Aesthetics and Investments: The Value of Proper Landscaping

Aesthetics and Investments: The Value of Proper Landscaping

Prospective buyers confirm that design sophistication is important to a home’s landscaping appeal, and that outstanding landscapes do, indeed, influence their value perceptions. While real estate agents frequently cite “curb appeal” as a major factor in home desirability, the term is somewhat difficult to define.

Recent studies, though, shed more light on what buyers prefer in a landscape. There are common elements.

Appealing Landscape Elements

The three most important were found to be:

  • Sophisticated Design
  • Plant Size
  • Plant Diversity

Researchers at Virginia Tech University found that “relatively large landscape expenditures significantly increase perceived home value and will result in a higher selling price than homes with a minimal landscape,” according to Department of Horticulture researcher Alex X. Niemiera, thus making landscaping one of the best improvements for adding home sale value.

Additional value added by landscaping may vary significantly from one state to another. Michigan led the list in this particular study, with a 12.7 percent value increase for a “well landscaped” home. In Louisiana, the spread between “no landscape” to well landscaped was only 5.5 percent.

There are some caveats, however. Location makes a difference. Community character plays a role, and should always be considered. Frank J. Lucco, managing director of IRR-Residential Appraisers & Consultants in Houston, notes that if prospective buyers don’t like the look of the house, they are likely to move on without even venturing inside. However, “over-landscaping” for a particular neighborhood does not result in the same value boost that similar dollars would bring in a community of properties with similar landscaping.

Curb appeal makes a difference, insist most real estate professionals everywhere. Just as staging an interior can best highlight a home’s qualities, great curb appeal acts as the inviting gesture for buyers to venture inside.

A 2013 survey commissioned by the National Association of Realtors found that 71 percent of buyers cited curb appeal as important. While common remodeling expenditures typically provide a return on investment between about 60 and 90 percent, money spent on attractive landscaping can offer a return of up to 215 percent, says Maryland Realtor Margaret Woda.

A Plan for All Seasons

When planning a landscape, keep in mind what it will look like throughout the year. A sophisticated landscape design will account for changing seasons, include a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees, create one or more focal points, and have plants of varying sizes, different colors and unique characteristics. The landscape will add a unique dimension to the property, even when it’s not prime growing or blooming season. Large pots of greenery, topiary displays or seasonal flowers can add color and appeal, even in the midst of winter. Although buyers list plant diversity as least important, the best landscapes vary height, plant structure, color and characteristics in order to create interest.

A well-planned landscape, according to the experts, requires some time in place to look its best. Planning ahead is the key. Even though it’s not always necessary to purchase mature plants initially, it is important to coordinate plant types so that “full-grown” displays are appropriate.

Container gardens can be as attractive as gardens planted in the dirt, especially if soil condition and drainage constitute a problem. Other landscape features, including paved walkways, a pergola or archway, low walls or interesting sculpture can serve as focal points and complement the beauty of green lawn and planting zones.

Even a relatively new landscape can be attractive, notes Woda, who advises simplicity and ease of maintenance as much as possible. Mulch, boulders, fencing, walls and other features, including mailboxes, benches, walkways and lighting, also add appeal to the landscape. Elaborate children’s play equipment or features that are too personal — such as a putting green or a Zen garden — might not be as universally desirable.  Professionals also advise selecting plants that are either native to the environment or those that will adapt and perform well with minimal upkeep.

Whether landscaping new property, or updating older plantings, know that the money you spend is likely to be a good investment for the home’s value.