The Outdoor Family Room: 4 Ways Landscaping Adds Value to a Home

The Outdoor Family Room: 4 Ways Landscaping Adds Value to a Home

By Kris Kiser, President & CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

Whether you are working with a buyer or a seller, your clients want a property that offers the most value for the money. Of course, many factors go into determining a home’s value, including the location, neighborhood, schools, safety, floorplan, and whether it has been updated, to name a few.

But there’s another important feature that is sometimes overlooked – the family yard which has rapidly become an extension of the home. Here are the top four ways family yards and other living landscapes add value to a property and extend the usefulness of the home.

  • Curb Appeal
    As you know, curb appeal is an important factor in determining overall property value. After all, the first impression on a home is made before buyers even walk through the door! According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2016 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features study, 99% of Realtors® have suggested that sellers improve their curb appeal before putting their home on the market, and 98% think curb appeal is important to potential buyers. That’s good advice. Studies show that improving overall curb appeal, which includes a beautiful lawn and landscape, can boost property values by as much as 17% (source: Texas Tech University).
  • Trees are Tops

Mature trees are often an indicator of an established neighborhood, which can be a positive for buyers looking for an older, classic home. But the value of trees goes beyond perception and preference and right into the pocketbook of your clients. According to the International Society of Arboriculture, each front yard tree adds 1% to a homeowner’s sale price, while large specimen trees can add as much as 10% to property values.

  • Saving Green with Green

Potential buyers often ask about the energy efficiency of a home, and it turns out that living landscapes impact the monthly electric bill.

According to the Urban Forest Coalition, 100 million mature trees around U.S. residences save approximately $2 billion annually in reduced energy costs. In fact, strategically placed trees can save up to 56% on annual air conditioning bills. In the wintertime, evergreens that block winter winds can save 3% on heating (source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service). There’s even a National Tree Benefit Calculator (TreeBenefits.com/calculator/) your clients can use to estimate the economic and environmental value trees provide on an annual basis.

Cumulatively, eight average-sized front lawns can provide the cooling equivalent to air-conditioning for 18 homes (source: Alliance for Water Efficiency).

  • Expanding Living Space
    Yards can be outdoor family rooms, and are increasingly important to families who want a safe, inviting place for their kids and pets to play almost year-round. Merging indoor and outdoor living to increase living space is trending, making outdoor living space important for home buyers. But just how much can a seller expect to recover from ensuring a useful outdoor living area? According to NAR survey, any cost to enhance outdoor living is well worth it.

Seeding the family yard will recover 417% of the project cost, while updating landscape with sod will result in a 143% recovery. For homeowners who want to take on more of a project, adding a new patio will recover 102% of their investment and a new wooden deck will result in a 106% recovery rate.

One final note: a systematic research review concluded that knowing and experiencing nature makes people generally happier and healthier. Since nature starts in our own backyards, it’s fair to assume that the family yard contributes to overall well-being. This is priceless, whether your client is looking for a new place to call home or is just settling in to their new property.

For more information, including infographics and fact sheets you can share with your clients, visit www.LivingLandscapesMatter.com.

4 Reasons for Putting the Right Plant in the Right Place This Spring

4 Reasons for Putting the Right Plant in the Right Place This Spring

Spring planting season is in full swing, and as you spruce up your outdoor spaces, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) shares a few important reasons for putting the right plant in the right place. It’s more than selecting full-sun or full-shade varieties of foliage. By choosing the right plants for your climate and lifestyle, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful green space your entire family will enjoy.

  1. Know your climate zone.
    Do you have long, hot summers? Are you in an arid region or a wet one? Understanding your environment will help you select climate-appropriate plants that will thrive with minimal input from you. Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to learn which plants, grasses, shrubs and trees are most likely to succeed in your location.
  2. Understand your lifestyle needs.
    Your grass, flowering plants and trees expand the living space of your home. Without our living landscapes, our backyards, patios, fire pits and pool areas would be hotter and less enjoyable overall. Determine how you use your yard, and then plant accordingly. Do you need a shade tree to sit under during hot summer days? Do you travel a lot in the summer, or will you be home to care for your plants? Do you need a grassy area for your kids and pets to play?
  3. Plant for pets.
    Speaking of pets, you’ll want to keep their needs in mind when you’re mapping out your planting plans. Consider planting a hardy grass like buffalo or Bermuda, which is more likely to withstand pet traffic. When pets are in the picture, you’ll want to keep resilient plants and flowers in heavily-trafficked areas of your yard and save the delicate varieties for raised planters on your porch or patio. Finally, know which plants are dangerous to your pets by downloading the ASPCA’s list of poisonous plants.
  4. Plant for pollinators & wildlife.
    Your living landscapes aren’t only for your enjoyment. They are also vital to pollinators (bees, butterflies and birds) and other backyard wildlife who rely on the certain plants in your backyard ecosystem for food and shelter. Planting nectar and pollen-rich flowers that are appropriate for your climate (see #1) will help nourish pollinators. Let a pile of grass clippings decompose on your lawn (rather than bagging) to shelter insects, worms and other backyard critters. Dead tree branches can create nooks for butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife.
California Lessons for Spring Planting

