Low-Maintenance Landscape Design for Vacation Homes or Rental Properties

Many homeowners want low-maintenance landscaping for their primary residences so that they can spend less time caring for their yards and more time enjoying them. While we want outdoor living spaces that are relaxing, functional, and attractive, we do not want to spend hours maintaining them or spend more money than necessary to have professionals maintain them for us. This is even more important when we are talking about vacation homes and rental properties.

Why You Need Low-Maintenance Landscaping for Rental Properties

Investment properties, by definition, are intended to provide a return on your investment. This is most often either through increasing property value or through using the property as a short-term or long-term rental. Property owners need to minimize expenses as much as possible to maximize earning potential. This includes keeping utility and maintenance costs to a minimum.

At the same time, you want the property to be clean, safe, and inviting, so you must achieve a balance between saving money and properly maintaining the property. If you can achieve all of this while also increasing your property value, that is a bonus.

Monthly maintenance costs depend largely on the size of the property, the number of units, the types of amenities on the property, and how the property is landscaped. These costs can easily reach into the thousands every month if the owner is not paying attention or not taking steps to reduce costs.

Lush landscaping makes a property more inviting and attractive and will likely make your property more appealing to potential renters. However, the ongoing costs of high-maintenance tropical plants, expansive natural grass lawns, or multiple borders filled with colorful annuals can significantly increase your out-of-pocket expenses and are not necessary. While you can increase the rent to recover some of these costs each month, you are better off designing attractive, lush landscaping that is also low maintenance.

For example, an expansive natural grass lawn might seem enticing, but consider the cost and time spent mowing and edging the lawn each week, regularly weeding it, and fertilizing and aerating it to try to keep it looking its best. Instead, you can increase your rental property’s curb appeal and minimize monthly maintenance costs while still providing your renters with an expansive lawn by replacing any natural grass with synthetic turf. This one change can significantly reduce monthly maintenance while also conserving water.

Low-maintenance landscaping is also the best landscaping for rental properties if you require renters to perform any necessary yard work. If renters are responsible for keeping up the yard, this will help them maintain it to your standards without feeling overwhelmed. Plus, if you have renters that are not as keen on maintaining the yard, you can rest assured that there will be less work for you to do to bring it back up to your standards when they move out if you choose low-care plants and hardscapes.

Another consideration when planning rental property landscaping is that you do not want renters doing their own landscaping that may not be attractive or that you may have to fix or remove later. To avoid this, make sure the yards are landscaped in a manner that does not leave a lot of bare space that might give renters ideas.

Additionally, you want to provide a functional, attractive, affordable rental home for your tenants. You want your renters to fully enjoy the property during their time there and to not be bothered by you or maintenance workers any more than necessary. Low-maintenance landscaping helps you keep costs down and minimize the time you or maintenance workers need to be on the property while still creating welcoming, visually appealing yards or common areas.

Low-Maintenance Landscape Design for Vacation Homes or Rental Properties

Why You Need Low-Maintenance Vacation Homes Landscape Ideas

Keeping costs and maintenance at a minimum is also important for vacation homes, whether you use your vacation home solely for private use or if you generate income by renting it as a vacation rental when your family and friends are not using it.

Keeping costs down makes vacation homes more affordable and, if you are renting it out, it increases the return you may receive on your investment. It is equally important to reduce maintenance needs as much as possible, since there may be long periods of time between visits to the house and when at your vacation home, you do not want to spend most of your vacation doing chores.

If you are renting your vacation home, you also need to keep it looking and functioning properly between renters and while renters are in residence. If you do not live near your vacation property, this can be difficult for you to take care of yourself and expensive for you to take care of by hiring someone local.

Most vacation homeowners do not live within an easy drive of their vacation property. They also do not spend a lot of time there. Many only visit their vacation homes a few times a year or for one or two seasons of the year. The rest of the time, you will be at your primary residence or another property and will not be around to maintain your vacation home between stays.

Whether or not you are renting it out between visits, there are going to be long periods of time when you are not there to take care of things. Therefore, you basically have two options for yard care: take care of it when you do visit and let it go wild when you are away, or hire a local company to maintain the property.

Neither of these options is ideal. You are not going to want to spend hours taming an unkempt yard when you arrive for the season or for a family vacation. You also do not want to pay a local company hundreds of dollars each month to mow the lawn and trim hedges on top of high water bills from landscape irrigation.

