A 2016 National Association of REALTORS® report on the impact of remodeling outdoors showed the importance the outdoors is playing in the way buyers see your home. According to the report, outdoor remodeling projects add value to a home on resale, while also making homeowners who plan to stay in their homes happier.
With outdoor fireplaces or fire pits and comfortable seating, small gathering spaces are poised to overtake larger backyards as the most sought-after way to spend time outside while staying at home.
Make Sure Your Outdoor Spaces Are Marketable
Because outdoor spaces have to be tailored to the needs of the buyer, it’s important to find out what the typical buyer in you area wants before opting for something that’s trendy, rather than useful, says Sharon Breslau, CRS, an associate broker with Westwood Metes & Bounds Realty, Ltd. in upstate New York.
Many buyers are going for the trendy intimate spaces, says Brad Allen, CRS, ABR, a managing partner with The Art of Real Estate in South Carolina, adding that this is particularly pronounced if they come with any kind of added entertainment area.
That can mean a deck with a great dining setup, or it could mean a pool, depending on the buyer, Sloan adds.
Bring the Outdoors Inside
The outdoor space itself isn’t the only way to experience the outdoors—how the inside interacts with the outside matters, too, Breslau says.
“Windows and doors are the eyes looking out of the house, so what do you see when you look out? Do you see a bush, or do you cut that bush down and suddenly you can see the yard and a nice hill or meadow?” Breslau says. She recommends giving thought to how the inside and the outside correspond, because a property holds more appeal if buyers like both.
Homeowner Test #1: —Can you walk all the way around your house without running into an obstacle? If so, great! This allows more light inside. If not, can the obstacle blocking your path be removed? Look for ways to open space directly around the house
Foster Year-round Outdoor Living
In warm climates, outdoor spaces can be used all year without issue. Allen currently is working with a new-construction buyer who plans to install a 14-foot-wide accordion-style sliding door that will open her basement recreation room straight onto her patio and pool.
And outdoor kitchens or fireplaces on porches are useful in all warmer-weather climates as long as they’re covered to protect from rain, Sloan says.If you’re a homeowner in the northern latitudes, you may have to think outside the box to get more use out of your outdoor spaces, Breslau says. Three-season screened-in porches allow people in colder-weather areas to enjoy the outdoors for at least a little longer in the spring and fall, but to make those spaces year-round, all you need is some insulation and a gas heater to bump up usage in the winter season.
Create a Private World
Outdoor areas are great for having fun and relaxing, but if neighbors are too close by, they can also invite unwanted guests into the activities.
Privacy concerns are leading some homeowners to find creative ways to keep their outdoor areas out of the public eye, especially in areas where zoning regulations restrict fencing.
“A lot of people use bushy trees like giant green arbor vitae or Leland cypress,” Allen says. “I have also seen sellers install lattice-style screens on the sides of their decks and porches.”
Breslau also suggests having landscapers plant anything that grows big, “things that are hedgy and easy to pop in that add a little more privacy,” including rose of Sharon or jasmine, or anything viney on a trellis that can shield the sight of any neighbors.
“Privacy means something different to every person who you ask,” Breslau says.
Homeowner Test #2: If you’re standing on your deck at your house, can you see the neighbors? Are they off in the distance, or are you totally alone and can’t see anyone at all?
Breslau also suggests using fountains to mute noises, especially a busy road in the distance. That adds another level of privacy.