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

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

Buyers and sellers want a property that offers the most bang for their buck. Of course, many factors go into determining a home’s value – location, neighborhood, schools, safety, floorplan and whether it has been updated, to name a few. There’s another important feature that is sometimes overlooked – the family yard.

Beyond Beautiful

Outdoor spaces are increasingly becoming an extension of the home. A recent study conducted by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) indicates the majority of Americans (nine out of 10) says it’s important to have a landscape at their home. According to study results, the majority of Americans have a yard comprised of grass (86%), trees/bushes/shrubs (80%), pavers/cement/bricks/patio (51%) and landscaping rocks/gravel (see more about the study here).

Here are the top four ways family yards and other living landscapes add value to a property and extend the usefulness of a home for your buyers.

  • 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. Studies show that improving overall curb appeal, which includes a beautiful lawn and landscape any time of the year, 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 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 costs (source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service). Cumulatively, eight average-sized front lawns can provide the cooling equivalent to air-conditioning for 18 homes (source: Alliance for Water Efficiency). There’s even a National Tree Benefit Calculator (TreeBenefits.com/calculator/) your clients can use to estimate the economic and environmental value their trees provide on an annual basis.
  • Expanding Living Space
    During warmer weather months, yards become 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 environments 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 the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) 2018 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features study, any cost to enhance outdoor living is well worth it. An overall landscape upgrade (installing flowering shrubs and trees and mulching with landscaping bark) will recover 83% of the project cost. Standard lawn care service (something 55% of REALTORS® have suggested to sellers) will recover 267% of its cost. Tree care, including trimming and pruning, will result in 100% value recovered from the project. For adding a wood deck, sellers can expect to recoup 80% of the project cost while a new patio offers a 69% return.

Curb appeal is just one way that living landscapes are beyond beautiful. A systematic research review concluded that knowing and experiencing nature – which starts in our own backyards – makes people generally happier and healthier. Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces (American Journal of Public Health) and kids with more exposure to the outdoors perform better on cognitive testing (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). People moving to greener areas experienced an immediate improvement in mental health that was sustained for at least three years (Science Daily).

Living landscapes also provide environmental benefits – important for the growing number of buyers (56% according to NAR’s REALTORS® & Sustainability study) who are looking for “green” homes. Family yards, trees and landscaping features filter and capture runoff, reduce heat island effects, improve air quality, sequester carbon dioxide, control soil erosion and support biodiversity.

All of this is priceless, whether your client is looking for a new place to call home or is just settling into their new property.

Living Landscape New Year’s Resolutions for Realtors & Sellers

Living Landscape New Year’s Resolutions for Realtors & Sellers

Even though the real estate business traditionally slows down at this time of year, the turn of the New Year is a great time for Realtors to encourage clients to plan yard and garden projects that will have buyers swooning in the spring.

The living landscape at a seller’s property is a significant asset that increases property value, promotes outdoor living, contributes to family and community health, supports wildlife, and provides recreation and a home playground for family and pets.

Realtors who want to help their sellers get ahead for spring should meet with their clients now to help them map out yard improvements that can boost curb appeal and attract the right buyer. Here are some things to consider from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

Be An Outsider: Spruce Up Your Outdoor Play & Living Rooms

  • Sketch the current yard and green spaces.
    Creating a sketch of the current yard that includes existing trees, bushes, structures and flower and gardening beds to help identify what needs to change and what is currently working in the family yard.
  • Visualize buyers in the space.
    What are the activities a target buyer will want to envision themselves doing in the family yard? Dining outdoors? Entertaining in warmer weather? Having a space for quiet reflection after work? A pet or child play zone to encourage more time outside?
  • Develop improvement and maintenance goals.
    List the play and work areas that will make your target buyer’s dreams a reality. What would enhance this space for family? What needs to be done in the yard to create a safe and welcoming place for family gatherings and for kids and pets to play? Enhanced landscaping, play structures, and areas for specific activities, such as patios, decks, outdoor kitchens and fire pits, need to be identified.
  • Determine which plants are best for the climate.
    Selecting the right plants, trees and shrubs for the climate zone will keep maintenance to a minimum for the new owners – a selling feature on your listing write-up! It also maximizes benefits to the environment, our pollinator friends, migrating birds and other wildlife. Check out the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map to determine which plants are most suitable for your area. Doing this now will make shopping at the local nursery more productive come spring.
  • Conduct a nature inventory.
    Wildlife in the yard creates a serene setting for potential buyers. So consider these critters when planning the space. What migrating birds fly overhead? What butterflies and other wildlife stop by in your neighborhood and yard? These important members of our ecosystem need places to rest and recharge and find food. Identify plants, trees and shrubs that will attract and provide habitat for wildlife.
  • Map out a timeline and plan for your yard.
    Have your sellers mark the areas where improvements and maintenance are needed, and where they might need more landscaping. Develop a timeline, based on the property needs, the climate zone and weather to identify when certain tasks should be completed. There are better times to plant than others, depending on location and goals.
  • Take stock of lawn and landscape tools.
    Don’t wait until an ice or snowstorm hits to tend to the trees in your yard. Prune your plants, trees and shrubs now for a tidy look that will also keep branches from snapping off due to snow and ice.
  • Organize the garage
    Does your client’s outdoor power equipment need to be serviced before the spring season? Or maybe they have recently moved to a home with a yard and need to purchase a lawnmower, trimmer, edger, leaf blower or other equipment. Now’s a good time to take stock of the equipment and tools so your clients will be ready for seasonal changes.
  • Decide if you need professional assistance.
    If professional assistance is required, now is the time to line up consultants and obtain bids. This will put your seller ahead of the spring rush.