California Lessons for Spring Planting

The Vagaries of Mother Nature Cannot be Regulated.

Outdoor Power Equipment Institute Urges Smarter Spring Landscaping Choices.

Across the nation, many regions are finding spring is arriving ahead of schedule. As homeowners and gardeners grapple with what, when and where to plant, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) reminds us all about the importance of making smart landscaping choices for the long-term. Mother Nature is not static, predictable or fixed. California’s environment is the prime example of this unpredictability, which spent the last few years in drought and is now receiving historic rain and snow. For most of California, their drought is over.

“California gave us the greatest lesson. It showed that regulating the landscaped environment isn’t smart,” says Kris Kiser, CEO and President of OPEI. “In a well-intentioned effort to save water, they experimented with replacing living landscapes with rocks, mulch and honest-to-God ‘plastic grass.’ Unfortunately, due to this short-term experiment, in those areas where landscaping and turfgrass were removed they are no longer capturing and filtering rainwater or holding it on site for the trees and plants to use.”

California state and local governments paid homeowners to replace their living landscapes, including their turfgrass, with mulch, rocks, cactus and plastic grass. California auditors later discovered this one-size-fits-all approach was the least effective water-saving measure. Now, in an extreme turn-around, the Golden State is dealing with torrential rains, heavy snowfall, mudslides and storm water runoff. Denuded landscapes don’t capture water or store it capably.

“As homeowners get ready to choose plants for spring, it’s imperative we learn from California’s mistakes,” he says. “If they’d seen their lawns and landscapes as an appropriate use of water and an investment in nature and home habitat, California cities could have helped save some of their dying, city canopy trees, which get watered along with yards and green space. And all those ‘drought-friendly’ yards of nothing but mulch? They’re washing away.”

To sum up a smarter landscape approach, Kiser says, “Plant for forever—not for short-term weather changes.”

OPEI encourages homeowners, gardeners and commercial facility managers to keep these smart landscaping tips in mind when planting this spring:

Plant a living landscape that breathes. It creates the oxygen we need and sequesters carbon.

Follow the “right plant, right place” rule. Put in living trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants that are right for your climate zone. Once established, Mother Nature will weather climate changes.

Remember wildlife in your planting choices. Add flowering plants to support pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies. Our yards, parks, schoolyards and other green spaces connect and form wildlife corridors.

Plant for your lifestyle. If you have kids and pets, remember our yards are safe spaces for families, kids and pets.
Put in a mix of adaptive and native plants that can handle people traffic as well as provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Don’t over water. Plants and trees will grow stronger and work harder, creating deeper, vertical roots, if they need to seek water.

Let plants go dormant in drought conditions. They will “green back up” when the rains come.

“Plants are smarter than we are when it comes to natural, cyclical weather events,” says Kiser. “We just need to get out of the way. Make the right plant and tree selections for your climate zone. Once established, they’ll do it on their own. They’ll spring back up when the rains return. And the rain always returns.”

Our living landscapes are imperative to human and wildlife health. They produce oxygen, sequester carbon, lower urban heat, capture and filter rainwater, prevent soil erosion and capture dust and particulates. They are urban habitat for us, our pets and nature’s wildlife. Ours is a shared existence. A fifty feet by fifty feet square of ordinary turfgrass produces enough oxygen for a family of four, and green infrastructure protects communities from natural disasters, including flood and drought.

“Take a lesson from the California experiment. We’ve seen, first-hand, what happens when government regulates too much and forces people to change their living landscapes for short-term realities,” adds Kiser. “The health of our communities depend on us getting smarter about working with nature. Plant for the future—our future.”

