Want to get
a big return on your home-improvement investment?
outside, not inside.
While studies show that you'll
only recoup 80 to 90 cents on every dollar you spend to upgrade your kitchen or
bath, professional landscape designers estimate that improvements to your lawn
and garden can boost your home's value by 7 percent to 15 percent. Those findings
have been confirmed by survey results from the Gallup Organization and the National
Gardening Association, or NGA.
and garden equity is all the rage these days as homeowners continue to invest
heavily in their property values. The NGA says U.S. homeowners spent a $36.8 billion
on their lawns and gardens in 2004, $11.4 billion of that on landscaping.
Dorcas Helfant, general managing partner of Coldwell Banker Professional
Realtors, in Virginia Beach, Va., and the first female president of the National
Association of Realtors, says her fellow baby boomers have a far different aesthetic
than their parents.
"Our parents were not as particular.
In the '50s, you had this era of bomb shelters and fear, and the homes we grew
up in had these high windows where you couldn't see in or out of them," she
says. "Today we don't live like that. We want broad, open expanses and windows
that look out on gardens and ponds. We're not willing to live as prisoners in
The boomers also are embracing the environmentalism
of their youth, according to Linda Engstrom, a landscape designer and owner of
in Portland, Ore.
"Some of the Chinese principles such
as feng shui are coming into play more. As designers, we encourage doing away
with your lawn in favor of more ecological plantings. Americans hate to give up
their lawns, but it really is something that is not earth-friendly at this point,"
Homeowners are finding, however, that creating interest
and harmony on the outside is far trickier than making upgrades to the inside.
The sheer variety of trees (evergreen and deciduous), flowering plants (annual
or perennial), and the walls, paths, benches, arbors and pergolas that landscapers
call "hardscape" can create a dizzying array of choices and potential
Yes, you can get some creative ideas from popular
HGTV shows such as "Curb Appeal" and "Landscaper's Challenge,"
but flash and dash from someone else's plan won't necessarily work to your home's
"There are a few people out there in the world
who have an intuitive sense of how things should be put together, and everyone
else doesn't," says Martin Maca, professor of landscape design at South Dakota
State University in Brookings. "If you barge ahead on your own, you can make
some horrendous mistakes and create some maintenance problems down the road that
could have been avoided if you'd hired a designer."
look at your home's landscaping with a designer's eye. There are trends out there
that may help you paint your garden masterpiece.
Wherever you live, proper landscaping can enhance both your
enjoyment of your home and its ultimate resale value. The first thing you probably
noticed about your home was its curb appeal. Even though your home's appearance
from the street is only part of creating the perfect outdoor environment, first
impressions are often lasting ones for buyers.