Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The lazy gal vs. cheapskate conundrum

I love my house but I know that eventually I will have to sell it and move. With that in mind I need to look at home improvement projects from two points of view. What will enhance my living experience without making it financially impossible to sell and move at some point. Since my financial investment in the property roughly equals what I could sell it for, then I won't be doing any major projects like upgrading the kitchen or bathroom, or finishing the basement. My plan with these areas is to make them pretty and functional without investing tons of money.

The yard, however, is another story. For the past two summers I have been working hard installing planting beds and new plants. I only planned to work on it last year, but decided to make some changes this spring so have expanded the planting bed slightly and moved some shrubs around. The place is looking pretty good, in my humble opinion, and will be very nice in a couple of years when the plants reach their size potential. This gardening hobby has brought me a lot of pleasure and I think it will also differentiate my house from the others in the neighbourhood so that it "should" be easy to sell.

Now to throw a spanner in the works. Yard maintenance might drive some people away. I have an opportunity to put in an underground sprinkler system that will make my work load lighter, will encourage responsible water use, and will help the garden and lawn grow throughout the drought season that we have each summer.

A local company installed underground sprinkler systems at two of my neighbour's houses and they are thrilled with them. During the installation, I asked the owner of the company some questions and he gave me a quote of $1250 for the front yard and $1000 for the back yard.

Then my cheapskate nature got involved and I decided that I could install the system myself for a lower cost. After all, it is basically just hoses and timers. I researched it locally but the hardware stores don't carry parts for underground systems. There are some drip irrigation systems and timers for above ground systems which I looked closely at. Finally I purchased a timer with splitters for the tap and two extra hoses with sprinklers. This would be enough capacity to cover about 80% of my yard using an above ground sprinkler system that I would have to put out the night before each watering and take in each day after work. Not much work and cost effective.

Just after purchasing these parts, however, the lawn service company delivered a written quote to my door stating that they could install the complete underground system for $1500 + $75GST. This would include front and back installation with a variety of sprinkler components that would apply water in zones that would respond to the different qualities in my yard. The quote also includes a rain sensor, a backflow preventor and a 2008 fall winterization and 2009 spring startup.

This will be a much better system than the one that I was going to use since the watering will be responsive to what the yard needs and the system won't come on during rainy periods. It definitely appeals to my lazy nature since I won't have to do anything except mow the grass all summer. My cheapskate nature thinks that $1575 is a lot of money to spend when I can do it for a little effort for much cheaper. (The price discount from $2200 definitely appeals, however.)

Since the overall price is less than 1% of the home's value this is a viable project to do that will improve the overall home's appearance with a more attractive yard and make it easier to sell. (Well, perhaps not easier, but non-gardening types of people won't automatically turn away.) I also love the lazy aspect - all I do is write a check and sit back to enjoy the yard.

What should I do - take back the components that I bought from the hardware store and install the underground system or keep the cost effective above ground system and spend the rest of the money on BBQ and beer?


chrisrawk said...

I think the nice garden tells home buyers that you've taken pride in the home and taken care of it. So, I think it's a plus when it comes time to sell.

Sure, some people won't want to do the work to maintain it, but I think the initial "looks pretty" factor outweighs the possibility the buyer will fear "work". Most people don't know how much work a garden is. I think they'll assume it was effortless.

I think you should go for the cool watering system, the underground James Bond version. Reason for this is you might be away now and then for work and it'd be nice knowing you dont have to bother the neighbor to water your grass.

Or the best option might be Plan C. hire a hot exchange student to come and do the yard work... or register to become a "home stay" and charge the student rent and make him do the yardwork.

Balcony Babe said...

Hey, thanks for the great comments. You're right when you say that most people won't realize how much work a garden is. I know that it was a surprise to me to experience all the hard labor. For some reason I thought that if you put plants in the ground that they would do all the rest themselves.

The more that I think about the underground watering system, the more I like it. Lazyness will prevail.

patricia said...

I agree with Chris - the revised sprinkler system costs are reasonable, given the hours that you are allowed to water and your hours of work. However, if your DIY system also results in a beautiful garden, the prospective buyer will still be impressed.