Top Landscaping Projects to Increase the Value of Your Home

flowers landscaped along a fenceline

No matter what the real estate market is doing, you want to know which landscaping projects deliver the best return on investment, right? Whether you have thousands to spend or only a few hours of sweat equity, we’ve got a list of projects that will give you the most bang for your landscaping buck. 

1. Fertilize and weed the lawn

A dense, full lawn with few weeds is every lawn lover’s dream, but it takes work to get there.

According to a 2018 joint study by the National Association of Landscape Professionals and the National Association of Realtors, six treatments of fertilizer and weed control on a standard-sized lawn will recoup 267% of your initial outlay. That’s a good deal!

There is a caveat here: Before you hire a chem lawn company to make your lawn look full and lush, consider a green alternative. If you’re planning to sell your home at some point, a growing number of home buyers are turned off by excessive chemical use. Families with kids and pets or people who want to grow a garden may be turned off by a lawn that has had years of chemical treatments.

Don’t worry, there are DIY and chemical-free ways to make your lawn look full and thick, which will get you that top-dollar return on investment: 

  • Aeration: Homeowners who have heavy clay soils may do this as often as once per year. Other lawns may not need it as often. Think of aeration like a steam facial for your lawn. It’s a good maintenance practice that opens up the pores, allowing more sun, air, and water close to the roots. The result? Fuller, thicker grass.
  • Overseeding: Like aeration, overseeding may need to be done as often as once per year. Some grass will inevitably die each year due to heat stress, snow mold, disease, etc. After you aerate the lawn, grab a bag of grass seed and fertilizer to revive your lawn and fill in thin areas.

Estimated payoff: 267% of your initial outlay

2. Freshen existing landscaping

No matter how grand your landscaping looked when first planted, landscaping that is poorly maintained will lose value. Adding a few chores to your list might not sound fun, but you’ll be happy you did when your landscape’s value goes up. 

  • Add fresh mulch annually
  • Mow and edge the lawn
  • Refresh annuals
  • Add perennials
  • Trim shrubs

Estimated payoff: According to the joint 2018 study, you’ll recoup 100% of your costs.

3. Trim your trees

Want another 100% ROI in your lawn? Maintain your trees.

Just as with smaller landscape maintenance projects, tree maintenance is essential to keep your landscape value from declining.

Nearly half of the Realtors in the 2018 study say they recommend that sellers get standard tree care completed before they put their homes on the market. 

Estimated payoff: The good news is that keeping your trees regularly pruned, sprayed, fertilized, and removed, if necessary, gets you a 100% ROI.

4. Refresh mulch

If you’re short on cash or time, what makes the biggest impact on your curb appeal? Second only to a basic mow, weed, and fertilize is mulch. Mulch adds foundation-level color and defines your flower beds like nothing else. 

Estimated payoff: According to a 2019 Insights Report from HomeLight, adding mulch to your lawn will give you back 126% of your investment.

5. Hire a designer

If you’re looking to create a stylish landscape, go with a pro. One study from Virginia Tech calculated that a sophisticated design and larger plants offer the most increase in the perceived value of your home. 

Looking for a competitive edge in your neighborhood? The study also notes that a well-landscaped home may provide a competitive advantage if sellers are competing for buyers. In addition, in a neighborhood with similarly designed houses, your landscape may be the one thing that differentiates your home from the rest.

And think of it this way: What kind of value do you receive from knowing your property will have a coherent, beautiful design at the end instead of something you wish you could change? If you want to undertake a larger landscaping project, a professional is a must. Local designers know all of the landscaping tips that you’ll never think of as a novice, and they’ll get the job done right the first time. 

Estimated payoff: Although ROI may vary by project or locale, according to the Virginia Tech study, improving your landscape from “average” to “excellent” can yield up to a 12% increase in your home’s perceived value.

6. Know your buyer

Your real estate agent can provide expert advice in this area, but common sense will tell you who your home’s next buyer may be. With that information in mind, you can design landscape details that suit their needs.

  • Scenario 1: If your neighbors value professionally designed landscapes, your ROI may be higher if you choose to do so as well. If you live in an area where homeowners value simplicity and neatness over an artistic, well-designed lawn, a complex lawn design may not return as much monetary value to your wallet. 

Basic idea: Keep your lawn at the same level of care and sophistication as most other homes in the neighborhood to maximize your ROI.

  • Scenario 2: If you live in an area that is popular with retirees or empty nesters, keep this in mind as you design. For example, build walkways that are wide and smooth enough for walkers and wheelchairs. 

Basic idea: Bumpy cobblestones or pavers may not be the best choice if you know prospective buyers will likely be older.

  • Scenario 3: If your city has a top-rated school system, you may have young families flocking to your neighborhood. Use natural products or mechanical methods to control weeds and disease. These lawn care practices are more likely to appeal to families with kids and pets (who are likely already living in your neighborhood anyway).

Basic idea: Cultivate practices that create good relationships with your current neighbors and potential buyers.

7. Design to maximize efficiency

Our most valuable resources are our hours and dollars. If your landscape design is inviting and saves you time or money, you’ve hit the jackpot. Here are a few examples of how to maximize efficiency and beauty in your lawn:

Install an automatic sprinkler system

Automatic sprinkler systems today are time- and money-saving systems. They save time because you can program them to come on at set intervals. They save money by sensing when it rains and not over or underwatering. 

Not only do you get water savings, but it protects your investment in your lawn, helping it to have just enough water to be healthy without breaking the bank.

Estimated payoff: According to the 2018 joint study mentioned above, irrigation systems return 86% on your investment.

Plant trees to shade the house

Trees that offer shade can provide substantial energy savings and increase the value of your property. The catch? Get professional advice so you don’t plant trees that will:

  • Run into power lines
  • Ruin septic systems
  • Harm foundations, walkways, or driveways
  • Create too much maintenance in the fall
  • Not thrive in your area

If you get this right, you can substantially add to your property value. If you get it wrong, the opposite is true. Consult a professional to get the job done well and add long-term value to your property.

Estimated payoff: A tree planted along the west side of your house saves you 3% in energy costs after five years and nearly 12% after 15 years per the Arbor Day Foundation website.

Install native or low-water plants

Water is a huge issue for many West Coast homeowners. If you install native plants or low or no-water landscapes, this may be a major selling point for a new homeowner. (Turn-key landscape, anyone?) It’s also a money saver for you in the meantime. 

Estimated payoff: Since landscapes take up to 30% (or more) of a home’s water use, knock off 30% from your monthly water bill to calculate your savings.

8. Add value now (and later)

Of course, there is more to consider than ROI whether you’re planning to sell soon or want to stay put for a while. Consider what value you’ll get out of your landscaping now as well as what returns you may see in the future. 

Here are a few ways that landscape improvements add value now in addition to providing future ROI: 

  • Energy savings
  • Increased outdoor living space (patios, decks, etc.)
  • Enhance your home’s curb appeal
  • Use less water
  • Greater functionality at your home (ability to host family and friends with new outdoor areas, updated landscape lighting, outdoor kitchens, etc.)
  • Increased habitat for wildlife (by planting pollinator gardens, trees, additional plants)

To avoid making costly mistakes as you look to increase your home’s value, avoid these “Landscaping Features that Can Hurt the Value of Your Home.

If you don’t have a green cell in your body, let our lawn care professionals provide a 267% return on your investment with weed and fertilizer services. They also can maintain your lawn to get you the most return for your landscaping dollar.

Main Photo Credit: Matt Chen | Unsplash

Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.