Making Smart Backyard Improvements

If you aren’t planning on selling your home in the foreseeable future, then you can do whatever you like to your house and yard and not worry about the resale value. But for others of us, who have jobs that might transfer us or for those who just don’t like to settle down too much, we have to be much smarter about the types of improvements we make on our house and in our yard.

Whatever you decide to put on your property is something that the next homeowner is also going to have to live with, or deal with. So a yard with something big in it, like a pool, can make or break a sale. Maybe you love to swim so you want 90% of your yard to be a pool. But maybe the next people will have small children and they are envisioning having Easter egg hunts and cookouts in their backyard. Regardless of whether the rest of the house is perfect for them, they’re going to pass because of the yard.

I prefer to make the yard multi-use and flexible. I like nice, open patios or decks that can be configured in lots of ways – you could put a grill and a table out there, or maybe some outdoor couches and a fire pit. A nice flat surface that maybe the nice family I was just talking about could envision their daughter drawing with chalk on, or their teenage son playing basketball.

So, if you’re thinking of renovating your backyard to turn it into an outdoor living space, and you aren’t sure how long you’re going to be there to enjoy it, what should you consider?

First, I say invest in quality. If you’re going to put in a deck or patio, use very durable materials. The nicer it looks and the lower maintenance it is, the better off you are. There are all kinds of long lasting wood and stains for decks nowadays, and some plastic that looks like wood. Even concrete can be painted to look nicer than ever.

Second, keep landscaping appealing but minimal. A few flowers or shrubs are fine, but if you’re spending a lot of time on the upkeep, you’re doing it wrong. If you really like lots of plants, I recommend using planters. Your yard will be easier to maintain and it won’t scream, “I take lots of work to look this good!” to potential buyers.

Finally, be thoughtful with the features you make permanent. Think about the functionality of any pool you put on the property before putting one in—make sure the pump, heater, and filter are easily accessible and that you meet or exceed all regulations regarding it. If you’re in a drought-prone area and you really want a fire pit, maybe having one built into your patio design isn’t the best idea, especially when they have portable ones you can put out when it is safe to have a fire. If you’re adding a sunroom, make sure that the windows are easy to use and that you install blinds and the like so that it is easy to cool the room down or make it private when necessary.

Again, if you’re planning on making it your forever home, then by all means, go crazy and have the yard be everything that you want. Don’t worry about pleasing others! But for those of us who aren’t sure, thoughtful spending and quality improvements can increase your odds of selling your house and get you a return on the money you invested in your improvements.