Though the real estate market is booming and home prices are already at record highs, it can’t hurt to maximize the value of your property, particularly if you’re considering listing it for sale. One of the ways to accomplish this is by investing in a well-chosen landscaping project, one that impresses potential buyers and entices them to pay a bit more to close the deal.
“When it comes to getting the best price for your home, the power of landscaping to increase your home’s value can’t be overlooked,” says Beatrice de Jong, broker and consumer trends expert for Opendoor. “First impressions are everything, and curb appeal is what potential buyers notice first…It will signal to buyers that they can expect the same from the interior and bones of the house.”
What’s more, data repeatedly shows that curb appeal, in the form of attractive landscaping, goes a long way. Sellers can attach anywhere from 5% to 12% more value to their home (depending on where the property is located) with a well-maintained landscape, adds de Jong. Here are 10 landscaping projects that industry experts say are worth the investment to boost your home’s value.
1. Plant trees.
One word: trees. It’s the landscaping project nearly every expert recommends for increasing a home’s value.
“Trees can add up to $9,000 to your home’s value, but you should grow them a distance from the septic system, driveways, and the house itself to prevent any potential interferences,” suggests Bryan McKenzie, co-founder of Bumper Crop Times. “Otherwise, the value of your home can be decreased as buyers may anticipate costly issues.”
What he’s referring to here is potential root damage to the home’s foundation, falling branches, or more. Wisely placed trees, however, have consistently proven to be a smart investment, says Dan Beaulieu, real estate agent, contractor, and founder of Burlington House Buyers.
“Almost everything you purchase depreciates. The exception is trees,” explains Beaulieu. “Trees that are mature add to the value of a home. The sheer presence of big trees increases property prices in an area by 4% to 20%.”
2. Spruce up the front walkway.
Your walkway is part of a potential buyer’s first impression. So, spend some time making your walkway and entrance look picture-perfect. “If the walkway is well-decorated, it instantly creates a good ambiance for the house,” says Dawn Templeton, owner and real estate broker with Idaho-based Templeton Real Estate Group. “Plant flowers by the two sides of the walkway, and keep the walkways illuminated properly. It will create a dramatic beauty.”
3. Invest in a well-maintained lawn.
Another major element of curb appeal you should never underestimate is the power of a well-cared-for-lawn or front yard. These have a huge impact on the overall desirability of your home.
“My general rule for landscaping is that the home should look at least as nice as the neighboring homes,” says de Jong. “At the very least, home sellers should have the lawn mowed, trees pruned, weeds pulled, and garden spruced up with some colorful seasonal flowers because curb appeal is essential to selling a home.”
An unmaintained lawn, on the other hand, is not only a curb appeal deterrent; it also sends a red flag to potential buyers that the home wasn’t taken care of, de Jong adds.
The good news when it comes to lawn maintenance? It’s not a budget killer, says Dino DiNenna, a real estate broker and owner of South Carolina-based Hilton Head Realty. “Lawn maintenance is quick, relatively inexpensive, and returns most of your investment. A well-kept expanse of grass pleases buyers,” explains DiNenna. “A lawn is also a place of relaxation for the adults and a playground for the children.”
The National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Landscape Professionals estimate that applying mulch annually, mowing about 2,800 square feet of lawn, pruning shrubs, and planting about 60 annuals or perennials costs about $3,000—but has a 100% return on investment.
“Neglecting your lawn is like leaving money on the table. I and my team always suggest to our clients who want tips on landscaping for the sake of increasing their home value, basic yard care service as the top curb appeal project to tackle before selling,” adds DiNenna.
4. Install landscape lighting
Attractive landscape lighting not only improves security around your home, it also increases your property’s value.
“A well-lit yard automatically improves the overall look of the house, hence adding to its value,” says Beaulieu, of Burlington House Buyers. “Solar-powered and LED lighting solutions have emerged as viable alternatives to traditional hard-wired lighting in recent years. They illuminate your lawn at night, silhouette your trees, prevent tripping, and deter robbers.” Many potential buyers are drawn to LED lighting, which can enhance the value of your property by 1% to 3%, says Beaulieu.
Matt Ward, realtor and team lead for Tennessee-based The Matt Ward Group, says lighting also helps maximize your property’s curb appeal, ensuring all that landscaping you invested in can actually be seen any time of day. “Lighting fixtures are still one of the trending ideas for homeowners to increase their home value with a good increment,” explains Ward. “Lighting has quickly become one of the most desired outdoor landscaping features for homebuyers.”
