With the current drought conditions looking set to stay in South Africa, developing water-wise habits is becoming essential. Homeowners are already feeling the pinch in their gardens with yellowed lawns, drooping foliage and pools with low water-levels that are starting to make buyers think twice about some homes.
According to Bill Rawson, chairman of the Rawson Property Group, prospective sellers should not give up hope quite yet, however. In fact, with a little bit of planning and some smart investments, their water-guzzling liabilities could be turned into assets once more.
“In every crisis, there is also opportunity,” says Rawson, “and our current drought is no exception to that rule. By adapting to the situation, and installing water-wise solutions in their homes and gardens, there is a good chance that quick-thinking property-owners could actually increase the resale value of their homes.”
Rawson does warn, however, that the cost of water-saving upgrades may not always have a 1:1 return. “Buyers don’t see a home with a borehole and decide that they’ll pay R50 000 more for it,” he says, “but they might see a home with a beautiful garden, in the midst of other homes with dead grass and trees, and decide that a higher asking price is fair and worthwhile.”
So how do you decide how much to spend, and which options are good investments? “That all depends on your property, your lifestyle, and how long you plan to spend in your home before selling,” says Rawson.
Among the cheaper options for becoming water-wise is the installation of lawn-alternatives like Astroturf. “Synthetic lawn works very well for small gardens, and more modern homes,” says Rawson, “but can be less appropriate for large, elaborate, or traditional spaces. There’s no doubt that it’s a water-saver, though, since it requires absolutely no watering at all, and is quite cost-effective to install, making it a good “quick fix” before a sale.”
For those who prefer real grass, adding a well-point is an excellent option if you have easily accessible groundwater in your area. Depending on water quality, you can not only use this to irrigate your garden, you can also use it to top up your pool. “There’s nothing like knowing you can go home to a cool swim after a long, hot, summer day,” says Rawson, “and being able to maintain a pool during a drought can be a very attractive feature for potential buyers.”
Boreholes are a more expensive option than well-points, but can access groundwater at far deeper levels, making them a good choice for areas without a high water table. “It’s more difficult to recoup the cost of a borehole over the short term,” says Rawson, “but for larger properties with extensive, thirsty gardens, it could be the deciding factor in a sale.”
If you’re not lucky enough to have accessible groundwater on your property, or you can’t justify the cost of installing a borehole, a water-wise irrigation system could still cut your water usage significantly and keep your garden in good condition. “Water-wise irrigation is great, because it not only reduces water consumption, it makes your garden less effort to maintain – always a plus for buyers,” says Rawson.
Even better are irrigation networks linked to a greywater or rainwater collection system. Rainwater collection is the simpler of the two, with tanks readily available from home improvement stores for the DIY enthusiast. Greywater collection will more likely require a plumber, but is one of the most eco-friendly additions you can make to your home.
However you decide to save water, remember that a well-loved and well-maintained home will always sell better than one that has been neglected. If you can make it easier for the next owner to continue that upkeep, it’ll only count in your favour – and that’s exactly what these water-wise solutions will do.