Low-Maintenance Landscape Design for Vacation Homes or Rental Properties
Investing in real estate is generally considered a smart move regardless of how the current housing market looks.
Of course, smart investors try to pick up properties when prices are low, but there is still the potential for making money off of your investments if you buy when average home prices are higher.
Whether you own or are considering a vacation home for your family’s personal use or rental properties purchased with the intent of making a monthly income, buying at the right time for the biggest potential profits is only the first step in maximizing your return on investment.
Once you own your second home or income properties, minimizing the ongoing costs of maintenance and utilities also plays a significant role in your overall investment and potential return.
Depending on the size of your property and the number of units, your monthly maintenance costs can easily reach well into the thousands if you do not take an active role in minimizing monthly expenses as soon as possible.
Before we explore low-maintenance landscaping options that can help you save money on landscaping costs and utility bills, let’s first look at why you should consider these options for either a vacation home or rental property.
Reasons to Consider Low-Maintenance Landscaping Options for Rental Properties
Old-school real estate investors can often be heard saying things like, “Show me a guy with rentals he’s proud of enough to show off, and I’ll show you a guy who isn’t making money on those rentals.”
Now these rental property pros are not necessarily touting the benefits of being a slumlord, but they do have a point when it comes to balancing how much you spend to maintain rental properties and the potential return on your investment.
Pouring money into remodeling, updating and landscaping your properties, and then forking over more money every month in maintenance and utility costs, can quickly turn your investment property into a money pit.
But this does not mean that you have to let the weeds grow past the windowsills or skimp on necessary repairs in order to make a buck in the rental world.
Lush gardens filled with tropical plants, expansive natural grass lawns and perfectly planted flower beds can all make your rental property more inviting, but paying to have that lawn mowed every week, regularly fertilized and aerated, edged, weeded and watered will significantly increase your out-of-pocket expenses each month.
So will maintaining those flowerbeds and all those non-native plant species.
Sure, you can increase the rent to cover some of these costs, but each neighborhood only allows so much of an increase before potential renters will start looking elsewhere.
And even if you can rent your units for a price that covers these costs, you can make even more each month if you simply cut these costs down.
You can minimize monthly expenses and still have visually appealing rentals by taking simple steps like installing low-water, low-maintenance landscaping that will ensure curb appeal without expensive monthly maintenance costs.
For example, replacing your rental’s natural grass lawn with artificial grass is a single step that will cut both your water bill and your property maintenance costs immediately.
Reasons to Consider Low-Maintenance Landscaping Options for Vacation Homes
Folks who purchase a second home do not typically buy a vacation property that is in close proximity to their primary residence.
Because of this, landscaping and household maintenance must either be maintained when the owners travel to their vacation home or by a local company that most likely charges a cringe-worthy sum for mowing the grass and keeping the weeds pulled.
If you have, or are considering purchasing, a vacation home for your family to enjoy, it is important to keep in mind that you are not always going to be there and that the home is probably not going to be within driving distance of where you live.
If you plan to use your home only during the summer or winter, or only a few times each year, this will mean long periods of time when you will not be there to take care of general upkeep and landscaping tasks.
This means that you will either have to take on the task of wrangling an out-of-control yard upon arrival for what is supposed to be a relaxing family vacation, or you will need to pay a landscaping company to maintain your property while you are away.
Neither of these options is particularly appealing, but if you choose a conventional grass lawn and landscaping that requires regular watering and maintenance, you do not have much choice.
Of course, there is another option.
You can keep your vacation home looking pristine and ensure that your property will be ready for your family to enjoy as soon as you arrive by choosing low-maintenance landscaping options that can withstand changes in weather and a bit of neglect while you are away.
Since you will only be using your vacation property on occasion, you might also want to consider renting it out when it is not in use by your family members and friends.
This can help offset the cost to purchase and maintain the property, or even become regular monthly income that you can put towards retirement, paying off bills or scheduling more vacation time.
If you choose to turn your second home into a vacation rental when you are not using it, it is even more important that you choose durable landscaping that can withstand potentially rowdy renters and will be easy to maintain in your absence.
6 Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas for Vacation Homes and Rental Properties
1. Avoid tropical plants and other non-native plant species.
Plants that are not native to the area in which your rental or vacation property is located will require more water, more soil additives and more maintenance to keep them looking their best.
You can save water and lower your yard’s maintenance requirements by choosing native plant species that have adapted well to the local environment and seasonal changes.
