When you’re writing your list of things to repair and upgrade before selling your home, chances are the backyard is on the bottom. True, sprucing up the interior and enhancing your home’s front yard curb appeal are top priority, but shifting trends among home buyers say that your backyard curb appeal needs some attention, too.
A recent study by The American Institute of Architects (AIA) found that outdoor living spaces remain a top priority for home designers in the first quarter of 2017. That trend continued to rise in popularity in the second quarter.
Styling an outdoor living room on your porch, deck or patio isn’t the only reason potential buyers are interested in homes with functional backyards. A recent landscaping survey by Houzz.com found that homeowners (and future homeowners) want backyards with space for things like gardening and playing with family and pets, too.
If it looks like you don’t enjoy spending time in your own backyard, buyers won’t want to either. However, getting your yard in shape doesn’t mean you need to install or upgrade every outdoor feature buyers might want.
When it’s time to sell your home, the key is to show off your backyard’s potential to prospective buyers. Here are a few tips to whip your backyard into shape.
Nurture Nature with Backyard Lawn Care
No one wants to buy a house with a backyard that looks like a lot of work, so you’ll need to give your greenery a makeover. The National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) 2016 Remodeling Impact Report on Outdoor Features lists lawn care programs and landscaping upgrades as the top draws for buyers.
According to their report, starting a basic program of fertilizer and weed control before you sell can net you an average 303% return on your investment (ROI).
All those trees you’ve been meaning to trim and flowerbeds that need weeding need to be taken care of, too. The national cost for lawn and garden maintenance averages around $226, depending upon the size of the yard and services needed.
Just ask your professional landscaper to trim lightly when shaping hedges and trees that provide privacy from your neighbors. Angela Fox, a Denver-based realtor who ranks in the top 1% out of 14,046 agents, says, “It’s a market thing. When all the trees are bare, you can see through that. So you definitely want to clean up landscaping in the backyard while keeping that privacy.”
For a barren backyard light on plant life, you may want to skip the maintenance costs and invest in some fresh landscaping instead. The NAR lists spiritual gardens as a top trend for 2018.
If your yard has a dedicated garden patch, but your lack of a green thumb has kept you from planting, don’t worry. You can easily stage your garden by tilling the earth and marking the rows with creative plant labels. Just make sure you actually plant the seeds or let buyers know that the signs are just for show.
Backyards without a dedicated garden can still appeal to buyers interested in the gardening trend by planting an edible container garden. Plus, container plants both edible and decorative are a great way to liven up bare spots in your backyard with greenery.
Getting your lawn and garden elements are in tip-top shape isn’t the only tending your backyard needs. If you’ve got other outdoor amenities like a pool or a patio, they also need maintenance and staging.
Pool Staging Tips to Help Your House Sell
Many homeowners say they always wanted a house with a pool—until they actually had one. Ongoing expenses, like chlorine and utility costs for running the pump, average around $15-$25 weekly. This can make a pool feel like it’s more work than it’s worth.
That doesn’t mean that having a background pool will automatically make your home less valuable or harder to sell. Architectural Digest lists pools as one of the top five outdoor features that add value to a home. And the NAR reports that buyers perceive both in-ground and aboveground pools as adding value to the home—especially in warmer regions.
If you’re selling a home that has an in-ground pool in the backyard, you’ll need to refurbish and stage it so that potential buyers focus on its benefits rather than its drawbacks. Your pool should be full with properly-treated water to prevent algae growth and repair any damage to your pool’s deck or interior surface.
Pools with stained or crumbling interiors must be resurfaced before you list or you risk scaring off potential buyers. Although prices vary depending upon the pool size, type and the region you live in, the cost to resurface a plaster pool averages around $4 per square foot.
However, plaster pool surfacing is on the decline so it might be worth the additional expense to opt for a longer-lasting pebble-based resurfacing which averages around $5 per square foot.
After the pool has been refurbished it’s time to stage the area to help buyers envision themselves using the pool. First, add a few accessories to the pool itself that reflect the atmosphere of your neighborhood. For example, if you live in a family-friendly suburb, float a few inflatable pool toys. In upscale areas, float flowers or candles instead.
Next, arrange lounge chairs and outdoor end tables in comfortable groupings around the pool deck. Add to the oft-used ambiance with colorful beach towels and outdoor-friendly throw pillows.
Make the pool area extra-enticing during open houses by setting out glasses and a drinks dispenser filled with sun-tea or cucumber water near the lounge chairs. A beverage station in the backyard invites buyers to linger after touring your home to discuss becoming its new owners.
Of course, if your backyard doesn’t feature a pool, you can create your beverage station in your backyard living area.
Cater to Indoor-Outdoor Lifestyle
One of the reasons backyards are becoming more important in real estate sales trends is due to the rise of the indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Architects in both urban and suburban areas are designing new houses with giant doors and windows that practically open up a whole wall to bring the outdoors in.
If your home doesn’t feature massive doors or windows like these, you can still appeal to those indoor-outdoor loving buyers with a dedicated outdoor living area. Whether it’s a deck, patio or porch, dedicated outdoor living spaces create the ambience of having a “bonus room.”
Both wood and stone get weathered over time so be sure to clean and treat your deck, porch and patios properly before listing. The national cost to refinish a wood deck averages around $775. The cost to refurbish a patio made of stone, brick or pavers varies due to size and material type, with the national average costing between $777 to $1,360.
If your backyard doesn’t already have a deck or patio, you may want to add one. The NAR’s Outdoor Features Impact Report indicates that you’ll see a positive return on your investment:
If the expense of a professionally constructed porch, deck or patio is out of your budget, you can achieve the same effect by a brick or pavers patio directly on your lawn. Just make sure you select a location for the in-ground patio that makes sense with your home’s layout without taking away too much of your lawn.
How you stage your outdoor living area all depends on the space and where it’s located. For example, a deck off the kitchen is the perfect place for an outdoor dining set, while a fire pit is safest on an in-lawn patio well away from the house itself. Give these spaces that extra-enticing touch with place settings on the table and cozy throws on the seating around the fire pit.
Nosy neighbors are the last thing you want potential buyers to worry about while their appraising your outdoor living areas. So if a lack of privacy is an issue your backyard has, you’ll definitely want to address it.
Fox advises, “Sometimes I have clients either hang curtains or some kind of sun drape, if there is a neighbor that’s really close. Or sometimes you can plant a couple of trees. In one case, my clients mitigated that concern by adding a six-foot privacy fence.”
When it comes to getting your home’s backyard ready to sell, your main goal is to create a space that’s both functional and inviting to buyers. With a mix of basic maintenance, clever staging and a few minor upgrades you can easily (and relatively inexpensively) transform your existing backyard into an outdoor living oasis.