What sells real estate? Location, location, location. We’d like to add one more item to that list: outdoor space. Because regardless of your location or property type, an outdoor space can make or break the sale of your house — especially in nice weather.
“I once had a client willing to sell her condo and spend tens of thousands more for the same interior space, just so she could have a 3-by-5-foot terrace,” says Brian Murray, a real estate broker in Hoboken, NJ.
In other words, outdoor space matters, whether it’s a tiny patio or acres of landscaped gardens.
Motivated to improve yours? Experts advise focusing on fixes or upgrades — not major overhauls — that are low maintenance, decent quality, energy-efficient, and not too costly.
Here’s what to know about sprucing up your green space, from the front door to the back 40.
1. Pump up your curb appeal
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make that front entry burst with welcome.
Most importantly, paint, repair, or replace your front doorway. A new steel door consistently ranks among the best home improvements, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2015 “Cost vs. Value Report,” with a 100% return on investment (ROI).
Next, prune any plant overgrowth and add inexpensive shrubs and potted flowers.
Make sure the doorbell works too.
2. Add (or repair) a wood deck
According to the same report, adding a wood deck has an ROI of 80% — better than remodeling a bathroom — and constructing one costs a fraction of building an addition, but dramatically adds to perceived living space.
If you have an existing deck (or patio) in need of repair, now is the time to start swinging that hammer.
3. Check the roof
A roof in ill repair indicates to a buyer that more unpleasant surprises may await, and a home inspection will quickly reveal if your roof needs work. Most roofs last between 20 and 30 years; if yours is nearing the end of its useful life (or it looks like it is), expect the buyer to talk you down on price.
4. Wash or replace siding
Attractive siding is second only to a nice front door when it comes to curb appeal, and worn siding can cost you 10% of your home’s value.
If yours is in good shape, get out the pressure washer and clean it up. If not, think about replacing it; the long-term ROI is up to 84% for fiber-cement cladding. Vinyl siding is an inexpensive, durable, and low-maintenance choice, though it won’t get you points for environmental friendliness, and some buyers may find it tacky.
5. Make landscaping attractive
Sure, your Pinterest page is full of sprawling gardens and rose-clad trellises, but in reality, most buyers want low-maintenance, unfussy landscaping.
Mature, healthy plantings are a bonus, but if your yard is still under development, try to maintain a green lawn. No buyer wants to imagine serving burgers to pals with a side of sad, browning grass. If you don’t have time to reseed, consider laying sod.
Next, add green shrubbery in a few key spots and prune unkempt trees or bushes, especially those darkening interior spaces or obscuring views. Finally, mulching gardens is another good way to add appeal.
6. Tidy up walkways and stairs
While you’ve got out the power washer, make sure pathways, stairs, and other paved areas are looking their best.
View your home with fresh eyes or ask a friend to provide an honest report. Are the stairs unsafe? Is the walkway ugly and cracked?
Listen up, and patch up those eyesores.
7. Avoid money pits
Real talk: Unless you live where it’s sunny all the time, a pool is not a good investment. It’s expensive to install and maintain, and not everyone wants one.
Thinking about adding an outdoor kitchen? Most buyers aren’t. Instead, put your money into universally appealing amenities; buyers can add niche amenities (a tennis court, a hot tub) later.
Your job is to focus on creating an outdoor space that looks nice, is functional, and is in good repair.
8. Sweat the small stuff
Whether you live in a city center or bucolic countryside, little things can have a big impact on buyers.
For example, you can easily and inexpensively add functional exterior lighting, cover an air-conditioning unit with a trellis, add a grill that says easy entertaining, install a cozy firepit, or stage a table with a glass of wine.
“Remember, buyers aspire — they want to see themselves living an amazing life in the place they’re going to buy,” advises Murray, the Hoboken-based broker. “Trust me, people will buy based on seeing the grill.”
Ultimately, spend the money on smart landscaping and universally appealing exterior elements to make your property look taken care of — it’s well worth it.