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11 Outdoor Projects to Thrill Homeowners


The regular maintenance services that landscapers provide their clients are the most likely to help those clients sell their homes, according to a joint report by the National Association of Landscape Professionals and the National Association of Realtors.

The 2018 Remodeling Impact: Outdoor Features report, published in May, is based on data from three different surveys: one conducted by NALP of over 450 member companies; one conducted by NAR of nearly 7,000 Realtors; and one conducted by of over 4,000 consumers.

NALP asked its landscaper members to estimate what it would cost to complete a series of landscaping projects, assuming a residential property of 2,466 square feet and using standard materials.

HouseLogic is a consumer site owned by NAR. It surveyed consumers to find out how happy or satisfied they were with their most recent outdoor project and calculated a Joy Score to rank the most satisfying projects to consumers.

The NALP and HouseLogic surveys were conducted in March and April. In May, NAR surveyed its Realtor members about the value of different outdoor projects and the potential they had to help close a sale.

The report found that consumers were more satisfied with flashier, big-ticket projects, but the higher price tag on those jobs made it harder for them to make back what they spent. Furthermore, the most emotionally valuable outdoor projects to consumers were less likely to close a home sale.

However, as much as landscaper professionals should be aware of the impact their work has on clients’ resale potential, it’s just as important to make sure their customers are happy while they’re actually living with the project.

Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NALP, noted in a statement that landscapers have no shortage of opportunities to please their clients.

“This report validates that landscaping is an investment worth making, offering the immediate benefits of increased enjoyment of your property, as well as desirable long-term value that holds if or when it comes time to sell,” she said.

Here are the top outdoor projects by consumers’ Joy Score.

lawn care fertilizer

Standard lawn care service

Joy Score: 9

Standard lawn care, including fertilizer and weed management, was the least expensive landscaping service, according to the report, but provided a huge return for homeowners. NALP respondents estimated that providing lawn care on a 2,835 square-foot lawn, including six applications of fertilizer and weed control, cost an average $375. Realtors who responded said that homeowners recovered an estimated $2,000 on their investment.

Realtors were comfortable recommending lawn care services to clients who are trying to sell their homes; 55% of Realtors said they suggest sellers hire a professional before trying to sell their home, and 7% said it helped close a deal.

Beyond the financial incentives, homeowners reported being very satisfied with lawn care services. Sixty-eight percent of homeowners said they had a greater desire to be home when their lawns were well cared for, and 49% said they enjoy their time at home more.

© Neil Letson |

Tree care

Joy Score: 9.2

The cost of regular tree care, according to professionals, is $2,000. That includes fertilizer, regular spraying and pruning, and the removal of one 30-foot tree. Realtors who responded to the survey estimate that homeowners make all of that back when they sell their home.

However, few Realtors said that it helped them close a sale (3%), although 46% recommended that a seller hire a tree care professional.

Nearly 70% of homeowners said they had a greater desire to be at home, and half said the project made them happier to be home. Their top reason they gave for hiring a professional was because it was time for a change.

Landscape maintenance

Joy Score: 9.5

Although more expensive than standard lawn care or tree care (landscapers estimated mulching, mowing, pruning and planting 60 new plants would cost $3,000), Realtors estimate that homeowners get back as much as they spend on landscape maintenance.

Realtors are even more likely to recommend their clients hire a landscaper maintenance provider than a lawn care service, with 74% of respondents saying they’ve suggested sellers hire a professional before selling their home. Seventeen percent said professional landscaping helped them close a sale on a home, more than any other outdoor project by a wide margin.

As for consumers, 75% said they had a greater desire to be home, and 59% said they’re happier at home after completing a landscape maintenance project.

Outdoor lighting design
© Mead Noss

Tie: Landscape upgrade and lighting installation

Joy Score: 9.6

In spite of only making back about 83% of their investment on a landscape upgrade, consumers reported being more satisfied with such a project than with regular landscape maintenance. Eighty-five percent said they had a greater desire to be home, and 78% said they’re happier at home following a big landscape project.

There are likely some personal reasons for that: 28% of consumers said their top reason for an overhaul was that they just moved in and wanted to create a more personalized space.

Still, Realtors recognize the value in updating a home’s landscaping. The report found 27% have recommended their sellers complete an upgrade before selling the home, and 11% said it successfully closed a deal for them.

Realtors were less confident about lighting projects. Only 1% said a lighting installation recently sealed the deal for them, although 11% have recommended it to a seller. Realtors estimate that homeowners make back just half of their investment in a lighting project.

Clients still see the value in lighting, though. Seventy-three percent said they had a greater desire to be home following a new lighting installation, and 60% said they enjoyed their time at home more.

Tie: Statement landscape and new patio

Joy Score: 9.7

As the projects get bigger, consumers reported being more satisfied, but Realtors said those projects don’t always pay off.

Just 13% of Realtors have recommended that sellers add a “statement landscape” feature, which the survey described as any unique outdoor feature, like a serenity garden, an area to do yoga or a bocce ball court. Only 3% of Realtors said such a feature helped them close a sale.

Those statement features may turn away potential buyers who want their homes to reflect their own personalities, as 16% of consumers who recently added a statement landscape feature said they did so because they just moved in and wanted to customize their space to their tastes.

Realtors were also doubtful about the value of a new patio. Only 4% said they’ve recommended a seller add a new patio, and 2% said it helped them close a deal.

But, like the statement landscaping features, clients reported being very satisfied with these kinds of projects. Eighty-four percent said they had a greater desire to be home since getting their new patio installed, and 83% said they’re happier as a result.

Tie: Water features and new wood deck

Joy Score: 9.8

Consumers rated water features and new wood decks roughly equal. In addition to being tied on the Joy Score, the consumers who said they had a greater desire to be home after their respective projects were completed were almost equal: 83% of consumers with a new water feature, compared to 81% of those with a new deck. Seventy-nine percent of those with a new water feature and 74% with a new deck said they enjoyed being at home more.

The report did not include data on project costs or value estimates on water features, so it’s harder to compare the ROI between the two projects. The report did find that homeowners can recoup about 80% of the cost of a new deck. The NALP survey found professionals estimate a 14-foot by 18-foot attached cedar deck finished with a clear sealer would cost around $10,000.

Realtors estimated homeowners could recover around $8,000, and while 9% recommended that a seller take on the project, just 4% said it recently closed a sale for them.


© Ala2017bn | Dreamstime

Tie: Fire features and irrigation installation

Joy Score: 10

The report found consumers were highly satisfied with new fire features and irrigation systems. The top reason consumers gave for both projects was to add features and improve livability; 57% of consumers gave this as their top reason for adding a fire feature, compared to 23% who added an irrigation system.

Consumers were almost twice as likely to say they had a greater desire to be home since adding a fire element than an irrigation system, and were more likely to say they enjoyed being at home more now that the project was completed.

However, a new irrigation system has a better return on investment than a fire feature, the report found. Landscape professionals estimated that installing and managing an irrigation system on a 2,835-square foot lawn, with no boring required, would cost $3,500. Realtors estimated the investment would return $3,000 for an ROI of 86%.

A new fire feature, including dry-stacked natural stone gas-powered fire pits in a flagstone patio, would cost around $6,000, according to NALP’s survey of professionals. Realtors estimated homeowners would recover about $4,000, for a return on investment of 67%.


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