In today's battered real estate market, tiny shoots of green are not only pushing up through
the ground, but also pushing property values, if not sky high, at least back up to par,
especially for those preparing to sell their homes.
Curb appeal--the catnip of home buyers everywhere--can be defined as the physical, visual
context which gives a house its meaning, turning it into a possible "home". Therefore, the
elusive picture-perfect charm of a dream home consists mainly of the plants, shrubs and trees
The last dozen years has seen an explosion of interest not only in gardening but also in
scientific research confirming the literally defined economic "interest" of plants--the
specific increase in wealth stemming from home gardens and landscaped yards.
Amazingly, the positive impact of plants and gardens on wealth extends far beyond the
vegetable patch. Although by now most folks know the phenomenal savings reaped from homegrown
herbs, fruits and veggies, very few people have heard of the effect gardens, shrubs and trees
have on house values, ranging from a 5% to 20% increase in total property price from a well
designed front and back yard. This means that a $400,000 house can appreciate up to $480,000
with the addition of a well-designed landscape. Sprucing up a couple of garden beds and
borders, and adding a few ornamental trees doesn't cost nearly $80,000. Gardening pays.
Indeed, no other "home improvement" investment comes close. In fact, landscaping and
gardening are the only expenses to exceed a 1:1 ratio of dollars spent to dollars earned.
Everything else--from new windows to refinished flooring, from sunrooms to a kitchen
makeover--loses money when evaluated at resale. Wheelbarrows full, you might say.
Whether a bower of Freudian domesticity or merely a prosaic expression of "curb appeal",
this uncommon fact is hiding in plain sight. Returns on investment in a few decorative trees, a
border of shrubs and perennials and a grape arbor or asparagus patch can return 250 to 300%--up
to triple your money. Certainly, one never loses: gardening is the fabled "sure thing". What
other financial play comes close? Even rare wine, much less the proverbial new rare wine
cellar, doesn't approach these increases in value. As for new carpeting, swimming pools,
patios, "great rooms", et al, they put the "pit" in money pit. Like a new car, their value
drops about one quarter as soon as they are completed. One should enjoy them--like the
Lamborghini and the rare wine. However, in the case of a domicile, if prospective buyers want a
finished basement or the currently chic "outdoor kitchen", they want to build them to their own
scale and taste, not someone else's. You would do better to paper your walls with dollar
Furthermore, gardens and trees not only possess a generic, universal appeal, but also pull
at deep-rooted--or better put, hard-wired--evolutionary heartstrings. Recent research confirms
that we evolved with plants at our side: they both sheltered and nurtured us. Spend a bit of
time and money on a garden designer to help you plug into your green DNA. You cannot go
Who knows? After making your yard a piece of paradise, you might decide not to sell.