Gardening expert shares garden red flags to look out for when viewing a property

When viewing a property, it’s easy to focus on what’s in your potential new home. This can overlook the garden and miss issues that could be costly and time consuming once you move in. A garden can add five percent to the value of your property, and likewise, a garden that requires a lot of work could help you negotiate a better price when dealing with sellers.

Hayes Garden World gardening expert Angela Slater has shared six key things buyers should look out for when viewing a new home and warning signs that might be lurking in the garden.

1. A garden is too big or too small

Many people compromise on the outdoors when the rest of the home is exactly what they want. Angela said: “Too small a garden means you may struggle with storage and little space for entertaining. It might not cope with a growing family either, so think about what you want your garden for now and in the future.”

While a large yard may seem ideal, it all depends on how much time homeowners have to take care of it. The expert warned: “It can also be very expensive to design a large garden that is in poor condition. A messy yard with lots of space is a big red flag for anyone short on time or a novice gardener, so choose wisely.”

2. Boundaries

While the garden itself appears to be in great condition and in need of no obvious work, buyers should carefully consider the boundaries and understand who is responsible.

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Angela explained: “No one wants to argue with their neighbors about relocating trees or replacing fences. Check the title plan thoroughly to ensure no fences have been moved or boundaries altered that could cause disruption later.

“Some lots, particularly corner lots, can have up to six other homes sharing their fences. That’s a lot of neighbors to negotiate with if you want to change your fence. So make sure you are happy with the number of houses your yard borders.”

This is also useful when considering how overlooked the garden will be.

3. Trees

Trees are a wonderful addition to a green space, but they bring their own problems. The gardening professional warned: “When you look at a house, check how many trees there are and whether you want to keep them all.

“Tree removal can cost thousands of pounds so it may need to be factored into your budget. Even if you like the trees, you need to find out if they are in good condition. Dead trees can rot or snap, so it may still need to be removed.

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“Another warning sign is neighboring trees blocking your light. Look at the yard at different times of the day to see if these trees are limiting your sunlight, and remember you cannot force a neighbor to remove a tree.”

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Even trees on the street that are maintained by the council can overshadow a garden, leaving buyers to decide if they can live with it for long.

4. Dangerous plants

There are a surprising number of plants that can cause harm, especially to the curious little hands of those with young children. Angela explains: “An overgrown garden is likely to harbor a lot of thorns and stinging nettles at the lower end of the risk scale.

“Much more dangerous are things like giant hogweed, which can cause burns if skin comes in contact with the sap. Foxgloves can be poisonous if ingested, as can wild parsnip plants.

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“A lot has been written about the Japanese knotweed and it’s still something to pay attention to. The spreading roots can weaken building foundations and even cause mortgages to be rejected. Be mindful of your horticulture when buying a home with a yard, or have an expert check it out if something looks worrying.”

5. Ponds

Ponds can be a beautiful feature in any garden. However, if not cared for properly, they can be full of bacteria like E.coli.

The Gardener Guru said: “This could lead to serious illnesses, including neurological disorders, in humans or animals. Contaminated water also poses a risk of Legionella, which causes Legionnaires’ disease.

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“Check to see if the water is discolored and cloudy, and look for excessive algae or vegetation. These are signs that the water may be contaminated and you need to test it and then overhaul or remove it entirely.”

Ponds are also a drowning hazard for pets and children, so it may be best to remove them completely if animals or small children will be using the yard.

6. Access

There will likely be some sort of access point for a garden, perhaps a back door from the kitchen, but limited access is “a concern,” according to Angela.

She said: “When the garden needs a lot of work, ample access makes that work a lot easier. For example, if the garden needs to be dug up, it has to be done by hand rather than a machine, which takes a lot longer and, if you hire someone, a lot more work.”

Even putting out the bins can be a nuisance when homeowners don’t have free access to their yard.

Angela concluded: “There are very few reasons why a garden would absolutely put you off buying a home, but it’s still worth looking at and being clear about what you have in front of you.

“It can help you get a better deal on the house or even budget better when you have work to do. In cases where there are serious and potentially expensive problems, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and money by carefully examining the garden before bidding.”

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