Property Management Blog

Low Maintenance Landscaping for Rental Properties

System - Thursday, February 17, 2022

When talking about rental properties, it is all about the bottom line. Profit. Such is the case with any business. Increasing profits can be by; increasing revenue (rent) and/or decreasing expenses. Although it would be nice to eliminate all fees, we know that is impossible. There will always be some costs to maintaining the property. We understand this, and the same principle should apply when considering landscaping. There will always be some cost for landscape maintenance. 

The No-Cost Option (Fictional)

There is not a “no-cost” option. All too often, we see all plants (grass, bushes, flowers, shrubs, etc.) removed and rock installed with the idea that no more maintenance or water will ever be required. That is a false idea. It is often very costly to convert the landscaping initially. The savings on the water is often very little. The savings on maintenance can add up, but if done wrong, it could take 15+ years to recoup the cost of changing the landscaping. That doesn’t sound like a good investment. 

This option can often cost more than it saves down the road. How so? As curb appeal declines, so does the capacity to charge higher rent. Is it worth saving $100 a month on landscape maintenance to charge $100 or maybe more rent than you could with a well-maintained landscape? What if you could pay a professional lawn maintenance company $100 a month during the 7- or 8-month growing season and charge $100 or $150 more in rent for all 12 months?

If that is not enough to encourage you to think about things, think about this; studies show that higher rents (to an extent along the supply and demand curve) attract a higher caliber of renters who cause trivial damage and require less supervision and upkeep. These renters offer far less turnover, save vacancy and advertising costs, and increase the bottom-line profit.  

house in CO

The High-Cost Option

Rip it all out and start fresh. Remove any plants and add concrete, rock, paver patios, etc. You will get higher rents. You will have to pay less for maintenance. To do so, you will pay a large lump sum upfront that is most likely never going to pay for itself. The law of diminishing returns shows that rent levels would be capped long before the increases would ever pay for the project. The evident negatives of this route are even more blatant than the negative of the no-cost option.

So what should a property owner do?

The Middle-of-the-Spectrum Option

After looking at both ends of the scope, we can focus on the ground between the two extremes. We want to consider the whole spectrum and all of the equations involved. We want to find points where paying for maintenance yields higher profits and do those things. We want to discover what points of paying more are not worth it. Here are a few guiding principles:

1. Maximize Views

Large trees and bushes/hedges are the hardest plants to maintain. They grow fast and require frequent trimming. Trees can drop massive amounts of leaves, pods, cotton, fruit, or other debris that need cleaning. They can also be expensive to remove after growing tall or large. Trees provide little upside to tenants. The worst thing you can do is plant such plants. If your property has some presently, it may be worth looking at the numbers to see if they are worth removing before they get any bigger. No one wants a large tree limb to be blown off the tree and onto the house roof in a windstorm. 

single family home

2. Resolve any Safety Issues

Is the retaining wall bowing? Are bricks or patio pavers sloughing off and becoming dangerous? Are there rose bushes growing across the front walk or patio? Are there large rocks that could be tripped over or hit with a car? Get rid of any of these now. Although the costs will be hard to calculate, it doesn’t take much for medical treatment to eat up profit.

3. Makes Changes as Required and not Pre-Maturely

If it is intact, don’t fix it. When considering some landscape upgrades, wait if you can. If you can get another year or two out of a cracked patio, wait. Once the time comes, consider current trends and replace or fix the item with something that will have an upside for tenants. 

Another bonus to following these principles is that not only do they increase rental profits, but most of them will also increase the property value. So should you decide or want to sell the property down the road, it’s worth more. Remember, moderation in all things, and that you do not live in the rental. If you want something overkill, do it at your residence, and if you follow these principles, you’ll have the money in your pocket to do just that.

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