10 Expensive Lawn Problems to Look Out For On The House Hunt

10 Expensive Lawn Problems to Look Out For On The House Hunt

Touring properties is an exciting event for any prospective homeowner.

However, there are so many things to consider that the process can become overwhelming.

While parsing apart square footage, building materials, and neighborhood amenities, don’t forget to assess a home’s lawn. 

The lawn is an essential area where you and your family will likely spend ample time. Additionally, a well-maintained yard dramatically improves the home’s curb appeal.

If you purchase a property with pre-existing lawn problems, you might be signing up for years of trouble and thousands of dollars in repairs.

10 Expensive Lawn Problems to Look For

The following sections will loop you in on 10 expensive lawn problems to look for when buying a home. We’ll cover what causes each problem, how to fix it, and the costs you might incur by inheriting a problematic yard.

Sloped Yard

What Causes the Problem

You may love the idea of a charming house on a hill — but beware of the problems a steeply sloping yard can cause. 

A sloping yard can lead to erosion, drainage issues, foundation damage, and patchy grass. If you buy a home on a slope, you’ll need to improve the issue to make your yard less of a safety hazard and more of a livable space.

How to Fix It

You’ll likely have to level the yard or build a retaining wall to solve the problem. 

Leveling your yard is a labor-intensive process that involves moving dirt from high to low areas to create a flatter surface. If you buy a home with a large lawn, you’ll likely need to call in professional help for this project.

A retaining wall is another solution for sloping lawns. These walls hold back soil to decrease the slope and increase a lawn’s usable space. If you find a home with a lawn sloping 1 foot every 3 feet of distance, you’ll need to hire a landscaping company for retaining wall installation.

Associated Costs

Leveling a yard can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on the extent of the project. 

The cost of a retaining wall depends on the material used for the wall and the size needed to reduce your lawn’s slope. A natural stone retaining wall can cost around $40 per square foot.

Invasive Plants

What Causes the Problem

Invasive plants are undoubtedly a pain for any homeowner trying to grow a lush, green lawn. Therefore, you should look for signs of invasive plants during your house hunt.

The Piedmont Environmental Council lists some signs that a lawn may be under invasion:

  • The lawn has weedy, spread out growths
  • The lawn has patches of green plants even in colder seasons
  • A plant is blooming outside of other native species’ growing seasons
  • The lawn has weed growth in odd areas where grass isn’t present

Invasive plants are a problem to look out for because they can wreak havoc on a lawn’s healthy ecosystem. These plants use nutrients and resources from native species, often spreading uncontrollably.

How to Fix It

If you buy a property overtaken by invasive plant species, you’ll have some work ahead of you. 

You can eradicate invasive plants by pulling them up manually or treating them with herbicides. While pulling up the plants may work for a small infestation, other nearby invaders are likely to work their way onto the property eventually.

In this case, killing the plants with herbicides may be the best option.

Associated Costs

Ridding a lawn of invasive plants isn’t the most expensive lawn problem; however, it can become quite costly if the problem expands and persists.

If you try a DIY eradication method – such as spraying vinegar on the plants – your costs will remain low. Otherwise, professional plant control costs anywhere from $30 to $250, depending on the infestation’s scale and the property’s size. 

TruGreen’s TruMaintenance package includes targeted pre-emergent weed control and fertilization. This service costs around $375 per year for a 1,000-square-foot lawn.

Standing Water

What Causes the Problem

If you notice standing water in a home’s yard, you may be looking at an expensive problem. 

Standing water is often the result of poor soil drainage. Some lawns become compacted over time from heavy foot traffic or poor texture, causing water to sit atop the lawn and form puddles. 

Standing water isn’t just an eyesore – it’s also detrimental to a lawn’s health.  When water can’t drain through the dirt, it displaces the nutrients and oxygen that help plants grow. Standing water also creates a breeding ground for pesky disease-carrying insects.

How to Fix It

If you’re looking at a home with water drainage issues, you’re looking at a problem that needs addressing. 

To fix soil drainage problems, you’ll likely need to aerate the lawn or make soil amendments to improve the yard’s texture. You can complete these projects independently, but you’ll likely need professional help for a large or heavily compacted property.

Associated Costs

If you buy a home with drainage issues, you can hire a lawn care service to aerate and dethatch the yard. Aeration involves poking holes in the ground to allow for better drainage. Dethatching is the removal of dead plant matter that may inhibit water and oxygen flow to the soil.

