Since the pandemic, everyone’s looking at outdoor living spaces through a new, more appreciative lens. Taking things outside helped us survive the worst COVID waves, and the habit isn’t going anywhere. If the weather cooperates, why not work, host the party, or enjoy a meal in the fresh air?
“It’s really important to maximize your outdoor space. People want higher quality furniture and higher quality design,” says Kiel Wuellner, vice president of design for Los Angeles-based Vesta, which specializes in interior design and staging for luxury homes.
“Anything they do indoors, they want to do outdoors too. Ideally, you want soft seating areas, a dining space, lounge area, and a place for children to play.”
A survey of over 1,000 HomeLight real estate agents found that outdoor spaces rank as the third most important feature among today’s homebuyers, behind only a home office and quality school district.
If you’re selling a house anytime soon, follow these outdoor staging tips.
1. Create a welcoming entrance
First things first: it doesn’t take much time or money to add some sizzle to your entrance, whether you’re selling a handsome colonial with a grand wrap-around porch or a modest townhome with a sliver of concrete stoop.
“You want to give them that warm and fuzzy feeling from the moment they pull up to your house,” advises Megan Toll, a top selling agent with Toll Realty in Pennsylvania.
Data from HomeLight’s 2022 Top Agents Insight Report shows that on average, “buyers will pay 7% more for a house with great curb appeal versus a home with a neglected exterior.”
Start with a deep cleaning to banish dirt, moss and cobwebs. Then focus on these key areas:
You pass through it every day and probably don’t give it a second look. But buyers will. If your door’s paint is peeling or faded, give it a fresh coat. Tried-and-true neutrals like black and white are a safe bet for any type of home. Or make a statement with a bold red or cheerful yellow. Loose or rusty hardware are also a buzzkill. Clean, tighten, and replace yours as needed.
Toll advises flanking your revitalized door with a couple of plants in pots or hanging baskets — she likes ferns — then laying down a pretty new mat: “A fresh mat says ‘welcome home; —just be sure to keep it generic.”
Instantly elevate your entrance with a new light fixture that matches your home’s architecture, like a Mission-style lantern for your Craftsman or a sleek rectangular sconce for your modern masterpiece. In addition to adding a wow factor, good lighting improves your home’s safety, too.
If you have room, place a small bench or a pair of Adirondack chairs on your porch. “We have all our sellers add a couple of matching chairs with pillows to their front porch, and maybe some seasonal flowers, if they have the space,” shares Toll. “It really helps create a good vibe for potential buyers going inside for a showing.”
2. Focus on your front yard
Now that your entrance is a show-stopper, give your front yard the red-carpet treatment.
It may sound like a no brainer, but mow the lawn. If it’s parched and patchy, transform it into a lush, verdant carpet with easy-to-apply and budget-friendly non-toxic grass paint. Remove weeds and prune all shrubs and trees.
And revive tired flower beds with colorful annuals suited to your climate: Marigolds and petunias are great for warmer environments, pansies and calendula thrive in cooler temperatures.
Whether you have a grassy expanse or a drought tolerant front yard, never underestimate the power of some well-placed planters to punch it up. Fill a corrugated metal planter box with daisies or geraniums for rustic charm. Or plant a few succulents in a concrete box for a contemporary look. Window boxes are another delightful option, especially for traditional homes.
You can tackle your front yard yourself, but it’s probably worth hiring a professional landscaper to really spiff it out.
3. Hook buyers with versatile outdoor living space
As noted earlier, today’s backyards have to work extra hard to serve the diverse needs of dwellers who spend more time in them than ever before.
“Creating multi-functional areas is important,” says Wuellner. “People want to treat their backyard as a resort. They want soft seating around a fire or water feature. They want space for lounging. A big trend we’re seeing is that people are moving away from chaise lounges to oversized daybeds and using them for everything from napping to working to seating for cocktail parties.”
Toll agrees that versatility is key in any yard, especially if your home is on the smaller side. She recently had a client selling a two-bedroom ranch house. With smart outdoor staging, they extended their home’s livable space.
The yard had a nice tall fence — something many buyers desire — a dining table on the patio, separate seating with a firepit, beautiful landscaping, and a gravel area for playing horseshoes.
