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Landscaping Colors Home Values with Green

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – It’s puzzling to people in the industry that the last thing to be considered when someone sells a house is usually the first thing a potential buyer will see: the landscaping.

“They need to call us before they call the realtor,” says Anthony Bettile, president of Buckeye Lawn Service Inc. in Canfield.

For 28 years, Bettile says he’s watched sellers underestimate the value of simple curb appeal.

“If you’re going to put it on the market and someone is going to drive by, they’re going to drive by one time,” he says. “It either looks good or they’re going to move on.”

Even if they stop, and if they then want to buy the house, the owner probably won’t get as much money as he could have, adds Mark Bockelman.

“My experience tells me that 20% to 25% of the value of the home is your outside landscaping,” he says.

Bockelman’s experience goes back to 1987, when he opened Bockelman’s Landscaping and Garden Center Inc. in Cortland.

“If you’ve got a $100,000 home, if you do [the landscaping] right, that house should be $120,000,” he says.

Lawrence Garono, owner of Artistic Landscaping Inc. in Hubbard, has been in landscaping ever since his father put him to work when he was seven years old.

People also don’t make landscaping enough of a priority when they build houses, Garono says.

“The most important thing is to get the landscaping done, because if you ever go to resell it you get the money back,” he says

But landscapers aren’t the only ones who see value in an attractive yard.

In its 2016 Impact of Remodeling Report, the National Association of Realtors found 96% of real estate agents suggested sellers improve their landscaping before listing their houses. Real estate agents ranked a standard lawn-care program as having the most appeal to buyers and estimated a seller would recoup 303% of the costs.

The upgrade real estate agents saw as having the lowest appeal to buyers was an in-ground pool, estimating a seller would only see a 50% return.

“When you drive down the street, you don’t see their countertops. You don’t see what their bathroom looks like,” Bockelman says. “You see the curb appeal.”

The kinds of features that tend to discourage people from buying are those that require a lot of maintenance, such as a pool or koi pond, he says.

“We used to build a lot of those,” he says. “We probably haven’t built one in several years because people realized it was a lot of maintenance.”

But the hassle-free yard is also popular among those looking to stay in their house.

“In general, a lot of people are trying to get away from maintenance,” Bettile says.

As a result, his Buckeye Lawn Service, which focuses on property maintenance, is spending considerable time taking plants out.

“A lot of what we’re doing is thinning their plants out so that it looks better,” Garono says.

When new plants do go in, more often than not their beds are made of stone, not mulch.

“With mulch, you’re mulching every year,” Garono says.

Making stone even more attractive lately is the cost. While stone is more expensive, prices are decreasing as the cost of mulch is rising.

“The price of mulch, what you’d pay in two years, you could have stone down,” he says.

But that’s not to say people are spending less on their yards. Garono and Bockelman see an increase in their residential business.

“They’re staying home instead of going on vacation,” Garono says. “It costs so much money, they’d rather invest it in their backyard and then enjoy it.”

As a result, Artistic Landscaping sees more demand for amenities such as patios, brick ovens and fire pits.

Bockelman has also noticed the trend and he admits to being candid with his customers when they start down that path.

“I’m upfront and I ask them flat out, ‘Are you on the foot-first or head-first program?’ ” he says.

If they plan to live in the house for the rest of their lives, he tells them to do whatever they want.

“Make it comfortable for yourself,” he says.

Should they plan to leave the home on their feet, he has another piece of advice: “If you want to walk out and sell it, you don’t want to overimprove it so you can’t get your money back.”

Pictured: “You don’t want to overimprove,” says Bockelman’s Landscaping owner Mark Bockelman.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.