House #17: Landscaping Woes

April 13, 2010 · 10 comments

We’re nearing completion on The Escher House, and part of our last minute efforts is to do some very serious landscaping… (see pics below)

I mentioned previously the water we had sitting in the front yard, as well as the water that was seeping up from our driveway. Our landscaping expert verified that it’s a spring head (a tributary of water that runs underground), and basically suggested that we try to find the source and install a French Drain to divert it into the nearby creek. He also recommended digging up part of the driveway, and pouring crushed gravel under new concrete to keep the water from seeping to the surface. It’s tough to explain, but we think we have a couple good remediations.

Around the back of the house, we had a steep hill that we’re hoping to turn into a two-tiered yard (both tiers flat), with a large retaining wall supporting the second tier. Well, we brought in a backhoe yesterday, and started moving dirt. About two hours in, we realized that there is a large amount of slate rock in our backyard, including a boulder about 250 cubic feet in size. The backhoe was unable to break it up or move it, so now we have to bring in the really heavy equipment — a trackhoe.

Hopefully the trackhoe will be able to break up or move the big rock; otherwise, we may have to change plans and consider a redesign of the yard. As of now, our backyard looks like a rock quarry, and considering our plans to get this thing on the market in the next week, that’s a little disturbing. Perhaps we should try to sell off the slate to recoup some of our landscaping costs…

Here are some pictures of the work:

View from Back

Back of House, With Porch and Decks Gone

Back 1

Bobcat, Doing It’s Job

Back 2

Back Yard, with 6′ Tall Project Manager For Scale

Back 3

Another Picture of Backyard Destroyed


Is Our Bobcat Driver Too Inexperienced?

10 responses to “House #17: Landscaping Woes”

  1. […] at some of the possible landscaping problems that you can encounter while rehabbing a property. Click Here or click the image to read the rest of this […]

  2. Owen says:


    If the trackhoe doesn’t work out, you could look into renting a crackhoe from one of the rougher parts of Atlanta… I hear that moving rock is right up their alley!

    Sorry, couldn’t resist 😉

  3. Mike says:

    Tell that PM to get some sensible shoes! Hope this landscaping doesnt blow your budget.

  4. A spring could add a lot of value… You should see if there would be an easy way to feed it into a little pond or pool before diverting the overflow into the creek. Lots of people would like the idea of having their own fresh water spring on the property!

  5. Matt K says:


    Sounds like you got your hands full on this one.

    You could always bottle some of the spring water and sell that to help offset some of the costs too!!! lol

  6. Do you have pictures of back yard before you started doing all the landscaping? Also what is your project recovery cost from doing all of this landscaping? Is it going to be worth it? Could you have used a row of large shrubs with colored perrenials halfway down the yard to break it up?

  7. Jason, ever considered doing an post on what part of town you are purchasing properties? Why you choose that area? What has the market done in that area in the past 18 months? Schools and amenities or are they are consideration when purchasing a property?

  8. J Scott says:

    Jennifer –

    If you take a look at the second and third pictures here:

    You should be able to get an idea of what the yard looked like before. Essentially, it was a steep slope starting down near the house and going well back towards the back of the property. It essentially left no flat yard area, which would be a HUGE detractor when it comes to selling. Ultimately, we will have a small, flat lower yard area, a retaining wall, and than a flat second tier behind the retaining wall.

    The backyard landscaping will likely cost about $4K in total, and it probably won’t add much to the sale price, but will certainly allow us to sell the house much more quickly and easily.

  9. Luis says:

    Do you do any cost/benefit analysis when making these choices? I ask because I struggle with this aspect in my rehabs, specially when it comes to landscaping since it is so hard to quantify if it will either increase your profit and/or the time it takes to sell the house…

  10. J Scott says:

    Luis –

    I generally don’t do any formal cost-benefit analysis, though I certainly take into account the competing properties on the market and the comps. For example, I know what the backyards look like for the other houses that are listed for sale in this neighborhood, and I know that if this is something important to a buyer, they would certainly choose a competing home over mine.

    My goal is for a buyer to never have a reason to comparable house (when I can avoid it), so I try to ensure that every aspect of my rehabs is at least on-par with my competitors.

    So, while the analysis isn’t a formal one, I always know my competition (and my comps) to see what buyers are interested in and what other options they have. Then I do what’s necessary to ensure that choose our property over another.

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