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Issue Date: April 2006 Issue


The Money Tree

When it comes to improving the look and value of your home, landscaping proves to be a solid investment.


Karin Connelly

A fresh paint job, new appliances, even an addition are usually what come to mind when you consider ways to add value to your home. But a smart plan for your outdoor space can be just as effective in raising that sale price. It also provides a decent return on investment.

“There has been a variety of studies in the last 20 years that indicate landscaping can contribute anywhere between 7 percent and 15 percent of the value of a home,” says Bob Dolibois, executive vice president of the American Nursery and Landscaping Association (ANLA) in Washington D.C. “Landscaping is one element of a home where the investment can be totally recouped.”

That is because this particular investment only appreciates in value. “The most remarkable thing about the landscaping is it’s the only home upgrade you can perform that increases in value over time,” Dolibois says. “As time goes by and plant material continues to grow and mature, the landscaping becomes more valuable than a new landscape.”

While kitchen remodeling usually provides a 75 percent to 125 percent recovery on investment at sale time, landscaping can offer a 100 percent to 200-percent return. Additionally, landscaping can reduce air conditioning costs by up to 50 percent by shading the house from the sun. It can also drown out noise from the neighborhood.

Such impressive returns are a reason why the landscaping business in the United States is a $150 billion a year industry that employs more than 2 million people. Northeast Ohio has long been known as region that has a dedication to beautiful properties.

“Cleveland has historically been a city with upscale landscaping because Lake County is the primary producer and distributor of plant materials for the Midwest,” says Dolibois.
And a quality landscape is a must when preparing a house for sale. It’s the first thing potential buyers will notice when they approach the property. With the real estate market favoring the buyer right now, a home’s landscape can be a deal breaker.

“For people contemplating a sale of a property there is no question that curb appeal is critical in getting people to stop and look at the property,” says Dolibois. “The thing that might separate your house from the house down the street that’s for sale is your landscaping.”

Landscaping can also add aesthetic value to a home. The yard can provide a relaxing haven to break away from life’s pressures. Today’s design trends take the back yard beyond simple flower and vegetable gardens to outdoor living areas that become an extension of the home. Landscapes can be designed to meet specific interests or needs, depending on the scale.

People who enjoy entertaining find that outdoor kitchens offer convenience and novelty for large groups. Others enjoy the tranquility of private nooks that can provide places to relax and enjoy the sounds of nature or a water feature.

A well-landscaped property does not necessarily mean a huge monetary investment. However, Dolibois recommends at least consulting with a professional before embarking on a project. “I would certainly encourage that you get advice if you are going to do more than just a cleanup,” he says. “It can help you prioritize what you are going to spend your money on to get the most dramatic results — not only from an aesthetic view, but also a value point of view.”

From that point, some homeowners choose to move ahead on their own, while others opt for a professional to complete the job. “It just depends on the interest of the consumer,” says Dolibois.
However, Dolibois does see a trend in people leaning more toward hiring a professional for the entire job because plans tend to be more intricate today. “We’ve seen an increase in people having it done for them,” he explains. “Because they’re tending to do more with bigger plant material and stone work.”

A beautifully landscaped yard does not require a lot of ongoing work if it is installed properly. It all depends on the variety of plant material. “A well-designed landscape does not need to be labor intensive or high-maintenance,” says Dolibois. “Through proper plant selection and intelligent design you can regulate maintenance and the homeowner’s involvement. A professional can right-size plantings so you don’t have to be out there every three months pruning.”


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