Planting the seeds of investment

HGTV’s Carson Arthur shares insight on preparing a home’s outdoor spaces for today’s home market

To landscape or not to landscape, that is the question.

Eastern Canada has developed into a prime sellers’ market in 2012 and will continue to climb in anticipation of the new jobs and industry being created by the multibillion-dollar shipbuilding contract. Nova Scotians living outside the province are moving home and real estate is becoming a hot commodity.

But in a sellers’ market, homeowners looking to sell need to take a close look at the value of their property. HGTV’s landscaping host Carson Arthur encourages homeowners to make every effort to maximize selling power and optimize return on investment by ensuring the home looks cared for inside and out.

In a statistic released by TD Canada Trust, landscaping proved to be the top area for improving your home’s value. In a ho- meowner survey, TD Canada Trust showed that landscaping could actually get an ROI of almost $1.00 for each $1.00 spent.

“Landscaping ROI ranks higher than bathrooms and kitchens,” says Arthur.

“Traditionally, we’ve focused on bathrooms and kitchens as being the best investment for renovation, but we can no longer overlook curb appeal and investing in our outdoor spaces.”

Century 21 confirmed the importance of landscaping when selling a home, stating that plants, trees and hedges have an average ROI of three to four percent, but the biggest investments are actually curb appeal, driveways, front walkways and patios – which can generate a ROI of seven to twelve percent.

The question is no longer to landscape or not to landscape. It becomes front yard or backyard, patio or deck, hedge or garden.

Assessing the economic landscape

For sellers lucky and a backyard, to renovate can ponentially. The homeowner must consider time of year, which space needs the most TLC, size of the spaces and budget in order to determine which renovation will most benefit the home’s overall resale value.

The front yard is the only chance at a good first impression and sets the tone for the potential buyer. On the other hand, the backyard acts as an extension of the home’s living space and can be a truly attractive selling feature.

“The front yard is your home’s calling card,” says Arthur. “Similar to baking bread before an open house, there are inexpen- sive tips of the trade that can increase the first impression factor and make the buyer smile at the idea of buying your home even before stepping foot inside.”

An easy way for sellers to add an instant touch of warmth to the front yard is through the use of a bench. Whether it is a practical bench or a decorative bench, Arthur says it makes the home inviting and comfortable. Creating a welcoming environ- ment is the ultimate goal of the hom- eowner selling a home, but it’s important to remember that many of these renovations can be done well before reaching the time to sell – giving the family a chance to enjoy the spaces, not just the ROI.

“Aesthetic changes are like subliminal welcome message that help sell a home and not just a house,” says Arthur. “Likewise, if you cut the grass, trim your hedges, edge your beds and maintain your driveway and walkway, it speaks volumes to the buyer and shows the home is well cared for. And that’s what buyers ultimately want to see when they drive up for the first time.”

Having a well-maintained front yard not only increases the selling power of your home, it makes coming home a pleasant experience for the whole family. Even if the front yard is not a space where the family will be spending time, having a beautiful and tidy space will help de-stress after a long work day and act as a privacy buffer between your house and the neighbourhood.

A trend Arthur is always enforcing is the use of less grass in yards due to the high level of maintenance and water required in upkeep. But more importantly, the domi- nating front yard trend of 2012 is making the distinction between what is public and what is private.

“We used to let the big green lawn do the talking and define our space, but we found that what works better is if people add detail to the edge of their space to create a separation,” says Arthur. “Through the use of hedging, nice landscaping around the edge or the white picket fence idea, it makes the bold statement that ‘this is my home’.”

If you’ve been successful in getting the potential buyer into your home, you’ve fought half the battle. Now getting the most ROI from a backyard renovation may also help close the deal if the buyer can see your backyard as a practical and beautiful space they can enjoy with their family for years to come.

Arthur notes the important of treating the backyard as an extension of living space

where you entertain friends, relax on a sunny day and let the kids play with the dog. Any renovation to the backyard must make the buyer feel like they are getting more value for their money.

In the research done by Century 21, a well built, good-sized patio can increase the home’s value by 12 percent – and can be accomplished for much less than the cost of a full bathroom or kitchen renovation.

“I’m a huge fan of patios from a privacy standpoint, as they are usually built on the ground versus a deck which by nature tends to be elevated,” says Arthur.

Privacy is a great selling feature and can drastically change the mood and use of a space. Finding balance in creating privacy versus restricting the space will affect the overall ROI of the outdoor renovation, be it front or back. But with proper planning and expert advice, privacy in the backyard and front yard can be achieved without creating a sense of confinement. Outdoor spaces are meant to be liberating, relaxing and enjoyable – yet too often do yards become the dreaded weekend chore or decrepit space for storing tools and rusting patio furniture.

Easy to enjoy and easy to maintain

The purchase of a home is the single biggest investment for most individuals, and the last thing any buyer wants is to purchase a home that requires lots of fixes or continued maintenance.

“Grass is high maintenance, so many homeowners are investing in stone, wood and now composite products,” says Arthur. “If the homeowner is willing to make a little more of an investment for a lifestyle of less maintenance and durability, composite decking material is a great option.”

Composite decking is typically composed of reclaimed or recycled wood and plastics, making it ideal for the environmentally friendly consumer and also requires minimal maintenance. Composite decking brands such as Trex, TimberTech and Azek have been in the market for some time and are available at building supply stores in Nova Scotia or through local decking and patio companies.

In addition to choosing environmentally friendly and easy-to-maintain materials and products, homeowners have a plethora of advanced tools for outdoor maintenance that make having a beautiful front and backyard a year-round possibility.

Powerful outdoor tools, such as Black & Decker’s new lineup using Lithium Ion Battery technology, are lighter, stay charged longer and don’t release any harmful emis- sions into the atmosphere.

“Battery-operated outdoor products give you the confidence of knowing you are making your life easier, able to do the job better and at the same time, you are making an environmentally sound decision,” says Arthur, who’s landscaping philosophy is grounded in his stewardship to the environment.

Homeowners are seeing instant ROI in lifestyle, time and money when it comes to investing in advanced power tools and out- door technology. Less time working means more time enjoying the true investment at hand. This, combined with doing your part for a healthier environment, makes it that much better.

When the time is right

Typically, homeowners decide to renovate immediately after purchasing an existing home or when getting ready to sell the home they are living in. When it comes to outdoor living, with the proper maintenance and the proper tools, a well planned renovation or makeover can withstand the test of time and give the family time to enjoy the space before selling. Whether you renovate early and enjoy

the fruits of your labour before selling and capitalizing on the investment, or you renovate strictly to raise the value of the house prior to selling – remember that outdoor spaces today are much more than just green lawns and driveways.

Outdoor spaces speak to buyers about the seller’s family, lifestyle and home – and can be the tipping point between sale and no sale.

“The thing that will set your home apart from everyone else’s is the fact that you’ve paid attention to it,” says Arthur. “That care and detail is what will stand out in a buyer’s mind – be it subconsciously or knowingly.”




Mari Suyama

Mari Suyama

With a degree in Journalism and Spanish from the University of King’s College, Mari has turned her passion for writing, languages and travel into a career she loves. Diving into the world of freelance after university, she moved to Latin America

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