As Austin Metropolitan Area cities remain in stage 1, 2 or 3 water restrictions in response to varying drought conditions, homeowners have to keep these restrictions in mind when landscaping—whether they’re buying, selling or staying where they are.

Adam Mosier, co-owner of of Austin custom homebuilder Mosier Luxury Homes, and Kent Redding, Austin Board of Realtors 2024 president, shared their insight on the most effective water restriction-friendly landscaping and how this can impact the local housing market.

The outlook

Mosier said there are many variables his team must consider when contracting with landscape installation contractors and thinking about a landscape plan for clients.

As an added layer to city regulations, Mosier said compliance with local homeowners associations or decades-old deed restrictions frequently require installations that are “in direct conflict with newly enacted city regulations.”

Instead, there should be more incentives for installing drought-resistant plants or smart irrigation controllers, he said, as homeowners will be “much more inclined to comply.”

“It’s important to understand that the majority of regulations regarding construction are targeted at new construction, which ultimately leads to higher home prices,” Mosier said. “Municipalities should heavily favor incentivizing homeowners over regulating landscape plans that restrict the installation of specific plants and products.”

Something to note

When it comes to the real estate market, Mosier said most homeowners will plant what they can afford and easily find.

“Restrictions that limit what a property owner can install could easily cause market disruption,” Mosier said. “Most homeowners are going to plant what they can afford and easily find.”

However, for potential sellers, Redding encourages them to get prepared a month or two in advance of listing in light of potential water restrictions and to separate themselves from competition.

With nearly five months worth of housing inventory in Austin and a more normalized market that is shifting toward a buyer's market, Redding said many buyers start the homebuying process online—so it's important for sellers to put effort into what they’re showing, but this doesn’t have to be a costly process.

“I want them to use organic fill dirt, things like that in their yard—the things that retain water well—in advance of listing and taking photos, so that we just don't all of a sudden show up for photos and everything is brown,” Redding said. “We [can] kind of coach them up on doing a good job with their landscaping [while] still being environmentally sensitive and still being in whatever the guidelines or water restrictions are in their particular area. We want them to honor that, but don't try to salvage it at the last minute.”

In his experience, on the buyer side, Redding said not many tend to let a lack of a lawn or landscaping affect their decision, but it's still important to keep water restrictions in mind as they browse neighborhoods.

“I would usually advise them not to get hung up on landscapes because that can be fixed; that can be changed,” Redding said. “That’s an item that as a buyer, you have the opportunity as a new homeowner to make some changes, whereas the price, the view, the floor plan—sometimes you don't have flexibility there.”

Major takeaways

When installing landscaping while keeping drought conditions and water restrictions in mind, Mosier recommends:
  • Installing smart irrigation systems, which can modify watering schedules around weather-related incidents, such as heavy rain or extreme temperatures
  • Considering rainwater collection as a source for irrigation
  • Using a balanced design of drought-resistant plants; artificial turf; and hardscaping, or gravel
  • Incorporating native plants that are more drought and heat tolerant
However, Mosier said there are always caveats.

“Unfortunately, Austin won't allow a homeowner to install more than 50% turf, or I believe we would see more extensive use of that product, resulting in more water savings,” Mosier said. “Hardscaping is also a great alternative to grass because it allows water to absorb into the ground while recharging our aquifers, but some city departments maintain that these hardscapes wash out into storm sewers and fill up our creeks and lakes. So, a solution for one department is a thorn for another.”