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The Coastal Gardener: Want green? Invest in your landscape

June 24, 2011|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • According to research, not all improvements will increase the value of a house by the amount they cost to perform. But landscaping, had a return on investment of 100% to 200%.
According to research, not all improvements will increase… (Courtesy Ron Vanderfhoff )

Home prices throughout Southern California continue to fall. The median price paid for new and resold Southland houses and condos last month was $280,000, down 8.2% from a year earlier and the largest drop since September 2009.

Don't even look at home prices toward the end of 2007, when the average Southern California home was going for $500,000.

If a prospective buyer looked at your house today, what would they see? A weedy lawn, a maintenance and water headache, some big boring shrubs that look like they might swallow the car? When on your property would they have a clear view to a neighbor's equally hideous scene? Maybe worse, would the neighbors be looking into your home's windows?

According to research by Money magazine, "not all improvements will increase the value of a house by the amount they cost to perform." But landscaping, Money concluded, had a return on investment of 100% to 200%.

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Compare this return to 75% to 125% for a kitchen remodel, 80% to 120% for a bathroom, and 20% to 50% for a swimming pool.

According to a Gallup poll, homeowners felt that landscaping "adds almost 15% to the value of their property."

Yes, landscaping is a good investment — a very good investment. Sell your stocks — buy plants.

Landscaping to raise your home's value might require a slightly different approach. You are essentially landscaping for other people's tastes — namely, the tastes of potential home buyers. With this in mind, it is important that your decisions not be arbitrary or overly personalized.

This is not the time to get in touch with your inner self. In making a $50,000 decision about a stock investment, you'd want hard, objective facts to guide you, right? You wouldn't buy a stock because of a personal interest or because you liked what they sold.

At the least, you would get expert opinions and advice, wouldn't you? You should do the same research and ask for some sage advice from an expert when tackling your landscape as well.

Research indicates that a spiffy landscape design increased real estate values more than anything else, by an average of 7% to 15%. For the sake of this exercise, let's use the 15% number, even though it's on the high end. For a home valued in the $500,000 to $750,000 range, an effective landscaping design could add $75,000 to more than $100,000 to its value.

Wow! How often do you get to make a $100,000 decision? Get the idea? Your home landscape investment amounts to one of the major decisions in your life.

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