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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

Lawn and Landscape Dos and Don'ts to Increase Property Value

(guest post by Daniel Ray of

Some landscaping helps home value, and some doesn’t. One Virginia Cooperative Extension survey found that landscape expenditures — especially large ones — “significantly increase perceived home value.” That leads to a higher selling price than homes with minimal

landscaping. Bigger landscaping spending means a bigger return, according to the study.

The Appraisal Institute, America’s biggest association of real estate appraisers, advises homeowners that “improving their property’s landscaping can result in a significant return on investment when selling the home.”

But not all landscaping investments are created equal. Consider these numbers from the 2018 Modeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features by the National Association of Realtors:

- Lawn care services return 267% of the investment, That’s the No. 1 landscaping item, yielding the most money on the investment.

- Landscape maintenance and tree care are a break-even proposition, returning 100% of the investment.

- On the other hand, a new pool is far underwater when it comes to return on investment. According to NAR, it may bring joy, but recovers just 43% of the average $57,500 cost of installation.

So when you have a limited budget for improving your exterior and want the most bang for your buck, which features do you choose?

10 Lawn, Landscape Features That Increase Home Value

1. A well-maintained lawn

Leading the way among exterior improvements is a well-kept lawn. It’s a no-brainer: quick, relatively inexpensive, and returns the most on your investment. Lawns remain a favorite of homebuyers. According to real estate agents, a well-kept expanse of grass pleases buyers. It improves a property’s look, offers a play area for children, and gives the adults a sense that they will enjoy a relaxed lifestyle.

2. Shrubs and trees

Almost anything you buy falls in value. Trees are an exception. Mature trees enhance property values. The mere presence of tall trees improves property values throughout a neighborhood by 3% to 15%, according to the University of Washington. Installing mature trees is costly. So if you’re looking for a tree that already has some size, but still fits in the back of a truck, go for a 15-gallon pot. It will hold a tree about 8 feet tall, for a reasonable price — $50-$150, depending on the variety.

3. Tidy garden

Remove perennial weeds. For some buyers, they’re a red flag issue that signals problems. A tidy lawn leaves the buyer with the impression that they’re looking at a landscape that is easy to maintain.

4. Landscaped pathway

If you have a prospective buyer, where are they certain to tread? Up the walkway to your front door. Pay attention to that pathway. Repair cracks that will spoil the first impression. Try designing a pathway that will create anticipation — ideally, have it winding with plants or a small hedge on each side. Use a pressure-washer to scrub away any built-up dirt or slime.

5. Lighting

Outdoor lighting options are available within the limits of any homeowner’s budget. Buyers appreciate that a well-lit yard can provide a layer of security.

Lighting hardware has changed in recent years, with solar-powered and LED lighting products adding alternatives to traditional hard-wired lighting. They show off your garden at night, silhouette your trees, keep everyone safe from tripping and keep burglars away.

6. Fresh mulch

Need something that will turn a dull yard fresh, economically, and quickly? Go mulch.

Adding fresh mulch is second only to routine lawn care at returning your expense at sale. Spending $340 on mulch recoups about 126% upon closing. Incorporating mulch around shrubs and garden plants to help reduce evaporation, inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperature, and prevent erosion. Adding organic matter and aerating soil can improve its ability to hold water.

7. All-season deck/outdoor kitchen

One of the trendiest items is one of the most expensive — a permanent, built-in deck for entertainment and cooking. In effect, it increases the usable square footage of the house. It returns an estimated 83% of the amount spent. That may sound like a losing proposition, but an outdoor kitchen space keeps your house on the shortlist of an expanding group buyers. Properly finish and weather-proof the space for your climate so it will last for years to come. That means building a fire pit for cold climes and making sure there is good shade and air circulation in warmer ones.

8. Pop of color through container plants, garden bed

Even without spending thousands of dollars, a few hundred spent on an expanse of colorful flowers and eye-catching plants will return your investment. One increasingly popular option is to add potted plants. They’ll dress up your porch and other entryways where buyers are sure to see them.

Flower beds define spaces and are a quick way to brighten up (or even cover up) areas where you’ve had less luck with other plants.

Generally speaking, annual plants — which have one or (rarely) two growing seasons — will be the less expensive option. Perennials, which return every year, tend to cost more but grow in size to fill out your landscape.

Your local garden center will guide you toward plants that suit your area. Opt for natives where possible. They require less maintenance because they’re naturally suited to your climate.

9. Automated irrigation system

Many of today’s buyers love landscaping but don’t have the time or inclination to devote the time it traditionally takes to maintain it. Expect to pay at least $3,000 for a fully automated irrigation system, but buyers will love it.

10. Professional landscape design

A professional landscape design will help your lawn climb beyond the competition in the market. There are several levels of help. If you know what you’re doing and just need to document it, there are many software options and apps. Beyond that, local garden centers often have experienced advisers who can offer a quick sketch. A step up from there is landscape designers, who can prepare a detailed plan and often can do the installation as well.

10 Lawn, Landscape Features That Hurt Home Value

1. Artificial grass

Artificial grass offers the ultimate in low maintenance. Lay it down once and you can forget it until it wears out. But it frightens off many potential buyers, particularly those with children who want an area to play. With a replacement cost averaging $3.50 per square foot, many buyers prefer to avoid it.

2. Outdoor water features

Large water features could pull down your property value by $2,500-$10,000, depending on the size and how it is “plumbed” into the garden. While they are great for attracting bees, birds, and butterflies, some buyers see water features as more work to maintain.

3. Unkempt garden

An untended garden that hasn’t been given any TLC could knock 1 to 2% off your asking price. And go big: According to the Virginia Extension survey, a big and showy garden has the most return, while putting in a couple of scrawny plants actually hurts home value.

4. Broken fence panels, cracked walls

Good fences offer privacy and seclusion. They’re also pricey to build, repair, or replace, which is why most house-hunters look for a property with an unbroken fence. In fact, research has shown that broken fence panels or cracked walls can remove $1,000 from the value of your house.

5. Swimming pools, hot tubs

No matter how many great summer days you spent around a pool, many buyers see only maintenance headaches, additional insurance requirements, and constant worry about safety. Many buyers won’t even look at a home with a pool.

Overall, the return on pools is also quite low at 43%.

6. Sports court

Custom building a tennis or basketball court may suit your needs and your child’s, but it’s unlikely to enhance your property’s value.

7. Big concrete patio

A little concrete is good. But a lot feels more industrial than homey. A broad expanse of concrete creates a parking-lot type of yard where rain collects in puddles. It can look unsightly, become a heat producer, while also posing a safety hazard to friends and family.

8. Fruit trees

They attract insects, need constant pruning, and highly productive trees give you an extra chore: How do you get rid of all that fruit? Many potential homebuyers would rather prowl the farmers market than prune the tree.

9. Outdated garden decor, furniture

An old picnic table rotting in the backyard could put a splinter in your home’s value. According to, it costs about $4,000 to upgrade outdated garden decor and furniture, and you’re unlikely to recoup the cost at the time of sale.

A worthwhile compromise: Do your best to spruce up what you have. You can often refresh garden furniture by giving the fabric coverings a good washdown, and adding a lick of paint or stain to the wooden areas.

10. Highly personalized niche landscape design

We get it. You love gnomes. But homebuyers are a more cold-hearted lot. Too-personal touches are a turnoff. New York City real estate professional told he advises against “too-personal touches.”

Methodology: For this meta-analysis, LawnStarter gathered all available data from the past two years from reputable studies and websites showing the relative value of various lawn and landscape improvements, analyzing whether the helped or detracted from home value. Read an expanded version of this article HERE.

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