The drought, fake turf, and a sign project with my kids

How is the drought impacting real estate? What are you seeing neighbors do with their lawn in light of the drought? I’m seeing a combination of some brown lawns by choice, definitely more xeriscaping, fake turf on occasion, as well as some lawns that are as green as ever. Overall it seems locals are slowly beginning to scale back how much they water their lawns, which can potentially change the way a neighborhood looks if done on a large scale. This begs the question, is the drought beginning to shape what buyers want in a front yard? Are we to the point yet where buyers will pay a premium for landscaping that saves water? What do you think?

Let me share a couple photos today and then tell the story of what we did for our front yard (which ended up taking an unexpected turn).

Fake Turf: Here is an example of fake turf I saw recently in Roseville. This may be commonplace in other parts of the country, but it has definitely not been common here. I have seen fake turf also in Folsom. The owner said the “lawn” was well received by mostly every buyer beyond one prospective buyer who wondered if the turf would get too hot and burn her feet. What do you think?

fake turf - photo by sacramento appraisal blog

Xeriscaping: This is an example of xeriscaping I came across in Rancho Cordova. Xeriscaping is a “landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques” (Merriam-Webster). This is becoming more ordinary, and if the drought persists beyond this year, I suspect we will see many more lawns go this direction.

xeriscaping example in rancho cordova

My Lawn Status & Our Sign Story: I decided to completely stop watering my lawn to conserve water. Yeah, I’m that guy. On a serious note though, after seeing how low Lake Shasta was a few weeks ago, it really made an impression on me. This is no judgment against anyone if your lawn is green, but for my household we decided it was time to let the grass die (we’ll still water our trees though). Since not everyone has a brown lawn in my neighborhood, I wanted to make a sign for the yard to help explain why our lawn is brown. This is what I came up with because I thought it would be both funny and provocative.

brown grass is sexy sign

As soon as I posted a photo of the sign on Instagram, people began telling me I should sell these signs. That definitely wasn’t anything I was thinking about, but I asked my two sons (8 and 10) if they wanted to do a little sign business for the summer. I talked to them about water conservation, and then risk, capital, hard work, potential profit, customer service, etc… and they were game. The deal was for me to be the investor, we would make the signs together, and they would keep any profit once I was paid back. We’ve been selling the signs for $15 each.



My garage has been chaos these past two weeks, but it has been so much fun watching my boys go to work, and to have some amazing conversations about business. Granted, this sign is not for everyone because of the word “sexy”. In fact, some people have complained a bit about the word, but it’s only meant to get conversation going. My hope is people will be more inspired to action rather than stuck on one word. We may do a different slogan at some point though.

brown grass in land park

Marketing a Dead Lawn: An investor friend bought one of our signs to put in the front yard of a current flip in South Land Park, and another real estate friend bought one yesterday to do the same for one of his listings. I did not expect for our sign to collide with my world in real estate, but then again, how to market a dead lawn is something on the radar in today’s real estate landscape.

Questions: How is the drought impacting neighborhoods and real estate? What do you think about fake turf? I’d love to hear your take.

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  1. says

    To be honest I’m not a lover of the Foreclosed look. Buyers are not fond of that look either. If necessary, it seems planting a drought resistant front yard certainly beats the Foreclosed look. As far as the Fake turf, it looks good but wonder about the long-term consequences.

    Certainly does free up weekends for those that hated cutting the grass.

    Hoping we have lots of rain this Winter!

    • says

      I always appreciate your honest take, Gena. I really appreciate that about you. I hear you on the “foreclosed look”, though in my mind it is still possible for a yard to look okay even with lawn that is dead. If the brown grass is trimmed properly and the rest of the yard looks sharp, it can still be okay – even though obviously it is not an ideal look. Ultimately each of us has to figure out a balance of conservation and beatification somehow. I sure hope we have lots of rain soon too.

    • says

      Thanks. I love these kids. They are really excited about the project. It’s been neat to see them begin to think entrepreneurially. They’re starting to think of other signs they can make throughout the year too. I don’t think they realize how much work I put in also, but it’s all good. Over time the goal is for them to be completely self-sufficient. I would love to do a number of projects before they are 18 so they have a good sense of what it can look like to actualize creativity and even make a few bucks here and there.

  2. says

    In my day, I used tons of my folks lemons and made a lemonade stand, and I also held my own garage sales for toys and give away items. I love the idea of a summer job making signs, and I think the green ecology is a welcome change. I have a side “Dog area” that is Heavenly Greens and I love the look of the turf. The trick is making sure the trees get enough water when the sprinklers are capped. I believe I’ve lost a nice birch tree because I lost sight of that fact. I’ll wait another year to see if watering helps it come back to life. At the end, let me know how much the profit was, your kids will love to put that money toward a big prize for themselves! Here are some more sign ideas: “Brown is the new Green” “Saving water helps us all” “Sprinklers on Strike” As always, great ideas Ryan.

    • says

      Nice, Sonja. It sounds like you were quite the business woman at a young age. It’s easy to forget about watering trees and other plants. I actually don’t have the best track record when it comes to keeping plants alive. 🙂 Thank you for the great suggestions and the kind words. We sold 5 signs in the past three days, so they’re starting to go.

  3. Wendy says

    Kudos to the “Brown Grass is Sexy” sign idea and the boys! I’m one of the two in my neighborhood that’s taking the water conservation seriously. So much so people are referring me as the lady with the brown lawn. Love the sign and would love to purchase one but I’m all the way down at 91789… is it possible? I don’t mind putting the legs on myself and paying for shipping. Thanks in advance.

    • says

      Thank you so much Wendy. Good for you to take conservation seriously. I am actually from Southern CA and grew up near you in Rowland Heights and Diamond Bar (and I went to Mt. SAC for two years). 🙂 My kids would be delighted to ship one to you. I am not sure what postage would cost, but as long as you are okay to pay postage and the sign fee of $15, we are game. The legs should be fairly easy to assemble also. It would be fun to ship one to SoCal. If you want to do it, send me an email so we can figure out the details (ryan @ lundquistcompany dot com). Thank you.

  4. Kendy Crawford says

    As a Cordova graduate with family & friends still in the greater Sacramento area, I was shocked when my local CBS news here in Fort Worth, TX carried this story (and that they actually said Rancho Cordova, CA) Our drought here is not quite as severe – this year, but it’s not much better either. I wouldn’t mind having a sign like that in my front yard. Great work!

    • says

      Kendy, thanks so much for the comment. I cannot believe they showed the story in Texas. How random! That makes me wonder if it was picked up anywhere else too. You ought to make a sign, or we can definitely ship one to Texas. 🙂

      Thanks again. This made my day.


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