If lawns don’t help property values, why are they still so popular in new construction? The original developer of a site, after all, has no interest in the site aside from how much he can sell it for, so he should be motivated to use whatever type of landscaping is likely to bring the highest price.
The answer is that establishing a lawn is easy, cheap, and fast. Unlike a natural yard, which typically takes three years to begin looking as intended, or trees, which take decades to mature, a lawn can look good just a few weeks after its initial seeding. When potential buyers make offers based on what they see today, without considering the future, it’s unsurprising that they’re willing to pay more for a green lawn than for a stand of tiny trees or a carpet of unsprouted native seeds.
In fact, developers are betting that their customers care more about how the yard looks today than what it will be like down the road. Of the many turf blends that are available, developers usually choose the ones that are best able to establish quickly. These blends, though, are typically not the ones best-suited to long-term survival on any particular site. Thus, the specific kind of lawn the developer chose may look lush and healthy on move-in day, but the new homeowners quickly find that it is nearly impossible to maintain.
Wouldn’t it be cheapest, fastest, easiest, and most valuable to preserve the existing mature landscaping on a construction site? Many developers say that it is too difficult and expensive to build a new home without disturbing the plants that already live there; they generally prefer to bulldoze everything and install a brand-new garden after everything else is done.
Studies suggest, however, that protecting plants creates relatively little cost or inconvenience for developers. After accounting for the value an established natural plant community can add to a new home’s sale price, developers who take the trouble to avoid flattening vegetation typically come out ahead. A new home with mature landscaping is, after all, a rare and desirable combination.