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- Simple DIY landscaping projects can help you increase curb appeal when you have a limited budget.
- Projects like adding garden edging, pathways, and permanent seating can have a big impact.
- A real estate agent and landscape architect shared tips for beautifying your property on a budget.
You don't need to spend big to make a significant impact on your home's outdoor aesthetic. Small, inexpensive changes can boost curb appeal, and a few smart landscaping choices can even increase your home's price point when it comes time to sell.
We reached out to Ohio-based real estate agent Kristina Morales to learn more about how outdoor landscaping impacts real estate value. We also spoke to Blythe Yost, co-founder and chief landscape architect at online landscape design company Tilly, for tips on getting the most bang for your buck with various DIY landscaping projects.
If you're looking to save big on landscaping, going DIY is the way to go. Morales says that doing things yourself is the most cost-effective way to jazz up a drab landscape. We've put together this list of 13 DIY landscaping ideas under $1,000 to beautify your front or backyard.
Simple garden beds with easy-to-install edging
"Many buyers will drive by the home before they make an appointment to see the interior of the home," says Morales. "A well-landscaped home gets buyers excited to see the home and gives buyers confidence that if the home is well maintained on the outside that they can expect the same on the inside."
Edging is a simple, low-budget way to add substance and order to an otherwise barren front yard landscape. While edging products can deliver a clean, polished look, Yost says that you don't necessarily need special materials to do the job. Using mulch beside grassy areas to create a clean, lined edge can be the perfect solution when you have a limited budget.
What we like:
This simple metal edging is a good choice for minimalist landscapes, including zen gardens and xeriscaped front yards. The powder-coated steel edging is rustproof and comes in small sections making it possible to install it straight or on a curve.
This flexible, hammer-in edging is a simple option for marking off garden territory. Each kit contains a 20-foot coil of serrated edging and a pair of heavy-duty anchoring stakes. The plastic is also easy to snip, so you can customize the length of each section as needed.
Clean lines make this wood edging a more modern option. Connector pins allow you to adjust the length of each segment as you wish, and ground stakes make installation easy as pie. Each pack comes with eight sections measuring 30 inches long, for a total of 20 feet.
Early in her career, Morales learned that landscaping provides a significant return on investment in the realm of between 5% to 15%. Today, she says she sticks with the 10% rule, telling clients to invest 10% of their home's value in landscaping if possible.
Pathways are an excellent place to splurge. Whether in the front or backyard, adding stones or creating DIY paths using mulch and edging helps set the scene for potential buyers.
If opting for stepping stones, Yost recommends buying the largest size you can find since bigger stones are less likely to move out of place. "Stepping stones should be laid on compacted soil, leveled, and soil packed around the edges to prevent moving or wobbling," she adds.
What we like:
No need to haul around heavy stones. Just unroll this hardwood pathway right where you want it. The 4-foot-long weather-resistant walkway is curved, so you can easily place it around curved garden beds.
Add interest and texture with these natural-look stepping stones. While they have the look and feel of natural stone, they’re a fraction of the cost.
This budget-friendly patio stone from Lowe’s comes in four finishes, including grey, red, white, and tan. Use the simple square shape to create a walkway or outdoor patio area.
Incorporate large planters
Morales says that trees and bushes appeal to buyers, but it's essential to be cautious when planting them to avoid blocking natural light. If in doubt, try incorporating large planters to jazz up your home's front stoop or porch. These impermanent fixtures add visual interest without all the upkeep.
When choosing planters, Yost recommends picking ones made of frost-resistant material so you can leave them outside year-round. "Also, be sure there are adequate drainage holes, and the planters are set so that water can actually run freely out of the holes," she says.
What goes inside is entirely up to you, but it's important to consider climate and necessary maintenance. Consider filling large vase-like planters with branches and adding string lights or changing things up for each season.
What we like:
This extra-wide, rust-resistant planter features a modern design and styrofoam insulation to help protect plants and retain moisture. The weathered steel exterior will fade and change over time, developing a unique patina.
Whether alone or as part of a set, this tall planter makes quite the statement. It features a single drainage hole and is made of a durable stone, sand, and fiberglass blend.
Available in short wide and tall slim options, these heavy, expensive-looking planters are actually made of lightweight fiberglass, sand, and cement. The sleek, modern design also features a drainage hole.
Add a birdbath
While the home is the obvious backdrop for beautiful landscaping, adding a birdbath creates a secondary focal point and can turn a simple wildflower garden into a sophisticated space.
When adding a birdbath, Yost says that "placement is key for both aesthetic value and filling." You don't want to put your birdbath so far from the home that filling and cleaning it becomes an annoying chore.
What we like:
Frequent centerpieces of romantic English gardens, birdbaths can also fit right into the modern Zen garden. This model with a wood grain finish has a clean look that’s perfect for attracting birds and other pollinators on hot summer days.
Add a tropical touch to your garden with this traditional cement-look birdbath. It has a weather-resistant finish and a heavy base for maximum stability.
Bring a touch of color to your yard with the help of this deep blue ceramic birdbath. Just make sure to store the handcrafted piece away in the winter since the kiln-fired material is vulnerable to freezing weather.
