A very savvy real estate agent once remarked to me, “Buyers don’t care how deep and expensive your well was to drill, they just care that they have water.”

Is landscaping a similar phenomena? Do Buyers care what your yard looks like? Do you ever re-coup the cost of putting in a water feature or planting trees and maintaining perennial beds?

I ponder these questions daily as I view luxury real estate in Bozeman, Montana either from the vantage of potentially listing the property, or showing the property to an interested Buyer. It’s a tough call. If your home is blessed with being sited on a visually dramatic spot, and especially if it is river or lake front land, your need to landscape is far less than a person with a challenging location. Using landscaping to block an eyesore is, in my opinion, worth the money. A judicially placed clump of trees that makes the neighbor’s beat-up trailer disappear will go far in helping you sell your property. Flowers are like makeup on a woman. The curb appeal of your home can be increased with beds of flowers leading to the front door, and any water element always cheers a Buyer.

“Home” is an emotional, visceral feeling, and most Buyers identify a home that speaks to them within 30 seconds to a couple of minutes of viewing the property. The first thing a Buyer sees is the landscaping—or lack thereof—and how the home is situated within the property boundaries. It’s impossible to discount how a yard frames a home. Shade trees evoke memories of childhood swings and forts, beautiful lawns remind us of playing tag or touch football, lovely flowers lighten our hearts, and water features always entice us, whether man made or natural. It is worthwhile for you to step outside and look at your home from the vantage of being a Buyer first seeing your home. How does the “whole picture” look? Are your senses heightened? Would a dash of color from a grouping of annuals cheer up a dreary spot by the door? Does the yard appear tended and loved? Do you want to spend time in the yard?

I tell people I should join “Gardeners’ Anonymous” as I find it nearly impossible to visit a nursery, or even Home Depot, without leaving with trays and flats of annuals and perennials. I love flowers, shrubs, trees, the sensation of springy lawn on bare feet. Anyone who gardens in Montana knows it is an act of sheer optimism. Each spring, trees killed by winter, deer, or voles have to be replaced. A sudden Summer hail storm wipes out the iris, freezes your basil. Yet, for me, gardening is satisfying, and my home abounds in flowers. I receiving varying comments from people seeing my gardens, ranging from those who share my passion, to those who are dismayed by the thought of the upkeep involved. Too much landscaping can backfire and discourage Buyers! There is a balance unless you are marketing the botanical aspects of your home and know you need a serious garden lover as a buyer.

Trees are not cheap. Between purchasing, planting, spraying, protecting them from wildlife, and replacing them when an unseasonal ice storm cripples them, the cost adds up. And, in Montana, they are slow to grow. Lawns, flower beds, planting shrubs, and even maintaining a vegetable garden require not only plant material, but also constant work. If you are not going to weed, water, prune, and take care of a yard, you are better off having a natural, low-maintenance landscape. A poorly maintained yard signals to a Buyer that your home itself may not be well-maintained. And, such as my property, too much landscaping limits potential Buyers. Weeds are never appealing!

What’s the happy medium? If you love gardens, by all means have one! If you have an ideal location for a water feature and you are uplifted by them, have one installed. I doubt you will get back the money you put in as long as our Bozeman market continues to be soft for high-end homes. A two acre, lined pond will cost you $350,000 or more. Yes, it will attract potential Buyers and yield you more showings of your home, but in this market you will not get back a dollar-for-dollar price increase. This is balanced by the fact that unless your home is just-completed construction, a lack of appealing landscaping will be a negative to Buyers. Their offers will be less, and there will be fewer truly interested Buyers, as most Buyers today have an inkling as to what landscaping costs. As a rule of thumb, whatever your cost to build a home is, there should be a minimum of 10% of that figure put into initial plantings, not counting your hardscape costs of patios, decks, and outside entertaining areas. Features such as underground sprinklers definitely add value.

When I am showing a property, I always discuss with the Buyer the value of mature trees, the cost involved in hauling in large landscape boulders, the time it takes for the lilac hedges to reach that maturity. I watch the Buyers’ reactions, and even when they wish to discount the landscaping, they do begin to value it as they understand how integral it is to the ambiance and appeal of the property.

If you are thinking of listing your property, or you have your property currently listed with me, I am always delighted to view the acreage and offer suggestions of how to dress it up, make it more attractive, enhance what you already have in place. Yes, I think landscaping is important. It sets the stage, begins that instant emotional connection a Buyer either feels or doesn’t feel when being shown your listing. And, most importantly, you will be a happier and healthier person living in a home that has beauty inside and out, especially when you have helped create and maintain it.