For apartment owners around the world, the experience of having to stay at home for months during the current global pandemic has emphasized the desirability, importance and value of having private outdoor space. In March, amid orders for people to stay at home worldwide, people stood on their balconies across Italy singing melodies together to pass the time, which brought joy during an otherwise unprecedented time.
In New York City, the nightly 7 p.m. ritual of residents joining their neighbors in saluting first responders included many who joined from their balconies or terraces and helped to unite the city in one of its most challenging moments.
While outdoor space has always been considered an appealing feature to homeowners, most of us have emerged from quarantine with a new appreciation for access to the great outdoors. We all need a place to step outside, breathe in the fresh air, get a dose of Vitamin D and have space for humans and pets alike to run around and be active.
Here are a few things to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of searching for a home with outdoor space, determining how much of it you need and evaluating how much value it adds to your lifestyle.
[Read: How to Set Up a Home Gym]
What Type of Outdoor Space Makes Sense for You?
If you’re a homebuyer with dreams of having your own outdoor oasis, it’s important to ask yourself some essential questions: How much space do I need, how do I intend to use it, and what am I willing to pay for it?
It’s easy to want your outdoor paradise to be palatial, but with that comes a premium on the initial purchase price, along with the time commitment, effort, and cost of upkeep. Are you an avid gardener with a green thumb? Do you often host large gatherings and enjoy entertaining? Will a small space outside your home suffice for your own personal use?
Before beginning your search, determine your needs and preferences, and how much they’re worth to you. Is there enough space for that outdoor grill you always wanted, a table and chairs to enjoy your morning cappuccino or a glass of wine at sunset, or a little patch of grass just large enough for a swing set? Taking the time to think about how much space is just enough, and how much might be too much, is critical to narrowing down potential homes.
If you're in the middle of a major urban center, know that outdoor space comes at a premium, and may look different compared to the front lawns and backyards more common in suburban and rural areas. New York City is a metropolis of vertical living with limited room for private outdoor use, which ultimately makes having your own outdoor space more costly. Most pre-war buildings (built 1900-1940) in New York were not constructed with balconies, and only a few top-floor apartments have terraces.
Other urban locales like Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta offer more outdoor opportunities in both apartments and private homes for two reasons: First, apartment buildings in these cities were all built more recently, and therefore, private balconies and terraces were incorporated into their plans. Second, the urban planning for most American cities other than New York was designed across a more spread-out geography, allowing for more suburban neighborhoods within the city limits. And if you’re house hunting in the suburbs or country, the chance of finding a home with outdoor space is even greater.
How Will You Make the Most Out of Your Outdoor Space?
Once you’ve decided on what kind of outdoor space you’re considering – a balcony, a terrace or a home with a large backyard – it’s important to think a few steps ahead about how you’ll maintain it financially, and make the most of it. The smaller the space, the lower the cost. If you’re purchasing an apartment with a large terrace and want to turn it into a fully equipped garden, what costs are involved to convert it and maintain it with the proper irrigation?
If you’re buying a home with a big backyard, what are your plans? Mowing the lawn and even simple landscaping can be surprisingly expensive. And if there’s a pool, the cost of upkeep can be exorbitant.
There could also be environmental factors with more land. Is there a fuel tank or septic system to worry about?
For a property with a pond, the water feature offers a peaceful and romantic setting, but it also adds potential environmental issues that come along with having wetlands on your property. You'll have to monitor algae and bacteria levels and keep a closer eye on small children, and the standing water can attract bugs, insects and other unwanted critters. Think ahead about how you will properly address these issues by doing your research and perhaps enlisting a professional to help.
How Does Outdoor Space Add Value to Your Home and Everyday Lifestyle?
There’s no question that being outside, immersed in nature on a beautiful day, brings tranquility and bliss. What is that paradise worth to you?
Homeowners with spacious backyards and terraces or balconies may have previously underappreciated going all out to optimize their properties. In today’s world, we’ve seen a recognizable resurgence in building outdoor improvements, both to pass the time and to add value to our daily lives at home.
Perhaps in years past you might have gone to a recreation center or your local town pool to swim laps and participate in outdoor activities because you didn’t want to deal with the hassle of maintaining your own pool. Whether it’s building your dream swimming pool, growing an herb garden, building a fire pit or adding a swing set and bocce courts to the lawn, having an outdoor space of your own to do with as you please is now more appealing than ever.
At the end of the day, it’s all about how we can make our homes the most comfortable and enjoyable place to live and pass the time, both inside and out.
Renovation options that aren't overly pricey.
Your house may be due for an update, but that doesn’t mean you have the cash on hand for the necessary renovations. A complete room remodel or significant addition to a home can cost well over $10,000, but you don’t have to spend every penny to make a difference. Whether you’re looking to save up for a larger renovation down the line or simply want to make a big impact with as little money as possible, here’s what you can do with a $5,000 budget.
