Activities like running, hiking, and camping attract about 13.6 million Americans each year—but perhaps the easiest way to enjoy the outdoors is just chilling in the backyard.
“You’re not going to find a better place than your backyard where you can hang out and relax,” said Ida Schwartz, a top selling agent in Miami Beach, Florida, with 18 years of experience. “After a whole week at work, people just want to hang at their home.”
Knowing that you can recover a chunk of any backyard expenses once you sell your home is also bound to heighten your enjoyment. Not all outdoor features boast the same returns, however. Some add more value depending on your price range and location, and rarely will a project pay for itself and then some. Find out which investments make the most sense for your home with this list of popular backyard additions that add value, marketability, or overall appeal.
1. Make the backyard functional with a new deck or patio
With roughly $1.47 billion worth of grills and barbecues sold nationwide each year, you’d be remiss not to have some kind of designated spot to dine and entertain guests out back.
“The backyard should be conducive to entertainment,” Schwartz said.
“It’s nice to have a little area where there would be a grill and a sitting area by the grill, and some covered space so when you’re sitting outside, you’re protected from the sun.”
According to HomeLight’s Q2 Top Agent Insights survey, the average patio costing $3,269 adds $3,563 value to your home for a 9% ROI. Not too shabby!
Meanwhile, a new cedar deck ranks high on the Joy Score (9.8), a measure of average homeowner enjoyment of a particular project, with 10 being the highest, according to the 2018 Remodeling Impact Report from the NALP and NAR. The report estimated a cost of $10,000 to build a 14×18-foot deck attached to the house with a ledger, along with decking, railing, stair treads, and sealer, recovering 80% of that at resale.
Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report calculated a similar ROI of 76% after spending about $13,000 on a 16×20-foot deck that included a built-in bench and planter.
But before you go pouring down slabs of concrete just to boost your sale price, check out HomeLight’s guide to patio ROI with tips from real estate experts and top-rated patio contractors to get the most out of this investment.
2. An outdoor kitchen appeals to luxury buyers
Outdoor cooking spaces topped the American Institute of Architects’ list of kitchen and bath trends for the fourth quarter of 2018—and they can be a big draw for potential buyers, especially in a higher price range. With a small area for a wet bar, “everything can be done outside your home. The inside does not need to get dirty,” Schwartz said.
An estimated $14,000 outdoor kitchen project can recoup about 71% at resale. A more expansive project, such as installing a 20×20-foot flagstone patio with a modular kitchen unit, all-weather deck chairs, and a cedar pergola, costs about $57,000 but recoups about 55 percent of that at resale—almost 7% more than in 2018.
Specialty appliances like Argentinian grills, wine refrigerators, side burners, dishwashers, and pizza ovens add sophistication to an outdoor kitchen, according to the San Antonio Express-News, along with a natural stone or tempered backsplash and sleek, modular cabinetry.
Consider sectioning areas of your backyard as extensions of rooms of your house, as landscape architect Joseph Marek did with this outdoor kitchen, dining patio with pergola, lounge area, and sun deck in Santa Monica, California. Having a sheltered spot for cooking and dining just off the indoor kitchen makes it easy to carry food in and out, even when you’re not grilling.
3. Maintain a pristine lawn with an irrigation system
For a lawn of about 2,800 square feet, installing an irrigation system isn’t a huge cost—about $3,500, landscape professionals say. But you can recover about 86% of that at resale.
“If you can find a house with a sprinkler system, that’s great,” Schwartz said. “Your grass will always look lush and beautiful, as well as all your landscaping.”
4. Landscape for privacy
Landscaping in general makes a strong impact, with 17% of real estate agents noting that a landscaping maintenance program recently sealed a deal for them. And costs recovered are typically 100%.
A nice hedge can create a protected feel to your backyard, so “it feels very private. No neighbors looking in,” Schwartz said.
Climbing plants, trimmed boxwood shrubs, and other greenery can work in tandem with a pergola or other fencing to create a soft, secluded feel, Better Homes Gardens says. Mature trees—not planted too close to your house so they don’t uproot the foundation or provide a burglar access to the upstairs—also can add privacy and have an appraised value of between $1,000 to $10,000, according to the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.
While the ROI of a privacy fence can vary depending on the materials and condition, a well-maintained fence is definitely a perk that safeguards children and pets at play.
5. Add an outdoor shower by the pool
A well-marketed in-ground pool can boost your home’s value by as much as 7%, although it does come with maintenance costs. Unless you live in a state with a warm climate, such as Florida, California, Arizona, or Hawaii, where you can enjoy it year-round, it’s also not a guaranteed draw for buyers.
That said, if having a pool makes sense for your location, you can make it more attractive by installing some type of outdoor shower.
“If a cabana bath doesn’t fit, that’s always a good thing to have,” Schwartz said. “Just so the kids can shower in their bathing suits and walk into the house pretty much clean from the chlorine.”
6. Fire pits bring joy, but check your community restrictions
Consumers ranked this at a 10 on the Joy Score for the NAR and NALP, which noted it provides an average 67% ROI—although costs vary depending on the type of fire pit and whether it’s permanent or mobile. A permanent walled type is a popular outdoor design element, but it also might not be allowed in your community. Check with your city or county fire department, as well as your homeowners’ association, about any restrictions.
7. Watch out for water feature maintenance
Although water features such as a fountain, koi pond, or waterfall create peaceful ambiance, they can be perceived as particular to a certain price range, according to the Appraisal Institute, the global professional association of real estate appraisers, and Aquascape, Inc., of St. Charles, Illinois, a leading manufacturer of water features and pond products.
If your home is competing against others with high-end landscaping, a water feature could boost its value, but potential buyers also might think of the maintenance involved. “There’s definitely upkeep to it,” Schwartz said.
8. Think of sound systems like a bonus
Nothing helps turn your backyard into a party like music. “If it has a sound system already installed, people definitely like it,” Schwartz said. That said, with technology like Amazon.com’s Echo Dot smart speaker with Alexa, being wired for sound isn’t essential.
As you consider which backyard features add value, don’t overlook the appeal of highlighting the yard itself, especially as it’s seen from within your home. Creating a relatively seamless transition with lots of natural light through stylish sliding doors or French doors beckons people to come out and stay for a while.
“It’s easy access in and out, and it’s just inviting,” Schwartz said. “If you’ve made your backyard a little bit of a focal point and it’s really nicely maintained, people love that.”
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