Pricing landscape quality

Property value of aesthetic benefits Click here
Tourism areas Click here
Health, restoration and well- being benefits Click here
Summary and conclusions Click here
References Click here

In this theme, we turn to valuing landscape quality. Although landscape quality cannot be valued directly, there are several surrogates of its value. The number of tourists attracted to a scenic area, how much it costs to travel there and what they spend is one measure. The price put upon a property with a view compared with a similar property without the view is another measure. The health, restoration and well-being benefits of viewing natural landscapes are also a tangible value.

Several years ago, ecologists (Costanza et al, 1997) developed the concept of ecological services which are the functions provided free by the environment, such as pollination of crops by bees, cleaning of pollution by micro-organisms, recycling nutrients, protection of the ozone layer and stabilization of the earth’s climate. The human value of these runs into tens of trillions of dollars annually. Replacement of say, pollination services by artificial means, in fruit orchards would stretch the economy.

Landscapes provide the following aesthetic services to people: aesthetic enjoyment to residents, visitors and tourism, enhancement of property values, and the restoration of human health and well-being. These too may be valued. Landscape services have an economic component.


House values and the effect of landscape views upon them will reflect the laws of demand and supply prevailing at the particular location. In an area with an abundance of scenic beauty but a low population, the values may be low whereas the presence of a large population will generally increase demand and hence values.

This was reflected in a study in New Zealand (Bourassa et al, 2005) which found an inverse relationship between the relative abundance of a water view and its effect on house values, the fewer the views, the higher the contribution (Christchurch), and the converse – the more abundant the views, the lower the contribution (Wellington) (Figure 1).

Fig 1Bourassa et al, 2005
Figure 1 Inverse relationship between abundance of view and contribution to house value

With this proviso in mind, studies of the influence of landscape views on property values do provide useful insights.

Beauty sells!

There have been over 30 papers covering over 45 studies between 1973 and 2015 that have quantified the influence of landscape views on house values. Most of the studies examined the influence of water views on house prices, using the sea, rivers or lakes as the landscape and assessed the presence or absence of a view. All but five studies used actual sales data in preference to valuation data. Most studies used hedonic price analysis which is a form of regression analysis where the price (dependent variable) is a function of the house characteristics (independent variables) such as the number of bedrooms, floor area, air conditioning, etc. to derive the contribution from each component to the price. The presence or absence of a view is included within the models.The mean increase to house values for all studies is 17.8%. Thus a property worth, say $300,000, will be worth $353,430 if it has a good view. Multiply this by the hundreds, or in some areas, thousands of properties, which enjoy the view, and the value of the view run to millions of dollars. Based on an average house value of, say, $300,000, the added value of the view for 1000 homes will be $53.4 million.

Table 1 Frequency of % increase in house values

Table 1

The studies found the increase to house values ranged from 2.2% to 90% and is heavily skewed towards the lower percentage as shown in Table 1 and Figure 2 (median 9%, mode 8%). In 18 studies, house values increased by between 5 – 10%.



Fig 2
Figure 2 Studies of influence of a landscape view on house values

The highest increase, 90%, was derived in a study of houses along Lake Erie where houses with a view of the lake averaged $527,184 compared with $285,518 for those without a view. After controlling for house characteristics (e.g. lot size, house size) the premium added to homes with a view was $256,545. The authors wrote with academic understatement: “This is quite a large premium even given the spectacular view that Lake Erie offers.” (Bond et al, 2002). This is clearly an example where the demand and capacity to pay is high but the supply is limited.

Figure 3 shows the results of a study of condominiums near Boston where the contribution ranged from 4% to nearly 12% across the range of house values and indicates no relationship between the view and the house value. However, this is not the norm.

Fig 3Plattner & Campbell, 1978
Figure 3 Influence of water view on price of condominiums, Massachusetts

A study of rental apartments in Chicago in the mid-1970s found that the amenities in the area – access to parks and lake, and lake view, comprised 26% of their rents, including 7% for the lake view (Pollard, 1982). The author concluded that the:

“presence of either a lake view or accessibility to the lake leads to a doubling of the predicted height of buildings. These results for Lake Michigan are indicative of the substantial impact of topographic amenities on the height of buildings, the supply of housing, and the structure of cities.”

A study in Switzerland examined the profit derived from two hotels in and near Zurich that offered views over the lake and Alps compared with views without these (Lange & Schaeffer, 2001). It found for one hotel an annual difference of US$0.45 million and for the other US$1.74 million. In present value terms, these added $4.3 million and $16.3 million to their property value (interest rate 10%, time period 20 years).