Install a firepit
"While the front is obvious for curb appeal, the back is important because this is where buyers will be spending most of their time," says Morales. A poorly landscaped backyard may be the last thing a buyer sees, influencing their overall impression of a home.
Yost explains that placement is also important when installing a firepit. You're less likely to use it if it's far from your home but too close, and it becomes a potential hazard. She also recommends thinking about how you plan to use it. Do you want to create a rustic spot for enjoying roasted marshmallows as a family? Or will it be a party gathering place?
And don't forget to look into local regulations regarding fire elements, says Yost.
What we like:
With plenty of room to fit a propane tank underside, this combination fire pit table is an excellent addition to an outdoor entertaining area. The table is rust-resistant and features a wicker-look base.
Create a sleek, cozy outdoor living room with the help of this rectangular gas fire pit. The table has a tank holder to conceal the fuel source and features a brushed finish for a concrete look.
If you like the idea of building your own fire and crave that wood-burning smell, a bare-bones fire pit might be the right choice for you. But bare-bones doesn’t have to mean rustic. This sleek fire pit is all clean lines and features a durable iron construction.
Add permanent seating
Morales recommends incorporating hard and softscaping elements when planning your DIY landscaping project. Hardscaping involves things like pavers and stones while softscaping includes components like flowers, plants, and greenery. "Even on a small budget, incorporating even one to two elements of both hardscaping and softscaping will add value to the home," she says.
In addition to pavers or stones, another way to incorporate hardscaping without breaking the bank is to install permanent seating like stone or steel benches.
What we like:
Add a spot to sit and admire your gorgeous garden. This wooden bench is both functional and eye-catching, thanks to its modern geometric design.
Pop a few of these stools into your garden landscape to enhance a woodland theme. Part seating, part garden sculpture, these wood stumps are water and rust-resistant.
This metal rust-resistant garden bench will stand the test of time and provide a place to rest and admire your hard work. The decorative backing and brushed copper overlay add an ornate touch that helps make this a statement piece.
Plant low-maintenance shrubs and flowers
You've created garden beds by adding edging. Great! The next step is picking the right plants to fill those beds. Yost recommends opting for plants native to your area since they'll thrive in the particular climate. Some ideas include knockout roses, which are an easy way to add color to your landscape, and native ornamental grasses, which are easy to maintain and look great. Consider checking out Audubon's Native Plant Database for ideas on plants to incorporate into your landscaping project.
Morales suggests using options that lend a clean look when choosing plants to maximize exterior appeal. "Believe it or not, the simplest thing to do is to ensure your grass is cut and edged. A well-cared for lawn is important to improving first impressions," she adds.
What we like:
If you’re planting in containers, choose a high-quality potting mix. This mix from Miracle-Gro contains enough nutrients to keep your plants fed for up to 3 months, and it’s organic.
Despite its heavy weight, the rugged ColorStorm Garden Hose provides an efficient and surprisingly smooth watering experience. Its thick rubber body doesn't bend or kink, while its metal fittings can withstand rough handling.
Mulch provides a finishing touch to a garden landscape, helps retain moisture, and keeps weeds down. So whether you’re planting roses, ornamental grasses, or shrubbery, sprinkle it around the base of plants to protect roots and increase drought tolerance.
Conceal your AC unit
Adding air conditioning to your home can boost its value, but an exterior compressor unit can be an eyesore. Covering it up can help beautify your yard and create a clean, clutter-free look. For hiding AC units, Yost recommends shrubs, making sure you don't plant them too close to the unit that it impedes airflow. "Think about using an evergreen as compressors are visible all year round. Some species to consider are schip laurel, boxwood, holly, and taxus," she says.
Yost adds that an issue she frequently sees with AC units is mulch contamination. "Be sure mulch is pulled well away from the base and can't get into any of the vents."
If you'd rather not plant anything around your unit, consider adding one of these screens to conceal it.
What we like:
This freestanding privacy screen is easy to install, and while it’s designed to stay in place, you can easily move panels out of the way to allow access to your unit. The lattice style also encourages airflow.
This wood screen is composed of certified cedar wood and powder-coated aluminum. It’s also weather-resistant and easy to install — just dig the stakes into the ground with the help of a sledgehammer.
The lattice design of this privacy screen allows for airflow and is an ideal structure for supporting ornamental vining plants, adding color and curb appeal. The vinyl screen is easy to clean and comes with a 20-year manufacturer warranty.
Create interest with a fountain
A water feature adds both visual and auditory interest, and who doesn't love the sound of gently trickling water?
Elements like a bird bath, fountain, and permanent seating make great finishing touches. When choosing a fountain, make sure to think about whether there's access to an outlet. Keep in mind that evaporation can happen quickly on hot, sunny days. A bigger fountain may be more expensive, but you'll need to fill it up less frequently.
Yost also recommends putting your fountain in a spot where you can see it from several vantage points for maximum enjoyment. She adds that scale is important, too. An oversized fountain in a compact space can quickly overwhelm.
