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The population of the U.S. nearly doubled from 1950 to 2000 but with that growth our water demands more than tripled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The government predicts that there will be water shortages in 36 states by the year 2013. That’s disappointing news to homeowners who love their green lawns and think that they add value to their homes. The good news is that a yard can still look attractive and yet use less water to maintain its beauty.

The American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) released information about a study on the “Impact of Improved Landscape Quality and Tree Cover on the Price of Single-Family Homes” that was published in Horticulture Research Institute Journal of Environmental Horticulture.

The authors, Andrea Stigarll and Emmett Elam write that, “Approximately 30 percent of the increase in sale value was accounted for by added tree cover. The results show that each $1.00 invested in upgrading an average landscape to excellent quality returns $1.35 in added property value.” While most homeowners know that landscape is a big draw for buyers, they are unsure of how much and what kinds of landscaping affect the property value.

The study reports that, “General tree cover adds 2 percent to 9 percent to the value of existing homes and 7 percent for new construction on tree-covered lots.” Just a single tree can add up to 2 percent to the property value, according to the study. Hedges, walls, landscaped curbs, and dense vegetation can each add 2 percent to 4 percent to the property value. And if your home has more trees than nearby homes, the value shoots up by about 7 percent. Sophisticated designs in landscape affect property value in a very positive way.

The study shows that, “The perceived value of a home may increase by 5 percent to 11 percent with landscape that is sophisticated in design, incorporating large plant size, evergreen and deciduous plants, annual color plants, and colored hardscapes.” The study concludes that, “The results show that improvement in landscaping from average to excellent quality increases house sale price by 10.8 percent, with approximately 30 percent of the increase in sale value due to added tree cover.” The authors also noted that there are additional perceived benefits to upgrading landscape, “an improved landscape provides a relaxing and enriching quality for the homeowner and the neighborhood.” The report also pointed out that the landscaping could help with utility costs, “Moreover, tree cover is important to the homeowner because trees provide shade in summer and shelter in winter, possibly reducing heating and cooling costs. If you’re considering adding tree coverage here are a few tips to help you choose what will work best in your landscape.

  1. Visit a nursery and get expert help. Trees are not temporary so it’s important to know which ones will work best in your yard before you spend any money and time planting them.
  2. Some popular trees are: varieties of apple trees (the fruit is a bonus), dogwood trees (they bloom in spring and are colorful in the fall), Japanese maple trees (they have vibrant colors), and birch trees (they have unusual bark and branch patterns), and pine trees (the needles offer a very different appearance).
  3. Look for water-efficient trees. Trees can use even less water than the lowest water-use grass.
  4. Trees planted on the south and west side of homes can help provide shade and cool the home.
  5. Consult your local water department which can provide lists and tips on water-saving and fire-resistant types of vegetation.
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