Landscaping is a smart investment

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, March 1, 2022

 Is landscaping a good investment? Does it add value over time to your home? Does it give instant return if you’re wanting to sell the home? And how much, where and why might you want to invest in your property with wise landscaping? 

   Spending 5% of the total value of your home on landscaping, doing it wisely, can add 15% or more to the value of your home, according to Smart Money magazine. A caveat, poor design and installation could have the opposite effect, so wise use of money is needed in order to reap such nice gains. I am betting a chance to add $30,000 in value to a $200,000 home with a $10,000 investment will encourage you to read on.

   A Clemson University study found that prospective buyers value landscaping as adding up to 11.5% to their estimation of a property’s worth versus a similar home that is not landscaped. Traditional thinking is that a kitchen or bath update or upgrade will return from 75% to 125% on the dollars spent. While it’s not recommended for someone wanting to market their home immediately spend on major landscape upgrades, minor work that delivers a positive curb appeal is a super idea. In time, a good landscape can deliver up to 200% or more in return. 

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   In the real estate sales business they talk a lot about “comps” or comparable homes. Above average landscaping raises pricing 4-5%. However, landscaping below neighborhood standards can negatively affect prices 8 to 10%!

   Landscape improvements not only add value, they can help a property sell 5 to 6 weeks faster, according to the American Nursery and Landscaping Association. Again, we have to qualify this to modest expenditures that improve the appearance of a home. Fancy or extensive new landscaping to a place you are selling is not wise, both from a cost/return perspective and also that the more elaborate projects will only appeal to a smaller portion of prospective new homeowners looking at your home with the ‘for sale’ sign. Fairly simple but tasteful is the key. Let the next owner do the big expensive stuff.

   What about the homeowner who plans to keep his property for many years and wants to invest in the landscaping? There is more freedom here to do involved projects, and those that are on his family’s need or wish list. A swimming pool or a jungle gym may not return full value at selling time, but if it means the kids and grandkids really have a good time and it makes for a much better quality of life, who is to say it isn’t money well spent! Not everything can be totaled up with a dollar value.)

   Long term, some of the best return on money spent comes from planting small but healthy trees and shrubs, and they become much more valuable in time. Hardscaping such as patios, decks, terraces, swales, walks, water features and so on are also important to long term satisfaction and reward to the homeowners. The tough part for the beginning new homeowner is visualizing when they plant that shade tree that it shouldn’t be planted in a certain spot if a pool or patio or new driveway or a second garage will need to go there at some future date. Hiring a designer early on in this matter may be much cheaper than dealing with mistakes as time passes and some things have to be removed to make way for more projects at a later date. Planning is useful—so often I see people shopping for trees or shrubs and they have little idea until they get home how it is going to fit into their overall plans.

   Right tree? Not only the right size, the right shape needs to be considered. What does your proposed tree look like in each of the four seasons? Will it bloom? Should it be an evergreen tree? Will it tolerate sun, shade, drought, swampy areas, poor soil, acid or alkaline soils? Will it survive salt trucks, salt mist or runoff water from treated streets? 

   Considering just the color of the leaves, or that it has such a pretty bloom can lead to poor choices and followed on by poor performance if planting conditions and other factors are not in line with the preferences of the tree you dream about. This could lead to negative return on your investment, or even death of the tree, not to mention the time wasted and the delay in having the dream tree you want.

   The value of a good looking yard that also is functional and usable is huge. Broken sidewalks, rotten porches, unfenced yard with pets: these detract from values. A yard that appeals to the most people will be a winner if selling is in your future. Having all the little particulars you want are fine if you plan on staying awhile, your own comfort and preferences may be a good investment for you and your yard.

   In conclusion, time is your friend. The right landscaping will gain steadily in value over the years. I believe landscaping, well planned and executed, will produce a positive return on your investment and will be money well spent. (And even if spending money on your property increased the value in an exactly equal amount to what you spent, you would still enjoy the new landscaping, and not for a few days like you would a vacation, or a few hours like a Superbowl, or a few minutes perhaps if you gamble those dollars away. Instead you accumulate equity in your home that will endure and grow as time passes.)

   The evidence is abundant: good landscaping is a super investment.

Max Phelps is a landscaper. Your feedback is encouraged.