Great gardens add pleasure plus value
Originally appeared in Hills Publications, April 25, 2008 and ANG Newspapers, March 30, 2008
“Confronted with the vision of a beautiful garden, we see something beautiful about ourselves.”
— Jeff Cox
Regardless of market conditions, a landscaped garden can help a property sell faster and for more money. All other elements being equal, homes with beautiful outdoor living are considered more valuable.
Such an area is not necessarily a function of size, layout or any particular type of landscaping. The joy is in experiencing the love of those who have created and maintained the garden.
It can be roses or rocks, wisteria or waterfalls, cacti or calla Lilly; the variety of gardens parallels the diversity of people. When you see it, you react because it touches you.
Our temperate, Mediterranean climate is one reason so many people flock to the Bay area. A home that incorporates indoor/outdoor living takes advantage of this unique asset. The ability to look out at a lovely garden through good-sized windows and/or glass doors increases the perceived spaciousness of the house. This is also true for a well located deck. For most buyers, however, decks alone are not as prized as a backyard.
Access is important
Easy access, preferably level-out through French doors or sliders from a kitchen, family room or bedroom, is key to enjoyment and marketability. A large garden several levels below the main living area, even if attractively landscaped, is not as coveted as a smaller, but usable one with convenient entrée. In fact, families with small children tend to quickly dismiss this type of layout.
An appealing front patch adds to the desirability of the property. A pretty garden at street level will draw positive attention.
Some years ago, I re-landscaped our south-facing front yard into a cactus garden. Now that it is well established, it needs only periodic pruning and weeding. Neighbors, out for a stroll, often tell me they enjoy our garden and how they make it a landmark in their walks.
Even the sweetest gardens are not as special if there are houses or, especially, an apartment building or condo towering overhead. Privacy adds to the feel of the outdoor space and it can sometimes be created by planting trees, hedges or bamboo as a screen. Remember, however, that blocking a neighbor’s Bay view or light could cause a problem.
Low maintenance vs. high maintenance
A terrific backyard does not necessarily mean many hours a week for maintenance. You might decide on a Zen-like, contemplative garden with rock, sand, bamboo and ferns.
In our area, where we are subject to cyclical droughts, an automated drip irrigation system helps in both conservation and upkeep. Planting drought-tolerant, native plants lessens the time you have to spend maintaining your property. Together, they can end up being a selling point.
The ultimate in low maintenance is the paved yard, whether brick, tile, stone or stamped concrete. These areas can be transformed with the use of various types of planters and fountains. The possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination.
Level, upslope, down slope
Level lots are preferable. A severe up or down slope lot may be inaccessible for planting and has limited uses. Gentle or moderately sloped lots have the potential for good gardening and outdoor use.
The amount of sunlight and its orientation is a critical piece of information for home buying in general and gardening in particular. A dark house is not only less enjoyable, it is less valuable. A backyard surrounded and shaded by tall trees might be a great place if what you want is a woodland garden with ferns, but it may attract fewer buyers at resale time. Pay close attention to this detail before purchasing.
Families with young children prefer a backyard with level grass. Homes on sloping lots tend to be less of a draw for these buyers. Keep in mind, however, that buyers have a price limit and the property with the perfect yard may be out of that range. The same buyer, nevertheless, may choose your home with the nicely landscaped upslope lot because the ones with level lots and attractive gardens are beyond his budget.
Don’t wait until you sell
Many sellers are willing to pay substantial sums for a landscaper to spiff up the property right before they sell. Why not start enjoying your garden now?
One of the happy aspects of home ownership is to watch your garden grow. Instead of waiting until you sell, you could be gazing out on an herb garden or enjoying a harvest from your “veggie patch.” Growing flowers can lift your spirit and their cuttings adorn your home.
A wonderful garden is not only good for selling, it is great for the soul. Spending time in your own little paradise is one of life’s treasures.