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Economical Effects of Landscaping on Property Values

by Bridget Kelly, studioD

Anything a homeowner does to the exterior of the home to improve its appearance has a positive impact on the home’s value, according to the experts with the Appraisal Institute. By spending $500 to $3,000 on plants and materials, plus a few hours of time, you can achieve a well-landscaped look without shelling out for professional help. Spiffing up your landscaping may add up to 11 percent to your home’s value, according to a Michigan State University study.

Design Sophistication

The Michigan State University study survey respondents ranked a landscape’s sophistication as most important when considering the perceived value of a home. While the sophistication of a landscape design is something that is hard to put into words for most consumers, like art, they know it when they see it. The study defines a sophisticated landscape as one that includes a balance of large deciduous trees, evergreen plants, annual color plants and colored hardscape. The latter includes all non-plant features, such as decorative brick, pavers and gravel. The study found that a home valued at $150,000 with only a lawn can gain $8,250 to $19,050 more in value with an upgraded sophisticated landscape.

Bigger is Better

As in most things related to real estate, location plays a large role in what types of landscaping are perceived to be more valuable than others. In some areas of the country large trees are more important than the overall sophistication of the landscape design. Researchers think that this preference is limited to areas where trees take longer to grow, such as Michigan, so large trees are more in demand than small trees. Other studies, such as one conducted by the Arbor Day Foundation, claim that trees on the property may add up to 15 percent additional value to a home. As an added bonus, a young healthy tree offers the cooling equivalent of 10 room-size air conditioners running 20 hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Diversity of Plants

It’s not enough to plant some big trees; the diversity of plant life in the landscape is also important. For the most bang from your landscaping buck, consider following the Michigan State University study findings by planting annual color plants and adding colored hardscape to the yard. Annual plants are those that complete their lives in one season. They can be planted anywhere, but look especially striking in beds, borders and containers. Typically planted in the spring and summer, some annuals to consider include vinca (Vinca spp.), zinnia (Zinnia spp.) and sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus).


Minimalist landscape schemes that contain only small plants actually detract from a home’s value, according to the Michigan study. If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford an entire landscape makeover, consider adding at least one of the more important aspects of a sophisticated landscape design. Since plant size is second in value to sophisticated design, consider adding at least one tall tree and sprinkling the landscape with splashes of annual color. The Arbor Day Foundation offers a handy calculator on its website that allows users to choose a type and size of tree to determine how much value it will add to the home.

About the Author

Based in the American Southwest, Bridget Kelly has been writing about gardening and real estate since 2005. Her articles have appeared at Trulia.com, SFGate.com, GardenGuides.com, RE/MAX.com, MarketLeader.com, RealEstate.com, USAToday.com and in "Chicago Agent" magazine, to name a few. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing.

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