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Precious gardens: how investing in your garden affects your property's value

Owners and buyers are increasingly investing into the design of their gardens, especially those acquiring exclusive properties, but it is not only the longing for better outdoor living and recreation, or the quest for an adequate representation of their lifestyles, that drives them. Individually and professionally designed gardens are a profitable investment.

The times when ecological topics such as sustainability and biodiversity were perceived as almost an antithesis to good design are well and truly over. Interest in issues like water consumption, soil biology, bee-friendliness or implementing correct horticultural techniques and eschewing chemicals is becoming, for a growing number of sophisticated and design-conscious owners, a natural foundation on which good design forms.

Ultimately it makes a lot of sense, both design-wise and economically. When there is large investment into elegant villas with wonderful vistas, equipped with gourmet kitchens, guest houses and extensions, it seems obvious that people will want to round off such ensembles with fine gardens that match stylistically with the house, its interiors and its owners.

A designed garden is a happy ‘welcome’. It is the ultimate frame of a well-conceived and successful property that not only gains value by the passing of time, but which becomes actively enriched in its substance and through this again enhances a home economically.

This corresponds to the observation that sophisticated owners increasingly develop a substantial interest in plants and envision special species, colours and shapes for their gardens, asking for background information about their stories and individual characteristics.

However, a successful garden design needs much more than placing some of the ubiquitous standard woody plants around a lawn at one's own discretion. At its heart, it is about more than what the owners would like to do with their garden; it is about rediscovering the functions a garden can satisfy.

Planning that will pay off in the long run will focus on thoughtful and exceptional arrangements of plants; it relies on attuning carefully all the materials and it will think of all the ever so subtle details, as well as lighting, irrigation and water features. First and foremost, optical weights and harmonically designed proportions between horizontals and verticals are indispensable, and elaborate layouts featuring interesting lines of sight, condensed and open, will inspire discovery and admiration.

Of course, the balance between year-round attraction and the desired degree of ongoing maintenance is important for a successful design as it must be financially viable in the long run.
Few measures for improving real estate are subject to no loss of value, but experts from the USA, Australia and the UK estimate that the ‘recovery value’ of a landscape investment is between 100 and 200% when selling a property. Conversely, only the best investments into the upgrade of real estate will generate such a quickly increasing accretion. Landscape economist and valuation expert John A. Harris calls 28% a more realistic figure.

According to Michaël Zingraf of Michaël Zingraf Christie’s Real Estate, there are a number of landscaping elements that will certainly help increase a property’s value.
“Of course, a property's size plays a major role for buyers, but it is this special sense of harmony - the optical balance of the planting that turns a garden, together with the house, into an organic whole – that will draw buyers and owners alike into it to wander about in complete serenity,” says Michaël Zingraf. “This together with thoughtfully placed art will endow such a garden with an artistic, almost philosophical dimension.”

If all the appropriate planning is in place, a garden will become more beautiful and more impressive aesthetically as it matures. But at the same time, a garden will also furnish a property literally with growing values simply because a matured tree costs a lot more than a young tree and besides water, a little tender loving care and time, there's little more needed to ensure it prospers.

This is not a mere theoretical consideration. Buyers as well as home-builders are increasingly asking for gardens that will be attractive right from the start and that will endow a property with a sort of ‘grown history’ without the need for years of maturing. Property builders and management firms in the UK such as Ruskins and Glendale are already putting this into practice by successfully transplanting even very large trees that are hundreds of years of age.

Another way of looking at it suggests that trees and large shrubs, if care for, can become veritable assets of their own that can be dug up and resold to a profit.

So how much should one invest into a garden in order to make a viable investment? Experts tend to recommend to investing around 10 to 20% of a property's value in private landscaping depending on the location and size of a property, as well as other factors such as whether the garden will include a valuable plant inventory.

Realty experts and owners alike agree that a garden off-the-shelf, without any design, can actually harm a property's impression and will not be a neutral factor when potential buyers visit the property. Experts will always recommend that buyers allocate a good portion of their budget to their garden design and engage a professional landscape designer early on.

While interiors are consistently subject to the individual taste of an observer, gardens can have the ability to emotionally move people of very different cultural backgrounds and expectations. Surveys from the US have shown that a well-designed and maintained garden can quickly inspire potential buyers, helping provide them with a mental vision of living in the space even if they didn't particularly like the home's interiors. When asked after house viewings, it was found that potential buyers remembered certain views from within the house out into the gardens much better than they could remember details like the stones on the kitchen's floor. Studies have also shown that buyers who had previously stated that a garden and its design would have little to no influence on their buying decision were not only highly attracted by a beautiful landscaped design, but that gardens and their specific design were in fact crucial for a positive investment decision with this group of buyers. It would appear you can harbour a secret green thumb without even knowing it yourself.

With all of the possibility for financial profit considered, it is worth noting that there other reasons owners and buyer are rediscovering the power of a garden. Trees and other woody plants accumulate carbon dioxide, they cool down the environment, they balance nitrogen levels, they produce a noticeable amount of oxygen, they develop biomass that enhances the soil and they provide habitats for numerous birds and insects. If nothing else, gardening and gardens are an important art form and they are a crucial element of our culture which intuitively, successfully and sustainably affects our balanced state of mind and our enduring well-being.