The overall awareness that curb appeal is a primary determinant in creating market value is the concept that must be kept in the forefront of each board member's mind. It is easy to understand how $1,000 spent on attractive landscaping along the entry to the community can translate into $100,000 worth of increased aggregate property market value. It's also easy to forget when looking over landscaping bids for the coming year. People still buy their homes based mainly on cosmetic appeal. How fresh is the paint? How neatly trimmed is the lawn? How attractive are the shrubs and signing? How clean are the parking lots? Books will always be judged by their covers and homes will always be judged by their appearance. Landscaping is the most obvious facet of appearance in most suburban communities.
Poorly maintained lawns with bald patches and overgrown areas are a major turnoff. A well-designed landscape plan will dazzle a new buyer. A Landscape Maintenance Manual will ensure that the property continues to provide an attractive facade to the public. To accomplish your overall goals, you need a plan. A Landscaping Committee is a good place to start. Here's a few ABC's.
Identify your needs.
The most obvious is maintenance. The lawns must be cut. The shrubs must be trimmed. Fertilizer must be applied. These three tasks can often be accomplished by a single vendor. In order to get a proper bid, outline exactly the areas to be maintained and the expected frequency of trimming and fertilization.
Secondly: Do you wish to do any improvements on your landscaping plan? Do you want to invest a few dollars to add more shrubbery? Remove some dead plantings? Restructure an existing area? A Landscape Architect is what you need. Not every maintenance company provides a trained professional. Ask for credentials. Ask for pictures and other references from previous work. It will be more expensive than you think. But keep in mind that expenses incurred to purchase long-lasting trees, shrubs and other permanent improvements to your landscape are legitimate Reserve Budget items and can be paid from that fund. Just be sure to make note of it and include future purchases in your Reserve Study Budget. When you consider how trees and other plantings increase in value as they mature, you might well consider these purchases as one of your most profitable investments. Spend $300 for a young sapling today and it could be worth $1,000 or more five years from now. You sure don't get that kind of value in re-painting.
Third on the list should be special needs like services of an arborist for your existing trees or an irrigation specialist to address your water usage and its effectiveness. Make sure you go to specialists.
Pest Control is a fourth area of concern. We all know about the need for fertilizer. What about preventive maintenance for things like chinch bug or army worms? Pest Control vendors are often specially licensed and trained to apply the often dangerous chemicals that are needed. Check out the state-mandated requirements in your area. This function should be covered under a separate contract from your overall landscaping needs.
Do you have a Landscaping Maintenance Manual? Do you know what one is? They are volumes of information compiled by your manager in conjunction with the landscaping professionals that outline all of your landscaping assets, their original cost, expected life, their on-going care, and a record of regular maintenance activities to be performed. History of infestations and their treatment should be recorded. Fertilization schedules should be noted. Any kind of guarantees or warranties on plantings, pest control projects, and maintenance equipment should be in writing in one reference manual. In the case of irrigation equipment, manufacturers' names and warranties should be recorded. The Landscaping Maintenance Manual is your bible that ensures continuity and the consistent quality of your curb appeal that translates into re-sale value for each individual owner.
Landscaping is a multi-faceted responsibility that invites community participation. The Landscaping Committee is second in popularity to the Budget Committee. Take advantage of the neighbors in your community with a feel for greenery and the willingness to donate their time. Examine all the aspects of your landscaping needs and professionalize the whole package with a Landscaping Maintenance Manual.