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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Dotseth

Can you grow anything?

A few years ago, one of my clients had a half-acre yard with a big house that we listed for sale a few years ago, but the market wasn’t cooperating and he couldn’t get the price we wanted. We worked to get that house sold for many months with no luck.

The lot is mostly in the back of the house and is fully terraced. It is spectacular. Grass and trees everywhere. The highlight for me as his real estate broker wasn’t the nature preserve of protected open space that led off the backyard, but the endless and bountiful tomato patches in his garden. (During weekly open houses, I got quite a few tomatoes.) They were growing wild and untended, as the client had already moved out of the house.

He kept the house and it’s now a rental. But what saddened me the most at the time he rented it was those gorgeous, tangled tomatoes were turned over by his gardener. Why the tomatoes, I asked? Just because, I was told. I have never had tomatoes that good, and I grew up in the Midwest where you can find a very good summer tomato.

What is the next “big thing” in real estate? It’s not more photos or better photos. While extraordinarily helpful, they only get the client from the computer to the property. It’s two little words: organic garden.

To be able to type those words into the Multiple Listing Service, a hundred words or so composed to tell a story and sell a home, creates legitimate wow factor to the reader. That reader is typically a buyer.

A common trait we all share is the desire to eat healthy food. The ideal organic garden for a single detached home is a patch of dirt with fertilizer, five feet-by-five feet, growing a variety of things like berries, tomatoes, herbs, beans and lettuce -- if you can keep the bunnies away from it organically.

If you have the capacity to grow trees, then by all means consider lemon, lime, orange and avocado, although avocado can take over a small garden and each tree needs about seven years to make avocados. Better yet, leave those to the experts in Fallbrook.

Aside from specifically what you grow, the point is that you should grow something particularly if you want to sell and be really attractive to buyers. Start a few months ahead and build a garden you can manage. Whether it’s traditional and directly in the dirt, or on a townhouse patio using only pots or some combination of the two, you will be selling a buyer the garden lifestyle – small or large. And everything goes with the house: abundant garden pots included.

A few years ago I remolded a mid-century ranch to sell. Knowing how buyers respond to working gardens, I did what I could for this 1960s house and put in fruit trees. They weren’t cheap but they were incredible. While they didn’t sell the house by themselves, they made all the visitors feel happy and hopeful. That house came with a twist of lemon and lime and orange. Hundreds of twists.

The buyers tore them all out to put in a pool. Does it break my heart? Yes. But they bought a fabulous house and made it their own. And they still own it. They noticed and appreciated my fruit trees that I bought for them, but they wanted a pool.

Keep your garden organic. It’s a tremendous selling tool to be able to brag about being pesticide-free. Critters will come in leaps and bounds to share in your harvest, so consider elevating your garden somewhat off the ground if you can.

Elevation works best in combination with light netting if things get really busy. Or add a barrier of low-rise fencing material. A water bottle filled with water and a few drops of pesticide-free liquid soap can ward off bugs. Spray with a light touch. But do get a little dirty on the weekends.

Selling space is a lot easier when the dirt is more than just a house or condo. An abundant earth is a concept that can get very small – down to the herbs you snip for your stew or to the berries you macerate and put over homemade shortcake.

If you don’t do it for your own good health and well-being, do it for the next owner. Set yourself apart.

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