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Landscaping’s Effect On Home Values Varies, UF Study Shows

Chris Eversole

Bob Degner, (352) 392-1871

GAINESVILLE — Redoing your landscape? Better do it for your own pleasure because you can’t count on how much your investment will pay off.

That’s the conclusion of a University of Florida researcher who conducted the first-ever scientific study of the value of upgrading landscaping around single-family homes. Variables such as lot size, plant type, plant spacing and overall design all played roles in how much money homeowners could expect to get back come resale time.

“More than anything, homeowners should landscape their homes for their own enjoyment,” said Bob Degner, director of the Florida Agricultural Market Research Center at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “You might come close to doubling your money when you sell, or you might recover only a fraction of your investment, but the investment payoff shouldn’t be your primary motivation.”

One thing that did seem fairly certain, according to the study: Freshening up your yard makes homes sell faster — 15 days faster in one case.

“Getting a $100,000 home off the market two weeks faster is important,”Degner said. “Even at today’s relatively low interest rates, it could save $300 or so in interest as well as reduce the seller’s anxiety level.”

Degner began his study with an “ugly yard” contest in the Orlando Sentinel. More than 300 homeowners sent pictures of their property to the newspaper, and members of the Action Chapter of the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association narrowed the homes down to 10 finalists in the $80,000 to $125,000 price range.

Association members visited the finalists to select four homes that received the new landscaping. Homeowners agreed to pay for the cost of materials, and members of the association donated their labor and expertise.

When the landscaping was completed, Degner enlisted the help of 104 real estate agents to estimate selling prices of the four homes based on photographs taken before and after the make-overs. The photos were mixed in with those of 27 other homes.

The best result was a 76 percent estimated “profit” for the homeowner — an $8,400 increased selling price after a $4,700 landscaping project. In the worst case, the estimated value rose only $1,100 after a $5,000 landscaping job. “The property owners would have recaptured only 21 percent of the landscaping’s value,” Degner said.

The other two homes fell between the two extremes. One landscaping job would have brought the homeowners a $1,700 profit, and the other one fell $1,400 short of covering its cost.

“The property that benefited the most from new landscaping was on a small fifth-acre lot, which allowed for a more intensive use of large plants and incorporated lots of color, all of which made a dramatic visual impact from the street,” Degner said. “The yard was desolate before the landscaping but was charming afterward.”

The owner of the home, Keith Thomas, said he gets many comments about the change in the home’s appearance. “People say it’s like a set of new neighbors moved in,” he said.

The home that gained the least value was on a third-acre lot — 77 percent bigger than the first lot. “Although the design was excellent, the plants were somewhat smaller than those used in the first property,” Degner said. “In several years, they would have grown out and made much more of an impact.

“If you want to sell quickly, add a lot of color into the entire yard. If you’re looking at the long-term payoff, emphasize trees and shrubs that will get larger over the years but be sure not to create an overgrown look.”

The study also estimated how long each property would take to sell and found that three of the four would have sold faster after the landscaping. The re-landscaping made little difference in the fourth property.

The home that saw the biggest improvement in selling time was the one that also had the biggest gain in value due to the landscaping. It would have sold in 107 days after the landscaping, a 15-day improvement, Degner concluded.

Finally, Degner found that starting with a good plan is one of the most important things to remember in landscaping. Landscape architects designed all the new installations in the UF study.

“Having a good design is a key to making a new landscape work,” Degner said. “You can buy your own plants relatively inexpensively and install them yourself if you want to save money, but you should invest in a good landscape design.”