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The relationship between landscaping & property values


Selling your house? Don't forget the garden! Beautiful landscapes say "class" and could add value to your property. Even if it doesn't increase the price you might expect to acheive, a better garden could give your place the edge over competing properties when buyers are scarce.

First impressions count, and weeds and general untidiness don't create good impressions. What should be trimmed, pruned, or removed?

Some typical issues to consider are: How can we make the most of what is already there? What plants give good "value" for the space they occupy? What plants are reliable under existing conditions (which may include little or no supplemental watering)? Are they easy to maintain, and will they be perceived as easy to maintain by potential buyers?

Think Ahead - Inexpensive, yet often very fast and dramatic results can be achieved by introduction of new plants and fresh mulch, plus rejuvenation and grooming of the plants and gardens you already have. However, you'll save money, work and stress, by thinking ahead and improving the garden well before you need to sell. For example, smaller pot sizes are cheaper, easier to plant and often perform better than advanced containerised trees and shrubs in the long run.

Of course, with time on your side you can keep an eye out for specials, secondhand materials or giveaways (see Budget Gardening).

Even if nothing is added, removal of weeds, overgrowth and dangerous limbs/trees will be a pretty obvious improvement. Apart from creating a general impression of neglect, cleaning up a badly overgown mess will be seen as additional work and expense. So why wouldn't a potential buyer expect a discount? Again, thinking ahead will be helpful, as tackled over time the homeowner will be able to do much of the work themselves, or better still, prevent them though regular maintenance. Large trees will of course necessitate professional assistance and the associated expense.

Beware overdoing it - Gardens which are perceived as needing too much work may put people off. Sadly, mature gardens that look great but are relatively low maintenance may produce this reaction in the inexperienced gardener. Can this be addressed in the marketing? The other way to overdo it is to add a lot of plants/features that will require maintenance or don't have widespread appeal.

Curb Appeal - A good first impression when potential buyers approach a property is generally considered critical to a successful sale. Nicknamed "curb appeal" in real estate circles, the landscape is of course a very important part of that impression.

Staging - Reorganising and decorating a home for the purposes of showing the home in the best possible light to potential buyers is called staging. This might include removal of the owners' furniture and replacement with better, rented furniture. Professional staging servies have become an industry overseas. Obviously, the aim is to get a sufficiently higher price/faster sale to justify the expense of staging. Examples of staging in the landscape might be deployment of decorative potted plants and sophisticated outdoor furniture around patios or poolsides.

Searching the internet will return plenty of ideas on preparing your house for sale. For example, The USA's National Association of Realtors website. Type "curb appeal" or "staging" into their search box for a variety or articles on these topics. Note, however, that styles and tastes in America may vary from Australia, and that market conditions may be quite different from the time that some articles were written.

Help the neighbourhood - Of course a house is not considered in isolation - perceptions of the area in which it is located will obviously influence buying decisions. Leading by example is one way, but what else can you do to encourage your neighbours to take pride in their environment? How about participating in community planting days at the local park? Maybe you can request the coucil plant trees on the nature strip, if your street doesn't have them already.

A landscape well furnished with mature of trees hints at established wealth. A stroll through Brisbane's City Gardens (the city's former Botanic Gardens), or a drive around some of Brisbane's older tree-lined streets gives something of the feel of this. Unfortunately, large trees are often not feasible where there are overhead powerlines nearby. Furthermore, some species are particularly damaging to foundations, underground pipes etc, so do your research.

Research

Because the sale price of any given home will be affected by a myriad of factors, it would be impossible to state with precision what the projected dollar value of a given garden renovation might be.

While most (but not all) research carried out by various organisations over the years tends to support the widespread opinion that money spent on the garden can offer a good return on investment, market conditions as well as the quality and style of the garden are going to have a huge influence, of course.

