3 Ways to Measure the Value the Financial Impact of a Landscape
March 2021. By Mark Bitten: While money doesn’t grow on trees, the right kind of landscaping enhances home value at sale, salability, and can even make or break your neighbors’ home values. With the housing market hopping and people more appreciative than ever of outdoor space, we field a lot of questions about these phenomena. Here’s what we know.
For at least 5 years the Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest association of real estate appraisers, has emphasized the sales value of landscape investments. Scott Robinson, MAI, SRA, AI-GRS, a former president of the Institute once noted: “Just as job seekers shouldn’t show up improperly attired for a job interview, sellers need to ensure their property is as attractive from the outside as possible. First impressions matter.”
While Zoom may take some of the pressure off job interview attire, we suspect the past year may have increased the relative value of functional, beautiful outdoor space. We’ll soon see. In the meantime, there is abundant and varied research into landscape value. Here are the three sale-related measurements that we see most often.
Appreciation at Sale
Studies that measure appreciation attribute a percentage of an increased appraisal or sale value to a landscape investment.
Pre-pandemic, The Appraisal Institute noted that landscaping added 6-13 percent to home value over a home with no landscaping. A Clemson University study showed similar gains between “good” and “excellent” landscapes with design sophistication and savvy plant choice. A University of Michigan study reproduced that finding and placed the improvement on the higher end of the Institute’s range.
This rings true with historical data. In 2011, SmartMoney Magazine calculated the boost in resale value of a high-quality, low-maintenance landscape at 15 percent of home value. This Old House currently places the appreciation associated with a low-maintenance landscape at 20 percent.
Return on Investment
Return on investment (ROI) measures the ability to recapture the initial cost of a landscape. Sometimes this is referred to as a “recovery value.” Most often, this measure is associated with a specific element or feature.
Some historical data indicates the return on investment of a full landscape renovation. According to a Virginia Tech summary, “The Wall Street Journal reported that landscape investments are recovered fully, and sometimes doubled, by the increased home value.” Money Magazine once noted landscape, in general, offers better returns than any other home investment at 100-200 percent ROI. During the economic downturn, a HomeGain ROI Survey placed the return at 258 percent.
While less of an issue in a hot market like this one, during the downturn, there was plenty of research into how landscape improves salability, or the ability to market a home.
Salability measures tend to be anecdotal or opinion based. For example, members of the Society of Real Estate Appraisers nearly unanimously agreed (99 percent) that landscaping speeds time to sale. Another former president of the Appraisal Institute, James L. Murrett, MAI, SRA, supported that assessment, noting: “Consumers need to ask themselves if their landscaping is attractive enough to make a prospective buyer walk through the front door.”
That’s the scoop on landscape and home value. There is a follow-up question I’m often asked: How much should we spend on a landscape? That equation is personal. For those laser focused on growing home value for sale, we see credible recommendations for investments between 10-20 percent of home value with several qualifying factors. The Landscape Network does a great job outlining both the factors and illustrating what smart investments look like at various home values.
I hope this helps. As FormLA Landscaping’s numbers guy, these are the questions people ask me. It is easy enough to answer them or speak to operational savings, but I think focusing on financial gain misses the point. The greatest gains earned by creating a functional, beautiful outdoor space are value-in-use and the amplification of joy. How to measure those improvements is entirely up to you.
- Grow Money on Trees
- 9 Tasks to Maintain Home Value
- Green Home BuilderMagazine:
- Curb Appeal Can Be Affordable
- Appraisal Institute May 2020: Landscaping Can Have Major Impact on Property Values
- Appraisal Institute 2018: Landscaping Can Significantly Impact Home Value
- Appraisal Institute 2016: Landscaping a Major Contributor to Property Values
- Virginia Tech Extension: The Value of Landscaping
- University of Michigan: Landscape Plant Material, Size and Design Sophistication Increase Perceived Home Value
- Landscape Network: Landscape Costs
- Washington Post: A Year Into Pandemic, We Know It’s Safer Outside.