Over the years several of our clients have had professional landscaping done and it’s amazing to me how little landscaping, can be done for $5-10,000, by a professional Landscaper, and how little value it can add to your home.
Small shrubs, trees, and plantings add almost nothing, or actually nothing at all, to your home value on the open market — until they are several years older! There is another way!
Some savvy investors look for good homes that are poorly landscaped and after spending a couple of thousand dollars or less put the property right back on the market for much more money and sell it. In any given area there are seldom more than one of these folks who use the techniques described below.
Better landscaping can be done and it can be done less expensively. Yes… Bigger trees, shrubs, mature ground cover, and other plants are better, and far more valuable from the viewpoint of added property value in landscaping and they can be cheaper too! Even if you plan to purchase your personal Homestead and keep it forever — it pays to plan ahead.
The COST of landscaping often has little if anything to do with the VALUE of it regarding added resale price of the property; this is especially applicable for trees, ground cover and larger bushes. A good mature looking lawn can be developed in a couple of years — however, it takes far longer, perhaps decades, for the rest of the plantings to add more to the property value than what they cost!
New homes, when they are landscaped at all, are customarily “landscaped” with what the better landscape architects call “sprigs and twigs”; that is young shrubs, trees, etc. that will begin to really look good in a decade or two or three. Meanwhile the charge for these young plants and the planting can be quite high — and much of the cost is for the design. Even a great design however, with immature plantings, takes years and decades to grow into a full added value asset.
Rather than devote yourself to years of nonstop pruning, you can choose plants whose mature size will be in keeping with their place in your landscape. Well-chosen trees and shrubs are more likely to succeed for you and to require less regular care — when they are installed properly and kept watered well for the first year.
Knowledgeable staff at a nursery or garden center can help identify plants that will serve your purposes while doing well in your soil and climate conditions. They will likely tell you however, that purchasing the older or even full grown plants is not smart. If on the other hand you come to them matter-of-factly and ask for a tour of the nursery as you want to purchase some plants that are too large for them to sell — and that you want an attractive price — and that you will require no guarantee — and that you will dig and remove and transport them… You may get some of the plants free and most of them almost so. Yes, that was a lot of ands… but that’s what it takes to add twenty to fifty percent to your property value with a few thousand dollars of prudent landscaping investment! It is worth it? I think so!
When you select a tree or shrub, examine it carefully. Avoid plants with damaged bark or branches. Moist soil and healthy-looking leaves (not wilted, discolored, or easily dislodged) are some indication of adequate irrigation and earlier proper care at the nursery.
While most homeowners can plant small trees and shrubs with little difficulty, large balled-and burlapped plants pose considerable problems of transportation and planting. Nurseries selling these large plants will usually offer planting services or be able to recommend capable professionals. You will save half or more if you contact the recommended professional yourself in most cases.
Providing a regular and substantial supply of water is the most important factor in the first year, especially for mature plants, even for drought-tolerant plants. Proper installation of the plant includes a large enough planting hole, plenty of mulch around the plant to retain moisture and planting the plant at the exact right depth. Dry winters are especially hard on evergreens. Trees usually don’t need fertilizer in the first year; in the second and subsequent years, sprinkle some granular fertilizer (10-10-10) on the soil in the early spring and then water thoroughly.
In today’s world, many folks sell a new home in seven years or less. In our area, a resort area, new homes are resold on the average after only about three years. In three years those young plants (the ones the builder and landscaper put in to landscape the property) that may have cost you thousands of dollars are still worth somewhere between nothing and a few dollars as far as adding to the resale value of your home. A rule of thumb is that it takes at least ten years and usually fifteen for the young plants to reach the degree of maturity that adds any substantial value to the property.
An older home (30 to 100 years old or more) with accidental, opportunistic or even fairly unprofessional landscaping is often greatly enhanced in value — because of the size and maturity of the plantings and lawn. It is usually more effective and profitable to prune, move, remove, or improve the design and surrounding features of existing mature plants on an older property you may purchase than to wait for what will likely be decades for the young plants to grow. Many savvy investors are ONLY looking for older homes to redo and the most savvy among them look for much older trees, shrubs and ground cover that can be groomed into instant added value for a resale or increased rental value.
