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Landscaping That Can Hurt Home Value

Photo of traditional home on slope with haphazard landscaping including seasonal flowers, gravel areas, table with chairs, game net, unmowed grass,  and unsophisticated design.
Example of landscaping that can hurt home value.

June 6th is National Gardening Exercise Day - a day to celebrate improving your health and landscaping.

But not all landscaping will help improve the value of your home. In fact, some landscaping

"improvements" can make selling your home for the asking price more difficult. Here are some landscaping un-improvements to avoid.

Unkempt Lawns and Plantings

Overgrown shrubs, lawns, and trees can hurt your home's value as "curb appeal" is dampened, and potential home buyers will think you have to work hard to maintain this garden. If you have a lawn, it is always better to keep it well trimmed so the grasses and weeds cannot go to seed and intrude into driveway and sidewalk grooves as well as mulched areas and your neighbor's yards.

Speaking of mulch, weedy mulched areas are a turn-off to home buyers, so make sure you replenish mulch as needed. Garden experts recommend 3" of mulch (kept 3" away from plant trunks to prevent damage) to help keep weeds at bay.

Before you plant any shrubs and understory trees, make sure you carefully consider their mature sizes. You don't want to plant a bush that will grow 6-10 feet when mature at your home's foundation, for example.

High Maintenance Landscaping

If you live in a neighborhood where lawn services are ubiquitous, then you probably don't have to worry about ivy esplanades on walls or topiaries in the landscape. For many homebuyers, however, the idea that a lot of pruning, mowing, deadheading, and weeding will be required, may cause them hesitation when considering your home.

Low-maintenance plantings and the right plants in the right place that won't need pruning to keep in bounds are good ways to make your landscape look more appealing to homebuyers.

Wood Mulch Next to Foundations

Termites and other insects love it when you place your mulch right next to your home's foundation, as it gives a nice place to set up home with easy access to your house. If you need to use mulch next to your foundation, rock or pine tags are recommended as they don't attract termites as wood mulch does, and they offer better drainage to prevent moisture retention which bugs love.

Steeply Sloping Yards

Erosion and safety are the main concerns with a steeply sloping yard. Building a retaining wall to mitigate some of the slope is an effective solution and will enhance your home's value.

Too Many Big Trees

Homebuyers who like big trees will still not want to see them too close to a house or on a slope that leans towards the home. If you like more trees than less, understory trees such as dogwoods, red buds, and cryptomeria can provide that woodsy feeling without the issues that come with larger trees, such as raking leaves, falling branches, too much shade, and foundation/sewer line issues (think roots).

Disjointed Design

You can often tell when a home's landscaping has been done by an amateur versus a trained professional. Lollipop bushes scattered about, curved beds that just don't seem right to the eye, or even 20 different shades and types of azaleas in one area.

If you realize your yard doesn't look as if it belongs in your neighborhood, it may be time to hire a professional to come give you suggestions on how to improve your garden's design. Not much can turn off a potential homebuyer like seeing a yard that needs to be overhauled.

Decks and Patios That Have Seen Better Days

Weeds poking through cracks in patios or sidewalks, as well as rotting deck boards, are a big turn-off to home buyers. They signal a home that may not have been well maintained.

It is better to take down a rotting deck and put in steps than to keep it up - if only for safety's sake. Consider fixing cracked patios or removing and replacing yours with permeable pavers (which help with drainage).

Koi Ponds and Large Water Features

If you've ever had a Koi pond, you probably know why this is not appealing to all homebuyers. They require a fair amount of maintenance that can be slimy and stinky work. Depending on their size, they are also a hazard to small pets. Small above-ground fountains that can mask road noise or provide a zen-like environment are a better option.

Lawn Ornament Overload

You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to lawn ornaments. A well-placed birdbath or gazing ball can add depth and interest to a garden, but a gazing ball in a birdbath probably won't. Be judicious in your selection and placement of lawn decor. You want it to enhance the landscape, not dominate it.

One Season Planting Focus

Spring is your favorite time of year, so you have planted lots of tulips, daffodils, narcissus, and azaleas to welcome back warm weather. However, once these blooms have been spent, your yard looks a little like a wasteland.

Make sure you plant to have 3 season interest, not just one. Spring bulbs can be followed by hostas, while dwarf nandinas will have nice color for the late summer and autumn months. Homes planted only for one season will shine during that season, but if on the market may not sell in that season, which can impact curb appeal.

Poor Outdoor Lighting

Savvy homebuyers want to know a home is well-lit at night, as safety and protection are top concerns. If you do not have adequate lighting, it could hurt the market value of your home. Even solar lighting can be an attractive addition for homebuyers. Don't overdo it, however, as you don't want your home to look like an amusement park. Place lighting with safety in mind, like at the start of walkways and any corners that may need navigation.

Poor Drainage

Standing water, downspouts that have to be diverted far away from your home, and marked areas of water run-off from storms are unappealing to homebuyers. If you have these issues, consult with an expert on how to remedy these situations. Even if you aren't selling your house, you should address water issues sooner rather than later as they cause more home damage than most other causes combined.

A 2022 study by the Virginia Cooperative Extension on how landscaping affects home value provides deeper insight into what you can do to improve your curb appeal and increase your home's value. You can read more about it here.


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