Published by Kartik Subramaniam
With much of the Western United States experiencing extended droughts, some homeowners are turning to alternative landscaping methods to save resources.
Recently REALTOR® Magazine1 (pg 34-35) wrote about owners who are “rethinking the traditional American landscape” by moving toward yards that require less water and maintenance. The “desert landscaping” method, popular in much of the Southwest, is probably what comes to mind when picturing drought-resistant landscaping, but depending upon your locale there are other options to save water without compromising the aesthetics of a property.
Besides aesthetics, cost can be a deterrent when re-landscaping. It takes money to tear out a lawn, buy new plants, or truck in gravel. While these upfront costs are cause for legitimate concern, a move towards drought-resistant landscaping has the potential to save a homeowner money over time. The overall savings will depend on water prices in a given area, but expert estimates claim up to 75% less water is needed and maintenance bills could be lowered by 50% in Southern California when desert landscaping is implemented.
It would be wise to investigate rebate opportunities from your city or county water authority in your area to help offset the upfront cost. There are opportunities throughout the western United States for rebates for everything from removing grass lawns and installing more efficient watering and irrigation systems to more general rebates for conversion to a drought-tolerant landscape. With hundreds of dollars in rebates oftentimes available, the investment can be manageable.
Houses with great curb appeal are easier to sell and it is never too soon to plan ahead. While the traditional, perfectly green yard will likely never go out of style, trends in design can impact prices. Landscape economist John Harris states that good landscaping can add up to 28% to home value. A Clemson University study says that taking landscaping from good to excellent “in terms of design, condition, and placement” can add 6-7% to a home’s value.
These statistics show that execution and design are important. If you choose to move away from a more traditional landscape design, but do it poorly, you may miss out on the opportunity for increased value or worse – even see your property value lowered. Choose the right layout, plants, and accessories, from gravel to a suitable gate to the backyard or courtyard. Seek professional landscaping help or gather the opinions of those you trust about what works. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also publishes information on “hardiness zones” that help people understand which plants can survive in which conditions. Remember, if your landscaping is already good, making it “excellent” could add 6-7% in value.
Some owners resist the thought of a drought resistant yard because they fear that their children won’t be able to play as much. One option is to maintain a lawn in the backyard for room to play, while the landscaping for the rest of the property reflects alternative design. Some choose to pursue this goal with artificial turf in the place of a genuine grass. The distance to a good, safe park can also be a factor here. A nearby park can reduce the amount of green space you personally need and many newer developments are built with parks in the neighborhood.
So if you’re a homeowner, consider a more efficient yard. It might just improve your curb appeal and the value of your home while saving you money on water and maintenance. Whether you’re taking real estate classes in Los Angeles or preparing for the real estate exam in California, make sure you know how to talk to your clients about landscaping. It may not be your job to convince them that alternative landscaping design is right for them, but it is your job to make sure they understand the reasons behind these designs and the community resources that may make up for lost green space.