(The following information is based on national averages and could vary based on the cost of skilled labor where you live.)Exterior paint
For an exterior refresh, a new coat of paint on your house can yield a major transformation for a relatively small price. Even if you don’t select a new color, repainting your siding and trim can make your home's exterior look newer and stand out among other properties in your neighborhood. HomeAdvisor reports that the national average to paint a home exterior is just $2,802. The cost of this project may increase slightly if the type of siding on your home requires additional coats of paint or special materials, but homes two stories or less can likely be painted within a $5,000 budget.Patio
You want the luxury of outdoor living, but you don’t necessarily have the budget for it. A wooden deck, complete with installation and finishing, will likely cost more than $10,000, according to home cost comparison site Fixr. But a patio is a simpler option that can achieve a similar look and feel for a fraction of the cost. Fixr reports that a 12-foot-by-16-foot patio costs, on average, $2,000. Patios are often built with brick, pavers, stone or concrete, depending on personal preference and the optimal material for your local climate and soil.Interior paint
Paint is widely considered an inexpensive way to give a home a new look, so why not refresh every room? HomeAdvisor notes that the cost to have the average 10-foot-by-12-foot room painted professionally ranges from $380 to $790. Even at that maximum price, you could cover three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and living room within the $5,000 budget. Of course, painting the interior of a home is an easy task for some homeowners. The average cost to paint a home's interior is well within budget at $1,755, according to HomeAdvisor, in part because so many homeowners opt to make the relatively simple project a DIY task. Combined with rearranged furniture and a few new pieces of decor, fresh paint can give the house a completely different feel.Hardwood floors
Hardwood floors can increase your home's value and are a desirable feature for many homeowners. While hardwood floors may be a pricier alternative to laminate or carpeting, installing them is feasible on a budget. HomeAdvisor reports the national average cost to install new wood flooring is $4,386. Of course, the final cost depends on the size of your home or the space you’re planning to renovate and the flooring material you choose. High-end wood flooring throughout a large floor plan can cost upwards of $10,000, according to HomeAdvisor.Built-in bookshelves
Sprucing up a living room or home office can be a much simpler task than dealing with the plumbing or major appliances you’ll find in a kitchen or bathroom. But if you want to invest in a new focal point for the room you hang out in the most, consider built-in bookshelves. HomeAdvisor reports built-in shelves or cabinets cost, on average, $2,307, with custom design and installation reaching up to about $5,000. Bookcases offer an organization solution while also adding a desirable feature for your home’s future sale.Kitchen appliances
If you’re hoping to renovate your kitchen, be aware that a complete overhaul will likely be well beyond a $5,000 budget. The 2019 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, released in January, reports homeowners plan to spend a national median of $11,000 on a kitchen renovation alone. You can, however, tackle the parts of your kitchen that can make a major impact for a cheaper price. For better efficiency, consider new appliances throughout your kitchen. Luxury models can climb in price, but midrange kitchen suites that include a new refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave fall under a total of $5,000 for brands such as GE, Samsung, LG and Maytag at Home Depot, before installation and sales tax.Kitchen countertops
Another option for refreshing your kitchen for less is replacing your countertops, which can transform the look of the room. According to the Houzz Kitchen Trends study, 93 percent of respondents plan for new countertops in a kitchen remodel, making them the most popular feature to replace. Of course, if you’re looking to install rare Italian marble countertops, you may find yourself with a big bill. But butcher block, engineered quartz, stainless steel, laminate and some types of granite and marble can all be purchased and installed for less than $5,000 for 50 square feet. On average, new countertop installation costs $2,300, according to HomeAdvisor.Shower or tub replacement
Shower or tub replacement
Like in the kitchen, a full bathroom remodel will likely exhaust an entire $5,000 budget and more, but a smaller-scale change may give the bathroom a new look that allows you to enjoy it more. Consider replacing your old shower or tub with a new one, which can cost between $400 and $4,500 on average, according to Fixr. Opting to move the location of the shower or purchasing a luxury tub could take you over budget, but a replacement shower with new fixtures and subway tiles could make the bathroom look new again without requiring a deep dive into your savings.Open floor plan
Open floor plan
A major change with a high price tag may not be in the cards, but you can achieve maximum impact for less if you decide to embrace the ever-popular open floor plan. The cost to remove a wall varies if it involves electrical or plumbing or if the wall is load-bearing, meaning it’s vital to the structure of your home. Removal of a load-bearing wall in a single-story house averages between $1,200 and $3,000, according to HomeAdvisor, and falls within your $5,000 budget with money left over to even out the flooring and repaint. A load-bearing wall in a two-story house may get more expensive, however, reaching as much as $10,000 on average.Closet system
A new organization system for your closet can make life much easier, and with a clean closet you’re able to splurge and budget on what works best for you. Home improvement professionals network Thumbtack reports a custom closet installation typically costs between $2,000 and $6,000. The type of construction or closet brand you choose can help keep your total bill below $5,000. The Elfa brand from The Container Store, for example, offers custom-design options with pricing based on the cost of each individual piece. You can also choose existing closet designs, such as the Platinum Elfa Walk-In Closet, which is about $2,500 at full price with installation included, based on a 6-foot-by-8-foot closet.Cost-effective home renovations
Cost-effective home renovations
Improve your home with these renovation projects for under $5,000:
- Exterior paint.
- Interior paint.
- Hardwood floors.
- Built-in bookshelves.
- Kitchen appliances.
- Kitchen countertops.
- Shower or tub replacement.
- Open floor plan.
- Closet system.