Homeowners today are holding on to their homes longer and investing in them more heavily than at any time in recent memory. But just because they’re staying put doesn’t mean they aren’t conscious about things like valuation and ROI on the capital improvements they implement. A commonly cited statistic is that for every dollar spent on landscape-related upgrades the homeowner can reasonably expect to see an average return of about 60 cents. Some projects will obviously return far less than that while others will return 2 or 3 times as much. So when it comes to those high ROI projects you could be looking at boosting the value of a $500,000 home by many tens of thousands of dollars. But just what are those projects that produce the best ROI?
Our Guide to Landscaping Features that Offer Great ROI
A bit of research reveals that today’s homeowners are primarily interested in extending their living areas into the outdoors. And this trend encompasses even environments like that in Toronto where winters can sometimes seem endless. Some of the most popular landscaping features being undertaken today (and the ones with the best ROI) include outdoor kitchens, patios, fire pits and more: all features that unite the interior with the exterior in one form or another. While homeowners could give a boost to the value of their home if they just added a room or expanded the house upwards, the indoor/outdoor landscaping nexus is more than a monetary proposition; it’s a quality of life proposition as well.
That said let’s take a look at those landscaping features that deliver the best ROI, in no particular order. We’re going to lead off with some of the major changes you can make that will produce an attractive ROI and then look at some of the more subtle changes/modifications you can make to your yard that will also provide great, if smaller scale, ROI.
Most people are unaware just how much value a single mature tree can add to their home and the outstand ROI these arboreal stalwarts deliver. For instance you might be able to pick up a 12 foot tall Dogwood tree for less than $500. Given an average growth rate of 1-2 feet per year if you plant your Dogwood where it gets direct sunlight and sell your home 5 years after planting you’ll have a tree that is nearly its mature height that might add $2,000 to $3,000 or more to the value of your home. A 300 to 500% ROI. Very nice indeed. While the exact ROI will depend on a number of things including the type of tree, its health, whether or not it flowers and more on the whole trees are one of the best landscaping decisions you can make from an ROI perspective.
Water features are another landscaping item with enormous aesthetic value that also happen to produce a handsome return on investment. Of course the caveat here is that they have to be professionally designed, tasteful and enhance the rest of the landscape. Some of the most popular and most valuable water features include:
- Fountains – Some folks are reluctant to install a fountain in their yard because they believe them to be water guzzlers but few things could be further from the truth. Contemporary backyard fountains are almost all designed with water conservation in mind. Some will even recycle water from the swimming pool. But whether they source their H2O from the pool or somewhere else most fountains today are capable of recycling almost all their water with only occasional sips from outside sources to account for evaporation and the like.
- Ponds – Backyard ponds come in all shapes and sizes and can be used to serve a variety of aesthetic masters. You can create a lily pond that provides a contemplative aspect to the yard, or a fish pond that plays host to a number of colourful, easy going koi fish. The pond can surround a sculptural fountain and create a stunning focal point or, well… you get the idea.
- Waterfalls – If you have a natural slope in the backyard creating a compelling waterfall feature will be relatively simple and straightforward. If your yard is flat it will be more difficult though certainly not impossible. A waterfall will typically consist of an upper and a lower pool with the waterfall between them. And it can take whatever shape you want from aggressively minimalist to something out of the Amazon rainforest. Like fountains waterfalls can be largely self-sustaining once they’re under way with just minimal input to account for evaporation etc.
Wells have also been making something of a comeback of late almost exclusively for aesthetic purposes. The jury is still out on the kind of ROI you can reasonably expect from such a feature.
There are few landscaping features more in vogue than the outdoor kitchen and it’s easy to see why. Not only do they provide a handsome ROI but they vastly improve the entertainment possibilities inherent in your home and make it far easier to sell. The outdoor kitchen is the ultimate landscaping feature, one that encompasses nearly every aspect of landscaping design from hardscape to softscape to focal points, architectural features like windbreaks, outdoor fireplaces, outdoor lighting and more.
An outdoor kitchen may seem like a big expense and there’s no denying it can be. But it has to be considered both within the context of the potential ROI, which can be as high as 150-200% and within the context of how it can transform your home from a social perspective. You are also getting the equivalent of an entirely new room (and typically a large one at that) for much less than it would cost you to do a traditional addition. Those are all things potential buyers are considering which is why homes with outdoor kitchens typically sell faster and for a better price than homes without them.
As with a water feature the key to maximizing your ROI on an outdoor kitchen is to have it designed and built by a landscaping contractor that knows what they’re doing. If you let your brother in law the DIY guy create it for you you’re likely to wind up with far less satisfactory aesthetic as well as financial results ala ROI.
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Before there was the outdoor kitchen the patio was the premier outdoor entertainment vehicle for most homes. When the big holiday get togethers came you set out a few chairs – or more likely had permanent patio furniture – rolled the charcoal grille out of the basement and set to entertaining. Perhaps because of their perceived affordability when compared to outdoor kitchens the patio is still a consistent hit with homeowners and if you plan and execute your patio in a stylish, tasteful fashion it’s likely you’ll enjoy a ROI in the neighbourhood of 100% or perhaps a bit more. Add the 21st century’s hottest patio extra, the pergola, and really watch the ROI pop.
Decks have been crowd pleasing favourites for decades because they allow you to effectively extend the living area of your home into the yard and typically provide you a commanding view as well. They’re great cooking and eating platforms for those summer get togethers and, if you have the temerity to include a hot tub or whirlpool on the deck they also double as your own personal health spa. In most cases a well-designed, professionally built wooden backyard deck will generate at least a 100% ROI. Fiberglass and composite decks are no slouch in the ROI department either because they effectively mimic the look of real wood and they won’t rot the way wood will.
