By Clare Trapasso | Mar 29, 2017
Reposted from Realtor.com
Let’s face it: Today’s 24/7 pace can be brutal. Between the boss’s midnight text attacks, the kids’ taekwondo lessons, and the occasional evenings out with friends, there’s way too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. So watering the shrubs and mowing the lawn may not exactly be top priority.
It’s no wonder, then, that more homeowners are either downsizing or altogether eliminating their water-guzzling lawns, according to a Houzz report on the hottest landscaping trends. The home remodeling and design website surveyed 977 homeowners who finished an outdoor landscaping or renovation project within the past year.
Sure, water conservation efforts in the Western U.S. doubtless played a role in the diminishing American lawn. But so did changes in current tastes.
“Green lawns are falling out of favor, both in terms of curb appeal and a ‘nice-to-have’ feature in the front yard,” Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz, said to realtor.com®.
But that doesn’t mean that green spaces are being neglected: They’re being optimized. A big takeaway from the report was that homeowners, particularly new ones, are using landscaping, particularly garden beds and borders, shrubs, and perennials, to differentiate their front yards from their neighbors’. And to make their property more livable.
Homeowners “want to create a usable, multifunction space,” says Craig Jenkins-Sutton, president of Topiarius, a Chicago-based urban landscape design firm. “One where they drink their coffee, entertain their friends … [and] give the kids a place to play.”
Low maintenance reigns supreme
Many folks simply want to use landscaping to maximize their home’s value—particularly if they’re planning on putting the home on the market. But they don’t want to work too hard for it.
That’s why 28% of homeowners in the study reduced the size of their lawns. It cuts down on the amount of water, particularly in drought-prone climates, used to keep them green. And 14% of homeowners got rid of them all together. (Farewell, mowing!) They’re also opting for more easy-to-care-for plants that don’t need constant tending.
Meanwhile, 10% of survey participants expanded their green, grassy yards.
“People are busier than they were before,” says Chuck Bowen, editor of Lawn & Landscaping Magazine. “They don’t want to spend every waking second taking care of the landscape themselves.”
Other hot trends for the outdoors
But those who love their outdoor spaces are still backing up that ardor with plenty of cold, hard cash.
Folks aren’t just planting a few flowers in front of their houses and adding an herb garden out back. They’re building fancy outdoor kitchens, adding fire pits, and upgrading the lighting around their homes with LED bulbs that they control remotely.
The most popular new and upgraded outdoor structures were patios and terraces, at 39%; arbors, gazebos, pergolas, or trellises, at 26%; and decks, at 20%.
“Homeowners want to mix it up” with different types of structures, says landscape designer Leeann Lavin of Duchess Designs in Atlantic Highlands, NJ. They add “a sense of destination, mystery, nuance, and depth. … If you just have one big, empty lawn, it’s not interesting.”
And people are increasingly turning their yards into functional extensions of their homes. So when they’re creating outdoor kitchens, they aren’t going to settle for a little gray grill, says Jenkins-Sutton.
“Today’s customer is looking for a full outdoor kitchen,” he says of his clients asking for outdoor fridges, sinks, smokers, pizza ovens—and even kegerators.
That’s partly because the prices have come down on these appliances and equipment, says Lawn & Landscaping Magazine’s Bowen.
Homeowners’ top purchases for creating their own outdoor oases, according to the survey, were lounge furniture (the better to soak up those rays), at 36%; fire pits (for roasting marshmallows, of course), at 32%; and dining tables and chairs, at 28%.
“You have all the benefits of being outside without having to give up any of the conveniences you have inside your home,” Bowen says.
Why homeowners are bothering to fix up their yards anyway
The main reason homeowners are fixing up their properties is that they’re trying to create personal retreats in their backyards. And most of the outdoor investments are coming from recent home buyers—33%, who just can’t wait to, say, get rid of the previous owner’s creepy garden gnomes. That’s up from 25% of new homeowners last year.
And if they’re going to get the work done, they’re going to have it done right. Almost nine in 10 homeowners completed major renovations or completely rehauled their properties, according to the report.
“Having nice landscaping makes a house like a home,” Bowen says. Meanwhile, “if you drive by a house that’s vacant, you can tell by looking at the lack of landscaping.”
Clare Trapasso is the senior news editor of realtor.com and an adjunct journalism professor. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication and the New York Daily News. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow @claretrap