Forget the splashy in-ground pools, the brand-new deck, and those impressive fire features. The landscaping that can fetch the highest return on investment might cost homeowners only an afternoon of work.
It’s all about curb appeal. Homeowners who invest in standard lawn care service—which can be as simple as seeding and mowing their lawn to keep it green and healthy—generally see a 217% ROI, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors® and the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Those who would rather not lug the lawnmower out to tackle their grass generally pay about $415 for lawn maintenance.
A home’s exterior and front yard are “the first thing that many homebuyers see as they drive up,” says NAR’s Vice President of Research Jessica Lautz. “It does impact whether a buyer is willing to step inside.”
Having a beautifully landscaped property not only helps with a home’s resale value, but it also often keeps the neighbors happy. Homeowners who neglect their yards might face peer pressure to keep their properties tidy so as not to drag down local home values.
The report, which looked at 11 common outdoor improvements, is based on four surveys. One targeted consumers on their most recent remodeling projects, two were sent to real estate agents who completed remodeling work or worked with clients who did, and one was for landscaping professionals.
“There’s a lot of reasons why someone might want to improve their outdoor space. It could be curb appeal to attract a homebuyer. It could be because they are tired of looking at their space and want a change,” says Lautz. “Or it could be they plan to spend more time outdoors so they want someplace they can maximize their relaxation and enjoyment.”
Landscape maintenance, such as keeping the shrubs trimmed and the flowers blooming, netted home sellers about a 104% ROI, while upgrading their overall landscaping got them about a 100% ROI.
Meanwhile, homeowners who installed the pool of their dreams generally got back only 56% of what they paid for it when they sell. Fire features and landscape lighting also didn’t result in a big payoff, at 56% and 59% ROIs respectively
Nearly all real estate agents espoused the importance of curb appeal when selling a home as it’s generally the first impression a buyer has of a property. Their top outdoor recommendations were that sellers spruce up their landscape maintenance, lawn care services, and tree care before listing their homes.
“Healthy outdoor living and green spaces help the environment, increase home values, make communities more desirable, and improve people’s mental and physical health,” National Association of Landscape Professionals CEO Britt Wood said in a statement.
Homeowners might not see as large of a return as they would like for installing an in-ground pool, a project that typically costs about $90,000. But it was the outdoor improvement that made them the happiest—especially as the mercury rises.
“If they love swimming or their family loves the pool, they’re going to live there over the summer,” says Lautz.
Other projects that sparked joy in homeowners included landscape lighting, costing around $6,800, and a new patio, at around $10,500.
The work that brought homeowners the least enjoyment were outdoor kitchens, which cost about $15,000; tree care, at about $2,875; and irrigation systems, at $6,000.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor space was valuable to homeowners who invested heavily in turning them into outside extensions of their homes.
About 92% of landscaping professionals saw increased demand for outdoor features, and 79% reported the scope of these projects increased.
“Everyone is spending more time outside than they were three years ago,” says Lautz. “That’s translated into people not only looking at the inside of their home to remodel but also looking at the outdoors of their home to upgrade as well.”
Clare Trapasso is the executive news editor of Realtor.com where she writes and edits news and data stories. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication, the New York Daily News, and the Associated Press. She also taught journalism courses at several New York City colleges. Email email@example.com or follow @claretrap on Twitter.
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