Here's how to stretch your home improvement dollars to upgrade your outdoor space and boost its curb appeal.

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It's easy to overlook your landscape when budgeting for home maintenance and renovation projects. Yet this summer is bound to yield an abundance of backyard BBQs and other outdoor entertaining, ensuring that landscaping is a line item on your home improvement to-do list (and budget). Costs can quickly add up for outdoor projects, but with a little preparation, you can keep expenses down and really make every penny count. Here are some affordable landscaping tips and tricks from experienced professionals who specialize in helping homeowners create dazzling outdoor spaces (both to enjoy personally and to attract potential buyers) without breaking the bank. 

Front yard landscape
Credit: Philip Harvey

1. Shop around when hiring a lawn care company.

If you're not into yard work or you're short on time, keeping your lawn mowed, trimmed, and edged can be challenging, but it's one of the most noticeable things about your property. A lawn mowing service can be a worthwhile investment to take the hassle off your hands while keeping your yard looking crisp and clean. Instead of going with the first service you come across, you'll get the best deal possible by shopping around a little.

Making it easier to find reliable and cost-effective options is why Zach Hendrix co-founded GreenPal. This "Uber for lawn care" service connects homeowners with landscape professionals in their local area, quickly providing multiple quotes and next-day availability. Beyond mowing, Hendrix says it's a one-stop shop for everything from trimming your hedges to completely revamping a patio.

2. Invest in perennials.

Annual flowers may produce tons of color over a growing season, but they have to be purchased and planted every year. Many perennials also bloom profusely, and only need to be planted once because they will come back after the winter.

"Plant perennials and you won't have to potentially dig up your flower beds or rotate what you've got out front to keep things looking nice," says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love. "You'll also want to make use of mulch," he adds. "Not only does it help contrast your flowers, it will also keep weeds at bay so you won't have to spend as much time or money on that." 

3. Plant small, design big.

When shopping for perennials and other plants, buying the biggest ones might be tempting. But it's better to go for the smallest size they come in. "Small plants cost less. Make money by planting small and watching your home value grow along with your foliage," says Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping. Plus, a younger plant often has an easier time recovering from transplanting in your garden, reducing "replacement costs and frustration," adds Aoyagi. She also suggests investing in well-thought-out design to place each plant in a space where it can develop fully over time.

large patio area pavers bright chairs pillows umbrella
Credit: Edmund Barr

4. Focus on outdoor living areas.

Enjoying your beautiful landscaping is one major reason for investing time and money in it. "A garden or backyard is always a good place to hang around and be amongst nature while sipping your morning coffee or contemplating life, and a lounge area can provide you with the perfect hangout spot," says Jack Miller, founder of the leading home improvement and pest-care blog How I Get Rid Of.

A simple bench or two can be an economical choice. "You can purchase benches online, or you can make your own using lumber or cinder blocks," Miller say. He also suggests using salvaged-wood planks for your DIY seating project and giving them a new coat of paint or rustic embellishments to make them look more upscale while keeping costs down.

In fire-safe areas, Miller says that a fire pit "is my favorite DIY landscaping project. A fire pit is something that people of all ages will enjoy." And it can be done quite frugally because "all you need are natural stones that you'll form into a circle, and voilà. But if you want a little upgrade, you can use concrete retaining block walls, which will cost you about $50." Even on the high end, a fancy metal fire pit usually goes for under $250. The accompanying value of heart-to-hearts over late-night s'mores with friends and family? Priceless.

5. Curb appeal pays off.

Andrina Valdes of Cornerstone Home Lending notes that rapid home-price appreciation over the past year has resulted in Americans' home equity rising by 20% in the first quarter of 2021. "This adds up to approximately $33,400 in the average homeowner's equity gains. So, you can potentially tap into this cash surplus if you plan to upgrade your home, inside and out."

If you're looking to sell or rent your home, "you really can't afford to skip landscaping," says Valdes. "Renters want to know that they are getting value for their money, and regular lawn maintenance can help people who are new to your neighborhood feel safe and well-housed," she adds.

Along those same lines, Pila Gray-Jessie, a top-producing broker in California, says that she has sold properties for as much as 5% over comparable sales because of attractive landscaping.

"Most sellers have money set aside to prepare their house for sale, and I can typically beautify a yard with a very small budget. The only reservation I have encountered is the cost of maintenance while the home is being sold, in which case I focus on drought-tolerant landscaping that keeps the cost for installation and maintenance at a minimum," she explains.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
August 21, 2021
I agree with most of the general ideas stated, but keep in mind that they are just important suggestions that anyone who gardens should consider. Most don’t go in to great detail. Case in point about hiring a landscaping company You can literally spend thousands and thousands on professional landscaping, you need to know what all of the project is going to look like in 5-10 years and what it’s going to take physically and financially to keep it going Small plants grow and no matter what kind of advice you get from a landscaping company the project is going to take work by someone to keep it looking nice