes and Garden online magazine suggests using gray or tan gravels when you are aiming for a neutral, natural character. They suggest using gold, brown, white, and rust gravels to create higher impact patio floors.

A fire pit or fireplace set on a gravel patio and surrounded by comfortable chairs would provide a gathering place for friends and family. Fire pits are beautiful additions to an outdoor space. They can be made of corden steel, concrete, stone, and stucco. Fire pits add to the price of a patio, but if you don’t have to build and stain a wooden deck for the remodeled house, and use gravel instead, it might be worth the expense.

Don’t feel obligated to get rid of every blade of grass when you add a patio.  If you keep grass in your landscape, you might want to consider using a heat tolerant variety. All American Stone and Turf recommends Raleigh St. Augustine, Palmetto St. Augustine, Centipede, Celebration Bermuda, Tifway 419, Tif Sport, Tifdwarf, Buffalo, Palisades Zoysia, Empire Zoysia, Cavalier Zoysia, and Jamur Zoysia for properties in the Brazos Valley.

Gravel Gardens

A gravel garden growing drought-tolerant plants like yarrow, lavender, thyme, and sedum in a soil mix of crushed stone and clayey loam may not need watering at all once established. In a gravel garden, the mulch is the gravel over the soil. It holds moisture and blocks weeds. One trick I found interesting was shared by Ken Druse at garden  Ken inserted seedlings into old tube socks filled with soil. He used seedlings of Sempervivum (hens and chicks) and sedum.  As he built a rock wall, he inserted the old socks and seedlings into dry nooks and crannies where they would flourish.

Drought tolerant plants can be recognized by the pungent smell of their leaves and stems when crushed. They also have small leaves that may be covered with hairs or a waxy coating to prevent water loss. Yarrow and lavender are two excellent choices for gardens that are water efficient and easy to maintain.

When you are selling the house you just remodeled, be sure to create an appealing landscape and use a good photographer to take pictures for online listings.

Please give me a call or send an e-mail when you find that perfect investment property for your fix-n-flip project.  Don’t forget. I am focused on your success.

Patrick St.Cin

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