Posted 13 days ago

5 Tips to raise property value with landscape design

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If you're flipping a house, you want to make sure you've done everything you can to maximize your return on investment, and it turns out the front yard landscape can be an important part of that effort. 

As a landscape architect, I often find myself recommending certain improvements for a landscape where the client has to weigh many different factors (including budget). For a flipper, that decision making process can be even more difficult, because you know that sinking money into the wrong renovations can eat up your profit. 

Am I going to tell you that anything you do to the front yard will be an immediate win? No, definitely not. People are often surprised at just how expensive it can be to make landscape improvements, and if you go too far, you could easily hurt your bottom line. I will say that every flip should include landscape in the budget, and that should be built in from the start. That way you won't find yourself having to make unplanned improvements to try to move a house that has been sitting on the market for longer than you thought it would.

Here are five things to consider for your next project. Keep in mind, every site is different, so no blanket formula would apply to every house.

  1. Clean up: This is the simplest and perhaps the most intuitive of the items on the list. If the front yard is a mess, buyers will see that as work they will have to put in right away, before they even step into the house. The yard should at a minimum be neat and well maintained. If there is lawn, it should be trimmed and edged. Planting beds should be kept weeded and mulched. I know several flippers whose only landscape strategy is to essentially pull out all old plants and spread mulch everywhere. Buyers are met by a sea of mulch and nothing else. It's not the best overall strategy, but it's better than leaving things a mess.
  1. Plant street trees: If you know me, you've probably heard my spiel before. I'll say it again, anyway. Trees are one of the most important components of any landscape design. There are a ton of reasons for that, and the research is compelling. To keep this simple, I'll just say that street trees have been shown to increase property values by up to 15%. I'm talking about mature trees here, so planting a whip won't get you much impact. If you want to gain some of that benefit, plant the largest tree you can along the street front. If it makes sense to locate it further into the yard rather than along the street, that's okay as long it works with the visual composition of the house.
  2. Plant ornamental trees: If you have enough space, an ornamental tree near the front of the house can anchor the yard and visually break up large expanses of wall. This brings the scale down to human level and makes your entry more inviting. Ornamental trees may also offer seasonal color, which can make the space more interesting and appealing.
  3. Plant shrubs: In my mind, shrubs and ornamental trees are the best way to go for sprucing up a flip. They create the bones of the yard, and if you choose good sized specimens that will make instant impact, it will make the house feel more welcoming. Consider it a bit like staging the yard - anything you can do to make people feel like this is a house they want to live in is a win for you. Ideally, try to choose shrubs that will be in bloom while you have the house up for sale. That will get you the best bang for your buck in improving curb appeal.
  1. Weigh perennials and annuals carefully: When it comes to getting a big punch of color from flowers, perennials and annuals are usually the most dramatic options. What you want to avoid is planting a little of this and a little of that. The impact will get lost and your money and effort will probably go to waste. If your budget doesn't stretch to filling the planting beds with color, then be strategic with how you use the flowers. Plant them en masse to make sure the impact is there. Maybe a large clay pot by the front door or a hanging basket would be the right place to put a few colorful plants. Just keep scale in mind. The container needs to be large enough to make an impact, and it needs to be fully planted so it feels lush. If you use something that feels chintzy, that will reflect on the property.
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As I said, no single strategy will work for every property, but these are some good guidelines to start the process. For me, figuring out a design that works with the project's constraints is the fun part. I hope you enjoy it, too.



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