Properly placed and stylish outdoor lights have an ROI of around 50%-60%. Good lighting can increase your property value up to 20%. A typical installation of a standard 600w transformer and 20 LED lights is projected to cost $5,000 and have a 50% recovered value during your home sale. Meanwhile, a low cost with low-voltage lighting would cost you around $49.51 on an average per fixture.
5. Construct a fire pit.
Fire pits soared in popularity during the COVID pandemic while we were all stuck at home, and they continue to be a major outdoor landscape attraction that increases property value. “A fire pit is an arguably universally beloved home feature, perfect for families, young couples, and anyone who loves to host and entertain guests,” says de Jong.
The average cost to build a fire pit is about $700, according to HomeAdvisor by Angi, and if you maintain an inexpensive budget on this type of project, it’s possible to earn a substantial return on investment.
“When built using less expensive materials…homeowners can increase the ROI of a fire pit to more than 80% and recoup 78% of the costs,” adds de Jong.
6. Create privacy.
Offering a sense of privacy is generally an important selling factor for homes. Thoughtfully designed landscaping is one way to achieve this desirable goal.
“Houses that have big windows are among the most-liked houses because the windows keep the interior well-lit,” says Templeton, of Templeton Real Estate Group. “But bigger windows mean people can look into the house from outside. If the house has big windows, planting shrubs or hedges will complement the house and at the same time [provide] privacy.”
7. Add a water feature.
Introducing a backyard pond or other type of water feature can help increase the market value of your home as well, says Liz Hutz, co-owner of North Carolina-based Cash Home Buyers NC. “It creates a positive image in the mind of the buyer when they make a decision. A backyard pond adds a unique touch to your home,” explains Lutz.
When adding a pond or other water feature, make sure you put thought into where it is located on the property, its size, and how it is decorated, continues Lutz. “My tip would be to incorporate accent lighting on each end of the pond to help increase its aesthetic appeal,” adds Lutz, who estimates that an average backyard pond of six feet by eight feet can cost about $9,000.
8. Install an irrigation system.
Most people love the look of landscaping, but few want to spend the time doing the required watering. That’s where an irrigation system comes in, which can be a major value-add for potential buyers.
“If you are busy with your daily activities, you may want to continue caring for your yard without the hassle. The same goes for your prospective buyers; some of them may be too tired to spend an hour a day watering plants,” says Edward Jones, managing editor and founder of home improvement and garden publication HomeCareHow. “Install an automatic irrigation system that will water your plants when needed. There’s no guesswork on how much water is necessary for your lawn. It’s an efficient way to manage and protect your investment.”
As an added bonus, automatic irrigation systems can significantly reduce lawn watering bills and expenses, says McKenzie, of Bumper Crop times. “It has an ROI of around 85%, which makes it a very good project for increasing your house value,” adds McKenzie.
9. Spread fresh mulch.
Perhaps one of the easiest landscape projects you can embark upon is putting down fresh mulch. This can help give a dull yard new, eye-popping appeal, while also making the landscaping more economical, says Nicholas McMillan, founder and owner of Hire Realty LLC, a New York-based real estate agency specializing in residential and commercial sales.
“Incorporating fresh mulch around the shrubs and plants helps to reduce evaporation, prevent weed growth, moderate the soil temperature, and inhibit erosion,” says McMillan. “Organic matter as well as aerating soil can enhance the soil’s ability to hold adequate water.” McMillan adds that you can expect well more than your investment on this type of simple project.
10. Convert to eco-friendly landscaping.
In California and other western states, there’s a huge demand for drought-tolerant yards, or xeriscaping. These types of landscapes often eliminate the need for irrigation, which is a definite attraction at a time when the cost of water is skyrocketing. In addition to saving homeowners money on water bills, this type of landscape requires far less daily maintenance.
“Drought-friendly landscaping is a cost-effective and sustainable way to add greenery to one’s home,” says de Jong. “If you’re based in a region with warm weather, consider native plants that adapt well to the environment and require less maintenance, like pest control and fertilizer.”
The average cost to make your entire yard drought tolerant averages $15,600 for a 1,200-square-foot yard.
“Plenty of home buyers are looking to purchase Earth-friendly properties. However, it doesn’t mean that they would forgo a decent-looking yard. In fact, these past few years have seen an increasing demand for drought-tolerant properties,” says Jones, of HomeCareHow. “Get water-smart landscaping features for your lawn. Plant shrubs and have landscaping rocks instead of grass. Choose cacti and succulents instead of flowering plants. Create a yard that requires less maintenance and cuts water costs, and you’ll start attracting green-conscious buyers in no time.”