Improving the inside of your house may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about increasing the value of your property. But it's the landscaping that gives your home curb appeal and draws potential buyers to your door.
Most prospects will get their first look at your home through photos online. That first impression is vital in growing your home’s value, and your landscaping is a crucial part of that appeal.
Having an attractive landscape starts with the basics of yard management: keeping it neatly mowed, edged, watered, fertilized, and free of trash and weeds. Trees and shrubs should be shapely and pruned of dead limbs and branches.
Beyond those essentials, here are 10 landscaping tips that increase the value of your home:
1. Make it Beautiful – and Low Maintenance
Today’s buyers want a lovely yard – but they don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort keeping it up. "Homeowners yearn for beautiful outdoor spaces without the hassle of upkeep," according to Missy Henriksen, with the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
- Reduce the amount of turf in your lawn. Mowing and edging are seen as the major lawn maintenance hassles by potential buyers. You can cut back on grass by expanding flower beds and adding nonplant elements such as a water feature, a gazebo, a pergola, and paved walkways. Anything that cuts back on the amount of grass that needs maintaining is worth considering.
- Remove mowing and edging obstacles. Get rid of anything that's an impediment to easy mowing and edging. For example, a boulder can be a great landscape element — but not if it’s sitting out in the grass. Keep potential upkeep headaches off the turf.
- Use mulch. Expand the mulched flower and shrub beds and around trees serves four purposes. It reduces turf, retains moisture for plants, inhibits weed growth, and adds an attractive element to your yard. Mulches today come in a variety of colors that can add a visual "pop" to your yard.
- Streamline your landscape. If you’re an avid gardener, you may have turned your yard into a botanical paradise. But what you see as a thing of beauty, a potential buyer may view as a maintenance nightmare. If you’re going on the market soon, streamline your beds to reduce high-upkeep elements.
2. Don’t Eliminate your Turf Altogether
The largest segment of the homebuying population is millennials, people born between 1981 and 1996. These young couples either have or intend to have children and pets. Leave space in your landscaping scheme for them to romp and play.
3. Plant Natives
Opt for native plants or at least varieties that are well adapted to your soil and climate. Natives, whether flowers, shrubs, trees, or turf, need less maintenance. They're also drought-resistant, and better suited to thrive in your locale. Agriculture extension agencies in most states provide a list of native and adapted species. A professional at a reputable local nursery can be helpful, too. Tip: choose perennial flowers over annuals because they don’t have to be re-planted each year.
4. Install an Irrigation System
Buyers looking for a maintenance-free yard will not want to drag around a hose and sprinkler. If you don’t have one, consider installing in-ground sprinklers. You should also invest in a "smart" controller that can judge when your grass needs moisture and can alert you through your smartphone.
5. Add a Pergola or Gazebo
Today’s buyers think of the yard as a living space. A pergola or gazebo provides that space, plus it cuts down on turf. Modern pergolas can come with stylish seating, heaters, fans, and fire features. They also provide the perfect anchor for a few stylish hanging chairs.
6. Install Terraces or Tiers
If your yard is flat, create visual interest by building terraces or tiers. These can be constructed of stone, brick, or railroad ties. Place different plants on the various levels — ground cover on one, a flower bed on another. Go for pleasing asymmetrical curves rather than regimented lines.
7. Consider Nooks and Cozy Spaces
In addition to outdoor living space for entertaining, buyers today like having an intimate space for relaxing and quiet time. A Zen or meditation garden can fill the bill. An underused side yard might be perfect for this. Use hedges or vine-covered lattices to make the area cozy and private. Pavers can make ideal flooring and finish it off with a bench and some potted plants.
Modern technology provides us with unlimited possibilities for outdoor lighting, from illuminating walkways to soft accents on trees to colorful lanterns. LED bulbs are long-lasting and, while initially more-costly, inexpensive to use. Many lighting systems come with remote controls that allow you to dim, or even change the colors. As they enhance safety and security, lights can achieve the mood you want for your outdoor evenings.
9. Avoid the ‘Parking Lot’ Look
For years, patios and pathways were mere concrete slabs. That look is definitely passé. Cover the concrete with stone pavers or tile. Quarry or slate are the best choices for outdoor tile. Rugs in outdoor living areas can also help.
10. Add Trees
Good trees add 7% to 11% to the value of your home. If you have good trees, you’re in luck. If not, consider adding some. Taller trees are more expensive, but buy the tallest your budget will allow. Deciduous trees provide shade in the summer, and evergreens act as windbreaks in the winter. Trees lower utility costs, which is a factor buyers may look at. In fact, some community agencies and utilities provide free trees to enhance communities’ "tree canopy." Again, think native. Native trees will give you less trouble.
Of course, time and budget are the overriding factors in landscaping. If you’re planning to put your home on the market soon, you may not want to invest in some of the costlier improvements. Examine your yard as objectively as possible and make the improvements that will give you the best return on your investment. If you’re not putting your home on the market right away, make the improvements as time and budget allow. Landscaping trends come and go, but attractive, low-maintenance yards that provide comfortable outdoor living space are the wave of the future.