To avoid this, use vacation homes landscape ideas that reduce water use, can withstand some neglect, and result in a beautiful yard that requires minimal upkeep. Then, even if you do need to pay a landscaping company to maintain it in your absence, the cost of maintaining the property will be considerably lower.

Another factor to consider is that some short-term renters do not always respect vacation homes and can be hard on your property. You can mitigate the cost of repairs and maintenance by choosing durable, low-maintenance landscaping that can withstand some rowdiness and neglect while helping to ensure the safety of your tenants.

10 Rental Property and Vacation Homes Landscape Ideas

The best landscaping for rental properties and vacation homes includes low-maintenance options that provide functional, safe, attractive yards and outdoor living areas without requiring excessive time or expenses to care for them.

Let’s look at ten ideas to consider that can help you meet these goals and save money.

1. Automatic Irrigation

If you have any landscaping that requires regular watering, install an automatic irrigation system with a rain sensor. Automatic irrigation systems help you save money and conserve water by providing more efficient irrigation. They also save you time, since you will not need to water your landscaping by hand, which really is not even an option if you do not live nearby.

You cannot rely on renters to remember when and how much they are supposed to water each section of the yard, so this is also a way to protect your investment by ensuring your plants and trees receive the water they need at the best times to deliver it.

For a vacation home that is only used seasonally or occasionally by you and your guests, an automatic irrigation system allows you to keep your landscaping watered while you are away for extended periods of time.

So, while you want to limit the amount of landscaping that requires watering as much as possible, an automatic irrigation system is the solution for landscaping that needs some water while you are away.

A key point to remember is that irrigation systems can leak. Sometimes it is just from age, sometimes from animals chewing the lines to get to the water, and sometimes from damage caused by yard care equipment. Therefore, if you have an automatic irrigation system on a property that you cannot check on regularly and that is not locally managed, be sure that a neighbor has your phone number or that you have someone regularly checking the property so that they can quickly alert you of leaks.

2. No-Water Ground Covers

Using ground covers that do not require water is one of the fastest, easiest, and most cost-effective ways to beautify your property and reduce maintenance needs.

Ground covers like mulch, wood chips, bark, and gravel limit weed growth, improve soil moisture retention and require minimal maintenance. Aside from some raking and occasional replenishing, these ground covers do not need much care at all and are an excellent alternative to ground covers that require water.

This allows you to enhance the visual appeal of outdoor living areas and common areas, reduce the amount of bare earth on the property, limit weed prevention and removal efforts, and have durable ground covers that can withstand heavy use.

3. Native Plants and Trees

Plants that are native to the area will thrive with little maintenance. This means no pesticides, no fertilizers, and little or no supplemental watering outside of times of drought. Native plants also help maintain the local ecosystem and provide habitat for local wildlife.

To find native plants and trees for your vacation home or rental property, work with a local landscape designer or visit a local garden center.

4. Pet Restroom Areas

Protect your landscaping and reduce maintenance by creating a pet restroom area. If you make an obvious, dedicated area that is set up as a pet relief station, most guests to your property will use it and they will understand that other areas are not meant for use as pet restrooms.

This will help protect your landscaping while also reducing the time it will take to clean up after guests’ pets once they leave the property. For example, if you have a natural grass lawn or an artificial turf lawn, define one section for pet relief. This will help you save time when it comes to finding solid waste in the yard and spraying down areas where there is urine. If you have natural grass, it can also limit the areas that are damaged by pets or that get brown spots from pet waste.

If you have synthetic turf, pet cleanup is just generally easier, so you may not need to dedicate a spot if you are okay with them using the whole lawn. You can simply spray down areas where pets have relieved themselves and use a product like Urine Zero on spots that receive repeated use or have acquired an odor after an extended stay.

Alternatively, if you do not have a lawn or would rather not clean up after pets on your lawn, you can create a separate area with pea gravel or sand that can be a dedicated pet restroom.

5. Walkways

Installing paths leading to doors, going between outdoor living areas, or meandering through gardens helps control traffic, improve safety, save water, and reduce maintenance. Hardscape walkways, such as those made from gravel, paving stones, concrete, or bricks, reduce weed growth in that area, take up space that might otherwise be filled with landscaping that requires irrigation, and increase curb appeal while helping your guests or tenants safely traverse your property.

Providing dedicated walkways also keeps folks from walking in other areas, which helps protect the rest of the landscaping in your yards.