For more tips, go to http://www.livinglandscapesmatter.com/landscapes-home-investment/.

Winter Curb Appeal Checklist

Winter Curb Appeal Checklist

Creating curb appeal is important in real estate and can increase value by as much as 17%. But it can be challenging to achieve in the cold weather months.

Here is a list of to-dos from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) that can help sellers create a good first impression, even when the temperatures drop.

Creating Curb Appeal in the Winter Months

  • Focus on safety
    Make sure buyers can safely get into your home by keeping the walkways, stairs and driveway clear of snow, ice and wet, slippery leaves.
  • Showcase winter plants
    Utilize evergreen and cold weather plants like holly, pansies and witch hazel in patio pots and flower beds to add life to the landscape. A live wintergreen wreath is also a nice touch.
  • With decorations, less is more
    When decorating for the holidays, keep it simple and elegant. (Save the inflatable snowman for your new home!)
  • Give the lawn some love
    Keep leaves and debris cleared off the lawn. A carpet of dormant grass gives a better impression (and hint of what’s to come in spring) than dead leaves and twigs.
  • Clean gutters
    Clean gutters and downspouts signal to potential buyers that your home is well-maintained.
  • Utilize outdoor lighting
    Showcase your home on short, grey days with strategically placed outdoor lighting to light up the driveway, pathways and front porch.
  • Prune shrubs & trees
    Don’t wait until an ice or snowstorm hits to tend to the trees in your yard. Prune your plants, trees and shrubs now for a tidy look that will also keep branches from snapping off due to snow and ice.
  • Organize the garage
    Store your outdoor power equipment neatly in the garage, declutter the space and give it a good clean. A tidy garage looks bigger and more inviting.
  • Add birdfeeders
    Create a natural, serene scene (and support pollinators at the same time) by installing a bird feeder or bird garden. A blue jay or cardinal makes a striking image against a winter scene.

For more tips, go to http://www.livinglandscapesmatter.com/landscapes-home-investment/.

Do This Fall Yard Work and Reap Springtime Benefits

Do This Fall Yard Work and Reap Springtime Benefits

Don’t believe your family yards needs attention in the fall? Autumn is no time to ignore your lawn and landscape.

“What you do now will determine the quality of your family yard next spring and summer,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), the international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

“People know to plant flower bulbs in the fall, but this time of year is perfect for mowing, mulching, aerating, trimming and patching your yard,” said Kiser. “After all, your living landscape does a lot for you. It produces oxygen, reduces the urban heat island effect, filters and captures runoff, improves air quality, controls erosion, absorbs carbon dioxide, and supports biodiversity. You benefit when your yard is in top shape.”

OPEI offers the following tips to make sure your yard is ready for relaxing and fun outdoor activities next year.

  • Keep mowing. Grass still needs regular care to stay healthy. Grass that is too high may attract lawn-damaging field mice. Shorter grass is more resistant to diseases and traps fewer falling leaves. Cutting the grass low allows more sun to reach the crown of the grass, so less leaf will turn brown in the winter. However, cutting off too much at one time can be damaging, so never trim more than a third of the grass blades off in a single cutting. Put mower blades on the lowest settings for the last two cuts of the season.
  • Aerate your lawn. Compressed soil hurts grass health. Aerating punches holes into the soil and lets oxygen, water and nutrients into a lawn. Use a walk-behind aerator or get an attachment to pull behind a riding mower.
  • Mulch your leaves. Many mowers can mulch leaves with an attachment. Since mulching with a mower can mix grass clippings with leaf particles, these nitrogen-rich grass particles and carbon-rich leaf particles will compost more quickly. Together, they return nutrients to the soil.
  • Trim and shore up trees and bushes. Use trimmers, chainsaws or pole pruners to cut back trees, shrubs and plants. Make sure branches are safely trimmed back from overhead lines, and not in danger of falling on a structure in winter weather. You may need to tie or brace limbs of upright evergreens or plants to prevent them from breaking in high winds or snow. Call a professional arborist for big trees or hard to reach spots.
  • Repair bald spots. Fall is a great time to patch bald or thin spots in a lawn. The easiest way to do this is with an all-in-one lawn repair mixture (found at most garden shops and home centers). Use a garden rake or de-thatcher to scratch loose the soil on the spot.

