When people think about increasing the value of their commercial property, they typically focus on structural changes. Remodeling the interior or improving the facade of a property will enhance its value, but dollar for dollar, the best investment you can make in a commercial property is improving the landscaping.
In San Diego, there was a strip of small hotels along Pacific Highway that was struggling to fill its rooms because of the competition from the newer, larger hotels downtown. Because these were small businesses, funds were limited and each had tough decisions to make. They decided to invest in landscaping and saw an immediate "marked increase in occupancy," said one of the owners. The addition of Mexican fans, Mediterranean and queen palms made a significant difference in how the hotels were perceived by tourists, and resulted in greater profits for the businesses.
In both commercial and residential real estate, the first impression a person gets is from the "curb appeal" of the property. An instant decision is made about how much time that person wants to spend at the property. If your commercial property is a hotel, its curb appeal will help determine whether or not guests want to spend their vacation there. The same goes for restaurants, shopping malls and real estate developments.
Landscaping attracts tourists
Ambiance matters. If businesses did not need to create a mood for commerce, there would be no beach-front restaurants, golf-course condominiums or tree-lined Main Streets. A prime example is San Diego Bay's Shelter Island hotels. By improving their looks through landscaping and remodeling, many have seen dramatic rises in occupancy. Along a similar vein, the tourist attractions that generate the most revenue are the ones with exquisite landscaping. Long ago, Legoland, the Wild Animal Park and SeaWorld recognized that landscaping made their parks feel more inviting. And people pay to enjoy the atmosphere these parks have created.
Landscaping provides a return on investments
During the real estate recession 10 years ago, I saw dozens of developers struggling to effectively market their property. Some managed to do very well despite the tough economic times. Others were hard hit by the economy. As we reviewed the market sales of these developments, what made the difference in people's buying decisions was the landscaping. The developers who sold their residential units were the ones who invested in landscaping. The ones whose properties lagged were the uninviting ones, with more concrete than trees and plants.
Landscaping helps attract shoppers
Municipalities have also found that investing in landscaping helps their shopping areas prosper. Something as simple as lining road median strips with ice plant or trees can make a business district more inviting to shoppers. Huntington Park in Los Angeles, for example, stands out like a jewel because the city invested in palm trees and landscaping that blends in with the community and space.
Doing it correctly
One of the most common mistakes commercial property owners make is not investing in landscaping. Almost as common is choosing the wrong landscaping for the space and environment. After they understand that landscaping yields impressive returns, they fail to maximize those returns by planting trees that are not to scale with the space. Additionally, I've seen dozens of commercial property owners fail to do proper soil preparation, or provide an adequate irrigation system.
Landscaping commercial property is a wise investment when done right. A good landscape contractor will save a property owner a great deal in the long run by avoiding costly problems, and allowing the property to appreciate at its maximum potential.
To ensure that you select the right trees and plants for your commercial property, go to a nursery with a sketch or photo of the property and a representative will help you choose what works best. It is also helpful to bring measurements of the area you're landscaping.
Collins is the founder and CEO of Evergreen Nursery.