Pro Tips to Design, Maintain (AND SELL!) an Outdoor Oasis

Landscaping and real estate experts share the features that will turn a yard into a private escape homebuyers will love.

Warmer weather brings with it a feeling of new possibilities, and many homeowners ready for change needn’t look further than their own backyard. Literally.

Previously reserved as the dog’s domain, many homeowners are beginning to see the potential their yards offer to expand their functional living space (sorry, Fido).

“We’ve always enjoyed our outdoor spaces, but now people have taken it to a whole other level,” says Rose Kemp, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Town Centre in Orlando, Florida.

Kemp says many of her clients are adding amenities to their outdoor space that may have been closed during the pandemic, including putting greens, basketball courts, or even a “she shed” or “sports den.” Zen gardens and quiet areas for meditation are also becoming popular.

“People are creating additional space for whatever their lifestyle is,” Kemp says. “As families are spending more time at home, they’re realizing they aren’t limited to the space that’s inside the house and are creating more living and congregating areas.”

Homes are now being built to accommodate outdoor living. Newer models in Kemp’s Orlando market offer “garage style” doors that open dining areas up to an outdoor kitchen.

Similar to other updates homeowners might consider, adding amenities to a backyard could help increase a home’s value and become a selling point when it’s time to list. According to Kemp, a buyer may be willing to pay between $5,000-$10,000 more on a home with an updated yard than a comparable property without any functional outdoor space.

“Even if they have to pay a little bit more, buyers don’t want to have to recreate the landscaping because they would have to spend more cash out of their pocket,” she says.

In her area, that can mean adding a screen enclosure to a porch or a firepit for backyard barbecues. Of course, homeowners may want to think carefully before making what Kemp calls an “over improvement,” which is an expensive update that likely won’t recoup its cost during a sale. Pools, for example, don’t always offer a return on investment.

“Appraisers may be limited as to how much value they add to a home if it has a pool,” she says. “For example, even if you spend $80,000 installing a pool, it may add only $45,000 during an appraisal. That being said, if homeowners plan to stay in the home for few years, they should create the backyard that will make them the most happy!”

Outdoor space has become such an important consideration for buyers that some sellers are using photo editing software to show the possibilities of a listing that might not be in full bloom.

Peter Schravemade is the Strategic Relationship Manager for the virtual staging company BoxBrownie. He says that for some properties, showcasing the yard can be “essential to the sale.”

“We’ve seen landscaping edits happen more and more to demonstrate potential as buyers look for more space and, in particular, more functional space,” he says.

Real estate agents can also use the software to help buyers envision what a home will look like throughout the year – for example, removing snow from homes sold during winter or adding leaves to trees during the fall.

Schravemade says BoxBrownie can help potential buyers imagine ways they can make the backyard their own.

“My advice is for agents to keep it simple. The best case for this type of edit is to demonstrate an opportunity in the yard or remove an objection – for example, when the buyer says, ‘We would make an offer except for the state of the backyard,” Schravemade says.

Looking to create the perfect garden? Here’s the dirt.

Amenities are important, but lush landscaping is what really makes any outdoor escape come alive. Gardens can take years to reach their full potential, according to Colleen Sellers, owner of Planted Earth Landscaping in Denver, Colorado. Those looking to create a yard that will become a selling point should plant the seeds now.

Fortunately for those without a green thumb, a yard can be low maintenance and beautiful, according to Sellers. It just takes a bit of planning.

“There are no bad plants, just bad gardeners,” Sellers says. “It’s important to know what kind of sun access and soil you have, then pick plants that will thrive in that condition.”

She says to take note of the sun, water, and maintenance needs of plants before bringing them home. That’s one reasons succulents have seen a recent boom in popularity – they can add a modern look to most gardens while requiring very little water.

It may also be a good idea to read up on the latest trends – just like the fashion world, certain flowers and plants tend to fall in and out of style.

“Old-school juniper and dyed mulches aren’t popular right now, and hybrid tea roses can appear dated,” she says. “Knock out roses, which are easier to maintain and less susceptible to disease, are very much in style.”

Ornamental grasses, such as blue avena or shenandoah switch grass, are also on-trend thanks to their easy maintenance and pops of color. Sellers says clients are also more conscious of the environmental impact of their garden, choosing plants that require less water or attract pollinators to the area. For example, bees love hyssop or lavender.

“It’s also important to keep in mind that your design is growing, so it changes,” Sellers says. “It’s not like picking the right lamps which stay exactly the same. Plants will grow and do things that sometimes you’re surprised about!”

For those looking to take the guesswork out of gardening, there are plenty of benefits to hiring a professional. Not only can a pro landscaper advise which plants will thrive in a certain yard’s conditions, they can also save homeowners the time and labor of installation.

“I think a lot of homeowners start a project and get about a fourth of the way in and realize how difficult it is to relocate 10 wheelbarrows of soil,” Sellers says. “When you a hire a professional, we save you the sweat equity of doing everything yourself.”

Creating an outdoor space can take a lot of work and be an investment. But according to Kemp, it not only opens up room for entertaining and hobbies, it can provide a way for the current owner’s story to live on after the home is sold.

“I have friends from Puerto Rico who chose amazing plants that reminded them of home and staged their yard perfectly, so you feel like you are on a tropical island in their backyard,” Kemp says. “They put so much work into it, and that will be attractive to a buyer. They’ll see a whole creation that is already done – buyers love that.”

Article originally appeared on RE/MAX.

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