by Josh Fredman
If you want to make an investment that adds value to your home, consider landscaping, which covers practically everything on your property other than the house itself. Landscaping upgrades can involve things like patios and decks, flowerbeds, barbecue pits, watering systems and plants of all sorts. As you enter into a landscaping project, you have plenty of choices about what kinds of upgrades to make.
It doesn’t take much to understand the economics of increasing property value through landscaping upgrades. A well-placed, properly sized tree, for example, can provide visual enjoyment simply by looking pretty. It can also smell good and sound peaceful in the breeze. It can shield your home from summer heat. It can provide recreation for your kids, or support for a hammock. A good tree provides pleasure and utility, and these things translate to increased property value. The same idea applies to all landscaping: If a given improvement offers something that prospective buyers want, then your property value will rise. Also, as the tree grows, the value of replacing the tree grows as well. Thus buyers will value larger and more established trees and shrubs higher than those newly planted.
Though experts agree that landscaping improvements usually raise a property’s value, it can be extremely difficult to predict exactly what kind of gains a specific homeowner will see in her individual circumstances. Thornton Landscape president Rick Doesburg uses 15 percent as a ballpark figure when advising clients, but he stresses that estimates vary by home and notes that the lasting effect of landscaping requires ongoing maintenance. Virginia Tech horticulturist Alex Niemiera arrived at a similar figure -- 12.7 percent -- in his research. In extreme cases, property values can more than double, and they can actually decrease if the landscaping contains undesired features that the local market doesn’t support.
When considering the property value increase of a landscaping upgrade at your home, you must take into consideration the cost of actually installing the new landscaping, as well as the cost of continually maintaining it. If your primary intent is to increase your home’s value rather than derive added enjoyment from your yard, treat these costs as investments and make them cost-effective. Professional landscapers can discuss the options with you. For example, perennials and bulbs can add color and style to your property all year long. Other cost-effective improvements include aesthetically pleasing architectural improvements, such as stone walkways and terracing that require little or no maintenance.
Landscaping upgrades have a number of variables that go into the property value equation, some of which you cannot control. For example, according to Mark Henry of Clemson University, the quality of landscaping on your neighbors’ lots also affects your home’s value. Even the general quality of landscaping in your whole neighborhood has an impact. If one of your adjacent neighbors has a particularly bad yard, you might want to talk with him to see if he would be willing to make any improvements.
Another important factor to consider is the contractors who do your landscaping upgrades. Many companies vie for this kind of business, and choosing the right contractor can make a lot of difference. Find a contractor with whom you are comfortable, who is honest and patient, and who can show you a good track record. Lastly, pay attention to the details. Michigan State University horticulturist Bridget Behe notes that a subtle, small change, such as curving the edges of your flowerbeds, by itself can increase your home value by 1 percent.