When it comes to real estate investing, most flippers are looking for two things: a quick sale and a high ROI. And unless you’re flipping an urban condo or co-op with no private outdoor space, your landscape decisions can have a big impact on both your turnaround time and profit. In fact, Bankrate reports nearly three-quarters of home buyers believe landscaping is an important factor when buying a home, with a well-executed landscape project yielding a 215% ROI on average.
To maximize your real estate investment, balancing the perfect amount of hardscape and softscape is the key to creating a beautiful exterior that will ensure a quick sale for your fix and flip. Here are some pointers:
First Things First: What is the Difference Between Hardscape and Softscape
Hardscape refers to the use of permanent hard landscape and non-vegetative materials in your yard. Examples include pavers for patios and walkways, stones for flowerbed borders, driveways, and retaining walls. Softscape, on the other hand, refers to the live elements of a landscape, which include sod or grasses, flowers, trees, shrubs and even grading. Typically, a combination of these features helps create an attractive outdoor space and there are certain factors that can help you choose wisely so you get the biggest ROI on your fix and flip.
How to Choose Which Landscape Option is Right for Your Rehab Property?
Home Style and Neighborhood
You want your property to look attractive, not stick out like a sore thumb. If every home on the block has a sweeping front lawn, extensive hardscaping - at least in that area of the yard - is probably not a good idea. And if you do use hardscaping in your project, stick with classic forms and colors for the broadest appeal in just about any neighborhood.
Traffic Patterns and Areas of High Use
Areas that get a lot of foot traffic definitely call for hardscaping. Likewise, if you want to draw attention to an outdoor feature, installing a paver walkway is an inexpensive way to do it. HGTV has some tips on creating a perfect pathway here and here. Do you want to define a kids’ play area in your particular fix and flip property? A bed of mulch is a really quick and low-cost solution to hide bare spots that will get a lot of foot action from little ones and provides a soft place to land.
Sun ExposureBefore plunking down money on any landscaping investment, observe the property’s sun exposure. Grass thrives best with an ideal balance of sun and shade; installing sod or seeding an area that’s baked by the sun all day - or completely shrouded in shade - is likely to be a wasted investment. In areas where sod or seed makes sense, choose a grass type that’s suited for the amount of sun the area receives. This goes for flowers and plants as well.
In addition to sun exposure, soil quality has a major bearing on whether a stone patio or a lawn with attractive flower beds are the way to go. You can invest in a DIY soil-testing kit or contact your local cooperative extension office to find out if they do testing. Some soil-related issues can be easily amended by adding organic matter, fertilizer or other products, but if the soil is really compacted, adding amendments can be a time-consuming, costly task. It’s up to you to decide if the cost of those amendments - and the labor to incorporate them - is worth the investment.
CostIn most cases, softcaping will be a cheaper alternative to hardscaping, but as with all things in flipping, cheaper doesn’t always mean better. When done well, hardscaping projects can “look” more expensive to a lot of buyers. If you use a hardscaping project to create a new feature like a walkway or patio, you can get back your investment and then some. Plus, hardscaping implies low maintenance; a yard with a lawn, flower beds and shrubs means days spent mowing, watering, weeding and feeding - and for some buyers, that can be a real turn-off.
One more tip: Whether you opt to softscape or hardscape, it’s essential you hire an experienced contractor to get the job done right the first time. Unless you have lots (and we mean lots) of experience in landscaping, it’s really easy to make big, visible mistakes. And that can wind up taking a significant toll on your overall fix and flip profit.
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