Because they are adapted to that particular environment and are accustomed to the soil in that area, they will thrive with less water and less care than non-native plants.
To find native plants that are likely to thrive on your property, visit a local garden center or enlist the assistance of a local landscape designer.
2. Use ground covers that do not require water and will keep weeds down.
The more area you cover with gravel, mulch, bark or wood chips, the more money you can save on water and maintenance.
These low-maintenance ground covers simply require some occasional raking or adding new layers to keep them looking their best.
As an added benefit, ground covers help maintain soil moisture and reduce weed growth, while taking the place of other ground covers that require more care and water, such as natural grass or low-growing plants.
And they accomplish all of this while enhancing the overall look of your landscaping.
3. Create more patio space.
An outdoor living area is an excellent selling point when seeking potential renters, and allows your family members and friends to more fully enjoy their time away when staying at your vacation rental.
Covered patios are the perfect place for family barbecues or evening get-togethers.
Patio areas are also ideal for sunbathing or for storing equipment for water or mountain sports.
Pool decks, walkways and outdoor living spaces made with high-quality hardscape options, such as paving stones, are easy to maintain and are a great way to cover bare ground with a functional landscaping option that requires no water and very little upkeep.
If you have a rental property with multiple units, you are sure to need walkways that go from the parking area to each unit, the laundry room, the pool or other amenities.
Renovation projects like installing flagstone pavers create far more elegant look that will immediately give your rental property an aesthetic boost that is sure to appeal to potential renters.
4. Include storage for patio furniture cushions and textiles.
When planning your vacation home’s backyard oasis or your rental property’s pool area, be sure to include storage for furniture cushions and other textiles.
Fabric items that are left out in the sun, rain or snow will fade and wear out much quicker, which will lead to you having to replace them more often.
By including a free-standing or built-in storage compartment for cushions, you can help to ensure that your outdoor textiles will last longer and require fewer repairs.
5. Avoid or limit the use of water features in your landscape design.
Water features, such as fountains or waterfalls cascading over rocks, are a lovely addition to any landscape design; however, they generally require more maintenance than you will likely want to provide for a property that is not your primary residence.
First of all, a water feature that runs constantly can significantly increase your water bill, even if you choose an option that recycles the water.
While it is true that not all fountains are created equal and some are designed to be a greener, water-saving choice, things like evaporation still come into play.
You will also need to consider the cost of regular cleaning, as well as pump maintenance and repair.
Unless you have an on-site maintenance person who can provide regular maintenance for your water features while completing his or her other regular tasks, you might want to consider limiting the use of water features in your landscape design for your rentals or vacation properties.
6. Replace your natural grass lawn with lush, vibrant artificial turf.
Opting for synthetic grass over natural grass is one of the top money-saving choices you can make when designing your landscape.
This is because natural grass lawns are among the biggest residential water-wasters.
And while most of us think of water consumption when considering just how much natural lawn to install, it is important to also keep in mind the other maintenance costs that come with natural grass, such as regular mowing, weeding, edging, fertilizing and aerating.
If you own a vacation home that you visit infrequently, you will have to pay someone local to complete these tasks for you on a regular basis.
Or if you have a rental property with a natural grass lawn, you have three choices: You can waste your own time maintaining the yard, pay a gardening service to maintain the yard or trust that the renters will mow, weed, water and fertilize it to keep it green and healthy.
None of these are good options.
To avoid all of this, you can replace your natural grass lawn with beautiful synthetic grass that will always look lush and green, even during times of drought or when you have not been able to manage taking time off to visit your vacation home in months.
Fake grass requires minimal maintenance that can easily be accomplished on your own or that can be outsourced to a local landscaping company that specializes in caring for artificial turf.
With just a little cleaning and an occasional brushing, your synthetic grass lawn will always be ready for your family to enjoy as soon as you arrive at your vacation home.
Or, in the case of rental properties, it will ensure that your common areas or lawns always look healthy and inviting, and will never have those dead, brown spots that natural lawns get in the areas that pets frequent.
Owning rental properties or vacation homes does not have to be a headache.
You can enjoy your investment properties more fully when you choose low-maintenance landscaping options that will help you save time and money each month.
The common areas or yards at your properties do not have to require high maintenance costs or become unkempt between visits, if you simply opt for landscaping design that will keep your properties looking pristine while helping you save money.