By Lew Sichelman, United Media

Forget wiring your new home for audio, video, and data.  Pass on the upgraded kitchen cabinets.  If you want to add lasting value, opt for landscaping.  Done correctly, the addition of trees, shrubs, plants, walks, lighting and patios can increase the value of your property by 20 percent – almost instantaneously.  Real estate professionals have known this.  A study by Arbor National Mortgage in Uniondale, N.Y., found 84% of the agents quaried believe a house on a treed lot would fetch at least that much more than one on a lot without trees. 

Landscaping practically is an afterthought for most builders.  A growing number are waking up to the fact landscaping pays.  For starters, nicely landscaped houses add curb appeal.  For another, there’s money to be made in landscaping.  There’s no record of how much people spend planting stuff after they move in.  It’s typically the next thing they do after unpacking and hanging curtains or blinds. 

Which begs the question:  How much should you spend?  The Washington, D.C.-based Americn Society of Lanscape Architects (ASLA) suggests “invest” 5 to 10% of your home’s value.  That rule of thumb can be expensive, and the good thing is, you don’t have to do it all at once.