Few capital improvements bolster property values as effectively as landscaping upgrades. Real estate professionals from across the industry agree that attractive, well-tended lawns, trees, shrubs, and plantings encourage sales and shorten turnaround times. And installing plantings better suited to your property’s ecosystem, including new hybrids specially developed to require less upkeep, can pay off handsomely in reduced monthly maintenance costs for years to come.
But these days, what HOA has a pile of money sitting around to spend on new petunias out front of the clubhouse, or for shrubbery beautification? The fact is, updating your landscaping and plantings doesn't have to entail a huge capital expenditure. By doing a little research beforehand and working closely with competent professionals who understand your goals, you can upgrade your greens without going into the red.
Hit the Books
If your board is considering a landscape renovation, a good first step is to take a look at accounts payable over the past few years to assess the cost benefits of an upgrade. The results may help persuade members and owners who are on the fence about investing in such a project. By going through your bills and determining where you're spending your landscaping budget, you can identify areas that are money-wasters and make them top priority. If your landscape professional is constantly being called out to or sending crews to your property to address a chronic problem, that's likely costing you more in service fees than it would to correct the underlying issue.
Once you've got an idea of what your problem areas might be, the next step, say the professionals, is to engage a landscape designer for a few hours of their time to walk your property with you. Do an assessment of existing plant materials to determine which have been properly located within the complex, and which ones might be moved to a more conducive spot, and which ones if any are just not appropriate and should be replaced. According to Mark Borst of Borst Landscape and Design in Allendale, "Usually, a property requires some degree of modification every five to 12 years. It may be a case of having the wrong plants in the wrong location, which can be resolved by transplanting existing trees, shrubs or annuals. Sometimes just a change in the amount of light through relocation or pruning can improve a plant’s performance."
The Lawn Haul
A sprawling expanse of lush, green lawn is one of the hallmarks of a thriving condo community for most people—so if your HOA's grass is looking mangy and unkempt, it can impact both community morale and property values. Landscaping professionals see a great deal of lawn abuse on their rounds from one property to the next. According to the experts, the most common mistakes associations make when taking care of their lawns include over watering, cutting grass too short and improperly applying fertilizers and pesticides.