How to Invest in Outdoor Landscaping and See Great Returns

Over 75% of top real estate agents across the country say that well-landscaped homes are worth anywhere from 1% to 10% more than homes with no landscaping, according to our research at HomeLight. For a home worth the U.S. median price of $266,300, that’s an extra $2,663 to $26,630 in the bank. Landscaping also goes hand in hand with curb appeal — and 94% of top agents say improving your curb appeal adds to your bottom line at resale.

This guide will help you add value to your house through landscaping with tips on how to invest in low-maintenance additions that make your house more marketable, keep up with your yard care basics, and tackle simple projects that make a great impact on how your home appears from the outside.

Source: (Andrew Buchanan / Unsplash)

Add shrubs, trees, and hedges to boost privacy

Whether your property faces or backs up to a busy street, or a large living area picture window makes your house feel like a fishbowl, landscaping can help.

“A lot of people love privacy,” says John Krol, a top real estate agent in Naples, Florida, who sells homes 45% faster than the average area agent. “That’s what most buyers will comment on when it comes to landscaping.” Indeed, privacy has become one of the most sought after features in a home, with 60% of high-end home buyers prioritizing it above any other feature, according to a study by YouGov.

Evergreen trees, evergreen shrubs, and hedge plants that become more dense when pruned are some of your best plant selections for creating privacy. Privacy landscaping can be an especially attractive option for homeowners in planned communities where you’re not allowed to add a fence. If road noise is your main issue, consult HomeLight’s guide to plants, fencing, and water features that help reduce sound.

Plant baby trees and watch them mature

According to PNW Research, a healthy, mature tree in front of your home increases a home’s sale price by an average of $7,130 (to be considered “mature” a tree needs to have a diameter of 12” or greater). Plan ahead and plant fledgling trees years before you’re looking to sell your home, and you stand to increase your property value for a small upfront cost. The bigger the tree, the more expensive it will be to purchase, deliver and plant. A&P Nursery serving the Phoenix, AZ East Valley since 1970 estimates your tree planting costs as follows:

  • Small tree (planting cost: $106 per tree)
  • Medium tree (planting cost: $255 per tree)
  • Large tree (planting cost: $2,423 per tree)

“Plant long-lived hardwood trees like oak, maple, hickory, or walnut,” advises Pablo Solomon, a landscaping expert with over 50 years of experience. “While the really good trees grow slowly, you will be surprised how satisfying it is to see them mature.” Be patient, as it can take up to 30 years for a tree to fully mature, though a tree may start to provide shade and beauty much sooner.

Note that trees need care and maintenance to thrive. 85% of top real estate agents advise that you trim trees and shrubs before you list your home for sale. It’s important to remove dead or diseased branches and if a tree can’t be saved, you’ll need to remove it before it becomes a risk.

Go with low maintenance plants native to the area

Most buyers want the look of a lush yard, without putting in the muscle required to cultivate one. To make your garden look amazing without the effort, “use native plants as much as possible,” Solomon recommends. “These tend to require less care and watering than non-native varieties.”

Not sure what flora is local to your region and climate? Use the National Wildlife Federation’s “Native Plant Finder Tool” to discover which plants will grow best in your backyard. Or, head to a native plant nursery in your area for a wide selection of natives along with some professional guidance. Check out HomeLight’s guide to low maintenance curb appeal for more ideas!

Avoid elaborate or prickly garden features

There’s no doubt that a well maintained English rose garden is gorgeous, but adding one limits your home’s marketability down the road. If your landscaping looks complicated or busy, buyers will assume it’ll take a lot of upkeep. The same goes for “unfriendly” growth, says Krol. If a plant is spiky, thorny, or otherwise dangerous-looking to the eye, it will make people question if kids or pets will be safe in the yard.

A person mowing grass to improve landscaping.
Source: (Rémi Müller / Unsplash)

Keep the lawn tidy, green, and manicured

According to HomeLight’s research, spending under $300 on basic lawn care can yield a 352% ROI. You should always mow, weed, edge, and fertilize your yard as needed. While your garden is blooming, take care to weed the beds at least once a week to keep things in check. Giving your entire yard a once over in edging will likely take around 2 hours, but you’ll want to touch up that edge every time you mow the lawn to keep it pristine. Have a particularly troubling lawn? HomeLight has a comprehensive guide on how to solve even the worst of yard problems, including grubs, stubborn weeds, and bare spots.

Invest in planned xeriscaping

Xeriscaping, or landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for watering and irrigation, is both energy-efficient and low maintenance. “Berms, rock walls, brick walkways — these permanent and maintenance-free additions will add much more value than less permanent and hard to maintain features,” Solomon says.

Xeriscaping is gaining traction in areas and climates that are drought-prone and sunny. A xeriscaped garden can reduce outdoor water usage by 60% or more, and can increase the property value of a home by 15%, depending on the market. It strikes that perfect balance between aesthetically pleasing and money-saving.

To properly enter the world of hardscaping, replace grass and other water-hungry plants with varietals more commonly found in drier climates. Palm trees, cacti, and succulents are popular low-water, low maintenance choices, but they aren’t your only options. You’ll find that there are vines, ornamental grasses, and even perennial and annual flowers that’ll bloom during cooler months.

Install fresh mulch liberally

The simple task of keeping your garden beds freshly mulched will net you a 126% ROI. In surveying HomeLight’s top agents, 84% recommend installing fresh mulch before putting your home on the market. Naturally colored mulch in your garden will make your beds look tidier, and your plants will pop in contrast. EarthGro Black Mulch and Vigoro Brown Mulch are some of our favorite options from Home Depot.

Blend in with the rest of your block

“Do not stick out like a sore thumb in the neighborhood,” Solomon advises, “While it is fine to be creative, do not overdo it.” That means that your larger than life animal topiary and collection of lawn gnomes should take a hike before you put your home up for sale. Avoid adding other elements like gazebos, and haul away old playground equipment that’s in disrepair. The yard should have broad appeal and be clean and uncluttered.

Use LED lighting for nightscaping

With the advancements of affordable LED and solar-powered garden lights, Krol’s noticed more homebuyers searching for landscaping with evening ambiance. “The lights also add a sense of security to the house at night,” he notes. Add well-placed lanterns, string lights, or landscape lighting to your beds and walkways to make the space more inviting.

Flowers that were landscaped as an investment.
Source: (Matt Chen / Unsplash)

No question about it: Landscaping is a great investment

Imagine a brand new single-family home in perfect condition. The exterior glistens with a fresh coat of paint. Inside gorgeous hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, and modern finishes reflect a homebuyers’ dream. But there’s one thing missing. Outside, there’s no sign of greenery or carefully laid river rock displays. The yard is flat and bare without any flower gardens, plants, shrubs, or lush mature trees to add beauty or life. The house, while amazing in every other way, is in desperate need of some landscaping!

So is landscaping a good investment? Just picture that house without it, and you have your answer.

Header Image Source: (romakoma / Shutterstock)

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