DIY aeration costs around $75 to $100, and professional aeration costs around $150 to $250. The cost of the service ultimately depends on your property’s size, location, prep requirements, and aeration needs.

TruGreen’s TruComplete package lists aeration and overseeding at $225 for a 1,000-square-foot yard.

Giant Trees

What Causes the Problem

You may love the look of large trees in a yard, but these towering canopies can pose a problem for property owners.

Giant trees have extensive root systems that can damage a home’s foundation if they wander too far. Trees too close to a structure also threaten roof damage in the event of fallen branches.

In either case, these are not problems you want to handle after buying a new home.

How to Fix It

There are two solutions for a property with large trees.

The first, less recommended solution is to cut back the tree’s branches to lessen the threat of roof damage. This option is more cost-effective, but it doesn’t solve the issue of underground foundation damage.

The second and best solution is to cut the entire tree down. You are unlikely to do this project safely by yourself, so professional help is essentially required. 

Associated Costs

Based on pricing samples from Carolina Tree Care, professional tree removal costs $550 to $3,000. The price will increase depending on the height and diameter of the tree. If you opt to trim the tree instead, the service costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000. These costs will double or triple if you have multiple large trees in your yard. 

Insect Damage

What Causes the Problem

No one wants creepy-crawlies in, on, or around their homes. That includes the lawn area where you’ll sit on the patio or watch your kids play. 

Insects aren’t just unsightly – they can also cause severe damage to your turfgrass. Luckily, you can watch for telltale signs of insect damage during your house hunt.

Signs of insect damage include:

  • Brown patches where the grass peels away from the soil
  • Yellow and brown spots on a lawn
  • Dead patches that resemble drought spots or pet waste damage
  • Anthills or mounds of dirt
  • White larvae under the soil’s surface
  • Birds landing in the yard to feed on insects
  • Swarms of bugs buzzing above the lawn

How to Fix It

As you’ve probably guessed, the best way to fix insect damage is to rid the lawn of pests. This solution requires hiring a pro exterminator or performing DIY pest control.

Associated Costs

Based on TruGreen’s quote calculator, grub prevention and control services for a 5,000-square-foot lawn cost around $70 per year. Fire ant control for the same yard costs about $155. 

These costs may seem low at first glance. However, with many lawn problems, solving the issue is only the first step. 

Once the pests are gone, you’ll probably want to apply new seeds to the area to grow fresh, healthy grass. You’ll typically pay up to $600 per year to have a 5,000-square-foot lawn professionally reseeded. If you opt for DIY reseeding, you’ll pay around $35 to $100 per 1,000 square feet of lawn.

Yellow Patches

What Causes the Problem

A lawn with yellow patches may point to pet waste damage. 

You may be looking for a home with a big yard where your pets can run and play. In this case, you may not mind if former pets have already damaged the yard. 

However, pet damage can pose a significant issue if you’re seeking a place to grow lush, healthy grass and a sprawling garden.

Pet waste contains high nitrogen content that leaves fertilizer-like burns on the grass. Dogs also dig unsightly holes in the dirt, making it difficult for grass to grow in a uniform, even pattern.

How to Fix It

If you purchase a lawn with pet waste damage, you’ll likely have to amend the soil and reseed the area. 

Amending the soil with different nutrients or composts will help restore balance in nitrogen-soaked spots. Reseeding will help new grass sprout in areas where yellow patches have taken over.

If the yard is subject to damage from neighborhood animals, you may have to invest in methods to keep pets off your property.

Associated Costs

If you hire a professional service to treat urine damaged patches, they’ll likely suggest aerating, dethatching, reseeding, and fertilizing for the best results

A package like this costs around $600 per year for a 1,000-square-foot area.

Weed Infestation

What Causes the Problem

Contrary to popular belief, not all weeds are invasive species. Many weeds are natural, native plant species’ that steal nutrient resources from the plants you’re intentionally trying to grow.

If you’re an avid gardener or plan to buy a home for landscaping projects, you’ll want to look for signs of a weedy lawn before signing. 

If you buy a yard that the previous owner didn’t maintain, you’ll be in for a lot of manual labor and some treatment costs down the road.

How to Fix It

Fixing a weed infestation is as simple as pulling the weeds up or applying an herbicide to weedy patches. 

The main concern for the second solution is keeping your lawn and garden safe from the herbicide’s effects. The chemical doesn’t discriminate between weeds and non-weeds, so you could unintentionally kill your precious perennials.

