Diverting attention from a tiny back yard

Mary Ellen Slayer/Washington Post The small back yard has discouraged the potential buyers of this house in Leesburg, Va.

Mary Ellen Slayer/Washington Post The small back yard has discouraged the potential buyers of this house in Leesburg, Va.

WASHINGTON - Mary O'Connor hasn't had much trouble getting prospective buyers to hop out and check out her four-bedroom, 21Ú2 -bath home in suburban Leesburg, Va.

It's when they see the back yard that they head back to their cars.

"Everyone has raved about how beautiful the house is, but everyone has equally objected to the back yard," O'Connor said of the property, listed for $524,900 - down more than $10,000 from the original asking price two months ago.

The house sits on a corner lot of about a fifth of an acre, but nearly all the yard is in the front. The back yard, enclosed with a privacy fence, is largely taken up by a 1,000-plus-square-foot, multi-tier deck built by the previous owner, leaving just a strip of grass between the fence and the deck.

"While I know that having virtually no back yard is a hindrance, it's not totally uncommon in our neighborhood, and houses with equally unusable back yards have recently sold," O'Connor said. But "we also back up to the back of my neighbor's house. Last spring, we planted some trees to help screen the neighbor, but I'm at a loss as to what else to do."

Corinne Lynch, a landscape designer with suburban Lewis Scully Gionet Landscape Architecture, had advice on making the back yard more appealing, given these caveats: The job had to cost less than $1,000, assuming that the sellers did most of the work themselves, and it had to be possible to complete in a weekend.

"There isn't really much that can be done about the amount of green space that exists currently in the back yard. However, a great deal can be done to soften the deck," which has great potential for entertaining, Lynch said.

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