Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Landscaping Essentials

Landscaping is sometimes an afterthought for people.  They like the inside of their home to look good and function well, but when it comes to the outdoors some decide it's not really needed.  But according to landscape economist John Harris, good landscaping can add up to 28% to the overall value of a house and cut it's time on the market by 10% to 15%.

With that in mind, let's look at 3 essentials that every landscape should have and 3 nice-to-haves.

Essential #1:  Trees

Did you know trees can reduce stress in just 5 minutes?  Just picture a house without trees vs. one that has mature trees throughout the yard.  You can see the value.  And the National Tree Benefit Calculator can tell you the value of those trees.

The calculator examines how a tree species in a particular ZIP code affects:
  • Property values.
  • Storm water runoff. Trees block and suck up water running off your property, preventing pollutants from entering community waterways.
  • Carbon dioxide reduction. CO2 contributes to climate change.
  • Energy savings: Shade trees cool homes in summer; windbreaks help warm them in winter.

Multiply those benefits by the number of trees on a property, and the value and savings can climb.

Monetary value aside, trees are just nice.  They nestle your house to the surroundings, provide a place to climb and build tree forts, and give birds a sanctuary.

Essential #2:  Native Plants

Native means that a particular plant, shrub, or tree has always grown in this region which means it requires very little maintenance and can handle whatever weather your region throws at it.  This means it will require far less money for you to maintain native plants that non-native plants.  And the more lawn you replace with garden beds, the more savings you will find.

Here in Minnesota, we have several beautiful native plants, shrubs and trees to choose from.  Just ask your garden center.  Does this mean you should never plant something that isn't native to the area?  Absolutely not.  Plant what you love (that will survive in your gardening zone).  But know that native plants are just easier and healthier because they are tailor made for their surroundings.

Essential #3:  Outdoor Lighting

When interviewed about what what homebuyers really want, outdoor lighting consistently tops the list of outdoor features that people want.  According to the NAHB Survey, 41% say it's "essential" and 49% say its desirable.

But that’s not the only reason it’s one of our landscape essentials.
  • Tasteful lighting paints your home at night, highlighting your other great landscaping choices and directing guests to your home’s focal point — the front door. 
  • It protects against slips and falls.
  • It makes a property a more difficult target for intruders. That added security can reduce burglaries, and therefore claims. Some insurance companies give 5% to 15% discounts to homeowners with reduced or zero claims.
  • It makes your home feel homier. Soft lighting on a wrap-around porch or just a front stoop feels warm and inviting.
Nice-To-Have #1:  Fencing

Nice fences can add value to the house.  And they provide privacy, set boundaries, keep pets and kids in while keeping intruders out.  But not all fences add value.  If your fence is unmaintained and in disrepair or if it looks just like every other fence in the neighborhood, it's not doing much for you in terms of value.

In fact, in terms of value alone, you'd be wiser to spend your money on shade trees over fencing.  However, if you need a fence or you just like the privacy of a fence, be sure to invest in a nice one that goes with your house style and be sure to maintain it.

Nice-To-Have #2:  Retaining Walls and Terracing

Retaining walls and terraces are used in sloped areas of your yard.  They tend to be in areas that are hard to mow, have erosion issues, and are rarely used for anything because they are so sloped. 

Installing a retaining wall or terrace lets you reclaim that space to be used for plantings or walkways.  But it can come at a hefty price of $15 to $40 per sq. ft (including labor) depending on the materials used.

Nice-To-Have #3:  Walkways

Walkways welcome guests to your home. So, you can let visitors trudge through wet grass to your front door, or you can lay down an attractive path. We vote for the attractive path.

You can go whole hog and install a solid stone walkway, which ranges from $11 to $17 per sq. ft.; or use pavers, $9.50-$17 per sq. ft. To save money, lay stepping stones with grass between, $1-$3 per piece.

Walkways are another keep-up-with-the-Joneses upgrade. If you get too fancy, you won’t see a return on your investment; if you don’t meet the standards of the neighborhood, appraisers will punish you.

Source:  Houselogic.com and Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

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