What should the cost of landscaping be for your home?

The cost of landscaping always seems to shock homeowners. Somehow people relate it to the cost of gardening and are surprised to find that decks and wood cost more than plants, not to mention the labour involved to install them.

In speaking to several industry professionals, the average backyard renovation starts at around $20,000 with some projects crossing the million-dollar mark.

With such a huge range, how do you know how much your outdoor renovations should cost and how much you really should be investing in your home?

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is to envision what they want in the yard before they really set the budget.

Use a percentage

When I meet with a client, I start by asking what the approximate value of the home is. If you set your budget based on a percentage of your home’s total worth, you can be confident your plans will stay in line with property values in your neighbourhood.

Front yards have been getting more attention by realtors and housing experts because of first-impression numbers. Several online sources place the value of curb appeal and a home’s first impression between five and eight per cent of the home’s worth.

Items such as shade trees and front walkways contribute to higher returns, as do front porches and sitting areas. While plants and gardens are important to the overall appeal, too many flowers in the front yard intimidate buyers looking for low-maintenance homes.

As my general rule, I try to keep the front yard landscaping at seven per cent of a homeowner’s renovation budget. That number does not include the driveway even though it may be at the front of your home.

Increasing living space

Backyards tend to be more about function than front yards. Good design can offset the shortfalls from the inside of the home with outdoor elements that meet the same need. For example, if a home has a small kitchen, adding an outdoor version with a barbecue or a smoker is a smart investment because it partially addresses buyer concerns when they see the inside space.

Having a good deck or patio in your backyard that provides lots of living space can increase your home’s value by up to 12 per cent, according to Century21.

You also need to consider the return on investment or ROI for your outdoor renovation. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, a simple wood deck has an expected return of 75 per cent for the life of the deck, which averages eight to 10 years in Canada.

This number climbs when you invest in products like MicroPro Sienna, the brown treated wood available at a majority of big box and lumber stores. If properly cared for, a MicroPro Sienna deck can last significantly longer, allowing homeowners to see that 75 per cent return of the initial cost for a much longer period.

Size matters

Unfortunately, the size of the deck matters when calculating the ROI. So, how big should the deck or patio be? It comes down to what you want to use it for.

I always tell homeowners to start with the patio furniture. At the store, large patio furniture is shown as compact as possible so that they can get more sets on the showroom floor.

Don’t be deceived by this. Too often homeowners plan their outdoor space and can’t find the furniture to fit it. The easiest way to answer this question is to go to the furniture store, pick out want you really want for your space, and then measure it.

Bring some friends and make sure to measure your potential set with people sitting on it. Also consider how much room you need to walk around the furniture if it’s being occupied.

Here are my general rules:

  • A four-person square table needs a deck that is 12 feet by 12 feet. This might seem large but it’s important to allow for flow around the table as well as enough space for your guests to sit comfortably. Including the barbecue as you plan your space is also very important. Make sure you allow enough space so that no one has to sit beside a heat source on a hot night.
  • A barbecue needs to be 36 inches (90 centimetres) away from a burnable surface when it’s in use, so make sure to plan for an area to roll it out before you turn it on.
  • A table or propane fireplace with four club chairs around it needs at least 15 feet by 15 feet because people tend to cross their legs or sit in a reclined position, taking up more room on the deck.

With the size of today’s furniture, aim to install a 750-1,000-sq.-ft. deck to include a six-person table, a decent sized barbecue, and an area for conversational seating. It might seem like a large investment, but all the experts (including this one) agree that creating useable space in the backyard is the key to seeing the big returns when it is time to sell.

As you plan your spring projects this year, budget your dollars accordingly. Setting aside 20 per cent of your renovation budget for the outside may seem like a lot, but with all of the housing market numbers showing solid returns in landscaping, you can renovate knowing that your money is being spent wisely.

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