So you're looking to buy a home in the new year and you're overwhelmed by choices. You'd love a place that comes with a nice spacious yard … but watch out. You may encounter some unexpected landscaping problems. Although they might not be actual deal breakers, the following issues can effectively add money to the home purchase price, as well as involving a heaping helping of time and hassle.
Big beautiful trees
What's not to love about the sight of lovely mature trees shading your potential home-to-be? Plenty. For starters, an overly shady garden will make it awfully hard to grow anything but trees. Grass, many flowers, vegetables and such need sun in order to thrive. Even worse, a large tree tends to mean a well-developed root system, which can block underground sewer pipes, lift sidewalks or driveways, and contribute to foundation damage. And when a severe storm comes along, trees planted too close to the house can break windows as their limbs blow in the breeze or, even worse, come crashing down onto your roof.
A perfectly flat yard
While a yard that's as flat as the proverbial pancake would make mowing the lawn an awful lot easier, this convenience often comes at a cost. To wit, the soil surrounding your dream home's foundation will get saturated by rainfalls and melting snow unless the ground slopes gently (or not-so-gently) downward away from the house, with a minimum drop of 6 inches per 10 horizontal feet. Moisture leaching into the concrete is likely to cause foundation cracks and leaks … and concrete repairs for that type of major damage do not come cheap, frequently running to tens of thousands of dollars. Sorry, homeowners insurance will not pick up the tab.
A steeply sloping yard
The opposite of the previous problem, an excessively sloped yard can be just as troublesome as a flat one. If the ground slopes more than 40 inches for every 10 horizontal feet, precipitation and wind will erode the soil. This will make cultivating a garden difficult to impossible and (worst-case scenario) could result in gulleys on the property and scouring (localized loss of soil) that will weaken the foundation and make the structure vulnerable to collapse. If you are serious about purchasing a house with a steeply sloping yard, budget extra bucks for solutions like terracing, retaining walls or a dry creek bed.
Patches of yellow, brown, or bright green grass
A lawn that resembles a patchwork quilt may due to any one of a number of factors. Yellowed or unusually green spots could be the result of neighborhood dogs using the grass as their personal powder room (relatively easy to take care of) or something more serious, like rocks embedded in the ground underneath or even a toxic spill. Brown circles, AKA "fairy rings," mean fungus in the soil, which may require removal and replacement of the affected area. Finally, splotches of bright green growth may be relatively innocent -- the outcome of uneven lawn fertilizer application -- or a red flag for septic tank failure.
A swimming pool
Purchasing a house complete with your own private pool may seem like the ultimate luxury but truth be told, unless you live in a southern state like Florida or Texas, this hardscape feature might end up being more trouble than it's worth. A swimming pool eats up a lot of usable yard space and comes with multiple maintenance expenses: Water filtration, vacuuming, chemical balancing and sanitizing and heating. Pool safety fencing, together with additional insurance coverage and property taxes, will bump up the bill even more.
-- Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.