The extent of a view varies from a full expansive view covering the entire landscape, through partial views and glimpses, to no view at all. It also varies by distance from the landscape being viewed, generally the more distant the view the lesser its influence on house prices. A study at Bellingham, Washington, which classified the extent of an ocean view (superior, good, poor) and distance found the value of a view varied inversely with distance from the water (Benson et al, 2000) (Figure 4).

Fig 4.jpgBenson et al, 2000
Figure 4 Percentage increase to house values based on distance of view

The study showed that the significant contribution of the view to house values decreases quite quickly within the first mile but then declines less quickly, meaning that a landscape viewed from even a considerable distance will generally still contribute to property values, unless the view is very restricted. Within 0.1 mile, the full view added 70% to the house value, by one mile this had dropped to 45% and by 3 miles to 21%. However, by 3 miles, the value added for a good partial view was almost identical to the value added by a full view. However, a poor partial view actually reduced the house value at the 3-mile mark.The contribution of a landscape view to house prices is not constant, but changes in accordance to supply and demand as well as general economic circumstances.

This is shown by the study of New Zealand cities (Bourassa et al, 2005) which traced house sales by date (Figure 5). While the contribution was relatively constant for Auckland and Wellington both of which have abundant sea views, it fell appreciably for Christchurch between 1986 and 1994 before making up for some of the decline by 1996. The decrease was probably due to new developments occurring nearer the coast and water features during the 1980s and early 1990s and supply being limited after 1994.

Fig 5Bourassa et al, 2005
Figure 5 Varying contribution of landscape view to house values over time (New Zealand)

The study referred to earlier at Bellingham, Washington also traced the contribution of an ocean view over a decade and produced more stable results than the New Zealand study (Figure 6). It also found an appreciable increase in the contribution of the view to house values. For example, the contribution of the full ocean view rose from 51% to 59% over the decade, while the superior partial view more than doubled midway through the decade and then fell back to about a two-thirds increase by the end of the decade. This probably reflects the continuing demand for a view stimulating an added supply of suitable housing sites which reduced prices.

Fig 6Benson et al, 2000
Figure 6 Varying contribution of landscape view to house values over time
(Bellingham, Washington)

Sander & Polasky (2009) examined the environmental influences on nearly 5,000 properties in Ramsey County in central Michigan in the US. The mean value was $255,955. Using hedonic price analysis, the results they found are summarized in Table 2, indicating that a view of water and of grassy areas adds to the value.

Table 2 Contribution of environmental qualities to house prices, Michigan, 2005

Table 2Sander & Polasky, 2009

Garrod (2002) assessed the social and economic benefits of forests in the UK, including the landscape benefits in terms of people’s preferences and willingness to pay for forest and woodland views. Surveying over 400 residents the survey covered a range of landscapes – mountains, hilly, and peri-urban and found householders willing to pay £269 per annum for a woodland landscape view on the urban fringe compared to a view without woodlands. The capitalized value was £7,680 per property. The highest preferences were for randomly spaced broad-leafed trees (not conifers) of various heights and mixed with open space in small woodlands rather than large forests.

Baranzini & Schaerer (2007) examined rents in Geneva, Switzerland and found, using a large database and GIS, that every additional hectare of a view of natural landscapes increased rents by 0.25% (US$3.2/ha) while a water view increased them by 0.47% (US$6/ha). A view of distant mountains increased rents by only 0.05% (US$0.6/ha).

Although most of the studies were carried out in Western nations with single story family houses, five studies have been of multi-story apartment blocks in Hong Kong, Singapore and Guangzhou (China).

In Singapore, Shi Ming Yu & colleagues (2005) found a view of the sea increased apartment values by 15.4%. Two of the three Hong Kong studies found apartment values increased by 4.6% (Hui et al, 2007) and 9.3% (Tse, 2002). The third study found a broad sea view yielded an increase of 2.97% (US$15,173) whereas confined sea views yielded 2.18% ($11,137), not a large difference (Jim & Chen, 2009). However, this latter study also found that a broad mountain view lowered values by 6.7%, the reason for which the authors speculated may be linked to the traditional Chinese view that regards water as fortune but mountains as wilderness. The Guangzhou study found that a view of green spaces near the apartments contributed 7.1% to their value.

