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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Best Fence for Resale Value: Thinking in the Long-Term

I’ve worked as a builder and as a consultant for many DIY clients, and I’ve seen lots of different home improvement strategies. When clients put in a new fence to increase their property’s resale value, some make a point of choosing fencing materials that will still be valuable down the road, while others think of the fencing as being less important, and instead spend more resources on the home itself. I think of these as the ‘looking down the road’ and the ‘fast fix’ strategies.

In my experience, my fellow builders and DIY clients who think long term and have committed to creating lasting quality in their homes and developments are the ones who are able to bump up resale value the most. To accomplish this, they look for the best fence for resale value--one that lasts a long time, requires little maintenance, and possesses a classically attractive aesthetic. Of course, there are more than a few ways to achieve this, and we’re going to talk about those ways now.

Can a Fence Add Resale Value?

Even with mounds and mounds of data, the answer to the question of whether or not a fence actually adds retail value is not easy to find. An internet research session yields a lot of fence builders who may have too much skin in the game, and not many unbiased sources. In this case, a better way of getting at the answer is through common sense--and some attention to aesthetics. The resale value a fence adds clearly depends on how the fence suits the home, the context of the home, the types of fences around it, the initial cost of the fence to install, and many other factors.

One big factor is the condition of the fence, and how well it holds that condition. Houses and properties that are beautiful and look well-tended retain value more easily than those in a state of disrepair and neglect. I’ve seen a few clients slap up cedar fences with a quick sale in mind, only for the house to stay on the market for years, forcing them to make a few fence maintenance sessions while it was on the market--even replacing some sections outright. The bottom line seems to be that a durable fence that adds beauty and functionality will generally add to the overall property value, while a fence with issues will not (and could even drag the property value down).

The Best Fence for Resale Value: Choose a Classic Look

 By ‘classic’, we aren’t talking about a ‘vanilla’ kind of design that seeks to offend no one, but ends up not pleasing anyone. While it is impossible to please everyone, there are some fencing styles that remain attractive no matter what decade they happen to find themselves in. While I’ve built a few plenty more fence types than what I’ve listed below, these three have by and large accounted for the vast majority of my work and what I see going up in my city, and there’s a reason for that. They’re reliable, useful, and they look great if kept in good shape.

  • Wooden Picket Fence: The wooden picket fence is probably more tied to the American colonial style of home more than any other type. Paired with these homes, the combination of fence and house creates a whole greater than the sum of the parts. One of the general rules of thumb around increasing value with a fence, or any similar addition, is that it goes with the house and the yard, or accentuates them in some way. A white picket fence around the right house creates a coherent whole while also delineating the yard and providing some measure of security.
  • Wooden Security Fence: The wooden security fence is probably the most ubiquitous fencing type in the American residential landscape. Relatively inexpensive to build with a reasonably long life, this kind of fence can be a beautiful choice that is friendly to most budgets. These fences are easy to customize, and can be easily integrated into other yard structures such as decks, pergolas, and trellising systems. While the upfront costs are reasonably low, be aware that these don’t stay beautiful forever. There are invariably maintenance and repair costs that generally manifest after just a few years.
  • Wrought Iron-Style Steel Fence: Black wrought iron has a nearly universal and timeless beauty. Modern variations, made with galvanized steel and protected by special coatings, carry the look forward while leaving behind the need for maintenance. Constructed in the classic rail and picket style, these steel fences simultaneously evoke a bygone charm (they make great fences for Victorian houses) and fit in seamlessly with a modern aesthetic. Some manufacturers also provide options like finial toppers for pickets and other ornamental additions to make the fence more than just a utilitarian barrier. And because they don’t block the view to or from the house, I also consider steel fences to be some of the best fences for the front yard.

Finding Long-Lasting Durability and Easy Maintenance

 Durability matters to most buyers, which affects resale value. Those who fall into the ‘fast fix’ camp might bump up property value and appearance for a time, but that same fence might detract from the home a few years down the road. That’s why it’s important to choose durable materials that will remain so for a long time. Most of the fences I’ve installed to spruce up a home have either been made of wood or steel. Both offer decent durability, if you choose the right type.

  •  Wood: There are a wide variety of woods to choose from, though the most common wooden fencing material in this country is probably cedar. If the posts are surrounded by concrete and kept from gathering moisture, and the boards and rails are well-sealed on a regular basis, security and privacy fences made from wood can last for the long haul. In addition, though, fasteners must be resistant to corrosion and the joins saturated with sealer in order for the fence to avoid problems. In short, a wooden fence will only last as long as water and UV rays are kept from breaking it down in various ways. If this doesn’t happen, it becomes increasingly less durable, and this often translates into an unattractive, failing fence that will decrease property value, if it changes it at all.
  • Steel: While a well-built wooden fence is typically solid enough for most people’s needs, steel is several magnitudes stronger than wood. While steel fences have always been strong, they have also been prone to rusting and breaking down, especially at the welds. This pattern of corrosion also eats into any value the fence might provide to a property by making the fence unreliable and unstable. Fortunately, there are steel fences that don’t break down so readily. Most manufacturers are now using a powder coating that helps protect the steel, especially from UV rays. Other manufacturers are also an e-coat underneath that powder coat that seals the steel from any moisture that might come through the slightly porous powder paint. The coating also has a sufficiently tight bond that scratches, dents, and other damage from wear and tear don’t easily open up access points into the steel core. This coating cuts down dramatically on the maintenance that would normally go with a steel fence, such as hours of wire brushing, repainting, and sealing.

It’s clear that different situations will call for one kind of fence over another. My tendency is to fall in the ‘looking down the road’ camp and focus on finding the very best, because I believe that that’s what will add value in the long-term. When steel fencing is the best fit for a house, I pick one with excellent protective coatings and high-quality welds.


In my opinion, the company with the best of both of these is Fortress Building Products. With a range of design options and the possibility of customization, Fortress’ steel fences are galvanized, then coated with a zinc pre-coat, then with an e-coat, and then finally with a UV-resistant coat of powder paint. This redundancy and toughness make these fences wonderful choices in a wide range of situations, especially when they’re being installed to help boost property value. In addition to their fences, Fortress also produces an array of other innovative, yet classically beautiful building materials, which are worth a look if you’re working on projects that require high-quality decking, railing, or hardware.




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