Landscapes appreciated in Texas
A study of homes in Lubbock, Texas, indicated that quality landscapes can have a substantial effect on sale price. Reported by Jeff Gillman here: New Hort Research that Gardeners Can Use - March '09 Roundup. (UPDATE: a copy of the original article is now available in PDF form from the American Nursery & Landscape Association here: Impact of Improved Landscape Quality and Tree Cover on the Price of Single Family Homes)

Landscaping might not recoup spend in a falling RE market
A 2008 UK study indicated that in a falling property market, most home improvements (including landscaping) don't recover the money spent on them. See House Prices: Home improvements are a waste of money (Telegraph Media Group) and Home improvements 'not recommended' MSN Money (UK)

What about lawn?
A survey conducted on behalf of Turf Australia suggested that turf in a front yard increases the perceived value of a home compared to some other "landscape surfaces". Source: The grass is greener when it comes to property values

Front gardens and house prices
According to the Horticultural Trades Association, a survey of UK estate agents suggests: First impressions count: Research from PlantforLife reveals the £5000 benefit of a front garden (March, 2008).

Trees increase Brisbane property values
Research indicated that the top five suburbs in Brisbane (rated by median house price) were all well furnished with street trees. In contrast, some of the poorest performing areas had few trees. Read more at the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) website: Trees maketh the street (July 2003)

Britons believe in the value of gardens
A survey on behalf of the UK's Saga insurance indicates that a majority of Britons think the garden is an important feature when house hunting, and believe that garden improvements will result in an increase in house value many times the money spent. Read more at the Saga Insurance website: Green Fingers

Many facets to garden investment
National Savings and Investments (UK) found that while most people spend money on their gardens for the enjoyment of their families or to attract wildlife, many do expect to see a monetary return for their investment. Read more at their website: Brits invest in their garden

UK communities improve property prices
The Britain in Bloom campaign encourages communities to improve their local environment in a variety of ways including landscaping. A study has shown that communities that have entered the competition, especially award winners, have higher house prices than nearby areas. More information from the Royal Horticultural Society HERE



Could a water tank improve your property value?

Archicentre (the Building Advisory Service of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects) suggest that as water restrictions hit many parts of Australia hard, a water tank connected to a drip irrigation will be more likely to attract buyers than some luxuries inside the house. Apart from the landscaping benefits, these systems could also help homeowners control cracking problems resulting from dry soils.

However, Archicentre warn that many homes have roofing problems. Fixing and maintaining roofs and gutters will help maximise water harvesting as well as protecting homes against the weather extremes that may accompany climate change
More on what they have to say about these issues at their website:
Drought To Change Home Buyers Priorities (January 2007)
Climate Change Means More Maintenance For Home Owners (January 2007)


Move or improve?

A poll of Archicentre architects indicates outdoor living additions are becoming popular among Australian renovators (Daylight Saving a Boost to the Outside Room Trend). Archicentre also suggests that homeowners, especially those nearing retirement, will show renewed interest in renovation in an attempt to add value to their homes. More on this theme from Archicentre here: Invest in Your Home, Create Wealth and Enjoy Life and here: Home Owners should have Confidence in Australian Housing Market. (October 2008)


Other News

Good gardens reduce crime

A study in Philadelphia has correlated well-maintained vegetation with lower rates of certain crimes such as aggravated assault and and burglary. This could be partly due to the calming effect of greenery on behaviour, and partly due to the strengthened sense of community leading to greater vigilance by residents. Furthermore, the message that people care about their community - and are watching - is communicated with well- maintained gardens and public spaces. Source: Study examines deterrent effect of urban greening on crime (April 2014)


More Links

Trust me: Our industry has great value Someone who works within the American horticulture industry tells how landscaping helped sell his home
The social value of landscaping Perry's Perennial Pages, University of Vermont
Home Staging Demystified - Exterior Entry North Phoenix Agent Blog. You'll find more ideas for home presentation if you work through the archives
Extreme Lawn Makeover...Low Water Plants Takeover! Shirley Bovshow's Edenmakers' Blog (California) Example of a front yard makeover using xeriscape
Effects of Relandscaping on the Perceived Market Value of Single Family Residential Property Robert L. Degner and Susan D. Moss, University of Florida USA
Attractive Landscapes Improve Home Values Office of Agricultural Communications Mississippi State University USA
Functional Uses of Plants in the Landscape Overview of how plants can provide practical benefits around the home, like screening or shading. Ohio State University
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