Clients frequently ask me how much of their home’s value they should spend on landscaping. There isn’t a great rule of thumb for that question - it is a hard one to answer with any real certainty, because we need to drill down into a number of things: what your real estate market is like, how you’re going to use the landscaping while you live there, and how long you’ll live in the house. How much you should spend has a lot to do with your own values – it’s like asking how much to spend on a TV. My husband would advocate for something much more expensive than I would, because he values quality TV more than I do. What I can tell you is that quality landscaping absolutely increases the value of your home.
I fully believe that landscaping is pretty, that surrounding yourself with beauty feeds your soul, and it’s good to be good to the earth. But pretty doesn't put money in momma’s bank account, does it? Well actually ma’am, yes it does. LOADS of peer-reviewed, scientific studies have documented in a variety of ways the positive impact landscaping brings to your bottom line. It’s science, y’all.
I know you hear from HGTV that sprucing up your home’s exterior is worthwhile, and that curb appeal really matters. This isn’t just one of Chip Gaines’ crazy ideas. Peer-reviewed scientific research means that statistics, sample size, experimental design, and analysis are all scrutinized by the scientific community and held to an incredibly high standard. Getting published in a peer-reviewed journal can take years. It’s completely different from writing a blog post or talking on a TV show. University studies are unbiased, logical, and methodical. So the articles I’m going to talk about here carry a lot more weight that what our friends at Fixer Upper have to say (although they’re right!)
In one study from Michigan State, participants ranked home values based on images, just like you’d do looking through Zillow! The study covered 7 different states and had 1323 volunteer participants – this was a totally legit sample size… not just asking your mom what she thinks. Study participants across all markets perceived that home values increased between 5-11% for the houses with “good” landscaping. That means a $350,000 house increased in value by $17,500-$38,500 BASED ON ITS LANDSCAPING. That’s crazy!
What did they define as “good” landscaping? Well I’m glad you asked! The researchers ranked plant material types (trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals), plant sizes (really small to mature plantings) and design sophistication (one line of shrubs vs. an island bed with edging). Homes with quality landscaping had a higher level of design sophistication, a range of mature plants. A home with ”excellent” landscaping had a price of 10-12% more than one with “average” landscaping!
Another research project from Texas Tech University looked at curb appeal as a whole- they defined curb appeal as both the landscape quality AND house appearance combined. Their research, based in Lubbock, Texas, demonstrated that improved curb appeal can increase a house’s price up to 17%. So for a $350,000 house, improved curb appeal bumped that sale price up to $409,500! That’s a whole price range jump on Zillow- a whole group of home shoppers who wouldn’t look at the house before.
That increase comes out to a 35% return on your investment – meaning that for every dollar you put in to an excellent landscape project, you can get $1.35 out. Many other outdoor projects offer even better ROI: patios can see a 50% ROI – as good as what you should expect for a bathroom remodel – and adding a wood deck produces an estimated 80% return – that’s knocking on the door of double-your-money odds!
This isn’t a new concept, either: All the way back in the 1980s, university research documented the positive effects of even just one single tree. Adding a tree can provide a 2% increase in a home’s price. (for those of you keeping score, that bumps our $350,000 house to $357,000!) All of you out there in new-construction neighborhoods listen up: A study from the early 1980s showed that newly built houses with bare lots had a 7% lower price than the same houses on lots with trees. Often those houses start out the same price, so imagine if your neighbors with nothing but lawn list their home at $350,000 – you can list yours at $374,500 just by getting ONE TREE going. Grab my underused shade tree guide to learn more about reliable trees that are a bit different from the rest of your block.
It was really fun and inspiring to go through this literature and read results from all over the country and in so many different markets. The bottom line is that quality landscaping will definitely improve your home’s value! Having said all of this, my expertise is in landscape design and horticulture, NOT real estate. I have dear friends who are professional Realtors, and I encourage you to talk with someone and get the feel for your particular market.
BRING IT HOME - What do you do with all this info?
1 - The best place to start at any budget is basic curb appeal:
keep your lawn cut and trimmed
paint your front door
put out a couple of pots filled with seasonal color
2 - Next, get your front yard in order. Design a landscape bed that works with your home’s architecture and your own personal style, filled with a variety of trees and shrubs that will thrive in your yard.
3 - After that, plant a tree! Even just one. You’ll be taking care of the earth, your neighborhood, and your investment all at the same time.
4 - Last, add a deck or patio! It’s more of an investment than the one tree or front landscape beds, but when they’re done well, it’s like another room for your house. Get some outdoor spaces created so that you can get outside in the fresh air and hang out with your family. You’ll reap the return for years to come.
I firmly believe that creating spaces filled with beauty is worth it at any cost. It’s even better when those spaces lead to higher home values! If you feel inspired by all of this but a little overwhelmed, I’m here to help. Red Fern’s landscape design services protect your dollars by creating a plan to ensure that your landscape works with your home and your lifestyle. We make all the decisions so that you can be confident your investment in outdoor spaces will benefit you down the line. Let me know if you’re interested in some design work!