Kiser also said it is important to follow safety procedures whenever using outdoor power equipment.

“Read your owner’s manual,” he added. “It will describe the individual requirements for your particular machine, and will provide directions on which fuels may be appropriate for your product. You may begin to see fuels higher than 10% ethanol being offered soon, so, remember ‘look before you pump.’” Fuels containing more than 10% ethanol — such as E15 (15% ethanol) — should not be used in outdoor power equipment unless directed in the owner’s manual. Most gas-fueled outdoor power equipment is warranted and designed to run on E10 (10% ethanol) fuel or less.

“And, drain fuel tanks before storing equipment for the winter,” he said. “Fuel more than 30 days old isn’t good for machines. Also service and winterize your lawn mower, string trimmer, leaf blower, and other outdoor power equipment before storing so it’s ready to get jobs done.”

For information on safe fueling go to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com. For tips on outdoor power equipment safety, go to www.opei.org.

5 Staging Tips For The Outdoor Living Room

5 Staging Tips For The Outdoor Living Room

It isn’t always obvious to buyers how the spaces in a home are intended to be utilized. Solid staging can help, but there’s good reason to take the extra steps to stage the outdoor “living room,” as well.

Outdoor spaces are quickly becoming one of the most coveted home features for buyers. They expand living space without expensive renovations, offer a relaxing respite from everyday stress, provide a safe place for kids and pets to play, and create an oasis for entertaining guests.

5 ways to stage the outdoor living room

  • Declutter & Clean
    Just as with indoor staging, the first step to sprucing up the outdoor living room is to clear dirt and clutter from the space. Store lawn equipment, children’s toys, and pet play things in a shed or garage. Have clients stash lawn ornaments and yard art, especially anything that is personalized. (After all, the goal is to get buyers to envision themselves in the space.) Thin out furniture and patio accessories to make the space look larger. Finally, give the entire area a good scrub down, sweeping away dust and debris to create a fresh, clean canvas.
  • Invite the Outdoors In
    Blending interior and outdoor living spaces helps the exterior area feel like an extension of the home, not an afterthought. Ensure blinds and curtains are open to the family yard, highlighting the outdoor oasis before the potential buyer even steps through the backdoor. If the weather is nice during a showing, leave sliding patio or French doors open to illustrate just the space’s seamlessness. Finally, ensure the indoor and outdoor décor complement one another by working with your client to utilize similar colors, materials and styles both inside and out.
  • Create Cozy Sitting Areas
    Help your clients arrange their outdoor furniture in a way that invites buyers to sit down and envision themselves enjoying the seller’s backyard. Leave a cold pitcher of iced tea or fresh-squeezed lemonade on the outdoor dining table for this very purpose. Create easy traffic flow throughout the outdoor living room, while offering a number of places for people to sit – at a table, around a fire pit, or in a cozy chair configuration. Also, offer some shade by using umbrellas or outdoor curtains to minimize sun glare and maximize visions of enjoyment in the outdoor living room.
  • Soften the Outdoor Space
    Introducing a few soft design features into the outdoor area to create an inviting atmosphere. Rugs, throw pillows and upholstered patio furniture are a few ways to accomplish a “cozy” feel. Ensure these items are looking fresh and clean and not worn and dated. It’s relatively inexpensive to swap out new pillows and rugs. Create outdoor ambiance by hanging string lighting, introducing a fire pit in the center of a patio, setting up a zen-like water feature, or adding candles, small plants and freshly-cut flowers to tabletops.
  • Utilize Living Landscapes
    Nothing says “welcome home” quite like a beautiful living landscape, complete with flowering shrubs, trees, flowers, and other vegetation. Encourage clients to freshen up their family yard by weeding, mulching and planting flower beds and pots with colorful flowers and verdant plants. Vases of flowers can also help bring life – and a pop of color – to outdoor tablescapes.

For more tips, go to http://www.livinglandscapesmatter.com/landscapes-home-investment/.

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