Gorgeous Landscaping for Your House Means More Than Just Looks

HouseLogic names the essential curb appeal elements that double down on investment and enjoyment.

Your home is your castle — enjoy it, customize it, make it reflect your taste and values. But, there’s one area where being too individualistic carries risk: landscaping for curb appeal.

Landscaping is the first thing that potential buyers see, and it reflects well — or poorly — on other homes in the neighborhood. That’s why homeowners associations often have exacting rules for it.  

Good landscaping can add up to 28% to overall home value, says landscape economist John Harris. Even taking your landscaping from “good” to “excellent,” in terms of design, condition, and placement, can add 6% to 7% to a home’s value, according to a Clemson University study of homes in Greenville, S.C.

But don’t landscape merely to flip a house. You won’t get your money back, says Sandy MacCuish, a California appraiser. Rather, landscape for your enjoyment, knowing that you’re making a good investment.

Here are the essentials for great landscaping.

Essential #1: Trees

Maybe only Mother Nature can make a tree, but the National Tree Benefit Calculator can tell you what it’s worth.

The calculator examines how a tree species in a particular ZIP code affects:

  • Property values.
  • Storm water runoff. Trees block and suck up water running off your property, preventing pollutants from entering community waterways.
  • Carbon dioxide reduction. CO2 contributes to climate change.
  • Energy savings: Shade trees cool homes in summer; windbreaks help warm them in winter.

Take a 24-in. diameter red maple, the country’s most popular tree. Here’s its overall annual benefit, combining the factors above, in a handful of cities, according to the tree benefit calculator:

  • McLean, Va.: $244
  • Scarsdale, N.Y.: $181
  • Beverly Hills, Calif.: $207
  • Multiply those benefits by the number of trees on a property, and the value and savings can climb.

    To calculate the dollar value of an individual tree, the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service in Indiana uses a formula that includes the tree’s size, cost, health, and position in a yard. By its calculations, a 15.75-inch silver maple in good health could be worth $2,562.

    Value of Neighboring Trees

  • Your trees can even add value to your neighbor’s property. A Portland, Ore., study found that trees with a sizable canopy growing within 100 feet of other houses added about $9,000 to their sale price and shaved two days off its time on the market.

    Of course, to add value, the trees must be healthy, mature but not elderly, native to the area (more on the importance of native plants later), and appropriate to the neighborhood.

    If you’re growing a forest and the rest of the neighborhood looks like a prairie, you’ll have a hard time recovering the trees’ value at sale. Conversely, if your neighbors manicure their lawns and yours is a jumble of weeds or worse, their great landscaping will make yours look even shabbier and hurt the value of your home, says Domenich Neglia of Neglia Appraisals in Brooklyn, N.Y.