Hong KongPSCHong Kong skyline

In an analysis of high-rise apartments in Hong Kong, Hui et al (2012), differentiated apartments into three levels, high (floor 21 and above), medium (floors 11 – 20) and low (floors 1 – 10). Apart from the sea view, air quality and noise affected values, particularly for the lower levels. Interestingly while sea view contributed the highest influence on prices in the low and medium levels, it actually had a negative effect on the higher apartments, due, according to the authors, to Hong Kong’s weather which is cold in winter and hot in summer and which adversely affect the higher apartments. They benefit, however, from the better air quality and lower noise levels. The blocking of the sea view by other high rise buildings also affects their values.

In the vicinity of Dijon, France, Joly et al (2009) modeled 4,352 houses with known price, position, and landscape amenities and found that householders valued mainly the close view rather than those more than 100 – 200 m distant. The sight of trees, woods, or forests within 70 m of a house raised its price by 2.6% per standard deviation (SD). Between 70 m and 280 m arable land, meadows, or vineyards had a positive price 1.1% per SD while roads and railways reduced prices by 0.5% per SD.

DSCN7523CView of the Acropolis over Athens

In a study of property prices in Athens, Greece, Damigos & Anyfantis (2011) asked ten real estate realtors the natural and man-made features that increase and decrease property values and by how much. They were asked to estimate the strength, positive or negative, of various views on property prices. All experts agreed that the view plays a significant role in property values, which were in following descending order of importance: the sea, archeological sites, particularly the Acropolis, urban parks, views from high-rise apartments, and view to sparsely populated regions. The difference that a view could make can be as high as 70% but averaged around 15%. A sea view increased property values by around 34% while the view of an urban park increased them by 18%.

Tel Aviv apartment block

In Tel Aviv, Maruani & Amit-Cohen (2013) examined 85 full-page newspaper advertise-ments for residential development properties. They found that next to prestige (43 advertisements), attractive rural and natural landscapes featured prominently in the advertisements (37) as graphic icons and symbols, illustrations and photographs, as green colors of the landscape or in the textural signs that represent landscapes such as green, tree, mountain, lake or river, parks and gardens. They wrote: 

“Assuming that developers and advertisers know what their prospective customers are looking for, we can conclude that the priorities of the Israeli public … are very clear, with prestige being the most appreciated feature of housing projects out of the four identified themes, and landscape ranking almost as high, second to prestige.”

The other two themes were heritage (5) and the developer’s credibility (19). The combined occurrence of the two leading themes – prestige and landscape – is three times greater than that of credibility and heritage.

In Prague, Melichar & Kaprova (2013) examined the influence of greenspace on property prices in the post-Communist era since 1990. Their data were 8568 apartment sales from 2005 to 2008 and compared prices with proximity to urban parks, forests and farmland. Urban greenery (i.e. farmland, grassland, orchards and gardens) added 0.0023% to house prices for every percent increase in their area. A 1% increase in urban greenery added US$585 to house prices. A 1% increase in urban parks and urban forests increased individual house prices by $618 and $185 respectively and aggregate housing prices by $13.1 m – $61.1 m.

Lodz in Poland, a city of 0.7 m, scores poorly in provision of urban green space compared with other European cities, thus making it more valuable. Czembrowski & Kronenberg (2016) classified the green space in nine categories from small to large, including parks, forests, cemeteries and allotment gardens. They found that a 1% increase in the distance to large parks decreased property values by US$15/m2 or 1.5%. Conversely a 1% increase in the distance to a cemetery increased values by US$25/m2. An additional 1% of greenery within 500 m radius increased prices by US$1/m2.

Daniel et al, 1989 used the Scenic Beauty Estimation method for measuring landscape quality together with the camper’s willingness to pay for camping trips to 35 forest areas with differing forest characteristics – tree ages, densities, height and species. The found an almost perfect correlation (0.96) between scenic beauty estimates and the willingness to pay (Figure 7). This indicates that both scenic beauty and the willingness to pay were sensitive to the same variations in forest characteristics.

Fig 7Daniel et al, 1989
Figure 7 Relationship between perceived scenic beauty and willingness to pay for camping areas

Using hedonic pricing analysis of the rents of over 160,000 apartments in central, suburban and peri-urban areas of Switzerland, Schläpfer, et aI (2015) quantified the positive effect that proximity or view of environmental amenities such as lakes, natural areas, wetlands and national landscape areas had on rents.

