Landscaping: Growing Your Home's Value
Landscaping can boost the value and desirability of what’s probably your biggest investment – your house. Sally Jones talks to the experts about how to get started.
14 October 2021
“Street appeal gets buyers through the door but, often, it’s the private outdoor living spaces or backyard that will seal the deal. ”
Experts agree that landscaping can make a huge difference to a property’s value. More people are realising the overall importance of a garden to the value of the house, and outdoor living is taking precedence.
“Properties that are landscaped effectively will generally sell faster and achieve higher prices,” says David Cornford, a senior consultant for Quotable Value (QV), Wellington.
Good landscaping can significantly enhance the way you live in your property. It gives “context that is critical to the value, quality and useability of your home,” says renowned architect and host of television series Grand Designs New Zealand, Chris Moller.
So, how can you landscape to maximise the living and investment potential in your property?
Understand your landscape
If you’re building, “think of the land as the place you dwell, and your house as a natural extension of it,” says Moller. You need to work with the natural qualities of your site, including orientation, sun and wind, and take cues from where existing trees, plants, and streams lie.
Also consider the scale of your surrounding landscape. Celebrated Australian landscape designer Paul Bangay says, “When you have a big, broad landscape like Queenstown, you need to ‘upscale’ and create openness.”
To do this, select larger plants and objects and leave more space between trees.
How do you want to live?
Before you start a landscaping project, decide how you’re going to use the garden. Bangay begins by asking his clients a series of questions including, is it to sit outside in? Is it more on the visual side of things? Are kids involved? Do you want swimming pools and recreational items?
If you’re building, it pays to get your architect and landscape architect working together early in the process, says Bangay. This will help with basics, such as how a house should be orientated, how doors and windows connect to the garden, the position of a pool, and connection to the street.
Creating good living flow is important when it comes to sale time. Cornford says street appeal gets buyers through the door but, often, it’s the private outdoor living spaces or backyard that will seal the deal.
Consider enhancing your outdoor living with features, such as fireplaces, covered pavilions, terraces, and furniture. Bangay says these have become a focus with clients. Cornford says valuers are noticing more outdoor kitchens, particularly in high-end homes.
Create an enduring landscape
To ensure your landscape lasts the distance, investing in timeless design and good quality preparation is important.
Award-winning New Zealand landscape designer Xanthe White says ignore the latest trends. Instead, create timeless style by choosing materials that relate to your architecture and its surrounds.
Bangay, who is known for designs that feature precise angles and symmetry, says keep the scale and proportion classic to create balance. However, choose contemporary materials, so the space doesn’t date too quickly.
You also need to invest in good preparation, such as underground services, good drainage, well-constructed footings, and bedding.
A lasting landscape also relies on “good dirt” says White. She advocates nurturing the best-quality soil to keep your environment healthy and sustaining.
Keep it simple and bold
Bangay’s golden design rule is keep it simple, and don’t be afraid to make a statement. He believes in creating simplicity by avoiding clutter and having fewer, but better quality, objects. “Go for larger sizes,” he says. Having one big, quality feature also creates the illusion of space, even in a small garden.
Bangay says we can draw inspiration from notable landscapes like the sculpture park Gibbs Farm in Kaipara Harbour, and luxury lodge Cape Kidnappers, Hawke’s Bay. “They’re not afraid of scale and being bold,” he says.
Being bold can also mean introducing your own personality. “People are attracted to confidence and clear thinking,” says White, as long as the landscaping is in keeping with the architecture and environment.
Even the smallest spaces can be transformed with a creative touch. Moller’s latest project, a tiny 10sq m ‘Click-Raft’ hut, has a wire lattice green wall growing out of a pebbled rain garden, and a vertical vegetable garden.
Creativity can also be done on a budget by using everyday materials inventively. “Let your imagination soar and try things out,” says Moller.
If outdoor space is limited, then “think of your building as an urban farm; walls and roofs are perfect surfaces,” says Moller, a passionate urbanist. While living in Europe, he developed the ‘City on a Roof’ project, transforming unloved rooftops through specialised planting.
New Zealand is starting to follow Europe’s lead. Communal rooftop decks and lounges are a key feature in Auckland’s latest upmarket apartment development, Horizon in Mission Bay. More than 40 per cent of the residential site is landscaped to attract buyers, says Andrew Weipers, general manager of development company Reside.
How much to spend
Landscaping costs can vary hugely as it depends on many factors, but Moller says landscaping accounts for roughly 10 to 30 per cent of an overall build budget.
Bangay works at the highest end of the Australasian market. He says the surge in property prices means spending AU$1 million or AU$2 million on a home that sells for AU$40 million is seen as a good investment.
A good rule is to look at the level of landscaping of the properties around you. “If you stay within these limits, you’ll be less likely to over-capitalise,” says Cornford.
You can also research the value range your property sits within, “then consider how much you need to spend to get your house to the top of that range,” says QV General Manager David Nagel.
“But even the best gardens can’t mask a rundown house. You may be better spending that extra NZ$10,000 upgrading the kitchen or fixing the piles.”
To save money, White suggests doing the planting yourself and planting in stages to spread the cost out.
But whatever your budget, Moller says the best investment is always “careful preparation, a good understanding of the nature of the site, and a design approach focused on how these qualities can support the way you live.”
First published 21 May, 2018.
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