Pools sometimes get a bad rap for no good reason. Critics like to say that the ROI from an inground pool is not as great as that of other landscape features. What they don’t mention is that if you take adequate precautions like building a fence around your property to keep wandering animals and neighbourhood kids at bay that the ROI goes up. Likewise if you put a safety fence around the pool with a locking gate you can experience an even greater bump in ROI. “But won’t that will ruin the view of the pool?” Not really. There are endless styles of safety fence available that are made of tempered glass. They’ll provide robust safety and be nearly invisible from afar.
Repairing the Lawn
A lawn that’s riddled with dead spots, stagnant pools of water, dandelions and other weeds will turn potential buyers off before they even get to the front door. When they see the lawn in such dismal shape they assume the rest of the home must be equally neglected. Even if they go inside and don’t see any obvious problems their perceptions will have been shaped by the dismal lawn and they’ll have the idea stuck in their craw that there must be something wrong and that you’re just really good at hiding it. Fixing the lawn is the kind of unglamorous work that will nonetheless pay handsomely when it’s time to put your home on the market. It will cost you a fraction of what some other landscaping features will cost but it can boost the value of your home by many thousands of dollars.
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Interlocking pavers in the driveway
Interlocking pavers have steadily increased in popularity in recent years as more homeowners have become aware of their versatility, durability and outstanding good looks. If you previously had an old, cracked concrete slab driveway and you replace it with a driveway composed of interlocking pavers arranged in a compelling design you’ll ramp up the curb appeal of your home, likely solve drainage problems that had been haunting your for some time and increase the market value of your home by several times the cost of the pavers. One of the most compelling reasons to have the driveway fitted out with interlocking pavers? They’ll last for centuries if properly taken care of. Yup. Centuries.
Now let’s take a look at some of the smaller scale, less expensive landscaping projects that will also generate a handsome ROI relative to the amount invested.
Pruning Trees and Trimming the Shrubbery
Contrary to popular belief shrubs and trees require maintenance in order to thrive and in order to continue to play their intended role in the landscaping of the property. If left to their own devices trees, shrubs, hedges and more will encroach on pathways and swimming pools, cast unwanted shade on flower beds, block views and more. On top of that your out of control flora will cut into the market value of your home. Bringing in the pros to prune and snip things back to where they ought to be is an inexpensive way to give your valuation a needed boost and will likely return several times what you spent if the time comes to sell the house.
There are as many types of fire pits today as there are people who want them in their yard. A fire pit touches on something primal in the human spirit and also provides something even primal man could appreciate: a handsome return on investment. There are 4 primary fuel sources for fire pits: wood, charcoal, gas and gel fuel and your fire pit can be as sturdy as the Rock of Gibraltar or as delicate as a spider’s web. Which fuel source and style you choose for your fire pit will depend on the style of your home as well as the setting and the surroundings. Regardless though they’re a fairly inexpensive way to make your yard a more compelling place to be and you’re likely to turn a profit on them should you decide to sell your house at some future date.
Replacing Old Plants
Like pruning this is a decidedly low tech, low impact, high ROI way to make a major difference in the way your home is perceived. Swapping out old, perhaps poorly maintained plants for fresh ones will give your curb appeal a shot in the arm and set you up for a healthy, if numerically modest, ROI. Before you go swapping out any plants though consult either a qualified landscaping contractor or an expert at the local nursery who can advise you on which type of plant will go well with your current design.
Maintaining Landscape Beds
If well designed and properly maintained landscaping beds can play a key role in activating a landscape design. If ignored and left to their own devices they can look like random blobs of dirt, flowers and mulch dropped from orbiting dump trucks. Maintenance is the key to keeping this particular feature looking good so bringing in the landscaping company to tidy things up will provide a generous ROI and pay enormous dividends when it comes to re-establishing curb appeal.
A Few More Tips On Getting More from your Landscape Design
- Make a wish list – Before you go making any big changes to your backyard landscape sit down with pen and paper and make a list of those things that aren’t working for you or that you wish had been done differently. This will help you focus your remediation efforts and likely come up with changes that will generate a handsome ROI.
- Consult a professional – If you’re interested in any of the landscaping features highlighted above contact a professional landscaping company like ME Contracting to help you with the design and execution. Achieving optimal ROI is typically a matter of design and build quality, which means as well intentioned as a DIY enthusiast may be chances are good their landscaping efforts will come up short in the ROI department.
- Don’t scrimp on quality – If you’re handling the design and implementation yourself rather than hiring a landscape architect make sure you resist the temptation to cut corners on quality when it comes to the various materials you need. A lot of amateurs believe no one will notice if they use cheap materials but they’re wrong. Because those cheap materials will begin to breakdown, crack, molder and more in relatively short order undermining the look and effectiveness of the design. This goes for things like trees and shrubs as well. There are cheap trees and then there are the trees you’ll want in order to generate maximum ROI.
- Learn how to maintain your landscaping features – The best looking outdoor kitchen won’t be worth much if you let it go to seed. The same goes for any of the other high ROI landscaping features we’ve outlined in this guide. Learning how to keep your outdoor kitchen, backyard deck, waterfall, pond or other landscaping component looking good and running smooth is key to ensuring that when the time comes to put the house on the market you’ll enjoy the fruits of your investment.
Any of the above outlined features will do your home proud and allow you to earn a handsome return on your investment to boot.
If you’d like to learn more contact the Toronto area’s #1 residential landscaping contractor: M.E.Contracting.