Landscaping value is also determined by the choices made in the plantings and in the design and placement of those plants as well as surrounding accents. In addition to the plantings, there should be attractive and complimentary installations of mulching, stones, driveway, parking space, sidewalks, fencing, edging, feature lighting and even privacy accessories such as lattice, living window screens, or draping ivy.
Driveways and parking areas are great value enhancers or they can be value detractors! A freshly surfaced driveway of asphalt, stone, shells, gravel, brick, clay, concrete, tiles, open block and grass, even packed soil/concrete, rolled sand or any other material — adds greatly to value if it’s well maintained and aesthetically designed. However these things can even detract from value and enjoyment of the property if the drive and parking space is not maintained; potholes, ragged edges, heavy ridges, cracks, or any other functional or cosmetic blemishes — and such things can REDUCE values of the overall property.
Whatever the reason for the landscaping; maturity, size, strength and structural integrity in your plantings are key factors for adding enjoyment and aesthetic value to the home, and in adding dollars should you want to resell the property.
I suggest that you can start with mature plants and mature accessories — and it’s usually less expensive too. Hence; starting with mature plants is obviously better and bigger but how could that be cheaper? There are ways. . .
First I suggest that you always purchase from a nursery. The nursery has likely kept the plants more disease free — yes plants get diseases and they can spread them to other plants too. Also in the case of trees the nurseries usually root prune the trees for a few years after they are normally salable.
Only root pruned trees are likely to survive an old age transplant and such a transplant is what I recommend in this article. If the roots are not pruned they slowly grow well out from the tree and when the tree is dug for transplanting those spread roots are cut off and the tree is usually killed. Trees that have not been root pruned, such as those dug from a woods, will seldom live as the all-important root hairs are at or near the ends of the roots and are all usually far from the tree that has not been root pruned. Thus, a natural tree dug from the woods, will almost certainly die from root starvation and thirst.
Nurseries customarily grow certain types of plants and most often those that are in current fashion. Like fashions in clothing, home styles and cars — landscape fashions change too. As landscape fashions change, some nurseries end up with too many plants at the end of the fashion’s run and some of these plants are left to over-mature after the market for them is over. These are the plants I look for.
For instance; Blue Spruce trees were all the rage some decades ago and little ones were often planted at the very most expensive homes. In 1970 an eight foot high Blue Spruce was over $500 from a nursery. At that time a five foot high Blue Spruce with a “trunk” about one or two inches in diameter was sold for a few hundred dollars!!! In the late 1980s, I landscaped a big luxurious new home with a 16 foot high Blue Spruce at each front corner of the home.
We got the huge trees for $50 each from a nursery that had nearly forgotten they still had them (I found them when I asked the nursery manager for a guided tour of the older sections of the nursery). The two big trees had been root-pruned several times, so it was not dangerous to the trees to transplant them.
I had to move the big trees with TWO giant back hoes. The trees were about 14 feet in diameter — the drivers could not see each other as they worked; so I stood away from each big tree, where the drivers could both see me and directed them (after they had dug around the trees) to lift each several ton tree and its’ root ball simultaneously from opposite sides.
It cost me a couple of hundred dollars to dig and lift each tree; $50 each to bag them in heavy burlap for the trip; then a heavy truck with a special big trailer cost me another hundred to move them. It was another two hundred to plant the two 16 foot high trees. I had a total of about $800 in the two trees (about the same cost as a pair of planted seven foot trees would have been almost twenty years previous) and they really set the stage and tone for the rest of the landscaping.
A knowledgeable appraiser would have added several thousand dollars value to the home for the two Blue Spruce trees alone. More importantly they allowed me to design the entire landscaping package as though the new home had been in place for twenty or thirty years!!!
At that same home we added several tons of “too old to sell” juniper ground cover; several tons of “too old to sell” ground cover ivy. We also used a couple dozen tons of mulch: red cedar (nearly black in color); white cedar (a silvery white color like driftwood); oak mulch (dark gray color) and lots of pine mulch (dark brown). We got the mulch from several saw mills FREE as they would usually have had to pay to have it hauled away. Mulch is considered poisonous by some environmental agencies when it is stored in thousand ton piles at the lumber mill, so the mills will often let you have it free if you take a few tractor trailer loads at once.
I hope you will consider using mature landscaping if you decide to build a new home. Or better yet; find an older home and work with the established plantings to create an improved design. Either way — if you find you want to sell the property in a few years you will greatly benefit in more salability and added value with mature landscaping.