Lots of people want to add more to their backyard space. Whether they’re building something from scratch or adding to an existing backyard, the temptation to design and improve this space can be very persistent. But which projects are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck?
The 5 most popular improvements that add value (beyond the patio) are fire pits, pergolas, structures for privacy, outdoor kitchens, & swimming pools.
Each one of these projects can turn your plain-jane backyard into a full-feature outdoor living space to be proud of. They are features that can add the most value to your home, should you ever need to sell it. So let’s take a closer look.
One of the easiest and least expensive things you can add to your backyard that will be fun and also bring good value to your home is a fire pit. I spent less than $200 on building my own in my backyard, and it added $3000 to the price of our house when we sold it. Now, mind you, it was nothing fancy, and it was wood burn only, but that’s significant.
Now, if you add a fire pit that’s more professional or have one installed, keep in mind that homeowners in the United States will recoup on average 78% of their investment. Keep in mind some of your return should be in the enjoyment you, your friends, and your family get out of it. There’s nothing more fun to enjoy on a cool autumn evening than a party around a fire pit.
You can use natural gas if it’s allowed in your city or neighborhood and that can make a fire pit super convenient, too. Be sure you add it far away from other structures or hanging tree limbs. Also, it’s imperative that you line the ground beneath and around it appropriately.
There are many reasons for having a pergola built. Most of them have nothing to do with adding value to your home. It adds value, though. Most of my sources are pointing to a maybe 50%–61% return on investment. Maybe not as much as other additions, but that ROI also depends on the housing market and the area you live in.
Again, the ROI depends not only on the factors above but on how much you pay for your pergola to begin with. A professionally built pergola runs around $3500–$4000 around here. But you can buy DIY kits for cheaper and then your ROI and added value might be higher. Again, this is a major addition, so double-check with permitting, HOAs, etc. In our own case, we’ve had to get a zoning permit. We decided on a Toja Grid pergola kit because we can save money on labor by putting most of it together ourselves and we can add new features to it in the future.
Pergolas are there to provide a structure for shade. With the correct covering on top, they can provide shelter as well. You can choose other structures for this, but they may cost more to add.
Structures for Privacy
It’s difficult to find a fencing professional that will guarantee added value to your home. What I can tell you from my experience is that our fenced-in backyard has always made prospective buyers happy. When it came to us, a fenced-in backyard was a must. We have a spoiled doggo to consider. Imagine how many families are like us and have a breed of dog that needs a fenced-in backyard.
The hubs and I have installed fences that cost anywhere from $3000 to $6000–depending on how large our yard was. We spray-seal the wood and it lasts a relatively long time before you have to make repairs. We’ve always opted for 6-foot (almost 2 meters) privacy fencing and thoroughly enjoyed the privacy and function that it provides.
My dog and my friends’ dogs can run around in the backyard and we don’t have to worry about them. That made it worth the investment for me. You may have small children, so adding a fence is a safe investment. Privacy is just a bonus either way.
My point is, if you’ve used the fence for years and then when you sell your house, it becomes a selling point or adds even $2000 to the value of the home; I feel like it was worth the expense. However, if you are about to sell your house, and you won’t get to actually make use of the fence, your money might be better used to upgrade the landscaping and outdoor lighting, or in adding something else.
Keep in mind that you can use plants and landscaping for privacy. So if you don’t need a fence for safety or for practicality, you might successfully come out cheaper by planting trees and large plants as a natural privacy barrier. As always (call 811 in the U.S.) to be sure of where to dig and where not to dig. Also, be sure you look into all permits needed and HOA rules.
I know they’re popular right now, but the best advice I can give you about installing an outdoor kitchen is–if you will not use it, go minimalist. I’ve seen some people go all-out in their kitchen for their outdoor living space right before selling their home, and they never got their money back from it.
If you’re going to put the investment into an outdoor kitchen, be sure to make it not just for you, but also for potential future buyers. Don’t just build a wood-burning pizza oven. Other people may not be interested in it. Incorporate a grill as your central item and add enough counter space to make the kitchen appealing to most people.
Location can determine if you break even on this kind of investment or if you actually add a lot of value to your home by adding an outdoor kitchen. Prime temperatures make it a better investment.
Just don’t let it become a status symbol. Build it with what you need, not necessarily all the bells and whistles. I’ve seen some outdoor kitchens come with everything the indoor kitchen comes with and can have price tags, as much as $18,000–$80,000.
Usually, swimming pools are at the top of the list when it comes to features that buyers would love to have. Since I’ve had them before, I’m not as impressed with them. I know how much goes into maintaining those things. But if you’re willing to put in that effort and you really enjoy a pool, it might be worth the trouble.
If you get a pool with the purchase of the house, you’re good. It means you’ll only be investing in insurance and maintenance. You can enjoy the pool and then cash in on the value added to the property if you sell. However, if you are installing a pool, the return on investment can be iffy. The value added to the home rarely makes up for the expense of installation.
According to HGTV, homeowners often only see a 50% recouping of the cost when they sell their house. Considering that’s an average, it could be worse. Some home sellers only get maybe 7% back of the costs they’ve put into installing and maintaining a pool.
So many other backyard improvements can boost a home’s value without costing a lot of time and money.
Some things that can quickly improve your home’s value are easy fixes, like adding lighting and giving everything a good paint or stain job. No matter what you add to your backyard, be sure to leave enough room for kids and animals. Future buyers will often want this.
A cheap and easy water feature in your backyard–so long as you keep safety in mind–can add value as well. For instance, you can hand-make or purchase a simple fountain. And if it’s not a huge undertaking, it won’t leave potential buyers concerned about being able to keep it maintained.
If you make your outdoor living space into a proper sanctuary, with easy-to-maintain landscaping, you can add upwards of 12% to your home’s value. So the larger projects, though popular, don’t have to be done.
There are many projects that will get you a return on investment for your outdoor living space. Many won’t actually cost as much as those listed in this article. When you’re trying to decide, keep in mind how much time, energy, and money you have available for each project.
If you want to upgrade your outdoor living space by taking on a home improvement project, be sure it will be worth your while. It should get good use by you, your family, and your friends. Or it should add value to your home. The best investment in your outdoor living space will do both.