The Value of Privacy

One of the most beautiful aspects of summer is that it tends to slow time.  A lazy summer’s afternoon amble is just that, an amble.  The kind of slow, relaxed pace that allows you to take in the surroundings as the mind lazily wanders.  More often than not, and it’s perfectly ok to admit this, the mind wanders into the front gardens of houses as we pass them.  We might slow a little more, trying to catch a glimpse through whatever privacy screening planting is blocking the view, sensing there is a secret garden of delights just beyond that last branch. There’s nothing wrong with this.  At least, we don’t think there is.  The homeowner probably doesn’t either.  Especially if they are looking to sell the property, as that wonderfully manicured and maintained landscape will work some magic on the price.  In fact, a carefully planned landscape might increase the price by up to 20%.


Studies vary in how much trees can add to a property value but they all agree on one thing – they do add value.  The generally accepted rule of thumb is a nicely landscaped garden will boost a property value by anything up to 20%, with a more common increase sitting around 12%.  As you’re walking past a home, daydreaming about what it might be like to live there, your subconscious is crunching the numbers and adding as few zeros to how much it would cost to live there.  The really intriguing thing is…the plants you see will have an impact on how many zeros are being added.  And you may not even know why.  Luckily…some people do.


One of the most in-depth studies into how landscaping increases the perceived value of a property, was completed by the University of Michigan (Landscape Plant Material, Size, and Design Sophistication Increase Perceived Home Value by Bahe et all, 2005).  They wanted to go beyond the usual estimations in perceived value and determine the factors that build up the increase.  This makes sense.  If you can make specific changes to a landscape that result in a larger increase in property value, then it would be nice to know what they are.

Birchwood Gardens, Arrowtown - May

What they found was any price increase would come down to 3 main factors; plant material, plant size and design sophistication.  What our minds are doing as we walk past is noticing the colours.   A more complex design with a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees, with annual colour variations, will leave a lasting impression.  Indeed, this is really all the justification one needs for employing a landscape architect.  They really will pay for themselves.


Interestingly, although if we’re honest it’s not a surprise, the larger the tree the greater the increase in perceived value.  In other words, people like mature trees and attach greater value to them.  There’s just something about a beautifully landscaped garden, resplendent with a mixture of colours and gloriously mature trees, that makes us fall in love with it.  We use the word ‘love’ purposely too.  We have a deep and intense connection with nature, there’s nothing logical about it.  That sounds pretty much like love to us.  


What we can do is apply some of the fuzzy logic of love to our landscapes. Especially now we know large, mature trees yield the best returns.  The beauty of doing this is there are other returns too.  Adding mature trees, shrubs and hedging to a landscape allows you to enjoy instant privacy in your landscape as intended from the very start.  There’s no need to wait a generation for the tree to grow.  By then, the children may be less inclined to spend time playing around the tree, or sitting under it with you, preferring the local mall or somewhere else.  

Liquidambar Worplesdon - Remarkables Park, Queenstown, April

If you don’t have children, the wellbeing gained from a mature landscape makes it worth it too.  The fresh air from an oxygen rich landscape, the warmth of the sun and smell of fauna – it can turn the most persistent frown upside down.   


Also, as you enjoy the benefits of this colourful, mature landscape,  you can smile at passers-by on their summer amble as you water the trees and hedges designed to keep their gazes at bay.  As they slow down, trying desperately to glimpse the flights they just know are on the other side, just smile.  A smile that says ‘yes – it is wonderful living here’.  Also a smile that says ‘and yes – it is worth that much.  Maybe even more’.


Finally, if you are thinking of adding advanced specimen grade trees and shrubs to a landscape, it is easier than it would seem.  Indeed, here at Easy Big Trees you could say we’ve made our name by doing it.  

VIBURNUM tinus 'Lucidum' - Jacks Point, Queenstown - January