If you're not tending to your front yard, your perennials aren't the only thing you stand to lose. We've all heard of the importance of curb appeal, but do you know what that means for actual dollar value? "Good landscaping can add up to 28% to overall home value," said landscape economist John Harris on Houselogic. "Even taking your landscaping from ‘good' to ‘excellent,' in terms of design, condition, and placement, can add 6% to 7% to a home's value, according to a Clemson University study of homes in Greenville, S.C." On a $500,000 house, you're talking about an extra $140,000 at 28 percent!
John Gidding, host of HGTV's "Curb Appeal" and Logo TV's "Secret Guide to Fabulous" told the Washington Post that he had "always heard the number 150 percent" in regards to the return on investment of landscaping. "But to me that is conservative," he said. "On a ‘Curb Appeal' project, I put in $20,000 and the sellers got $200,000 more than they had paid for the house just a year prior. The return was astonishing."
While a "1,000 percent return on investment in landscaping" is certainly no guarantee for the average person and individual ROI is based on numerous factors, Gidding advises that the "best strategy is to research the architectural style of your home and create a landscaping plan that matches."
Additional tips can help your landscaping shine without a whopper of an investment, and many of the projects can be done on your own.
Clean it up
An unkempt yard isn't going to entice buyers, especially if it's cold outside and nice and toasty in the car. Give people a reason to approach by cleaning and tidying up the yard. Raking leaves, removing any clutter that's gathered on walkways and porches, and washing windows will cost you nothing but a little bit of elbow grease.
The windows probably aren't the only thing that needs washing on the exterior of your house. "Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house," said Houselogic. "REALTORS®say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses."
The first step: Grab a bucket of soapy water and a "long-handled, soft-bristled brush" to remove any noticeable dust and dirt. For homes that need more attention, a power washer that can be rented for about $75 a day can do the trick.
Have some deferred maintenance on your home? If you're looking to sell, that maintenance is deferred no more. Remember that potential buyers are looking for anything that questions the quality of the home or its upkeep so they can move on to the next home or chip away at your sales price. "Nothing looks worse from the curb - and sets off subconscious alarms - like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint," said Houselogic. "Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%."
Address the lawn
"In its study of the worth of outdoor remodeling projects, the National Association of Realtors put standard lawn care at the top of their list of projects that most appeal to buyers, with 14% of the agents claiming that it recently helped them make a sale," said Investors. "And with a price tag of only about $330, according to National Association of Landscape Professionals, home sellers can expect to triple their investment with a return of about $1,000 added to the sale price.
A new coat of mulch can give the home a fresh look, has a minimal cost, and offers additional benefits. "It protects land from soil erosion and reduces compaction from heavy rains. It also will help reduce your water bill by eliminating the need to frequently water, and provides an even soil temperature to protect your plants," said US News.
If adding new landscaping, consider how much maintenance is involved. If you're planning to live in the home for a while, you'll appreciate not having to spend a lot of time and energy taking care of your yard. "Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet," said HGTV. If you're getting ready to sell, potential buyers will take note of native and/or drought-tolerant plants that add curb appeal but allow them to "think green."
Upgrade your entry points
Take a good look at your front door and garage. Have they seen better days? Replacing them with fresh, new versions will give your home a noticeable lift, with a strong return on investment. The ROI on a $2,000 steel entry door replacement is 75 percent, while a "garage door replacement returns about 87% of its $2,300 project cost," said Houselogic.
A fresh coat of paint can also do wonders if you're looking to spend less. "If you only have a few hundred dollars, paint the front door and get new house numbers. Improve whatever the eye will see from the street," Gidding said.
If you're doing some quick fixes to get your home sold, planting trees may not be on your radar. But if you've just moved in or are redoing your yard and are looking for smart landscaping ideas, the long-term value of trees on your property may have you researching different species.
"If you aren't planning to sell your house today, plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time," said HGTV. "Plant shade trees — not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home."
There's even a site you can visit to calculate how a tree species in a particular ZIP code affects your property value as well as potential energy savings.
Light it up
According to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) list of most-wanted home features for buyers of all ages, 90 percent want exterior lighting. If yours is dated or insufficient, a minimal investment of a couple hundred dollars could pay off big time.