Many people think that owning rental property is easy money. But any landlord knows that a lot of work and expense goes into marketing, filling, and maintaining a rental property.

In addition to keeping the house attractive and functional, a property owner or manager has laws to comply with and taxes to pay. And if the rental agreement includes extras such as yard maintenance, it takes time or money or both to provide those as well.

One of the smartest things a rental property owner can do is to learn how to streamline the property maintenance effort.

Thoughtful yard design can play a big role in that. Reducing the amount of necessary upkeep means a landlord can spend less time on the property and more time doing other things. It means less money need be spent on the property, which means a reasonable profit for the owner and a more affordable cost for the renter. Fewer yard maintenance visits mean more privacy for the renter. And an appealing outdoor space helps a rental property attract and retain tenants.

Here are some design tips for a low-maintenance yard.

Minimize the Lawn

The grass feels good underfoot, but it takes a lot of elbow grease to keep it lush and green. At a minimum, it needs regular cutting, but it may also require frequent watering, fertilizing, or even weeding. In areas with a lot of foot traffic, it can wear down to patches of soil and require reseeding.

Many property owners are moving away from lawn entirely, replacing grass with a combination of other natural materials. But there is middle ground. Simply reducing the size of the lawn on a property can ensure that tenants can still enjoy a place to spread a picnic blanket, run around barefoot, or watch the stars, but keep expense and environmental impacts to a minimum.

Many of the ideas that follow can reduce the square footage devoted to grass.

Install A Patio, Terrace, or Sitting Area

Creating a patio out of sturdy paving stones or similar materials brings multiple benefits:

– It’s an easy (and even fun) project that results in an attractive and useful property feature.

– It reduces the amount of square footage that needs regular maintenance.

– It’s easy to replace individual stones if needed.

Using materials that are durable and don’t require upkeep is key. Paving stones are a great choice. They’re relatively inexpensive; they don’t break easily; they don’t need any kind of routine maintenance. It’s easy to replace any that do break with another, without worrying about lining things up exactly or finding perfect matches in color and size.

If paving stones aren’t desirable, there are many other options. Recycled rubber pavers are extremely durable and not very expensive. Bricks are an attractive choice, although they are a little less forgiving. And perhaps the easiest option of all would be to cover an area with pebbles or crushed stone.

Install Pathways

Whether made of rocks, paving stones, brick, wood decking or even asphalt, installing a walkway along well-traveled paths on a property increases the curb appeal and reduces the labor in constantly reseeding or otherwise trying to mitigate the wear on a lawn.

Install Raised Garden Beds

The one-time expense of building raised beds pays off over time. A little investment in wood or pre-fab borders and some topsoil provides areas where landlord or tenants can easily grow flowers or vegetables, and where weeding is rarely a concern.

Mulch Generously

Using mulch along walkways and fences, bordering shrubs or around the footprints of trees pays off. It looks and smells great. It reduces the need to carefully mow tricky areas around roots. And it helps eliminate unsightly weeds or unwanted growth. It’s easy to install – just toss a little more onto the area every year or two, and little else should be needed in the interim.

Plant Ground Cover

There is a multitude of easy-to-grow spreading plants that are suitable for use along walkways or across whole expanses of yards. Many varieties are even hardy enough to withstand foot traffic. The tiny purple flowers of thyme leaf speedwell or delicate-looking white snow-in-summer are just a couple of examples.

Design Efficiently

One way to reduce the time spent on maintenance is to make it easy to do so. One large rectangular lawn is easier and faster to mow than several smaller triangles interrupted by pathways. Making it easy to get the right equipment – mowers, weed whackers, hoses – to the right spots is also important.

Straight lines or gentle curves will usually also be the most economical choice for initial materials purchase. Making use of available knowledge and tools is also important in landscape design.

Use the Right Plants

It saves time and energy when a plant is right for a specific location, not just for a grow zone. Matching a plant to the amount of sun and moisture a specific location receives should allow for optimal growth with minimal intervention.

Find the Right Help with Your Rental Property

Landlords with just a few properties may be tempted to do maintenance work themselves. That’s certainly a reasonable option, but it may not be the best way to grow your business. Property owners can pour more time into acquiring new properties or marketing existing ones if they contract the help of specialists to provide services such as lawn care.

As a bonus, these jobs can often be completed faster and more efficiently by specialists than by property owners themselves. Professional property management companies can assist with performing or contracting yard maintenance (or almost any other chore imaginable).