About OPEI
The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) is an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. OPEI is the advocacy voice of the industry, and a recognized Standards Development Organization for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and active internationally through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in the development of safety and performance standards. OPEI is managing partner of GIE+EXPO, the industry’s annual international trade show, and the creative force behind the environmental education program, TurfMutt.com. OPEI-Canada represents members on a host of issues, including recycling, emissions and other regulatory developments across the Canadian provinces. For more information, visit www.OPEI.org.

Home Habitat. Why Do We Need Yards, Anyway?

Home Habitat. Why Do We Need Yards, Anyway?

The American yard has been getting a bad rap recently, especially in California where the drought is serious business. Californians have been told to reduce water consumption by 25 percent and could face fines of up to $10,000 per day for wasting water. The “synthetic” turf industry is booming, and homeowners have been paid to rip out their yards. But is getting rid of the American yard the best strategy?

A yard is not just about aesthetics. It also serves important functions, both for your family’s health and lifestyle and for the environment. Living landscapes – including lawns comprised of turfgrass – offer places for children and pets to play and for the entire family to enjoy the outdoors. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of green space to health, including improved mood, increased fitness levels, stress reduction and more. Additionally, turfgrass addresses a host of environmental issues.

For one, grassy areas mitigate storm water runoff. They slow down and absorb runoff, while also cleansing water of impurities and dust.

Turfgrass dissipates the heat island effect. Remarkably, studies have shown that lawns can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil. But without grass and other plantings to reduce the heat island effect, communities will only get hotter. And your home cooling bills? Expect them to go up when green space is reduced!

Additionally, grass is an important carbon sink and oxygen producer. In fact, turfgrass is the largest carbon sink – natural systems that trap the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – in the country. Grasses remove about six tons of carbon dioxide per acre, per year from the atmosphere. Without grass, the carbon sequestration processes won’t occur, and your carbon footprint will grow bigger. Grass also plays a vital role in capturing dust, smoke particles and other pollutants that harm people. Without grass, these pollutants will remain in the air we breathe, resulting in more “code red” air quality days.

Furthermore, grasses, trees, shrubs and other plant life provide food and habitat for birds and small mammals. Insects, spiders and worms live among the grass blades and below the surface in the turf. Without a living landscape, food sources for birds and small mammals will quickly vanish. Xeriscaping or hardscaping forces common backyard animals to forage for food elsewhere. If we eliminate turfgrass from urban and suburban life, birds and wildlife will lose critical habitat.

Preventing soil erosion is another important job of turfgrass, which holds soil in place through its natural, dense and fibrous root system. Without grass, more soil washes into the water, reducing the amount of sunlight that can penetrate the water. The nutrients and chemicals carried with the soil can cause large algae blooms, which can steal oxygen from the water and kill fish.

Remember, the outdoors starts at your backdoor. Be a responsible citizen not by ripping out your lawn, but instead by putting the right plants in the right place and using water wisely.

Get more tips and information at www.LivingLandscapesMatter.com

Grasscycling: A Way to Help Your Yard Fight the Drought This Fall

Grasscycling: A Way to Help Your Yard Fight the Drought This Fall

Your yard has been under a lot of stress with the drought, and grasscycling is one way you can help your lawn improve its strength and overall health this fall.

Grasscycling is the practice of leaving grass clippings on your yard to decompose. According to the University of California’s statewide integrated pest management program, grasscycling requires you to mow your yard at the right frequency, cut the proper height for the species of grass you have in your yard, and remove no more than one-third of a leaf blade every time you mow.

Some people use a mulching or recycling mower for grasscycling. These mowers will cut the clippings into tiny pieces and return them to the lawn to decompose.

Why implement grasscycling on your lawn? Your lawn has likely been under a lot of stress with the drought. Grasscycling is an easy way to give your lawn a nutritional boost. The cut grass blades left on the lawn will decompose quickly and return nutrients to the lawn. An added bonus – you save the costs for bagging and lawn removal, and you avoid adding more waste to landfills.

Grasscycling will only be beneficial if you are removing small clippings at a time, so proper mowing and equipment are essential. Grasscycling may slightly increase thatch buildup on your lawn, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in most situations.

If your grass is too wet or has not been mowed regularly and is very tall, grasscycling should not be done, as this could lead to thatch buildup.

For more information about ways to maintain a living landscape, go to www.LivingLandscapesMatter.com