To Fence or Not to Fence

By Megan Glenn

The question of whether to add a fence to your home is not an easy one to answer.  Certainly there are situations in which a fence is not only desirable, but necessary.  If you own, for example, a large dog, it is almost a necessity to have an enclosure in which it can roam without posing a threat to passersby.  Families with small children often opt for a fence as well, as a means of keeping little ones safe from busy streets or other hazards. 

Whether or not a fence adds value to a property is debatable, and reliable information on actual increase in value is hard to find.  It is, however, arguable that a well-built fence adds resale value if for no other reason than that families and dog-owners do buy homes.  A tasteful fence that matches the aesthetic of a home also creates a sense of privacy and charm that may not boost actual value, but certainly inspires buyers to take a second look at your home.

Even if you’re not considering selling, there’s something about a fence that makes you feel like you have a little piece of the world that is yours alone.  A fence can create a private space where outsiders can’t intrude and where you can enjoy the outdoors playing games, cooking out, or just reading in a hammock.  But if you’re considering adding a fence to your property, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Whether Tis Nobler to Build a Fence

High-end homes with ample property often don’t require fencing, and real estate agents recommend not adding one unless there is a clear reason, such as blocking out traffic noise or obstructing an unsightly view.  For expensive homes, fences don’t necessarily add value in relation to the costs of construction and materials.

There are, however, fencing materials that do speak elegance, should you need one for a high-end property.  Wrought iron fencing lends beauty to any home and works well both with traditional home designs and with a more modern aesthetic.  And technology has come a long way in creating iron fencing that isn’t prone to rust and that doesn’t scratch, dent, or pit easily.  Most manufacturers use a powder-based coating that seals and protects metal, so that fencing lasts a long time with very little maintenance.

Another option is to create a “live fence” made of trees, shrubs, and other landscaping.  This style of fence requires very little upkeep and adds landscaping value to your home.  Furthermore, with the right choice of tree, such as the Leland Cypress or White pine that grows fast, you can quickly create a private space to enjoy.

A Huge Expense?

For the mid-range home, fences often do add resale value as homes are closer together and families are often buying in this range.  But you don’t have to spend a fortune to create a beautiful fence.

The “good neighbor” style, which is a wooden picket fence just over waist height, allows that sense of enclosure for animals, children, and a little privacy, while not having a big impact on your wallet.  And even a 6-foot privacy fence made of wood isn’t astronomical.  Although wood fences don’t have the durability of some other styles, with the proper upkeep, they can last a long time.

If you’re looking for something more substantial and have the money to invest, certainly wrought iron and steel fences add a touch of elegance to the mid-range home.  But another option is vinyl fencing, which adds the charm of a wood appearance while lasting for a long time with virtually no maintenance.

Don’t Suffer the Slings and Arrows

There are a few things that can actually hurt property values when it comes to fencing.  Upkeep is one of the primary concerns, particularly with wood fencing.  Should you choose to go with wood, be sure to routinely reseal your fencing with a quality exterior coating.  Pay attention to joins in the fence where screws, nails, and other fixtures can rust through and leave you with sagging or leaning fence sections.  You should also pay attention to wooden posts where they meet the ground.  Prolonged exposure to moisture can cause them to sheer off at ground level.

Another concern in choosing fencing comes with chain-link fencing.  While chain-link may be the less expensive choice, be aware that it comes with certain ingrained attitudes towards it.  Because of its associations with industrial properties and protected public spaces, such as athletic fields and schools, chain-link tends to decrease property values.  According to some real estate agents, potential buyers often see chain-link, particularly when it encloses a front yard, as saying “dangerous dog on the property” or “this home needs protecting because of the neighborhood.”  Not that this is the reality of the property, but, unfortunately, some attitudes are hard to change.  Should you choose to go with chain-link consider fencing only your backyard.

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