Beyond Curb Appeal

Beyond Curb Appeal 12 Ways to Cultivate Property Value by Tom Davis

The importance of first impressions can’t be overstated. Your property’s appearance communicates volumes about your attention to detail, management style, standards, and the level of care and attention your residents receive.

A beautifully landscaped, well-tended community will draw the most prospects first—a fact that becomes increasingly important in competitive markets. Plus, residents’ pride of place contributes to lease renewals and resident referrals.

Simply put, landscaping impacts your bottom line. It’s one of the fastest and most certain ways to make your community a standout and the returns on investment are consistently among the highest of any form of property improvement.

Community Assessments

Landscaping should be assessed regularly and with a critical eye. There are a number of major considerations to help you maximize your community’s landscape.

1. Overall Appearance: Is your community well tended? Are plant materials healthy and attractive? Are hardscape areas neat and well maintained? Are sight lines clear and pathways well defined? Is the community well lit, especially at property and building entrances, along pathways, and in parking areas?

2. Signage Areas: Your signage officially introduces your property. Enhance the introduction by “framing your name” with beautiful landscaping. A seasonal or even more frequent change in these areas keeps the property fresh and attractive. Keep plantings low directly in front of the sign—you don’t want to obstruct the name of your community or important information like your Web site address, management name, or phone number.

Add interest through height variations of your plant materials, plant color, and texture. Or, add dramatic landscaping accents like water features, boulders, or sign framing walls, being careful to enhance, rather than distract, from the sign’s message. Color massing here is one simple and often cost-effective way to draw attention.

3. Hollywood Boulevard: The roads and paths that lead from the entrance of your community to your clubhouse, leasing center, and models are especially important. Use them to entice your new prospects and to underscore your commitment to provide residents with a quality living environment. Keep pathways attractive and well maintained and introduce points of interest such as trellises, fountains, sculpture, and colorful plantings to subtly encourage exploration. If the route is relatively long, consider benches that invite customers and residents to pause and enjoy their surroundings. Curving paths rather than basic straight lines also are effective.

4. Amenity Areas: Quality landscaping around your amenities—terraces, clubhouses, pools and spas, sports quads, tennis courts, tot lots, even carwash stations—encourages resident use and provides your prospects with even more reasons to live in your community. Again, it’s important to keep sight lines clear, hardscapes clean, and plant materials healthy, pruned, and otherwise well attended. Color provides an added incentive to enjoy these areas.

Large pots of plants are easy to maintain, especially in drought-sensitive areas, and offer an easy way to enhance these special community features. They also are a good solution for urban areas without a lot of land.

5. Developing a Plan: When selecting a landscape designer and contractor, as well as the plant and hardscape materials themselves, keep in mind that your landscaping could be your largest uninsured asset and make your selections accordingly. Quality is extremely important and well worth the investment.

6. Safety: Safety should always be your first concern. Emphasize clear, unobstructed sight lines, well-defined paths, good lighting, and healthy plantscapes. Trees and shrubs should be pruned well away from doors and windows.

7. The Right Look: General maintenance, overall appearance, and an attractive sense of order also are essential. To create a harmonious living environment, concentrate on your property’s best features and key focus points and select a landscaping theme that complements the architecture. Are there natural highlights, a stream, pond, or great views? Emphasize them through plantings, hardscape selections, and rest stops.

8. Maintenance: Ongoing maintenance is a key budget item. Will your plantings require frequent pruning, weeding, deadheading, watering, or critter management? Will special landscaping focal points like gazebos, water features, and sculptures require extra care? A certified landscape professional can ensure that your plantings will thrive in your community’s own eco-environment and your landscaping will always be at its best.

Work with these professionals to determine a multi-year plan, an approach that can prove especially beneficial and cost effective for phased upgrades. It also is wise to set aside an emergency fund in the event of unexpected weather-related damage.

9. Practicalities: In areas prone to drought, consider using indigenous plants that don’t require extensive watering. Grasses, succulents, wildflowers, and cactus can all be used extremely effectively. Conversely, in areas prone to rain and snow, make certain that proper drainage is in place to avoid over-saturated marshy conditions that are not only unattractive from an aesthetic standpoint, but from an insect and mold perspective as well.

Take special care with your selection of plant materials in high-traffic areas. Avoid plants that shed or attract insects like bees and wasps, especially around entries, pools and spas, grilling areas, and tot lots. Child-friendly selections should be both hardy and forgiving.

Seasonal changes bring opportunities that should be considered as you develop your overall plan. Color and plant material rotations interject welcome landscape accents that keep resident interest high. Evergreens can provide year-round color and require little care. Deciduous selections can offer dramatic seasonal changes, from dazzling springtime flowers or autumn color to strikingly sculptural silhouettes in the wintertime.

10. Hardscape Materials: Explore the many exciting new options for hardscapes. Natural rock, stone, and brick remain extremely popular but the introduction of an array of new man-made materials and innovative advances using old materials like concrete, tile, and even mulch have created an impressive range of hardscape options. Your landscape designers can help you identify selections that will enhance your community’s architecture, add visual interest and, in a growing number of cases, replicate the look of more expensive materials or provide added long-term benefits.

Water features continue to grow in popularity. Available in striking wall-mounted designs—as well as more-traditional fountains, water globes, natural looking waterfalls, or rain curtains—they can be used (inside and out) to create a tranquil oasis in urban settings as well as more garden-style environments.

11. Illumination: Lighting can deliver enormous impact. At its most basic, lighting is an essential safety consideration. Through the careful integration of modern lighting technology it also can be an effective after-hours marketing tool, infusing your community with spectacular nighttime drama.

12. Aesthetics: Savvy juxtapositions of shape, color, height, and texture create environments that are as welcoming and inviting as they are eye-catching. Contours, too, add interest, in bed designs as well as pathways.

Introduce unexpected elements to create an interactive environment. Scented plants like jasmine, roses, lavender, wisteria, and gardenia offer unique sensory notes on many levels but take care to introduce them in areas with good air circulation so that they delight, rather than overpower your residents, customers, and guests.

As you determine your operating budget, give special attention to your landscaping. You’ll discover that the benefits of curb appeal will help attract and retain residents. It’s a solid investment.

Tom Davis is president of Bozzuto Landscaping Co., headquartered in Laurel, Md. The company is a subsidiary of The Bozzuto Group, a full-service real estate company. He may be reached at

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