To avoid damaging your lawn and garden, you may want to hire a professional lawn care service to rid your yard of pesky weeds.

Associated Costs

Weed control services can cost up to $400 per year, depending on the lawn’s size. 

You can manually weed the lawn, but this approach requires getting down in the dirt. It also doesn’t guarantee the weeds will stay away for good.

After removing the weeds by hand, you’ll still need to apply herbicide to the lawn, dethatch problem areas, reseed bare spots, and water the grass. 

Each step involves potential costs and time to restore your lawn.

Fungal Turf Disease

What Causes the Problem

If you’re touring a property and notice brown patches in the yard, you might be seeing a fungal turf infection.

Fungi are organisms that break down organic substances and absorb vital plant nutrients. As tiny as they are, they can cause some severe damage to a bright green yard.

Depending on a home’s location, climate, and grass type, fungal infections will present themselves in various ways. 

Some fungi develop a powdery sheen on infected plants, while others leave discolored patches on an otherwise healthy lawn.

How to Fix It

The first step in treating a lawn’s fungal disease is identifying the type of fungus present. 

Some infections require you to aerate and reseed the lawn, while others need intense watering and composting.

Read our guide to treating fungal turf infections to learn about common lawn ailments and their treatment options. 

Associated Costs

If you purchase a property with lawn disease, you’ll have to treat the problem and implement proactive prevention methods. 

Professional fungicide application costs around $75 per treatment for a 1,000-square-foot property. If you’d rather try a DIY fix, you can buy fungicides for $20 to $60.

You’ll likely want to implement disease prevention and grass restoration once the fungus is gone. These items will tack extra costs to your lawn care bill.

Holes and Tunnels

What Causes the Problem

Furry woodland creatures are adorable until they burrow harmful tunnels underneath a house and yard. 

While prowling for houses, keep an eye out for signs of burrows, holes, and tunnels on the property. Moles, voles, and gophers each dig various types of tunnels, but the damage can have similar effects.

Surface-level burrows can kill turfgrass, develop an uneven ground surface, and disturb root systems. Deeper, more extensive tunnel systems can severely damage a home’s foundation or cause the ground to sink in.

How to Fix It

Apart from exterminating the critters, repelling them is your best bet. 

This guide from the OSU Extension Service recommends trapping, baiting, or scaring the animals to keep them off your property. 

One method is to install owl boxes to attract predators into the area. You could also try spreading a stinky mixture of castor oil, soap, or jalapeno peppers around tunnel openings and mounds. 

Once you’ve gotten the burrowing rodents to leave, you still need to repair the damage they left.

Associated Costs

Depending on the extent of tunnel damage, you may just need to fill in depressions and overseed patchy areas. 

You’ll have to dish out big bucks for foundation repair or excavation services if you buy a home with extensive underground damage.

Overwatered Turf

What Causes the Problem

Sprinklers are the first thing many people think of when imagining lawn maintenance. Watering is essential to growing healthy grass, but you can have too much of a good thing.

If the soil around grass roots absorbs too much water, the moisture displaces oxygen molecules essential to growth.

Many property owners don’t know the right amount of water for their lawns and douse them repeatedly. This practice leads to mushy, wilting, and overwatered turfgrass.

Look closely at the yard if you’re touring homes and find one with an in-ground sprinkler system. If you see a space full of dying grass, standing water, and matted turf, you might be looking at the consequences of overwatering. 

How to Fix It

If you buy an overwatered lawn, you’ll likely need to perform many lawn treatment tactics for poor drainage.

Tactics like aerating, dethatching, and reseeding will improve the lawn’s circulation and dry up leftover moisture. The reseeding will provide a layer of new growth that hasn’t suffered the effects of overwatering.

Unfortunately, spot treatment is less likely to work for this problem if the lawn has been repeatedly overwatered. You’d probably have to treat the total square footage, which is a costly investment. 

Associated Costs

Hiring a professional lawn service to restore an overwatered lawn isn’t cheap.

If you aim to fix the dying turf with aeration, overseeding, weed control, and fertilizer, you’ll likely pay around $700 for a year of treatment.

Final Thoughts

Now that you understand the implications of different lawn problems, you can keep a sharp eye out while property shopping.

Remember that lawn issues come in many shapes and sizes, so you must stay vigilant when viewing different homes. 

With a careful eye and newfound knowledge, you’re sure to make a more educated and cost-effective home buying decision.

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