What we like:
This handcrafted stone finish fountain would make a perfect addition to a minimalist Zen garden. Gentle trickling water creates a relaxing atmosphere, and a built-in LED light brightens up nighttime environs.
This cascading sculpture-like fountain is made of natural slate, allowing it to blend easily into garden landscapes. A heavy-duty base keeps it locked in place.
This unique vertical-style fountain features seven copper spouts pouring into a basin below. The fountain also has a planter top, which can be used to plant tropical greenery or drought-tolerant succulents.
Enhance the landscape with stones and natural materials
If you're looking to save big on landscaping, going DIY is the way to go. Morales says that doing things yourself is the most cost-effective way to jazz up a drab landscape.
Playing up natural elements can help finish off a space or even hide ugly problem areas in your yard or garden. "If you are going to use natural materials, make sure they are indigenous to your region," says Yost. "Don't use materials from somewhere else because they can look out of place." She recommends planting boulders or rocks versus setting them atop the ground since this helps deliver a natural, intentional result.
Think of these decorative elements as the icing on the cake. It's not necessary, but people appreciate it. A few simple touches can make a big difference.
And when adding decorative accessories, just be aware that many need to be protected in the winter. If you're short on storage space or just don't love the idea of cleaning up decorations at the end of the season, keep these items to a minimum for maximum enjoyment.
What we like:
Hide unsightly landscaping issues like septic pipes, pumps, and more, with the help of this faux rock. The rock is lightweight yet durable and secures in seconds using built-in stakes.
These modern, minimalist decorations are elegant yet playful. And like oversized planters, they make a bold visual statement.
Another decorative ball option comes in the form of these poly resin and stone mix balls with a speckled appearance. Available in three sizes, the stones are outdoor-safe but should be covered during the winter.
Make a statement with modern house numbers
First impressions are important. And your front door is typically the first thing buyers see before they head inside. While a fresh coat of paint can go a long way, a few additional finishing touches like new light fixtures and a modern house number plaque can tie everything together and set your home apart from the rest of the block. "When buyers see that a seller is paying attention to these small details, it gives the buyer confidence that the seller maintained the whole house in the same manner," says Morales.
Want to make an even bigger impact? Swap your mailbox at the same time. Matching your porch lighting fixtures, mailbox, and address plaque is a good way to set the tone for the rest of the house.
What we like:
Don’t let anyone miss your home. Put that house number front and center with this modern yard sign featuring vertical numbering. The handcrafted steel sign is customizable and available in multiple colors.
Replace that old, dingy address plaque with this contemporary floating address plaque. The design fits up to five numbers and features a built-in light with a dusk-to-dawn sensor.
This bright, easy-to-read address plaque features reflective background and comes with three mounting options. It’s also backed by a limited lifetime guarantee.
Install window planter boxes
"In addition to all of the other larger aspects of the home (location, layout, updates), simple and inexpensive changes can help make a difference in enticing buyers to make an offer on the home," says Morales
Simple, cheap, and easy to install, window planter boxes are a low-effort way to increase the visual appeal of your home's exterior. Fill them with your favorite annuals, make sure to keep them watered, and you've got an instant color boost. Morales recommends choosing window box planters that fit the style of your home.
Also, be sure to choose planters that come equipped with drainage holes and pick the right plants for your climate. Because most boxes are relatively shallow, annuals are a good choice for window planters. Pick annuals that produce plentiful blooms, like begonias, and remember to fertilize every few months.
What we like:
This 30-inch-wide planter features multiple drainage holes and is made from beautiful, weather-resistant teakwood. Each box comes with all the stainless steel hardware you need to mount it. It's also available in 36- and 48-inch widths.
This elegant planter will look right at home against a brick exterior. A sub-irrigation design means you can spend more time admiring your flowers and watering less. The box is also crack-proof and weather-resistant and has a generous depth of 11 inches.
This set of modern window box planters is available in gray, black, and espresso brown. The durable plastic is crack-proof and weather-resistant. It's also treated with UV inhibitors to prevent fading.
One of the most effective landscaping jobs you can do on a budget? Deletion, says Yost. "If you have overgrown or dead plants, just removing them is often better than leaving them in place. Even if you don't immediately have the budget for replacements."
Buyers are much more likely to see potential in a clean, bare lot than one that's overgrown and cluttered. Tackling a messy lot can be overwhelming, so make the job easier by enlisting friends and family, if possible. While cleaning, you'll also get the chance to visualize the landscape of your dreams.
Here are a few tools to help you with your garden cleanup.
What we like:
Get rid of weeds and prevent back pain by using this handheld weeder with an extendable handle. The two-pronged tool is also designed with a comfortable grip to avoid fatigue.
As Yost previously mentioned, it’s possible to create clean edges without edging material. But you’ll need the right tool for the job. This manual lawn edger features a curved half-moon blade and a secure lip to help you drive the tool into the ground.
A leaf-ridden lawn is far from a tidy one. Clean up fallen leaves with the help of this sturdy rake. The dual-tine design prevents clogging, and a cushioned handle makes for comfortable raking.
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