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Curb appeal: In the business of home ownership, a little landscaping can go a long way

Curb appeal: In the business of home ownership, a little landscaping can go a long way


Brenda McMillan, Special to National Post 

If you have ever bought or sold a home, you are probably well aware that curb appeal ­— that wow factor that makes your heart beat faster when you espy a home — is vital. But did you know that beyond creating desire, excellent front landscaping actually increases your home’s value? Yup, those blooming hydrangeas, the spiffy front door and the snazzy stone walkway you invest in can produce a solid return on your money. Carson Arthur, landscape designer and TV show maven, is the source of this wisdom, and he has solid advice about where and how to make money when you update your home’s outdoor living space.

According to Mr. Arthur, there are three main ways to improve your outdoor experience and in doing so, add value to your home: curb appeal, decking and hardscaping. You’ll notice there is no mention of creating large perennial gardens, adding a pool or creating a water feature. There are reasons.

For one thing, and this might be shocking to many, he says that enjoyable outdoor living does not include gardening. While some of us love weeding, deadheading and watering, most want no part of that, so to them, a large perennial garden is considered an issue not an asset. That said, flowers, trees and shrubs do increase property value if they make your home more appealing, so choose a landscape design that is impressive, attractive and, very important, easy to maintain.

Curb appeal is the No. 1 place to invest, according to Mr. Arthur, as excellent landscaping will up the house’s value by 7%, or $42,000 on a $600,000 house. Some money-making ideas include a stone walkway to your front door, with a matching stone driveway, and attractive plantings (but they shouldn’t be too full as they may seem high-maintenance to a non-gardener). Also, install a gorgeous front door. An appropriately placed bench in your front yard will earn you $1,000, as will a tree. Pass GO by putting the bench under the tree!

Pools, as you’ve probably heard, do not add value to a home, but they don’t detract either. If you spend $60,000 on a pool, you will likely recover 20% to 50% of that money if you sell before the pool ages (according to Mr. Arthur, pools have a 10-year life span). Again, low maintenance is key, so don’t surround your pool with a garden that will make potential buyers think they’ll be spending time with a trowel instead of a towel.


Add a water feature if you love a gurgle and splash, but don’t expect it to make money for you. Ponds, waterfalls and streams do not provide a return on investment, unless you count personal satisfaction. Where they come closer is if the sound of water helps to mask traffic noise.

Hardscaping is the use of natural stone or concrete stones or similar to define spaces and pathways, usually patios for living and dining. Patios enjoy a return of 12% and last 35 years or more. Larger is better, he says, now that we are fully furnishing our patios as outdoor living and/or dining rooms.

Decks are also a great investment as low-to-no-maintenance options look great for 20 to 25 years and see a return of 10% to 15%, depending on the design and materials chosen. Again, go large to accommodate that sectional sofa you are eyeing. For backyard shade, consider an awning, pergola or tree — they add $2,000 to $3,000 each.

Front yards, decks and patios are all excellent investments. The caveat is that they need to be well designed

Front yards, decks and patios are all excellent investments. The caveat is that they need to be well designed, well executed and, like gardens, low maintenance. That is why a professional such as a landscape architect or landscape designer should be called in.

When it comes to design, there are many considerations. Property usage is the big one, as you need to determine how you want to enjoy your outdoor space, and how much you are willing to invest. A professional will design according to environmental factors such as light, shade and wind, and plan such structures as a pergola, garage, garden shed, deck, patio, gazebo, fence and retaining wall, as well as gardens, trees, ponds and pools. He or she can dispense advice about low maintenance decking composites; insect-repelling, natural or other wood products; concrete or natural stone; trees for shade and privacy; and appropriate flower and shrub choices. For our summers, a drainage plan is as vital as a watering scheme. Some landscape architecture firms offer turn-key services from design through installation, so you don’t even have to get your hands dirty.

Using a landscape architect (find one via is wise, even if you are not doing a total makeover but want to add a deck or patio, as they know bylaws and can advise about safety, standards and stability so that you invest wisely. That way, your deck has the support it needs, your retaining wall retains and your driveway of pavers does not sink under your tires over the winter. And the city is happy because your fence has a permit and is the right height. Beyond that, your property will look terrific and give you the outdoor living space you crave — and the ROI you expect.

Fall is an excellent time for landscaping, as soil is at its warmest to welcome new plants. And there is also the investment lure as professional landscaping adds more value than a kitchen or bathroom renovation and provides a recovery rate of 100% to 200%. Quick, grab a shovel and make a few bucks before the snow flies.

Originally published : National Post


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