Most homeowners don't even want a little grass.
When it comes to a view of the woods vs. a manicured lawn, most people would rather get high on the view.
A new University of Michigan survey of residents in 18 subdivisions in Hamburg Township, MI's Livingston County -- the state's fastest growing county -- found that most residents longed for a woodsy vista over a putting green in the front yard.
Some of those surveyed lived in conventional subdivisions with large lots and homes, others lived in "conservation" developments, a concept developed by Rhode Island-based environmental planner, Randall Arendt. Arendt's style of residential community preserves the most valuable existing natural features of the subdivision as a communally-owned resource and builds the homes on smaller lots to take advantage of the views.
The majority of residents in both conventional and conservation subdivisions said that a "nature view from home" of wooded areas was their top priority in a home site.
The study flies in the face of the fact that the nation spends nearly $40 billion a year growing a "crop" it can't eat, wear, export, or, well, smoke.
The study implies the well-manicured lawn is the crown jewel of curb appeal only because there typically is no other choice.
Co-author Rachel Kaplan, professor of environment and behavior at the university's School of Natural Resources and Environment says home-with-a-view alternatives could be popular if marketed properly. Kaplan co-authored the study with her husband Stephen Kaplan, a university professor of electrical engineering, computer science and psychology, and Maureen Austin, assistant professor of environmental science and outdoor studies at Alaska Pacific University.
"The most significant thing that came out of this study is that the myth that big homes on big lots are what is most important to people and therefore everything that happens is market driven is wrong," Stephen Kaplan said.
"To finally show that this is not preferred by the people who live there is the last blow. While people who own big houses on big lots like them, even they placed a much higher priority on having a nature view from home," Kaplan said.
The study also showed that misuse and misunderstanding of the term "open space" fuels the myth that people prefer big lots -- and, perhaps, grass.
You can have open space, Rachel Kaplan said, without preserved natural features. Lawns swallow up a lot of open space, but lawns are not natural features, Kaplan said.
Kaplan said the solution in naming areas marked for preservation from development is to more accurately define open space, by using the term "conservation ordinance" rather than the more misleading "open space ordinance."
Imagine how much open space would be preserved if lawns were simply banned.