Property values summary

The contribution of the view to house values ranged from 2% to 90% with an average of 17.8%. The amount reflects the laws of supply and demand; in locations with abundant views but little housing demand, the contribution may be slight but reverses where the demand increases with little supply. The contribution of a view did not correlate with the house value, the same contribution occurred for houses of low and high values. The value of a view varied inversely with distance from the view, declining quite rapidly over the first few kilometers before leveling out so that even distant views will provide some added value to house prices. The contribution of the view generally appreciated over time, presumably reflecting continuing demand but with a contracting supply of suitable land. While most of the studies were in the West, five studies in Singapore, Hong Kong and Guangzhou found similar results, ranging from 2% to 15%.

While not a perfect proxy of the value of landscape quality, these studies demonstrate that house prices can benefit very significantly from a view of an attractive landscape.


In 1879, the New York Times reported in a story headed Money value from scenery – Revenue from natural attractions, that statisticians make no value of the hard-cash value of landscape in the assets of a people. It reported that the 1,400,000 visitors to Switzerland “this season” spent $45,000,000, which is the interest payment at 5% on capital of $900,000,000, solely for the pleasure of looking at its scenery and enjoying its health-giving properties.

In a Congressional debate in 1915, Edward Taylor argued that Switzerland gained between $10,000 and $40,000 per square mile of scenery per annum and that America stood to gain much more. In 2013, Switzerland derived US$20 B from tourism which is US$1,254,000 mile2/an (US$484,000 km2/an).

19th Century Swiss tourism promotion

In 1910, Allen Chamberlain, a New England advocate, wrote an article, “Scenery as a National Asset.” To quote: Let it not be forgotten that Switzerland regards its scenery as a money-producing asset to the extent of some two hundred million dollars annually (Runte, 1979). He and others argued that Americans should first see the beauties that America had to offer before spending their money overseas, thus combining patriotism, aesthetics and economics. Chamberlain’s figures were cited in the Senate in arguments for the Glacier National Park.

An early activist for national parks was Dr Horace McFarland, a businessman, who, in 1908, addressed a conference of governors called by President Theodore Roosevelt to address measures for the conservation of the nation’s natural resources. He urged the conservation of scenery, saying: The scenic value of all the national domain yet remaining should be jealously guarded as a distinctly important natural resource, and not as a mere incidental increment (Runte,1979).

The Evening Chronicle in Spokane, Washington, reported in 1908 in an article headed “State Scenery has Money Value,” that:

“the state of Washington has scenery finer than anything else on the Pacific coast, and equally the best to be found in Europe, and that this scenery has a great monetary value if made accessible, was the statement made to the Seattle Chamber of Commerce by Samuel C. Lancaster, government good roads expert, stationed in Seattle. ‘A most salubrious climate, beautiful scenery and attractive surroundings have a money value as good as anything which can be produced by man’ he said.”

These early quotes indicate that the economic value of landscapes was well recognized. People visit places such as Switzerland or national parks for a range of reasons; however, the scenic beauty is likely to be foremost. Therefore, while scenery would not account for all of the $1,254,203 mile2/an ($484,150 km2/an.) that Switzerland derives from its tourism, it is probably at least half, say at least $627,102 mile2/an ($242,075 km2/an.).

Switzerland is an exceptional country for landscapes with the advantage of being a fairly compact country with outstanding public transport for viewing it. Other countries have similarly fine landscapes but are much larger, such as the United States. Australia, Brazil and Russia have vast distances to cover between highlights.

LenzerheideLenzerheide, east Switzerland

Table 3 summarizes 21 countries and has been derived by dividing the revenue it receives from tourism by the area of the country. This indicates the revenue per square km or square mile. An estimate was then made of the proportion of the revenue that could reasonably be attributed to the country’s landscapes, in other words, the extent to which tourists are attracted by its landscapes. These are estimated to range from 40 – 50% for Switzerland, Austria, Norway, New Zealand, Iceland and Nepal, down to 10 – 15% for countries such as Australia, Germany, Italy, Greece and France. Many of these countries have significant cultural, social and historical attractions besides landscapes.

Table 3 Landscape induced tourism revenue per unit area per annum
Based on 2013 World Bank country tourism data

Table 3

Figure 8 illustrates the range of revenue from tourism per square mile adjusted for the proportion estimated due to the country’s landscapes. As Switzerland and Austria are so much larger, they have been omitted as otherwise many of the remaining countries are barely visible on the graph.

