A landscaped front yard

Landscaping Your Rental Property Yard: Why it’s Important

By: Steve Hembree
June 4, 2020  | 

Okay, landscaping your rental property’s yard is a topic that may make you cringe, and possibly make you feel like you are dying a little if you own a rental property.

By all means, stay calm and come along on a short journey with us. We’ll explain it all and make this topic sensible for you, after all, everything is simple if you break it down into small chunks. Also, bear in mind, this topic is more important than you may think.

First, why is Landscaping a Rental Property Important?
Having been in this field for over three decades, Management One has seen it all, quite literally.

Recently a few of us were in the office mulling over a question that was bothering us. Okay, it was bothering me in particular. “Why do properties that sit on the market longer than we like, longer than we normally see, tend to get renters who are, well, challenges?”

By challenges, I mean…

Those Items Which Neither You, Nor We, Like.

Evictions, breaking leases, excessive maintenance, things like that. It does happen in the real world, all the time; however, we have a system in place that ought to catch these challenges in advance, yet sometimes they do get through. Again, in the real world, it happens.

I’ll use a recent example as a scenario: Renter gets in, six months down the line they stop paying their rent. Maybe they simply move out without notice. Or, maybe they slide extra folks in after they move in, which, of course, then leads to contention and stress.

So here you are, six months of doing another rehab on a property that ought to have been occupied for a year, two, maybe five years. You dislike that, as do we. But what conditions create this phenomenon?

Back to the Office Discussion

Our dedicated team is always working on ways to improve the homeowner’s experience, as well as that of the renter. If you were a fly on the wall, you would be surprised at the dedication and amount of time utilized for this.

Having said that, the One Question that was bothering me, in particular, was the lack of longevity with some renters; this being conjoined with why some properties tend to rent slower than others. Add to these the question of why the failure rate on these is higher, and you have the big picture we were looking at.

We put our heads together and could not come up with anything concrete. “It Is What It Is” was not enough.

Everyone qualifies the same. Income, credit, references, all of them check out. So Why?

Our Fearless Leaders

Among property management companies, we’re quite fortunate as our founders have been in the business an incredibly long time. Sure, I know they will read this, hence the shout-out; however, there is a larger purpose to this: They Know Stuff.

I brought this topic up with our CEO, and he stated, “Well, of course, a property with an icky yard will draw an icky resident. Why wouldn’t it?”

What he meant is that yes, a yard in poor condition will certainly draw the type of individual that may be really isn’t all that into taking care of things, be it their own stuff, or another person’s stuff. This also applies to sub-par property rehabs. A poorly prepared property will potentially draw a poorer quality resident, and when not a poor-quality resident, how long until that good resident goes bad?

Re: a properly prepared property read this article “How to Get a Home Move-In Ready: DIY vs Contractor vs Property Management

Bear in mind, I do not mean “bad resident” meaning they are a bad person, not at all, what I mean is that they do not necessarily conform to standards that are conducive to keeping a property occupied, and in good condition.

Some people care for rental properties as if they were their own, others have an “apartment mentality.” If an item is outside the walls they inhabit, it is not their problem. That is a challenge. Landscaping your rental is way low on their list of priorities.

Starting Right – Landscaping Your Rental Property Yard

So, here we’re traveling to just the front and rear yards. A rental rehab within is a given, and ought to be done right and complete each and every time; however yards tend to get neglected, sometimes since the house was built! I have done this. My rear patio slab is pretty much my backyard, aside from the lawn and garden.

Landscaping Materials You’ll Need
First, let’s get the front yard out of the way. The least expensive installation for a front yard is grass. The clear majority of our owners use this in the front and the rear of the house. In all, the options are many, such as:

  • Grass
  • Decomposed granite
  • Bark of various colors
  • Rock
  • Astro-turf (Just don’t.)
  • Various combinations of schemes above, along with plants, trees, shrubs.

Grass we have already covered, so decomposed granite, what can it do for you? How about this? Decomposed granite can be used in combination with grass and plants to make an easy-care yard, front, or rear.

Bark and Rock Combo with Plants are a low maintenance solution and warmth comes with a bark and rock combination.  How much of each? Generally, we find a mix of 65% rockscape to 35% plants/grass. The rockscape is cost effective as well as minimal maintenance.

“Why not make a yard all rock?” Not all ideas need to get carried away. This will give you a cold, forbidding yard, simple as that. Having some grass will give the yard some color, some warmth.

We’ll just skip AstroTurf because, yeah, no.

The bottom line is creating a front yard that adds curb appeal and making a backyard that useful and attractive. Low maintenance is a bonus.

How much does it cost to creatively landscape your rental property?

When it comes to landscaping your rental property, all yards are different, so there’s that. You may have even gone online to some of those calculator websites, just as I did. One came back to me at around $29.9k, which is, like, no. I hopped out of that site and did more digging.
Let’s assume we’re discussing a property with a 1500 square foot backyard, which in my region is fairly common, minus one of the side yards, that is. My reasoning here is usually one side yard, like mine, is a walking path for entering the backyard. Plus, it breaks down by 500 square foot increments.

The next assumption…

The next assumption is that we’re not going to go crazy. No water features. No pool grotto. No extensive brickwork. No concrete poured.
We will have flex borders for the rock in an interesting design, and we will add some low water plants, such as succulents, to the rock areas, perhaps with drip irrigation.

  • The grass areas will have sprinklers, so we will likely have to install or update a sprinkler system for the drippers, and the grass sprinklers.
  • We will use professional installation.
  • Rock ought to come in at $975. For border, drippers, drippers valves, time and labor, add $500.
  • Add a few succulents, $200 max.
  • Grass is pretty much dirt cheap. Don’t use sod. It is quick and easy, but it costs a lot! Seed and cover the grass area, with Fescue and manure for $100.
  • Reworking the sprinkler system, figure $800 max.

So about $2500 for a 1500 square foot rear yard.

You’ll call that a bargain if it keeps your resident in the home an extra two years!

The answer to the question…

It would seem that our fearless leader, Ron Sudman, was correct, “a property with an icky yard will draw an icky resident.”

That’s what three decades in property management will teach you! Seriously, though, put yourself in the resident’s shoes: if you drove up to a property and saw a dirt yard with overgrown weeds, are you even going to put the car in park let alone get out of the car? The answer is “no,” you would just drive on by and never give it a second thought.

Another way to think about it is this: you go down to the local Tesla dealership, and you want to look at the latest and greatest model. The salesman tells you they have one on the lot and “boy, it’s a looker-on the inside.” As you approach the vehicle, you are thinking to yourself, “seriously, this can’t be the car.”

Sitting before you is a car covered in mud from top to bottom. The salesman is trying his hardest to convince you to get inside the car; you will LOVE it once you step inside and just take it for a test drive.

There is no way you are going to get in that car, who knows if the only thing holding it together is the dried mud!

You say, “no thanks” and move on. This is exactly what happens when residents drive up and see an unkept or unlandscaped yard. They truly judge the book by its cover!

If you enjoyed the information in this article, check out another article on Rental Property Yard Care, Front Yards Without Grass: Now What?

Flower bed in a front yard

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