By Ellie Holt, MagnifyMoney
If you want to host evening barbecues, patio brunches or an afternoon tea party, you need an outdoor living space fit for guests. Upgrading your porch, patio, deck or yard can be an investment that adds comfort and possibly increase your home’s value.
The updates could improve your mood, too. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) 2018 Remodeling Impact Report, homeowners’ happiness increases after an upgrade is done. A new wood deck, water feature, statement landscape and new patio all received “Joy Scores” of 9.7 out of 10, or higher, according to the survey of 4,079 people.
Here are five investments to amp up your outdoor space for summer entertaining.
New deck or patio
A new deck or patio is one of the largest investments that you can make in your outdoor space, to host family and friends not just during the summer, but also year-round.
According to the 2018 Remodeling Impact Report, landscape professionals estimate the average cost of a 18-feet x 16-feet concrete paver patio to be $7,200; NAR says $5,000, or 69% of the cost could be recovered when selling a home.
The average cost of a 14-feet deep x 18-feet wide wood deck attached to the house would be be $10,000, with 80%, or $8,000, recovered when selling, according to NAR estimates.
Investing in a project to transform your outdoor space could help you see your home in a new light. In fact, 84% of those surveyed said they have a greater desire to be home since completing a patio project, and 81% said they have a greater desire to be home since completing a new deck.
Dramatic focal point
Creating a focal point, from a water feature to a fire pit, can be a game changer for an outdoor lifestyle.
Kirsten Coffen, a landscape architect and owner of Garden Architecture, based in Fork, Md., suggests that homeowners consider the maintenance you are willing to put into your outdoor space before you decide on your focal point.
Research shows that consumers are happier after completing a water feature project. The Remodeling Impact Report stated that 83% of those surveyed said they have a greater desire to be home since completing the project and 79% have an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home. A water feature project had a “Joy Score” of 9.8 out of 10.
But fire features snagged a perfect 10 “Joy Score” from the NAR and NALP survey. The report found that spending $6,000 to add a fire pit with natural stone and a gas burner on a flagstone patio that is 10 feet in diameter resulted in $4,000, or 67%, in estimated recovered costs.
A more affordable option is a portable fire pit, which can cost less than $50, and Coffen suggests to make sure it has a lid to contain the ashes when it’s not being used.
Container gardening also can be a choice, said Coffen, a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Adding a planter — which can cost less than $60 for a small, lightweight resin or about $150 for containers made of terra cotta or stone — or two can create a pleasing aesthetic.
Lighting can do wonders for your outdoor living space, from highlighting a focal point to adding the perfect atmosphere to your space, Coffen said. For example, installing 20 LED lights and a standard 600-watt transformer costs $5,000 on average, according to the Remodeling Impact Report.
“It can also be quite lovely to uplight some of the specimen trees, or if there is a water feature or a pond or something to have some lighting in that,” Coffen said.
More than half, or 51%, of people install landscape lighting to add features and improve livability, according to the Remodeling Impact Report. You could recoup half the cost, NAR estimates.
Lighting along pathways can add just the right touch to a party or evening dinner.
“It can be as simple as stringing some lights in their trees or actually having lights installed outside,” said designer Alice Cramer, owner of Atlanta-based Alice Cramer Interiors.
Nature draws people outdoors, so presenting your landscape in an intentional way is a crucial component of outdoor entertaining.
A 2018 ASLA survey of landscape architects identified these project types with the most expected consumer demand: native plants (83.3%) and low-maintenance landscapes (80%). The placement of your natural focal point, such as planting trees, also can drastically change the outdoor ambience, Cramer said.
Coffen recommends planting a specimen tree or a shade tree by your patio. Consider how it filters the light to create shadow patterns.
“It’s like a piece of living architecture outside,” Coffen said.
According to the 2018 Remodeling Impact Report, 74% of real estate agents have suggested sellers complete a landscape maintenance program before attempting to sell their home.
Furniture may be an obvious update, but it continues to be a go-to way to invest on the outdoors, with 64% of landscape architects surveyed by the ASLA agreeing it’s the most important outdoor design element.
“Nobody’s going to go out there if it’s not comfortable or pretty,” said Cramer. “If you’ve got some nice furniture sitting there, people are gonna want to go. It’s more appealing.”
But just like buying furniture for inside the home, don’t forget to measure the space outdoors, whether it’s a screened porch, patio or pool cabana.
“First of all, it is important that the space is big enough to accommodate the furniture that you want to put outside,” Coffen said.
If you don’t have room in your budget to replace your furniture, add an umbrella for an instant burst of color and style. Coffen suggests that you tie in the colors in your umbrella with pillows on your furniture or your flowers to create a common color scheme.
Patio umbrellas range from about $55 for a 9-foot ikat option from Walmart in chartreuse with the ability to tilt to block out the sun, to nearly $900 for a cantilevered, 11-foot option in colors such as kiwi from Frontgate.