Landscaping can have a huge impact on the impression a home makes. The front lawn leading to your door is usually what a visitor notices first; Looking backwards can enhance the aura of interior spaces. The question is how important it is to invest in attractiveness to add value to your home. Is it worth prioritizing a portion of your home maintenance budget to your outdoor areas?
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) claims that professional landscaping can add 15 to 20 percent to a home’s price “at resale. Bryan Mackenzie, a landscape designer and co-founder of the garden advice site bumpercroptimes.com, says, “Quality landscape designs typically have an ROI of 20 to 30 percent of the overall value of the home.”
However, not all projects deliver on the promise and some may potentially reduce property values. Where you see beauty, others may see a burden or even a danger.
Let’s take a closer look at when landscaping adds or decreases home value—and which projects offer the best opportunity to get more from your investment.
Does Landscaping Improve the Value of the Home?
First, a quick refresher on what landscape design actually means. Basically, it includes the outside area around a house – both the overall design and the individual elements. Softscaping refers to living beings: flowers and plants, trees, gardens and natural ground coverings and formations (grass, hills, rough stones). Hardscaping refers to non-living decorative or architectural features such as structures, steps, and formal paving.
As with interior design, landscaping trends can and will change over time. Today, “outdoor living space enhancements are very popular upgrades — including deck and patio extensions, additions of fireplaces or fire features, dining areas, and covered gazebos or pergolas,” says Britt Wood, CEO of the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
However, a project’s popularity doesn’t mean it adds the kind of value that the next homeowner is willing to pay a premium for. Pagodas, for example, might not be for everyone. Or that elaborate water garden might require too much maintenance (who’s going to feed the fish?).
Still, “Research in 2018 by Alex X. Niemiera, a gardener at Virginia Tech, found that a well-designed home had a price advantage of 5.5 to 12.7 percent over a home without landscaping,” note Chase et al Patti Michels from the Chicago real estate agency of the Michels Group. “That’s an additional $16,500 to $38,100 in value for a $300,000 home.”
The most financially rewarding landscaping projects increase living space and add low-maintenance beauty to a property.
What Landscaping Projects Increase the Value of a Home?
Whether hardscaping or softscaping, the following landscaping projects are more likely to add value to the home when done correctly.
Decks are the only landscaping project to make the list in Remodeling.com’s annual cost-value study, which analyzes home improvement jobs that offer the best return on investment. A deck averages $16,766 and has a 65.8 percent resale yield; A more durable composite deck averages $22,426 and yields 63.2 percent. The ROI of wooden decks has fallen sharply over the past two years due to rising timber prices; Composite decks ROI has remained more stable. But both have consistently performed well in the study over the past decade.
Niemera’s study states that the most important thing buyers look for in landscaping is sophisticated design. “This is followed by plant size and maturity,” notes Michels. So you might want to invest in taller trees and mature greenery that will seem more established for your landscape project.
The cost of planting a tree versus a shrub may be higher, but so are the benefits. According to Fixr.com, planting a shrub averages between $25 and $50, while a tree costs an average of $150 to $300. However, you may need fewer trees than shrubs. Additionally, compared to a shrub (once established), trees require less maintenance and provide shade, a windbreak, an attractive curb and a safe habitat for birds and squirrels.
Xeriscaping, landscaping in a style that requires little or no irrigation, may be one of the most expensive landscaping projects up front — but as climate change rocks the country with droughts and warmer temperatures, it’s growing in popularity. ASLA has reported that customer demand for drought-resistant landscaping has increased by 10 percent among members.
Fixr.com states that the average xeriscaping project costs $16,000 to $18,000. However, moving from water-intensive landscaping to xeriscaping, or low-water landscaping, may be the wisest decision now and long-term simply because you eliminate many of the maintenance costs associated with traditional landscaping. That could be worth another 10 to 12 percent of the property’s value.
Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, a website that brings together consumers and lawn professionals, sees a growing preference for aquatic landscaping. He advises clients to “save money on landscaping by adding river rock to their gardens and landscaped beds.” Though rock gardeners may seem like a project better suited to desert landscapes, Clayton says he sees clients retreating even to cooler zones. “People are just tired of wasting money on mulch, straw or other organic materials to put in their gardens year after year,” he explains.
Some other ways to integrate the Waterwise concept are:
- Integrate more water-poor plants into the garden
- Automatic watering programmed to run early in the morning or in the evening
- More hardscaping with rocks or cobblestones to reduce the square footage of a lawn
- Replace mulch with rock or gravel alternatives
Which Landscaping Projects Reduce Value?
In general, landscaping projects that are “too niche” can turn off a large portion of buyers. Ideas like an Asian Zen garden or a cactus garden somewhere outside the Southwest may not appeal to everyone. Additionally, the Michels explain that “large renovations tend to generate significantly lower returns than smaller projects.” Investing in minor outdoor improvements would be money better spent.
Improvements can backfire in other ways. For example, certain landscaping projects may be considered high maintenance or too costly to maintain. A lush green lawn may be attractive in many areas, but is impractical in drought zones due to their high water requirements. In addition, lawns require constant care: mowing, sowing and aerating.
Other landscaping projects that may end up losing value due to their complexity or maintenance costs include:
- swimming pool: They can be considered a security risk and require fencing and additional security measures in many communities
- Ponds, waterfalls and other water features: Similar to pools, they can pose a safety issue for small children and pets. They can also require constant care.
- Fancy features: Elaborate designs like an outdoor kitchen or tennis court can be counterproductive if the cost of the expansion is significant enough to raise the home’s value above that of neighboring properties.
ASLA recommends keeping your spending on exterior and landscaping improvements within the range of 10 to 20 percent of your home’s current value. However, you could spend less and still get a sizeable return. When deciding which type of external upgrades would provide the most benefit, consider the following tips:
- KISS. The most effective landscaping ideas are sometimes the simplest, such as: B. a clean, tidy garden or an inexpensive trellis with a flowering grapevine. A few annuals can add color anywhere.
- Less is more. Keep the landscape plan general enough for most to appreciate. Not to step on your style, however, you should avoid design ideas that might be too personal (and usually overly expensive) or trendy.
- Add lighting. You can find inexpensive landscape lights that you can install yourself at most home improvement stores. Solar powered versions require no special wiring. Even the small touch of adding spotlights to add drama to your landscape can make a big impact.
- Do your due diligence. Always look at landscaping costs and compare different materials and service providers to find the best price.
- Work with your local nursery. Although a professional landscape architect can create a well-designed plan, their fees can eat up a significant chunk of your budget. Many nurseries offer free or low-cost landscaping design ideas when you buy plants and supplies from them.
The final word on landscaping and home value
Landscaping trends can change over time, but the most financially rewarding projects tend to be the same: they’re low-maintenance, attractive, and expand your enjoyment and use of the home.
As with all home remodeling efforts, some landscaping projects add value and others do not. It may be best to avoid expensive or overly personalized projects and keep the beautification general — and low-maintenance — so that a large number of people can appreciate it. As with any home remodeling job, you can do your research to make the most sensible decision to maximize the return on your investment.