Improve your home’s value with the right landscaping

This article is reprinted by permission from NerdWallet.

When designing his current home, Andre Kim knew he wanted a garden. Not just a few herbs or tomato plants, but a permanent feature that could change his family’s diet and help them feel more connected to the land.

Kim, a real-estate developer from Los Angeles, found Farmscape, an urban farming company in California, and hired the team to design his dream garden. Three years later, Kim’s family can’t imagine life without their four raised beds, full of organic vegetables. Each week, the garden is meticulously seeded, pruned and weeded by a Farmscape farmer. Over the two growing seasons each year, the family harvests more than a dozen crops.

Kim says the garden has significantly increased the time he spends outside and is easily the landscaping feature his family enjoys most. “All around, one of the best things we could have done for this house,” he says.

But will that beautiful garden lead to a better price when it’s time to sell the home?

When landscaping is really dialed in — like the gorgeous backyards you see in Home Depot

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 commercials — people will definitely pay for it, says Ryan Lundquist, a certified residential appraiser in Sacramento.

Don’t aim for a 100% return on your landscape investment, though. Making sure your house stands out in the crowd is a more realistic goal.

Landscaping can enhance marketability, and homes with attractive yards are likely to sell faster than those without, says Jim Murrett, president of the Appraisal Institute. The key is choosing updates that make sense for your area.

Demand for local produce is high in Southern California, according to Kim, and multiple real-estate brokers have said the garden adds to his home value.

Mark Gochman and Tamara Rothenberg, who also worked with Farmscape and installed an expansive, terraced garden on their Los Angeles property, have received similar feedback: “We’re planning to rent out our home…and the Realtors we consulted all cited the farm as a big selling point for potential renters,” they said in an email.

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Vegetable beds and urban farms are appealing in some markets.
The right improvements

While urban farms may appeal to Californians, other outdoor improvements may be more desirable in your market. Use these tips to prioritize projects that scream “added value” where you are.

1. Think about maintenance. Will watering that giant garden be easy and affordable? Will the humid climate have you refinishing that wood deck year after year? Considering upkeep in advance can help avoid an unnecessary burden — on you and your home’s future owner.

2. Clean, then customize. Unkempt landscaping can damage a home’s appearance and make buyers worry about what they might find inside, Murrett says. Pruning or trimming doesn’t require much money or effort, but it gives new life to an overgrown yard.

3. Keep it tasteful. Visit open houses in your area to discover the latest landscaping trends. If you plan to sell in the next year or two, avoid features that may not appeal to the average buyer. But if you plan to stay awhile, don’t be afraid to customize landscaping to your lifestyle.

4. Focus on space and comfort. Designs that create outdoor entertainment space or add shade often have the biggest impact on home value because people can envision themselves spending time there, Lundquist says.

5. Let the market be your guide. In a well-manicured neighborhood, great landscaping is expected, so don’t bank on a big reward. Spending top dollar on landscaping in an area with lower-value homes doesn’t make sense either, Murrett says. It’s “going to stick out like a sore thumb.”

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Beth Buczynski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: bbuczynski@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @bethbuczynski.

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