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Ask Eli: Landscaping For Resale and Current Trends

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m planning to sell my single family home in North Arlington this year and it seems that in my neighborhood, homes with great landscaping sell for top dollar. Our sale price justifies an investment in our lot, so I’m curious what the Arlington home-buyer demand from landscaping and if there are certain types of landscaping that offer the best Return on Investment.

Answer: Every spring I get a lot of landscaping questions and like to bring in my friend Jeff Minnich of Jeff Minnich Garden Designs to update Arlingtonians on what homeowners are doing in their yards and provide cost-effective tips for investing in your exterior for resale. If you’d like to continue the conversation with Jeff, you can reach him at [email protected] or 703-525-4540.

Enjoy Jeff’s expert response to this week’s question:

In Arlington, homeowners take great pride in their gardens. Our temperate climate is such that we can enjoy our gardens for the majority of the year. Over the last 15 years, there has been a trend toward extending the interior living space seamlessly into the outdoor living space–outdoor rooms, kitchens, fire pits, play areas, fencing, to name a few.  The desirability of a well-designed garden space is a solid investment, and attractive to potential Arlington homebuyers.

Most people involved in the landscape industry have seen a surge in business the last few years, as the economy recovers. This year is particularly busy.

There are really two kinds of investment in a home and garden: doing what will bring pleasure, enjoyment, and ease to day-to-day life in the home; and doing what might add value to the property, if resale is in the cards.

When preparing to sell a home in Arlington, it is important to remember that many buyers have the means and desire to put their own personal stamps on their new homes and gardens. Therefore, I always recommend concentrating on safety items, tidiness, and color.

Fix that uneven sidewalk or replace rotten wood on the deck. Fix gates. Replace the burnt out bulbs in your outdoor lighting system (lots of potential buyers drive by and have a look at night, too). Have the windows cleaned and check the exterior paint job, particularly the front door (yes, these items are part of the outdoor landscape, too). Power wash the house, sidewalks, patio, deck, driveway…make sure your hardscapes sparkle.

Weed, re-edge and mulch the planting beds. Remove old/dead shrubs and trim existing ones. Look up into your trees–does a tree or branch look dead or precarious? Have a tree professional look at it. Potential homebuyers do notice these things. Cut the grass and make sure your lawn is not full of blooming dandelions! This one item can be a big turn-off.

Finally, finish the job by adding some flowers to windowboxes, pots, and beds. Remember, you cannot take back that first impression–the outside of your home is the first thing potential buyers see before walking through the front door, and it can often make or break a sale.

Once new homeowners get settled on the inside, they start to ponder what to do in their new gardens.

The most common request from new homeowners is a master landscape plan, which is a great starting place so they can prioritize, then phase, the work they’d like to do, all within a broader vision.

Safety issues should be addressed quickly–items like unstable walks or decks, handrails; and the often boring, but absolutely necessary, issues like grading, drainage, and where to put trash cans.

Fencing is a relatively quick and easy project to prioritize early on, and fences can give instant privacy, keep children and pets in the yard, and define a space. Nice fencing is particularly attractive to potential buyers with these concerns.

Outdoor living spaces are the next most-desired items, and these often involve building. It’s always a good idea to start with hardscapes–patios, sidewalks, decks, porches, walls, outdoor kitchens, etc.–and end with softscapes–plants, lawns, lighting, irrigation–as construction is messy and, try as they might, workers can still damage plants and surrounding areas.

Privacy from fencing and thoughtful plantings can screen unsightly views and enclose outdoor spaces.

Those interested in safety might find low-voltage outdoor lighting desirable. Outdoor lighting opens up the garden for nighttime use, too, and can be used to highlight architecture, specimen plantings, or specific pieces within the landscape.

For those who often travel and have very busy schedules, an irrigation system is a must. It really takes the edge off watering duties, yet should never 100 percent replace a discriminating eye and hand-watering intervention when gardens get really hot and dry.

I often say my outdoor lighting gives me the nighttime and my irrigation system gives me freedom, so they are very valuable to me.

Beautiful plantings are the icing on the cake and tie everything together. Much of North Arlington is blessed with large shade trees — a big reason potential buyers consider North Arlington — and lush evergreen and deciduous underplantings help potential buyers imagine living in these outdoor spaces.

Without a doubt, garden projects that define and enclose personal outdoor spaces–things like fencing and nice gates, patios and seating areas, and beautiful plantings–are items that not only increase the day-to-day enjoyment of the homeowner, they greatly increase the value of the property, as well.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.  

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

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