Thursday, July 3, 2008

Memories of Staycation 2008

We’ll a holiday weekend is upon us – here is to a great Independence Day holiday. With summer upon us it’s time to pack the car and head off on a trip to enjoy time away from school, work and the hectic pace of everyday living. I have fond memories as a child of our summer camping trips – except perhaps for the part about sharing the back seat of the family station wagon with my brother and sister – there was never enough elbow room.

I asked some friends about their vacation plans this summer and I’ve heard more about shorter trips, close to home trips, and staying at home this summer “trips” – or what I’ve heard some refer to as a “
staycation”. It seems as if travel is lower on the list of priorities this year. Perhaps it’s the price of gas and travel, or in general people’s perceptions of the economy and wanting to keep a tighter rein on the budget. Regardless of the reason – it seems that staying home this summer is a likely alternative to lengthy travel and vacation plans.

I recently had several customers ask me about making changes in their yards because they were going to stay home this summer and they decided to invest the money into their landscapes and homes so they could enjoy it this season and for years to come.

Whether the investment is made in the home or the yard, it makes sense to invest the money where you will get continued enjoyment and value. Recently I installed some additional low voltage lighting into my landscape and it has certainly increased our desire to stay out in the yard quite a bit longer. More than ever we are enjoying our yard late into the evening hours. I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures this fall, when days are shorter and the lighting lets us extend time outside as long as we like.

I suspect that rising consumer prices and a slow economy with uncertainty ahead has created tighter budgets and therefore has caused many of our customers to evaluate how and where they spend their money. While spending on landscaping projects has slowed compared with years past when people had more discretionary money to spend, people are still investing in practical projects that make their yards more livable and enjoyable.

According to the 20th annual 2007 Cost vs Value study conducted by
Hanley Wood, LLC featured in Remodel Magazine, exterior home projects recapture approximately 70 – 80% of the cost of the project in increased home value. For example, an exterior wood deck in the Cleveland area brought 71.4% recovery rate in home value. Brick and stone patios serve the same function as a deck and are more common in the Heights area than are wood decks.

What does this mean for us locally? I believe our customers recognize the importance of good landscaping and how it positively affects their quality of life. While larger more comprehensive projects have been put on hold or are being phased in over time in smaller segments, there are still a number of selective projects that our customers are doing to make their yards more livable.

The top three projects this year appear to be drainage, lighting and patios. While I wouldn’t have predicted the number of requests for these projects this season – in hindsight it is not surprising that these three projects are odds on favorites this summer for most frequently requested project. Each of these projects is associated with access and usability of the yard. Poor drainage prevents the area from being used, and lighting extends the useful number of hours that a family will spend outside, while a patio carves out an area for congregating and enjoying the views.

Improving your surroundings and making the space more livable is quite practical. And I think our customers are being more practical with how and where they spend their money – helping to make the staycation just a little bit more memorable this year.

Happy Independence Day!

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