“You could just imagine yourself hanging out there and raising little kids,” she says. “Even though the house was small, that exterior space let people see how they could live outside of the home for at least three seasons of the year.”
4. Make a big impact with a small space
You don’t need a sprawling backyard to stage a crush-worthy place to hang. Turn a tiny deck or patio into a relaxing parklet for sipping morning coffee or savoring an alfresco meal with a bistro dining set and a few potted plants. Eye-catching succulents are great for sunny locations; hydrangeas and fuschias can add a beautiful pop of color to a shady spot.
5. Just add water
Give your yard an extra splash of serenity with a simple water feature. For around fifty bucks, you can transform a section of your garden into a tranquil Zen retreat with the soothing sounds of a small bamboo fountain. Or extend your modern farmhouse style outdoors with the addition of an old-fashioned water pump- fountain.
Bird baths are another sweet choice. Place one in a corner of a patio or among colorful flower beds to create a charming focal point for any outdoor space.
6. Amp up your year-round outdoor entertaining game
Four-season outdoor living isn’t just for those who reside in states with perpetual shorts and flip-flops weather. These days, no matter where they live, homeowners want to use their outdoor spaces throughout the year.
“If possible, people want to use their yards even if it’s raining,” says Toll. “They don’t want to be stuck inside just because of bad weather.”
Include these elements in your yard, and buyers will picture themselves enjoying it around the clock, all year long:
Put in a firepit
A firepit is your best friend when it comes to making your backyard a cozy year-round haven. In fact, 76.8% of agents who participated in HomeLight’s Spring 2021 Top Agent Insights Report said firepits paired with a bench or couch topped buyers’ wish lists for backyard upgrades. They come in an array of styles and sizes to suit every taste. And prices to fit every budget.
Strategic lighting signals your backyard is ready to party after dark. And it’s an easy way to dial up the ambiance. Place a few tiki torches on your deck or patio for a fun tropical vibe. String fairy lights along balcony railings or in tree branches for a festive twinkle. Or place a lantern or two on your dining table to cast a warm, romantic glow.
Umbrellas deliver stylish protection from sun and rain, and can also help anchor a seating or dining area.
7. Ditch the mis-matched furniture
Your chipped wrought iron dining table, tattered beach chairs, and sagging plastic chaise lounge may suit your family’s casual lifestyle just fine. But worn out, haphazard seating won’t score you any brownie points from buyers. Win them over with matching furniture and a pulled together look.
“A lot of it comes down to what’s appropriate for the space,” shares Wuellner. “Look at the style of your home and the materials it’s constructed with. Everyone wants teak. But if you’re staging a contemporary black and white house in the hills of Southern California, you don’t want teak against those colors. You want fully upholstered seating or maybe something sleek and modern in black metal.”
If you can’t spring for new furniture, hunt for used bargains on CraigsList or Facebook Marketplace. Or heed the advice of the experts at Seattle Staged to Sell and borrow some from a friend or neighbor.
8. Practice restraint
Less is more when it comes to creating a tranquil oasis. According to Wuellner, one of the biggest mistakes people make when staging their yard is going overboard.
“You are selling real estate,” he explains. “You can do minimal staging to show off the overall use of your yard and highlight areas you want buyers to notice. Many people tend to do too much and fill up every space. You just need a little restraint—it feels more relaxed.”
9. Hide eyesores
Unsightly air conditioners, garden hoses, and trash cans blemish an otherwise lovely backyard. Keep them hidden with the help of a pretty screen or any one of these ideas from our list of ways to conceal outdoor blemishes.
10. Don’t forget the details
No matter the size of your yard, or how light or deep you go with your staging, the perfect finishing touches will tie everything together and make your space pop.
“Carry your accent colors throughout your design with decorative items, plates and umbrellas,” recommends Wuellner. “You want a cohesive design language so the space feels finished.”
Include an outdoor rug in your seating area to anchor it and add a chic, luxurious feel. Toss a few colorful pillows on your sofa and chairs. Set out place settings and dishes that match your color scheme on the dining table, then finish it with a pretty vase of flowers or piece of pottery. If you have an outdoor kitchen or bar, set out a frosty pitcher of ice water garnished with citrus or cucumber slices and a tray of glasses to spark instant resort feels.
Header Image Source: (Jason Finn / Shutterstock)