The neighbors are mowing their grass right now. Unfortunately, that’s big news.

Sometimes there’s only so much you can do about curb appeal. Since I’ve bought my duplex, I’ve done a lot to improve how it looks from the street. I’ve removed four overgrown bushes in the front of the house (you can see the windows now!) and planted hydrangeas, tulips, daffodils and crocuses in their stead. I’ve scraped, patched and painted the foundation, installed new glass block basement windows, painted the front railings, painted the front steps, painted the front door, replaced the door hardware, replaced the front storm door, removed the faux wood paneling and three-season carpeting from the front porch and given it a shiny new paint job, replaced the dirt driveway with stylish brick pavers, and kept the grass neatly trimmed. Everyone I know has remarked on how much better it looks — like they’re walking into a whole different house.

However, my next door neighbors nearly always have a front yard that looks like a prairie. The backyard is also prairie, with the addition of bikes, tents, furniture, toys, clothes that have fallen from the line, and other sundry eyesores. I think I’ve seen them mow the lawn a total of four times in the past three years. (And believe me, it’s not something that I would miss.)

I’ve planted vines to grow along the fence between our backyards; hopefully in a couple of years we won’t have as good of a view…

And it’s not that I’m a snob; the neighbors next door are actually quite nice. I like them a lot. But I know that when I used to go apartment hunting, or even when I was duplex-hunting, you don’t just look at the duplex you’re going to buy or rent. You also check out who the neighbors are, and what the whole block looks like to get a feel for the neighborhood. Most people form an opinion of the property before even entering the front door.

When I bought my duplex, the house next door was empty, and also for sale. As such, the owner was keeping the yard neatly trimmed. But he doesn’t live there, and has made yardwork the responsibility of his tenants. Perhaps it doesn’t matter to him, but I would be very unhappy with the frontyard of my duplex looking like a nature preserve. ESPECIALLY if I was looking for renters for one of the units.

When I eventually move out of my duplex, and rent out both units, I plan to hire a caretaker, or manage the yardwork myself, to avoid such a situation. A nicely cared-for property will always look more appealing to quality renters.

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