In a slow market, where buyers must be wooed, a garden needs to be perfect. A plot with pleasing dimensions and the right look can add as much as 20 per cent to the value of a property — which may be why the demand for garden design, landscaping and other services is up by almost a third this summer, according to ratedpeople.com, a trade recommendation website.
In fact, so obsessed are the British with their gardens that even the close proximity of a park can raise the value of a property by an average of 32 per cent, according to research by housesimple.com. “In large urban sprawls where many properties don’t have a garden or access to a communal garden, living near public parks or green spaces is often one of the top wishes amongst buyers,” the website’s chief executive, Alex Gosling, says.
We asked the experts for tips on what Britain’s buyers want in a garden when they’re looking for their perfect home.
A breathtaking view helps
Rachel Johnston of the property search agency Stacks explains that the view of the garden from the house is the most important factor for her clients. “What wins them over is the setting,” she says. However, an idyllic vista can come with pitfalls. Johnston warns that “if you can see it, the wind can travel up through it”. In other words, an exposed position means that venturing outdoors in winter might be chilly.
Lindsay Cuthill of Savills suggests that the angle of the wind makes a difference. “I know people who have got a wonderful view and they’re exposed to southwest winds, which are not particularly severe,” he says. “The northeast winds are the coldest in winter.”
This manor house in Ditcheat, Somerset, is for sale with Strutt & Parker for £3 million
“People shopping for a property in the country say they want five acres. But actually, even two acres of garden take a lot of maintenance. Do you want to spend your weekends mowing the lawn?” Johnston asks. She contends that “a six-bedroom rural house should have an acre of garden, a five-bedroom house should have three quarters of an acre, and a four-bedroom house half an acre”. “It’s important not to get ‘garden’ confused with ‘land’,” she adds. “Any land should be in addition to garden space.”
In towns, different rules apply — especially if buyers are downsizing. “People downsizing think that they want a slightly less large version of the garden of their family home. Actually, what they may really want is a small, perfectly formed low-maintenance terrace that’s not overlooked.”
Fine pruning brings something extra to this house in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, with Savills at £2.65 million
Plant flowers and plants that are easy to maintain
“You can make a garden more intensive than it needs to be,” says Cuthill. Try planting topiary trees, or hedges, which can look decorative but don’t take much effort to maintain.
On the other hand, he adds, you have to make an effort to make your garden special. British buyers remain obsessed with flowers, which take more time to cultivate, while French homebuyers prefer their gardens to be more formal. “Summer bedding requires most work,” he says. “You have to water them regularly, but they’re amazing to look at and they fill gaps throughout the season.” Cuthill also says that mowing can be an unexpected pleasure. “Mowing your lawn can be hugely therapeutic. You can put your iTunes on and ride up and down.”
Don’t have a garden? Well-kept communal land will help
If you live in a flat, communal gardens often dramatically improve your price premium. “The advantage is your own perfectly small patch, and wonderful views of green space maintained by somebody else,” says Johnston.
New-build gardens are often too small
In the modern builder’s race to occupy ever-diminishing plots of land, gardens are often the first thing to be sacrificed. Many new developers provide gardens that are “smaller than the footprint of its house”, Johnston says. “It’s incredible that a developer who goes to enormous lengths to provide every high-spec finish in a property will think it’s all right to squeeze it into a tiny, overlooked plot. Gardens in new developments started to feel uncomfortably small in the late 1990s and have become increasingly inadequate.”
Gardens that are overlooked — or those that you need to go through a house to access — can put buyers off.
This home at Kidmore End, Oxfordshire, overlooks a pond and is for sale for £2.3 million (Strutt & Parker)
A garden doesn’t need to belong to your property to please
The appeal of a garden is such that even homes near the country’s finest gardens are commanding premiums of close to 22 per cent, according to a new study of “garden towns” by Halifax. It states that properties near Chelsea’s Physic Garden — the oldest botanical garden in London and home to rare and endangered species — command the highest percentage house price premium, compared with the rest of Greater London, at 171 per cent, or £1,188,200.
In second place is Brockhole garden on Windermere at 106 per cent, or £188,830, compared with the rest of its county, Cumbria, followed by Chatsworth House gardens near Bakewell, where properties are at a premium of 94 per cent, or £174,649, compared with the rest of Derbyshire.
The region around the Physic Garden has experienced the greatest growth in house prices over the past decade. Properties near the garden, which was founded in 1673, have grown in value by 108 per cent. Homes near Syon Park in Hounslow recorded the next largest growth at 72 per cent, followed by Cambridge Botanic Garden at 66 per cent, Kew Gardens in Richmond, southwest London, at 65 per cent and RHS Wisley in Surrey at 57 per cent.
Eight of the top ten garden towns with the highest average house price growth since 2007 are in Greater London and the southeast, with Cambridge Botanic Garden in East Anglia and Tatton Park in Cheshire completing the ten.
James Barnett of Savills in Cambridge says: “Being in close proximity to these beautiful gardens is, of course, not the only driver of house prices. They are often in affluent areas of a city. Take Cambridge, for example — surrounding the extraordinary 40-acre gardens are two of the best independent schools, St Mary’s and the Leys. The properties near by are also very desirable.”