Aesthetic Landscapes Fuel Raising Property Values & Sales!
Author: Chad Kennedy, Landscape Architect, ASLA
I have always been very fond of the year-end holiday season! An infusion of gratitude and an increase in display of compassion for others never ceases to inspire. Along with this holiday spirit also comes the excitement and confusion of "Black Friday", "Year-End" and "Blowout" sales events. These events are intended to increase annual sales revenues, by luring shoppers into stores where they will make additional purchases. These events can be quite effective as evidenced by the crowds of shoppers who show up every year. These events, sales, and short term gimmicks give sales a final jump in numbers prior to the end of the year. Research shows however, that there are additional ways to increase long-term profitability in retail sales as well as in other market areas. This can be accomplished through the addition of well-designed and manicured landscapes! The following article will introduce research in three specific market areas where landscapes are effective sales tools including: retail sales, rental rates, and home values.
Spending Behavior in Retail Environments
The popularity of outdoor malls and pedestrian friendly downtowns emphasize the incredible impact that landscape and leisure related accommodations can have in retail centers. This is primarily a function of comfortable people deciding to stay longer in spaces rather than move along. When people stay in one place longer, they tend to spend more money. Newer shopping facilities tend to have plentiful landscape areas, ample seating, access to both direct and filtered sunlight, playgrounds, and plenty of tables for eating. One study completed in 2009 showed that in shopping centers with trees and integrated landscapes, consumers reacted more positively, were more likely to patronize the stores, returned later, shopped longer, and were willing to travel greater distances to get there.3 Similarly, a study in 2004 found that successful small retail businesses put effort into the appearance of the store's exteriors and not just the interiors.3 Landscape features can be a relatively economical and simple improvement to storefronts. In more recent studies (2012) it was clearly exhibited that when customers enjoyed the exterior retail environment, and landscape features were present, they displayed higher patronage intentions. In short, well landscaped and maintained retail centers attract customers, keep them there, and bring them back.
Rental Rates Are Higher for Landscaped Buildings
Thus far the discussion has focused on the effect landscapes have on consumer spending, but what can be said about the businesses that rent and lease space from property owners? One research group set out to see how landscapes impact rental rates and came back with some interesting results. The introduction of attractive (positive) landscaping and trees led to an increase in rental rates averaging approximately 7%. In addition to that, shade from trees was also a significant variable resulting in another 7% average increase in rates. This being said, it is important to note that the quality of landscapes around buildings was a crucial component in any increases noted. Landscape can have a negative effect on rates if it presents undesirable features. One specific negative effect is when the landscape screens the property too well from outside visual corridors which resulted in a downward average rate of -7.5%.2 In short, when landscapes are designed well and maintained correctly significantly higher rates can be contracted than otherwise could be achieved.
Home Values Are Higher When Well Landscaped
Of all the topics discussed to this point, the effect a well-designed landscape has on property values is perhaps the most well documented and has been researched for decades. In fact, successful television shows have been created upon the basis that curb appeal is real, viable and important. A study in 1973 was perhaps the first research study. It was followed up by, and subsequently supported by many others. The conclusive results are that attractive landscapes can increase property values from 5%-15%. Tree cover is an important piece of this puzzle as good tree cover can increase values 6%-8% and newly built home prices increase 6%-9% when built on tree-planted lots. As was the case with rental rates, in some cases, landscapes may pose a negative effect on property values as well. The point of diminishing returns appears to be when tree canopy cover reaches 67% coverage. At this point the benefits of shade and tree aesthetics in the mind of the purchaser are lost. It is also important to note that formal designs also increase the value of property as hedges, patios and curbing have all been shown to increase values by up to 12.4% in the case of patios and 4.4% for curbing.1
Commercial and residential production landscapes tend to be the last element installed on a project and thus the first to be valued engineered out of it when construction budgets get tight. Research shows that, though this may be common practice, it is probably worth thinking twice about eliminating an element like the landscape, when it can provide such a large, long-term return on investment. To learn more about related issues and other landscape architecture topics, please visit the publications section of our website by clicking here.
1. Des Rosiers, Francois, Maris Theriault, Yan Kestens and Paul Villeneuve. Landscaping and House Values: an Empirical Investigation. JRER. Volume 23. Nos ½-2002.
2. Laverne, Robert and Kimberly Winson-Geideman. The Influence of Trees and Landscaping on Rental Rates at Office Buildings. Journal of Arboriculture 29(5): September 2003.
3. Mower, Jennifer, Minjeong Kim and Michelle Childs. Exterior Atmospherics and Consumer Behavior: Influence of Landscaping and Window Display. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management. Volume 16. No.4 2012. pp. 442-453