What’s it going to get me?

Three real estate experts report on how landscaping impacts home prices in their markets.

It’s been a long-assumed truth that landscaping increases the value of a home somewhere between five and 25 percent when it comes time to sell. And our research shows that it really depends on the market.

According to our study, 61 percent of homeowners think that if they decide to sell their home, they can make any necessary landscape improvements in a year or less. Of the people who always or sometimes hire professionals for their landscape services, just 15 percent think they’ll get back more than what they paid for the project.

About two-thirds of average homeowners say they’ll get less than 60 percent of their investment back.

So, we asked three real estate experts in some of the biggest markets in the country to weigh in on what, exactly, landscaping does for a home when it’s time to sell.

Frank Lucco

Bio: 35 years as an appraiser, Irr-Residential Appraisers and Consultants, a Houston-based appraisal firm that operates 45 offices in 26 states Market: In Houston, the median home price is $170,000; first-time buyers spend $200,000; high-end homes cost $5-20 million

A huge component of curb appeal is landscaping. When you’re driving down the street, that’s 85 percent of what you’re going to see. As it impacts curb appeal, landscaping is very important.

What happens is we’re asked to do an appraisal. If the house is existing, you start comparing those properties, and you look at their landscaping relative to your properties. If the landscaping is terrible, the grass is dead and the shrubs are 1970s vintage … you have to compare. You have to see if it’s inferior to everything else or superior to everything else. That’s when the appraiser would typically adjust. Otherwise, it’s baked into the selling price.

Another way is to do a paired sale. Look at similar houses in an established neighborhood. They’ll have modernized the landscape and put in new plants. Find houses that have the old plants and compare them. That becomes a direct market analysis and that becomes the figure the appraiser would use.

It’s not a scientific approach.

We’re just reflecting what the market is doing. Sellers will often categorize and itemize trees on a property. When buyers look at it, they don’t care. It’s a more holistic approach.

Better landscaping will probably sell a house for more.

Martin Walsh

Bio: Broker with @properties in Winnetka, Ill., and chairman of the board of the North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors Market: The average home price is $1-1.2 million

The key to the landscaping is it really makes the house much more sellable. What you’re going to do is attract people. People do a lot of drive-bys, especially in more exclusive neighborhoods. They don’t necessarily want to engage; they’re gauging the neighborhood.

It’s almost like you show up for a job interview and you’re not dressed well. You don’t want to show up in a rumpled shirt. It’s the same thing when they’re trying to sell a house. It’s got to be presented in the best possible light. If you don’t present yourself well, you’re not going to get the job.

When it comes to selling houses these days, it’s a beauty contest and a price war. The buyers today are really picky. A lot of people come in and they want to get something at a great price and don’t want to do a lot of work to it. They don’t want to spend $15,000 on new landscaping. It makes the place warmer. People like to see that color.

It’s critical dressing. It’s icing on the cake.

Dave Tina

Bio: President of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors Market: Mid-tier is $200,000-$400,000; high-end is more than $1 million

People tend not to realize how important landscaping is. What they need to realize is the first approach to anything we sell is landscaping. The neater and cleaner the landscape, the better chance for a sale. It’s our first step of a sale.

I have sold 20 years in New York and 15 years here. This is the story with a lawn in Las Vegas: All the high-end homes you will see, the majority of these homes have lawns for the whole look. They want that lush look. Even in the medium-priced homes, it’s hard to raise a family and have the kids go out on rock. Even if the front yard is desert, in the back they put in as much lawn as possible. They want their kids to go out to play.

It’s the ones with lush green lawns that get the highest resale value. When we see a lawn as a realtor, we’re happy because that’s what we like. The more lush, the easier it is to sell.

On the high end, landscaping can make or break your deal. It’s important here. If it doesn’t have grass, don’t show it to me.

February 2013
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