The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How much value does landscaping add to your home when selling?


Jill Chodorov, an associate broker with Long & Foster, writes an occasional column about local market trends and housing issues.

While meeting with clients recently to discuss preparing their home to sell, the topic of landscaping came up.

They asked me:

“What is the return on our investment for improving the landscaping around our house before listing the home for sale?”

“Will we get more money for the house if we improve the yard and, if so, how much more will we get?”

“How much should we spend on landscaping to maximize our return on investment?”

Of course, landscaping adds value to your home.  Who hasn’t heard about the value of curb appeal?  HGTV has pound that into our heads.

As a real estate agent, I have found that most homebuyers are more excited about touring a home that looks inviting on the outside than one that is sad and dreary, unless they were focused on buying a fixer-upper.

Similarly, you would probably run from a first date who showed up disheveled and wilted.  Hopefully, you wouldn’t be looking for a fixer-upper in this scenario.

Yet I struggled to quantify an exact return on investment for my clients.   So I set out to find a definitive answer.

“I have been asked about this multiple times,” said John Gidding, host of HGTV’s “Curb Appeal” and Logo TV’s “Secret Guide to Fabulous” in response to my question about the return on investment of landscaping.

“I have always heard the number 150 percent,” Gidding said in a recent phone interview.  “But to me that is conservative.  On a ‘Curb Appeal’ project, I put in $20,000 and the sellers got $200,000 more than they had paid for the house just a year prior.  The return was astonishing.”

I certainly wasn’t going to guarantee my clients a 1,000 percent return on their investment in landscaping.

“I would not say that every $20,000 gets you $200,000,” Gidding agreed.  “It depends on if you are investing your money well.  The best strategy is to research the architectural style of your home and create a landscaping plan that matches.”

What if you don’t have $20,000 to invest in landscaping?

“In terms of dollar amount, the standard suggested is to invest 10 percent of the value of your home in landscaping.  That is a general guideline,” said Erik Shorb, co-owner along with his two brothers of American Plant, a Bethesda-based nursery and landscaping company.

“If you don’t have that kind of money to invest, at the minimum I would recommend adding color with annuals, perennials, or seasonal flowering shrubs; mulching; edging; removing weeds; and getting the grass as green and full as possible,” Shorb said.  “Those are the quick and inexpensive fixes.”

Shorb offered an even cheaper alternative.   “Hire a mow and blow guy for a few hundred dollars to do a full yard cleanup and plant a few flowering annuals.”

“If you only have a few hundred dollars, paint the front door and get new house numbers.  Improve whatever the eye will see from the street,” Gidding said.

A quick Web search resulted in a medley of statistics on the return on investment of landscaping.   I found numbers ranging from a 100 percent to 1,000 percent ROI on landscaping.  Other Web sites estimated an increase in value on your home from 5 percent to 20 percent.

“I would be throwing darts in the dark if I were to give you an exact return on your investment,” said Shorb.

“If you are looking for a specific number, good luck,” said Gidding.

Does spending more money translate into higher returns?

“Very extensive landscaping, while loved and valued by fellow gardeners, can be seen as a negative by buyers who are concerned about the extra maintenance cost and extra work involved,” said Cindy Moses, associate broker of Keller Williams Flagship of Maryland.  “That prize rose garden can be seen as a thorny problem by those lacking green thumbs.”

If you are getting your home ready to sell this spring, here are some tips for getting the yard in shape on a budget:

 Keep the yard weed free – preferably without the use of chemicals. That means getting your hands dirty.

Add some potted and planted flowering annuals near the front door.

Mulch and edge the lawn for a clean and tidy appearance.

Keep the lawn mowed and watered.

Despite not being able to pin down an exact ROI on landscaping, a positive first impression of a home can mean the difference between a buyer driving by or stopping to take a closer look.  Just like the importance of making a good first impression when meeting someone new, with a little attention to the landscaping of your home, you can increase your chances of a better outcome when selling your home.

Previously from Jill Chodorov:

Rise of discount brokers cause debate among traditional Realtors

Study shows consumers spend too little time mortgage shopping

What you need to know before you buy into a condo association

New program may offer hope to low- and moderate-income homebuyers

Virginia parts ways with D.C. and Maryland on uniform sales contract

Assessing your real estate agent’s credentials

What buyers and sellers can do in a slow market

Should you list or buy a home in the summer?

In tight market, pre-listing sites becoming popular

High radon levels may be downside to having a tight, energy-efficient house

Logan Circle condos to use feng shui

How to find affordable housing for an elderly parent

Jill Chodorov can be reached at