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Homebuyers willing to pay more for proximity to wildlife

Andrea Gear

25th November 2013

Despite hard economic times, a recent survey shows that two thirds of UK homebuyers would consider paying more for a house with a wildlife-friendly garden ...

Holding off on pruning your hedges is a great way of helping wildlife - leaving the hedges alone until February or March means birds can feed on the berries through the winter.

We're familiar with the routine estate agents' blurb trying to sell a property on the basis that it's "close to local shops / bus routes", or "includes a conservatory / detached garage / gas central heating / period features", etc. But how might potential buyers react to a claim that it "benefits from a wildlife-friendly garden"?

Well, apparently 70% of people in the UK would consider paying more for such a property. The statistic is based on a sample of fewer than 1,600 people, but the RSPB are pleased with the results.

Conducted in September, the survey's purpose was to gain an insight into people's knowledge and interest in UK garden wildlife following the launch of the RSPB's new campaign 'Give Nature a Home', the TV adverts for which have already reached an audience of millions.

The campaign is in reponse to the worrying State of Nature Report, launched back in May. The report found that 60% of UK species have declined over recent decades (31% strongly so) and over one in ten of the species assessed are threatened with extinction in the UK.

As the campaign aims to help tackle the crises facing our threatened wildlife, it's encouraging to discover that 7 out of 10 potential homebuyers feel a wildlife-friendly garden is sufficiently important to consider paying more for a property which includes one.

Not only is this encouraging for non-human species, but a garden full of biodiversity allows families to engage with nature, and interactions with wildlife are known to be good for us on every level.

So what were the Survey's details? In conjunction with Rightmove (which has the largest online audience and around 90% of all properties for sale), the RSPB asked 1,548 people a series of questions relating to gardens and garden wildlife. Of respondents, 69% described their surroundings as either urban or suburban, 56% had children, and more than 93% said they were happy to see wildlife in their gardens.

In answer to the key question "would you pay more for a house with a wildlife friendly garden?" 39% said ‘maybe', another 14% answered ‘probably', and 14% of people surveyed answered ‘yes, definitely'. Intriguing regional differences emerged from the survey. For example, people in Northern Ireland were most likely to pay more for a wildlife-friendly property, with 46% of those surveyed falling into the ‘probably' or ‘yes, definitely' categories. However, the comparable figure for Wales was only 7%.

Gardens provide a valuable lifeline for wildlife such as starlings, toads, hedgehogs and butterflies, all of which are declining in number. If homeowners can be persuaded to give nature a home on their property, a network of wildlife friendly gardens across the UK could be created.

There are all sorts of jobs you can do in your garden at this time of year that will help give nature a home, from planting bulbs ready to attract bees and other insects next year, building or buying a Hogitat (hedgehog shelter) ready for them to hibernate in, digging a pond or tidying-up your existing one, or putting up nest boxes in time for next spring.

Those who are too busy Christmas shopping to do any gardening this weekend can still do their bit for nature - holding off on pruning your hedges is a great way of helping wildlife without actually having to do anything. Leaving the hedges alone until February or March means birds can feed on the berries through the winter.

Lets start putting wildlife habitats back and improve our own habitat in the process.

Andrea Gear is assistant editor of The Ecologist website. Sadly she is leaving us soon but we do hope she will keep on contributing!

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