House Hunting

This was originally published on Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens.

My family recently started house hunting. We’ve been apartment dwellers for years, but the situation is right for us to purchase a home since, among other reasons, we’re planning on staying in Seattle for a few years. Plus we’re tired of our rent going up every year. Over the last few months I’ve discovered how much value I place on the outdoor space. We started out looking at condos, then expanded townhouses and now have expanded to houses, something I didn’t initially want. The thought of maintaining a house with all the electrical wiring, plumbing, siding and roofing makes me shudder. But houses also have significant outdoor space. I’d be happy with a condo that had a great balcony, however those are very hard to come by in Seattle, most buildings have no outdoor space or tiny, ‘Juliet’ balconies. Townhouses are also not bad, they often have one or two balconies and a small yard space. A few have more space than some houses I’ve seen.

I knew from the start that I wanted an outdoor space and that it was important to me. For one I want to take all of my native plant containers with me. Plus I want the space to expand. Now that we have a little one in the family it’s also important to have some little space to play as well. This year our apartment built garden plots on our roof for tenants to use for vegetable patches. Although I’ve grown tomatoes, peas and beans on our balcony, having that little patch with room for several vegetables and herbs has been such a treat. It’s great to go to the roof to harvest some lettuce for dinner. I’m afraid now though I’ve gotten greedy. Now instead of being satisfied with a small garden, I want room for a bigger wildlife garden, more native plants, room for my daughter to play and room for vegetables and herbs.

I’ve read about studies that say landscaping can improve home value. This is certainly true for me. When I look at photos online, the first ones I look for are the outdoor photos. If the outdoor space looks adequate then I look at the interior photos. But the landscaping is another issue. Many of the yards I see have horrible plantings with large lawns, box-shaped shrubs and the typical array of plants. A few have mature fruit trees which is a big bonus. For myself, I’m more interested in the potential of the space than what is already there. I also imagine that when I’m done with it and we’re ready to move on it’ll have improved the value of the house.

It’s quite amazing to me how what I was sure I want from our future abode has altered so dramatically. Suddenly we were looking at a house sitting on a 10,000 square foot lot. A huge difference from our 20 square foot balcony. How did this happen?

The search continues.

Was the landscape important to you when you bought your current place of residence? What did you look for when house hunting? Has anyone sold a house for an increased value because of the landscaping you did?

Our balcony wildlife garden

About the Author

Kelly Brenner writes The Metropolitan Field Guide, a blog for ideas, thoughts and resources for the design of urban wildlife habitat. She earned a degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon.

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