Summertime brings lightning bugs, pool parties, cookouts, fireworks, juicy slices of watermelon and many other pleasures. It’s also a great time to sell a home. Kids are out of school, there’s time to enroll in a new one, if necessary, and bidding wars can often tilt the odds in the seller’s favor. But there are ways to differentiate your house from others on the block – and the best and most solid return on investment is landscaping.
The right landscape design can make all the difference to a prospective buyer, especially when it’s beautifully and carefully executed. After all, most people would rather pay someone to do the work when it comes to landscaping. Ask anyone who has ever tackled a big landscaping job. It is no picnic and it’s hard work, but the results are well worth it. But no matter whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a professional, potential homeowners will pay for the effort.
In fact, Realtors and landscape professionals estimate that a well-landscaped yard can add 5 percent to 15 percent to the selling value of a house. Real estate professionals will use a well-landscaped yard as a critical selling point when putting together the marketing materials for your house. The reasons are simple: it looks good, and people are willing to pay more for it.
Even if you’re not selling your home, landscaping is still a good idea. Why wait until you move into that dream home before you get the yard you always wanted? Why not create it now and enjoy it? You’ll be that much further ahead when the time comes that you are ready to sell – and the landscaping can only increase your investment.
It’s no secret. Houses that look good from the road carry higher price tags – a fact that turns landscape investments into money in the bank when selling a house. The bottom line is that money spent working on the landscape is a good investment and will bring actual returns, whether you’re selling now or staying for a while.
As with most big jobs, there are ways to go about the process that will make it simpler – whether you hire a professional or do the work yourself.
First, decide whether you need professional help. Does your yard look like a tornado hit it? Have you basically ignored it since you closed on the house? If so the services of a landscape architect or a licensed landscape designer might not be a bad idea to help you develop a landscape plan and offer advice. Professional advice helps homeowners develop a plan that’s within a budget, functional, offers curb appeal and can be added to by future owners.
Next, decide what you want. Look at landscape design books. Cut out pictures of what appeals to you – from the gazebo in the backyard to fountains in the front to a garden pond on the side. Do you want a fresh herb garden? What trees would you like to plant? How about a stone pathway? Like the shrub in your neighbor’s yard? Ask what it is.
Above all, landscapes are a reflection of the personality of the owners, so be creative and dream. If you’ve always been a big fan of unicorns and cherubs, by all means, add those pieces to your landscape. And don’t hesitate to ask questions. If that crape myrtle is going to lose its pretty pink summer blossoms in your hot tub – creating more work – you might want to consider another option.
Implementing the plan
Establishing a good landscape can be expensive, but it can be done in stages and on a budget to offset costs. Much depends on what landscaping is in place when you start. For example, if your house is great but has no trees, start with trees. And since big trees can get very expensive, start small until you can afford to get the older oaks that you want.
Later, add a few plants around the foundation of the house and in "curb appeal" areas such as the area near the front door. Or, consider using more permanent bushes, especially those that flower in the summer and have colorful buds in the winter.
Gardeners on a budget can buy a few plants at any home improvement store or local nursery and place them according to the plan. Then, add to them later as the budget allows.
Consider your space, too, if you’re working with a small budget. Don’t put fewer plants in a large area, because they won’t fill it out and you’ll end up fighting a losing battle with the weeds that will inevitably take over. And, don’t buy smaller, less expensive plants and place them close together. When they grow, they’ll be overcrowded.
For an especially inexpensive jolt for your yard, flowers are a homeowner’s best friend. Bright splashes of color add visual appeal, though they’re usually temporary. For this reason, they’re great if you suddenly need to put your house on the market and need a quick landscaping fix. At that point, it’s best to stick to the basics, leaving more costly and permanent landscaping to the new owners.
With patience and a little bit of a green thumb, any homeowner or weekend gardener can have a landscape that’s a great selling point for the house – and one that’s enjoyable while you’re there, too.