What Is An Exclusive Listing?
As I write this, it’s mid-July where every weekday in the early morning the streets of Toronto are filled with contractor trucks heading to job sites for the day. What’s unique about this time of year, are the landscape vehicles. You’ll see dump trucks with top soil and gravel, trailers with backhoes and bobcats, and nursery vehicles with new trees and plantings. Landscapers are busy keeping an eye on the budget, the schedule, and the weather – all at the same time. It’s a short and intense season. Considering how long the ground stays frozen after winter and how quickly November comes back around, there’s a small window for landscaping.
When we prep a home for sale or take our buyers to see listings, as agents, we often talk about curb appeal. In a nutshell, it’s just how charming or attractive a property is when you stand in front of it and consider living there yourself. And, if you are want your home to have that curb appeal, you may want to enlist the skills of a gardener, garden designer, or landscaper. These types of contractors help use plantings and trees, and maybe even stone or wood to bring out the very best in your investment.
Of course, the photos of your property on a website or MLS are the virtual first impression when looking online at listings. And, on the other hand, looking at the home when pulling up front to show the property to buyers is the actual first impression. So, it’s important to keep the exterior appearance of a home up to date if possible.
I had a chance to chat with J.P. Galle, owner of Highland Builds, a Toronto landscape company founded 21 years ago. Sharing his extensive experience, J.P. highlighted what the current trends are in the field, and the things a homeowner should consider when thinking about embarking on a landscaping project. Take a look at what he had to say…
The current trend is towards clean modern lines. At Highland Builds, we’re moving away from requests for the classic English garden and random flagstone. Think drooping plants that hang over a meandering pathway with lots of vines and dense growth. Rather, these days the random flagstone have been replaced by requests for square cut stone. Plantings are more orderly and controlled. We’re doing linear, tiered and concentric gardens made up of grasses, boxwoods, yews and hydrangeas in a neat and organized placement. Lots of tidy rows of plantings and straight lines in the hardscaping materials.
There’s also been a rise in the amount of modern technology that can go into a design. The rise of LEDs means there’s increased interest for more lighting. It isn’t as expensive to run and bulbs do not have to be changed with the same regularity. Everyone is busy and looking for ways to save time on maintenance, so heated driveways (to melt the snow and ice without shoveling) and irrigation (underground sprinkler) systems with smartphone controls are becoming common requests. Someone with a pool can even turn the waterfall feature on or off. Or, they can check the salt content of the pool’s water from the office or cottage just using their phone.
Another trend is sustainable, responsibly sourced materials. Cost is always top of mind; however, clients want to know that what they are using to construct their dream yard and garden isn’t hurting the planet or short-changing another country’s economics. A particular stone type may be inexpensive, but is it coming from a place where workers receive fair treatment and responsible pay? Is this particular wood type coming from a location where they are practicing responsible forestry and not simply tearing down forests with no concern over the impact? Most people want to know that what they have selected to build with today isn’t going to contribute to landfill or potential problems tomorrow. This is a good sign. The ‘think global and act local’ movement is impacting the construction business for the better.
With crazy weather and super storms, water management has become a big concern for everyone, especially clients considering landscaping projects. Making sure a project has proper drainage and grading for when a large amount of water falls out of the sky faster than the ground can absorb it has gotten much higher on the list of must-haves. We try to keep water management in mind at all times by suggesting and using materials that will aid with this whenever possible.
When any homeowner starts to think about their landscaping, the single most important thing for them to realize is that landscape projects are usually scheduled up to a year in advance. Most people are not thinking about landscaping from November until the first nice day in March or April. However, a landscaping company with experience and a good reputation is booked well in advance. So, consider how long the planning and booking stage may take. If you know you’ll want to do this project next year, book this year to start the planning and designing. And if your job can’t be done before the year is out, you’ll be one of the first in line for the following spring.
Planning on a schedule and working outside comes with its own challenges too. If we have a long wet spring with lots of days where we can’t do what we need to, that can push back on timing. Other factors that can slow down a crew are project changes and additions by a client or designer. Not to mention, the consideration of staffing shortages. Finding and keeping the right talent for what we need can be a real challenge. This also impacts how fast we can move on a client project. It’s a long game, so plan ahead.
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, more than half of the cost of landscaping is in things that are not visible in the end product: excavation, footings, and ‘below ground costs’, like sub bases. Driveways, walkways, retaining walls, garden walls: these all have to be anchored below ground to prevent movement, allow for drainage, prevent shifting and cracking, etc. A heated driveway needs a layer of insulating styrofoam and a reinforced concrete slab before we get to the materials that anyone can even see when walking past the house.
Also, having the proper machines, tools and trucks, licenses, insurance, the trailers to get them back and forth to your home, keeping them in tip top shape, having somewhere to store them, and maintaining a crew of skilled workers is expensive. All of this to say, usually newer clients to landscaping underestimate the cost of a large-scale project. But, there are a lot of moving parts that have to go into doing what we do well, safely and on time. Once the client understands all of the steps involved in the process, they typically come to appreciate the price behind what they are asking for. If you are new to this, prepare yourself for that sticker shock when you start to get quotes and estimates.
I hope this has helped you consider all things related to working on the exterior of your home. Loving where you live can extend beyond the interiors. With the right help, your outdoor living space can be just as spectacular as your indoors. There are some practical elements to it as well, like keeping the outside of your place dry, problem-free and secure. Above and beyond, it’s about making it easy on the eyes. Keep in mind, these improvements may not only be attractive to you, having a home that is the envy of the neighbourhood can also drive up your value for resale. Landscaping can be a fun and rewarding project. Start by knowing as much about it as you can before jumping in with both feet.
This article is written by Fox Marin Sales Representative, Ian Busher. With an extensive background in carpentry and contracting, Ian is our resident “Renovations Expert”! He takes pride in his ability to assess the quality and condition of a house. This, in tandem with his talent for speaking to the feasibility and cost of potential renovations, and his eye for the aesthetic details of a property, makes him a powerful partner for anyone looking to buy a home in the Toronto real estate market.