So – you want a beautiful landscape, but this is your five-year house, or at least not your forever house. Should you invest? How will it affect the resale value of your home? Before answering these questions, ask yourself a few more. Can you live with your outdoor space the way it is? Are there improvements you can make now that will allow you to enjoy your outdoor space while you live in your home that will also help the resale of your house when you’re ready to move?
I’m not a professional realtor, but there is a lot of information on the subject. A general guideline suggested by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is that you should invest 5 – 10% of your home’s value into your landscape. And a well-designed, installed and maintained landscape can add much as 20 – 30% on the resale value of your home. Not a terrible ROI. One of the challenges we face working in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga is that we’re frequently working on slopes – sometimes very significant slopes – that require retaining walls. This sort of landscape construction challenge can affect the bottom line on a project. If you live on a slope that needs a lot of walls, the 5 – 10% guideline might not apply.
As you think about where to start, a focus on real curb appeal gets buyers through the door – and leaves a lasting impression as they walk away. Studies show that when comparing homes with similar features and prices, a well-designed landscape is a key selling feature. And a beautifully landscaped home typically sells at a faster rate than a similar home with a tired or non-existent landscape. A garden that needs a complete makeover could be a costly endeavor that a prospective buyer might not want to take on.
If you’re truly thinking about landscaping for resale only, focus on a design with great bones – classic lines and materials that will stand the test of time – and maybe stay away from permanent features that someone would want to remove or change, or that might require a lot of maintenance – like portable spas and large, non-pool water features, mazes, etc. Focus on key areas – curb appeal and useable spaces close to the home. Built-in features like firepits and outdoor kitchens are major attractions to perspective buyers.
If you’re on a tight budget and timeline, mulching is a great way to identify planting beds without having to invest in a lot of plants. Focus planting on key locations in the garden – like the front entry or a focal point in the garden – and then plant it up! Depending on budget, new sod is relatively cost effective, but make sure you have proper irrigation. When thinking about plants, many homebuyers in California have two things on their mind: low maintenance and low water!
Our founder, Gary Lazar, always tells a funny story. It might date him (and me) a little because when I shared it with some of the younger people here at Lazar Landscape, I got puzzled looks. Follow along if you will. Gary used to drive a Volkswagen Thing* (this is the part that got the confused stares – no one knew what a “Thing” was) that wouldn’t go into reverse. All of the forward gears worked fine, so for years, Gary could only park The Thing in a location and/or position that he didn’t have to go into reverse. Even though it was a funny experience, it caused him a certain amount of trouble and stress. When it came time for him to move west, he needed to sell The Thing – and he spent the money to fix the transmission so The Thing would go into reverse and someone would buy it. For a few short days he luxuriated in his ability to put The Thing into reverse. He could park anywhere. All of his driving was unobstructed. In the end, he still sold The Thing, but it still drives him a little crazy that he didn’t do it earlier so he could more thoroughly enjoy it.
I guess I’m using The Thing as a parable. If possible, plan your garden as much in advance of your projected sale as possible. Consider working with a landscape architect or designer, or a landscape design/build firm like Lazar Landscape. Working with a professional will allow you to outline your aesthetic and budgetary goals. If you’re not ready to take on the full landscape installation, a master plan of your landscape can be implemented in phases over time as budget allow. You will also get to enjoy your landscape as it grows – and a well-maintained, mature garden with established plants is a huge incentive to homebuyers. Don’t be like Gary, fix The Thing while you can still enjoy it!