Landscape Architecture

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Pictured: A botanically landscaped home at 16-1949 King Kamehameha Blvd. Kurtistown, HI

Whether it’s a small garden, a big yard or a tropical retreat, the outdoor botanical experience is a huge part of why many people buy homes in Hawai`i. Our unique climate offers the opportunity to create exquisite gardens that potentially bring value to the sale. While appraisers generally agree about the value of a new kitchen or a remodeled bathroom, there seems to be no set standard on how to quantify the true value of the one thing that makes that all-important first impression.

At the same time, the value of quality landscaping can’t be underestimated. Take, for instance, Leilani Estates pre-2018. It was an area that epitomized the value that quality landscaping can add. You could (and still can) drive just about any street… just pick a street, it doesn’t matter. There’s one enchanting property after another. Even now it’s indisputably a garden seekers paradise.

Appraising the Situation

So, how do appraisers assign value in situations where landscaping is as integral to the package as the dwelling itself? I have discussed this with several trusted local appraisers over the years. Each provided a different response. Most agreed there is no hard and fast rule about how value should be assigned. Because it’s not a required field on an appraisal report, it’s fair to assume that most loan underwriters (those responsible for scrutinizing appraisal reports for lenders) don’t consider it a core consideration when it comes to value.

Obviously, quality landscaping can’t be easily ignored. For the most part, local appraisers feel a reasonable adjustment would be 5-7% of overall value. In researching the topic online, estimates reached 15%. I examined several recent appraisal reports, including one with very elaborate landscaping where the appraiser noted that the landscaping was “good” yet made no value adjustment. There’s no question that the botanical garden setting was integral to that sale and yet the appraiser took a conservative approach and assigned no additional value.

A Few Cautions About Landscaping

  • Plantings located too close to the home promote moisture retention, which in turn becomes a conduit for termites.
  • And while albizias can be beautiful, they don’t require fertilizer and you don’t want them close to your house.
  • Tree removal can be expensive and is certainly best left to the pros (call us for our totally biased recommendation).
  • Be careful what you plant. There are a number of agencies willing to advise regarding invasive species.
  • Seems we’ve had a bumper crop of pigs and goats again this year so be sure to protect your landscaping investment from critters.

Remember, just as a fresh clean home with new flooring, fresh paint, along with updated kitchens and baths is the best way to ensure a faster sale, quality landscaping will make a huge difference in marketing time and to a lesser extent that all-important eventual bottom line.

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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