6. Patios and Outdoor Living Areas

Outdoor living areas are integral to vacation homes and are a strong selling point for rental properties. When designed properly, they are also a good addition to low-maintenance landscaping and provide functional spaces that require little upkeep and no water. This is a great way to cover areas that might otherwise be lawns or bare earth, to reduce the amount of living landscape on the property, and to improve curb appeal.

Choosing options like a paving stone patio will be your best bet for increasing property value and visual appeal that will help attract renters. However, if pavers are not in your budget, creating a simple seating area with gravel as the hardscape will also work for reducing lawn areas, increasing usable spaces, reducing weed growth, and saving water.

7. Skip the Water Features

Waterfalls and fountains create a relaxing, resort-like atmosphere and are an appealing addition to any landscape design; however, they do require maintenance and can significantly impact your water bill.

Evaporation occurs even with the best-designed water features, so you can expect to waste water and see an increase in your water bill if you choose to include water features in your design. You can also expect to either spend time cleaning and repairing the feature yourself or spend money to hire someone to do it for you. Pump maintenance and repair comes along with most water feature installations. There is also the regular cleaning and, depending on the type of feature, water treatments and pest control.

Water features are wonderful for primary residences or for vacation homes that get a lot of use, but they are not the best landscaping for rental properties, since they require too much maintenance to keep them clean and functioning properly.

Low-Maintenance Landscape Design for Vacation Homes Rental Properties

8. Synthetic Turf

Renters tend to like at least a little bit of grass on the property, particularly if they have children or dogs. This makes grass a pretty strong selling point in most rental markets. This is also something folks usually want at their vacation homes, since most vacationers want to spend as much time as possible outside.

Natural grass has conventionally been used for this purpose but is a tricky choice for properties that you visit only occasionally or that you rent to others. Natural grass lawns require a lot of maintenance, including regular mowing, irrigation, weeding, edging, fertilizing, and aerating. They also tend to get spotty or die back in areas that are frequently walked on or used for pet relief. Plus, natural grass lawns rank high in residential water use, which you are sure to notice on every water bill.

If you do not live near your vacation home or rental property and have a natural grass lawn, then you will need to pay a local landscape maintenance company to care for your lawn or you will have to rely on renters to maintain it. Neither of these is an ideal option.

If you want to provide your tenants with a lawn area or want a lawn area at your vacation home, consider artificial grass instead. Manufactured lawns are always green, lush, inviting. They never have brown spots or areas that die from heavy traffic. They are easy to clean and maintain and mostly require just occasional spraying down and raking to look their best. They can be safely used right after rain with no worries about tracking mud or wet grass into the house.

Artificial turf lawns are attractive and ready for use even when you have not been to your vacation home for an entire season. Plus, the maintenance requirements are so simple and infrequent that you can take on these tasks yourself to save money. Or, if you prefer to do no yardwork when on vacation, you can always hire a local company to perform your synthetic lawn maintenance in anticipation of your arrival.

9. Outdoor Storage

Consider incorporating a shed or other outdoor storage option into your landscape design. For vacation homes and furnished rental properties, this provides a space for storing patio cushions, which can help keep them clean and in good shape, which means less work for you when you arrive for your vacation or are setting up for renters to move in. This also can help you save money over time, since you will not need to replace them as often.

Including storage is also a good way to include an owner’s closet, which is a private, locked space where you can keep personal items, sports equipment, toiletries, or maintenance items that you want to have on hand when you arrive at your vacation home but might not want renters to have access to if you rent your vacation home out between visits.

10. Solar Landscape Lights

Landscape lighting sets the mood, enhances the visual appeal of your yard, guides traffic, makes your property safer, and accentuates landscaping features. All of this is appealing for both vacation homes and rental properties.

Wired outdoor light installations are often preferred for primary residences, but you might find that solar lights are a more appropriate choice for second homes and rentals. Solar lights require very little maintenance, which generally entails wiping them down every once in a while to keep the globe and solar panel clean.

They also are really easy to install, since there are no wires and no electricity to worry about. This means that you can place them anywhere that receives enough sun to charge them, and you do not have to hire an electrician to install them or worry about wires getting cut by yard care equipment, tripped over by renters, or chewed by pets.

Other Considerations

Here are just a couple of other things to consider when planning your landscaping or determining how best to maintain it:

  • If you are concerned about your rental property landscaping, you are better off hiring a maintenance company and including that cost in the rent than relying on tenants to care for the landscaping up to your standards.
  • Be sure to check with your tax preparer to see how much of your landscape design, installation, and maintenance can be used as a write-off.