It may be a cliché, but, in real estate, first impressions really are everything. Yes, some may need a couple of days to think it over, but many potential buyers fall in love with a home the moment they pull into the driveway.
“Curb appeal is very important in real estate,” says Beatrice de Jong, consumer trends expert at Opendoor. “A positive first impression can be enough to get a potential buyer excited enough to seriously consider making an offer.”
That said, it swings both ways, de Jong says. A disheveled or neglected lawn could lead potential buyers to believe the home is also in disrepair.
Knowing this, Robin Kencel of Compass Real Estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, says she often recommends that her clients straighten up their lawns before showings.
But even if you’re not putting your home on the market any time soon, you might want to invest in a bit of landscaping to up your curb appeal. It’s a great way to add personality and style to your home, and is more affordable and less time intensive than interior remodeling.
It can even increase your home’s value. According to Martin Eiden, an agent with Compass in New York City, thoughtful, carefully-planned landscaping can add 10 to 15 percent to a home’s value in a hot market. And, if things are slower, curb appeal can end up being the deciding factor for many buyers.
Think of landscaping as the gift wrap and ribbon that ties everything your lovely home has to offer together. But where to begin? Here, some collected ideas to get your landscaping vision board started:
1. Match your landscaping to your home’s architectural style
One surefire way to get a return on your landscaping investment? According to a 2015 Washington Post interview with John Gidding, host of HGTV’s “Curb Appeal,” it’s making sure your landscaping actually matches the style of your home.
Think about it this way: If you have a Craftsman-style home, you should opt for simple and classic landscaping, e.g. structured bushes and shrubbery or a bed of brightly colored flowers. Stay away from more modern additions like koi ponds, or opulent fountains that look like they belong in Caesar’s Palace.
2. Think sophistication
According to a 2016 Turf Magazine survey, homes with sophisticated landscaping elements like curved bed lines and large island plantings were more likely to sell for a higher price than homes with basic foundation planting. Additionally landscapes incorporating large deciduous, evergreen, and annual color plants sold better, too.
Allan Hendricks, vice president of landscape architecture at Florida-based Caulfield and Wheeler Inc., says planting beds are a relatively inexpensive, low-lift way to create design interest and add texture and color. They’re great for defining spaces, so your lawn doesn’t look so sparse even if the grass is mowed and tidy.
3. Go for year-round style
Let’s say you put your home on the market in April, when that beautiful patch of peonies start to bud. So Instagrammable! But, oh no! A slow market means your home is still on the market come summer, and your home doesn’t look as good as it once did.
The solution? More strategic landscaping—especially if you live somewhere with all four seasons. According to a 2015 post from Housecall, that means picking focal elements for each season, like bulbs for spring, annuals for summer, shrubs for the fall, and evergreens for the winter.
3. Plant some trees
You really can’t go wrong with trees. They add shade, help get rid of carbon dioxide in the air, and can even grown fruit! They’re also relatively inexpensive (although they do take a lot of time and patience to grow!)
And according to a 2010 study published in Landscape and Urban Planning, trees might even increase your home’s value, too. The study found that homes with street-facing trees in Portland, Oregon (where the survey took place) sold for $8,870 more and 1.7 days faster than those without.
But aside from adding value to your property, trees have a way of making a house feel like a home.
“About 15 years ago, my horticulture teacher said something that has stuck with me ever since: Trees are the only plants that we connect with as humans as if they also have a soul,” says Becky Bourdeau, a Los Angeles-based landscape designer. “Trees provide a sense of longevity and belonging between the house and its environment, between the people who live in that house and their environment.”
To pick out what type of tree is best, think about what purpose you want it to serve.
If you want more shade in the summer, Bourdeau suggests deciduous trees. Since they shed leaves in the wintertime, they’ll also let a bit of sunlight into your yard. And as an added bonus, they might even save you money on cooling and heating costs!
Just be sure to consult your survey before you plant them. While mature trees are a selling point, Hendricks says they might discourage buyers if they’re too close to the driveway or the house. Why? As they mature, they might interfere with overhead power lines, septic system drain fields, and even views to and from the house. These are all problems that are quite costly to fix.
4. Install an automatic irrigations system with a weather sensor
“Despite the best of intentions, almost no one stands with a hose long enough and regularly enough to really give plants the right amount of water,” Bourdeau says. “And even if you *are* the most conscientious green thumb, you might like to someday go on vacation, or, sell your house to someone who doesn’t want to spend an hour a day watering the hedge.”
Do what Bourdeau recommends and install an automatic irrigation system. It’ll take the guesswork out of how much and how often to water your plants and lawn. While it may not be a Pinterest-worthy dream, it’s a super useful method of protecting your landscaping investment.
5. Increase privacy
Windows are often a big selling point for buyers who want a lot of natural light and an expansive feel. However, big windows also mean neighbors and passerby’s can easily peek into your home.
To preserve ambiance but add privacy, Bourdeau opts for soft, airy-textured, glossy-leaved barrier shrubs just outside the window over fortress-style hedges or fences. Her pick for her L.A. clients? Silver Sheen Pittosporum. “It acts sort of like botanical window sheers,” she says.
6. Make your garden as low-maintenance as possible
Concerned about water conservation? Opt for a water-smart landscaping. De Jong says that in California and other Western states, there is a huge demand for drought-tolerant gardens that use very little water. Not only do they save new homeowners time on maintenance, they also help cut water costs—two very sellable points for green-conscious Millennial homebuyers.
I’m currently renting a house in Los Angeles with water-smart landscaping features. Instead of grass in the front yard, there are landscaping rocks dispersed with planted bushes and shrubs that need very little water to thrive. It looks great and I have to do almost no upkeep!
7. When in doubt, focus on the pathway
“Your prospective buyers will always enter through the front door,” reminds Eiden. So pay special attention to your pathway. Is it simply a cracked sidewalk? That could indicate to potential buyers that the rest of the home is just as wizened.
Instead, Eiden recommends designing a pathway that will create anticipation. “Ideally, have it winding with plants or a small hedge on each side,” he says.
8. Look into lighting that’s pretty and functional
You’ve worked so hard to increase your curb appeal—now, make sure you can see it at all times. This Old House recommends highlighting your home’s architectural features and most eye-capturing flora with landscape lighting.
Installation is rather painless, and project is super budget-friendly, too.