Home Buyers – Landscapes Need Inspections Too
Unless you’re buying “as is,” odds are you’ll have a home inspection done – no one wants to be caught off guard by a faulty water heater or a leaky roof (or worse!) But many home buyers don’t know that money pits can be lurking in the landscape too. If you’re looking to buy a ‘new-to-you’ home with an existing landscape, here’s a checklist of things you should look at:
Does the landscape have outdoor lighting? Things like flood lights, path lights, and spot lights can enhance the curb appeal (and useability!) of a landscape, and many home owners are jumping on the bandwagon.
There’s two key things home buyers should know when purchasing a home with outdoor lighting.
1) Was it installed properly? With so many DIY kits on the market, there’s a chance the former homeowner installed the lighting – and may not have read the directions.
2) Lighting elements can be expensive, but nothing lasts forever. Look for parts that are damaged, broken, or in high traffic areas and budget accordingly!
For some home buyers existing irrigation systems can be a huge selling point. If the new place comes with irrigation, ask yourself these questions before you buy:
1) Is the irrigation system in good shape? Damaged sprinkler heads and broken timers can be easy to replace, but finding underground leaks can be an expensive challenge. If you’re looking at buying a property, consider having an irrigation specialist check things out before you buy.
2) Consider is the water bill. Lush lawns and mature landscapes can be beautiful, but most need at least an 1 inch of water each week to stay that way. Can you afford the extra water bill if you run the irrigation for the recommended half hour 2-3 times a week? If not, you may want to consider where you can cut back – and how much it’ll cost to do it.
Every homeowner has a different approach to their lawn. Some are micro-managers who weed, water, and mow each week religiously. Others assume a more laid back, hands-off approach. Each has its pros and cons, but as as a home buyer it’s in your best interest to find out what level of maintenance your new lawn will need to keep it looking beautiful. Remember, the more high-maintenance the turf, the more money you’ll be pouring into lawn care over time.
For help identifying your turf grass, check out the interactive Turfgrass Identification Tool by Purdue University!
Shrubs and Woody Ornamental Plants
A good landscape design with healthy, mature plants can add as much as 10% (or more!) to the value of a home, so if your ‘home-to-be’ comes with an established landscape, make sure you’re getting what you paid for! Have a landscaper or gardener who specializes in maintenance walk through the property and look for problem plants. A knowledgeable landscaper will be able to point out the problems and give you an idea of how (and how expensive it will be) to fix it.
Just like the lawn, landscape plants will have long term maintenance needs that can be expensive over time. If you’re planning to hire a service company to take care of the landscape for you, take some time to find out what the yearly costs will be and ask yourself if it’s in your budget.
Mature trees can significantly boost the value of a property, but dead, dying, and damaged trees can represent huge future expenses for home buyers. Have a certified arborist or tree care professional examine the trees to check if they are structurally sound and healthy. Trees that are dead, dying, diseased, or severely stressed may need to be removed for safety reasons, which can be costly.
Also, consider how much maintenance your trees will need. Do they drop mountains of leaves each fall? Is it a soft wood tree that’s prone to branch breakage? Does it need to be trimmed each year to prevent it from overgrowing the space? All of these things may add up to a considerable long term cost.
The Home Buyer Take-Away
Taking the time to have the landscape of a potential new home inspected by a knowledgeable industry professional may save you more than you know. Today attractive landscapes can contribute 10-15% to a property’s value, and that’s money lost if you find yourself having to replace a lot of plants and start over.
Top Tip: If you do nothing else, try to find out who has installed and maintained the landscape over the last several years. Any good company worth it’s salt should be able to provide you with information on what has been done already, and what “to do’s” may be coming up in your landscape. Good luck!