WHILE many people don't bat an eyelid at spending €10,000 on revamping a bathroom in advance of putting their house on the market, many neglect to capitalise on the potential value of their front and back garden.
Most agents agree that the patio area - or areas - are the key when it comes to gardens for most househunters. So if you are going to splash out on work on your garden, make sure the patio area is prioritised.
Househunters should be able to imagine themselves dining al fresco on a balmy summer evening. Architect Peter Roberts says gardens are becoming much more of an issue for homeowners: "Gardens have become much more important, possibly thanks to all the gardening programmes on TV. Instead of a place for kids to play football and where you send the dog for a walk three times a day, it is regarded as an extra room."
People are looking for low-maintenance gardens that are geared for parties, says Pat Mullery of Douglas Newman Good. "Decking and patios are very fashionable at the moment and the less work involved in a garden the better."
When it comes to a family home, the size of the garden can be the deal clincher, Mullery says. Many gardens are being gobbled up for development purposes at the top end of the market. For this reason, a large garden - say half or one-third of an acre - with a good family home will pull in extra bidders.
If you're lucky enough to have a large garden, make sure to show it off to its best. Landscaping can make all the difference but, at the very least, have shrubs and greenery tidied up so the extent of the garden is apparent.
Landscaping is "money well spent", says Simon Ensor of Sherry FitzGerald. Vendors will get their money back in multiples of two or three if the job is well done. Avoid Diarmuid Gavin-style concrete air-raid shelters with multi-coloured baubles and try to appeal to the widest possible audience, he says. If you want to avoid a big landscaping job, invest in a few trees to fill in the gaps for privacy and install some night lighting for your patio area.
Flooring such as limestone, that leads from the living area out through big patio doors to the garden, is quite fashionable at the moment, says Ensor. This creates a lovely effect, bringing the living area out to the garden and bringing the great outdoors into the house.
The attractive garden was a big feature of a house which sold very well last year for Sherry FitzGerald. The vendor took the garden-as-an-extra-room idea to the extreme and, instead of placing a barbecue in the patio area, an outdoor fireplace complete with chimney breast was installed.
There is no need to go for an expensive landscape job to maximise the value of your garden, but make sure it looks its best, says Clodagh Murphy of Gunne. If your lawn is looking the worse for wear thanks to the activities of a family pet, it is well worth considering getting someone in to re-sod it, she says.
Getting a general gardener in for a day or two to tidy and freshen up the garden is always a good idea. She adds: "It's amazing what can be done for very little effort and expense."
When it comes to front gardens, a significant decrease in value can be experienced if a house doesn't have off-street car-parking, says Ensor.
While a lot depends on the on-street car-parking scenario, if it's a case of prohibitive double yellow lines outside the house - which force residents to find car-parking around the corner - off-street car-parking can make a difference of up to 10-15 per cent.
For example, the vendor of a house on Eglinton Road which was meeting a bit of resistance took it off the market and secured planning for off-street car-parking. The house experienced "a dramatic increase in saleability", says Ensor. He adds that gravel, rather than stark brick or tarmacadam, is always more aesthetically appealing.