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Outdoor Sprinkler System: Worth the Investment?

[Updated: Feb 09, 2021] Aug 25, 2020 by Barbara Zito
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Curb appeal offers great value for your investment properties, but it costs both time and money. An outdoor sprinkler system has the potential to save you both.

How do outdoor sprinkler systems work?

Underground sprinkler systems are an easy way to hydrate lawns, flower beds, and other greenery on a property. If you have an apartment complex with expansive green space or are building luxury homes with large, lush lawns and gardens, then installing an underground sprinkler system is a must for keeping everything well maintained.

Automatic sprinkler systems can be programmed to turn on and shut off for daily maintenance of your yard. They can be overridden if rain is in the forecast so there's no water waste -- there are even some systems that can sense rain in the air and shut themselves off. If you have flower beds and trees in your yard but not much lawn, another option is a drip irrigation system that will send slow but steady drops of water into the soil.

It's important to install the sprinkler heads in optimal locations so one side of your yard isn't drowning while the other side is gasping for water. As such, this is one project you'll be better off leaving for the pros to install.

What does a sprinkler system cost?

The average sprinkler system installation costs $2,460. For a quarter of an acre, the range is $1,740 and $3,400. A one-acre lot could be upwards of $10,000, so size is definitely a factor in how expensive your sprinkler system will be. In seasonal-climate regions, the system should be winterized to avoid freezing when it's not in use, which can cost around $81 each year on average; additional maintenance costs can add up to an additional $115.

The water bill is also another cost to consider when installing a sprinkler system. However, this is a necessary part of doing business when you have a yard to maintain. Unless you want brown grass and limp flowers, you need to provide your grounds with regular hydration. Mother Nature can certainly do her part at times, in which case you can give your sprinklers a break. When rain is in the forecast, you can easily turn off the automatic system, though there are also models out there that can sense rain in the air and will do it for you.

Keep in mind that depending on your region, you may need a permit to have a sprinkler system. Especially in areas where drought is common, you will want to ensure you're heeding all water restriction laws when they're in place.

According to HomeAdvisor (NASDAQ: ANGI), here are the annual costs for using an irrigation system:

Activation $40-$150
Tune-up $115
Winterization $51-$113
Water usage $100-$125
Total $306-$503

Considering the time and money it will take to revive or replace dead grass year after year, a sprinkler is indeed cost-effective.

Will a sprinkler system add value to your property?

A study conducted by the University of Alabama and the University of Texas at Arlington found that properties with attractive exteriors and grounds were likely to sell 7% higher than those comps lacking curb appeal. In slower markets with large inventories of homes for sale, selling prices jumped 14%. The moral of the story? Keep that grass green and lush and you could get a higher sale price for your property. And you've made it very easy for the new owners to keep it looking lovely, too.

To avoid too much grounds maintenance, a property investor might be tempted by maintenance-free landscaping options like pavers, gravel, concrete, and other hardscaping. This would certainly save on the mowing costs and lower your water bill. However, it's important to remember that "maintenance-free" options aren't always what they seem. Pavers can crack over time and will need to be fixed. Concrete could stand a good power wash from time to time. And depending on the size of the gravel you buy, you might have to do more raking and tidying than you would if you had an acre of lawn.

There are few maintenance tasks that are truly out of sight and out of mind for a property owner. But a sprinkler system could very well be the next best thing for landlords seeking an easier way to maintain multiple properties and their respective greenspaces.

The bottom line

The problem with curb appeal is that everyone wants it, but not everyone is willing or able to put in the effort needed to maintain it. That's why it pays to make it as easy as possible for potential buyers to maintain the grounds you have so attentively renovated. An automated sprinkler system does the trick.

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