Fig 8Note: Omitted Switzerland ($627,000/sq mile) and Austria ($314,000/sq mile) because they dominate.
Figure 8 Adjusted tourism revenue by country per square mile per annum

The average revenue is $66,600 mile2/annum ($25,600 km2/an) however with a large standard deviation of $148,100 mile2/annum ($57,200 km2/an). The large SD indicates the very wide range of revenue per unit area across the 21 countries. Nevertheless, the figure of around $66,600 mile2/annum ($25,600 km2/an) provides an indication of the value that tourism places on attractive landscapes.


The theme: Health benefits of landscape examines the health, restorative and well-being benefits of natural areas and landscapes in people’s lives. Compared with an urban environment, there is abundant evidence for significant benefits from interacting with natural areas and landscapes, including:

• Reduced stress, more rapid recovery and restoration from stress, reduced violence, aggression and fear;
• Reduced blood pressure and pulse rates and other physiological indicators;
• Greater sense of relaxation, tranquility, happiness, forgetting worries, increased vitality (high-energy state) and more positive emotional state;
• More rapid restoration from intense mental effort (e.g. preparation for exams) and attentional fatigue;
• Greater opportunity for reflection on personal matters.

In addition, there were the following special benefits:

• Hospital patients with a view of trees recovered quicker, needed fewer analgesics, and complained less than those who viewed a blank wall;
• Hospital patients and staff preferred windowed rooms rather than windowless rooms and staff preferred nature viewed through the window over city or street views;
• Views of nature from dormitory windows aided study for students compared with views without nature;
• Apartment residents with access to and views of nature contributed to the resident’s satisfaction with their neighborhood and sense of well-being;
• Public housing residents whose apartments looked out over trees and grass had much lower levels of aggression and violence than those lacking this view;
• Public housing amid high levels of vegetation nearby experienced less property crime and violent crime than buildings with low levels of vegetation.

Open green space in an urban area provides tangible health benefits:

• The more often a person visits open space the less stress-related illnesses they report;
• People without a garden do not compensate by more visits to green space, they use it less and their stress levels are higher than those with a garden. Those with a garden make even more use of green space;
• Those living within 2 miles (3 km) of green space had better health – 10% more greenspace lowered symptoms equivalent to five years’ lower age;
• Individual’s health correlated positively with the amount of green space. Where 90% of the surrounding environment was green, only 10% of people felt unhealthy whereas in areas with only 10% greenness, 15.5% of residents felt unhealthy;
• Greater amounts of green space reduced the incidence of poor health by up to 28%, and lowered morbidity by up to 5.5% which translates into 1300 fewer deaths per annum.

Taken in the aggregate, these health, restoration and well-being benefits plainly translate into substantial economic benefits.


Good views add significantly to the value of properties, by an average of nearly 18%. The amount reflects the laws of supply and demand; where demand is high but there are few properties, the value added will be great, but reduce with greater supply. Values increase over time, probably because of diminishing supply and growing demand through increasing affluence. The increase occurred for both high and low value properties. The value diminished with distance from the view but was still appreciable even at considerable distance.

That scenic areas bring dollars into an area by way of tourism has been recognized for well over a century but there are few quantified estimates of the amount. An estimate has been derived based upon the tourism revenue of 21 countries and compared with their total area, and the contribution that attractive landscapes are likely to make to the tourism dollar. While the amount varied widely, from $310 miles2/an ($120 km2/an) in Russia, to around $630,000 miles2/an ($242,00 km2/an) in Switzerland, the average of $66,600 miles2/annum ($25,600 km2/an) provides the first estimate of the revenue-pulling power of attractive landscapes.

Research over recent years has confirmed what many suspected, that exposure to nature, landscapes and open green space has significant benefits in terms of better health, more rapid restoration from stress and fatigue and improved well-being. While the degree of improvement has been quantified in many studies, generally these have not been translated into dollar estimates.

Attractive landscapes are valuable, not only in terms of the psyche of a nation and its people but also tangibly in the values to properties and tourist revenue they generate or in the health costs that are avoided. The three areas examined provide varying degrees of certainty in terms of the estimates; the estimates of the increased property value provided by a view are fairly robust; the estimates of revenue derived from tourism are somewhat less certain but nevertheless indicative; and finally, the health, restoration and well-being benefits provided by nature, landscapes and open green space are certainly tangible but have not been quantified.


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