Value of landscaping

In 1997, more than 22 million households spent a combined $14.6 billion on professional landscape, lawn- and tree-care services, according to the Gallup Organization's U.S. Homeowner Landscaping, Lawn Care and Tree Care Survey. Gallup attributes this upward trend to many factors: a strong economic performance and consumer confidence, an active market for sales of new and existing homes, and continued recognition of practical benefits of having a professionally designed, installed and cared-for lawn and landscape.

According to the survey, the number of single-family households investing in professional lawn-care services increased by more than 1 million, representing a $600 million spending rise over 1996. Furthermore, the study predicts that in 1998, 24.4 million households will purchase these services. The Gallup poll cited the following list as some of the major trends revealed in the study:

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* In 1997, the average amount spent on professional landscape, lawn- and tree-care services rose 4 percent over 1996 to $647 million.

* Americans age 50 and older represented the largest customer group in 1997. Their spending accounted for nearly 50 percent ($7.1 billion) of the total spending of household lawn-care services.

* Homeowners in the western part of the United States led the total spending on these services, accounting for more than one-third, or 38 percent, of all expenditures.

* Total homeowner spending in the tree-care category displayed the largest increase, rising 50 percent to $2.4 billion. In addition, this category experienced the greatest growth in the average amount spent (38 percent to $434) and household participation (21 percent to 5.6 million).

* Lawn and landscape maintenance accounted for the largest dollar volume of green home spending ($7.6 billion) and the greatest household participation (14.3 million), while the landscape installation and construction category represented the largest average amount spent ($1,772).

According to Clemson University Professor Mark S. Henry in his paper, "The contribution of landscaping to the price of single family houses: A study of home sales in Greenville, South Carolina," the three main ways landscaping affects the sale price of a house are: the quality of landscaping in the neighborhood, the quality of landscaping on lots adjacent to the house in question and the quality of landscaping on the lot itself.

The table at left serves as an example as to how landscaping can increase the value of a single-family home. The homes in this model all feature the same characteristics, such as number of rooms, age and location. To determine the contribution of landscaping, you must consider the average/poorly landscaped homes in an area and upgrade from there. If a home-owner in Greenville, S.C., decides to upgrade his or her landscape from average/poor to good, depending on the size of the lot, he or she could see as much as an 8- to 10-percent return.

"Unfortunately, there are few guidelines available to homeowners on the return in sales price that they might expect from added investments in landscaping their lots," says Henry. "This lack of information for homeowners may result in either under or over investment in landscaping relative to added market price from higher quality landscaping."

The selection of plant material and landscape features, as well as how to position them in a lot, are just a few aspects to consider when recommending the investment of landscaping to improve the aesthetic value and market price of a customer's residence.

Source: U.S. Homeowner Landscaping, Lawn Care and Tree Care Survey, conducted by the Gallup Organization. The Gallup survey was sponsored by the American Nursery & Landscape Association, the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, the International Society of Arboriculture, the National Arborist Association and the Professional Lawn Care Association of America.

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