A dining area, dry laid patio, a patch of gravel, a covered patio or an above-grade deck: According to SmartMoney.com, a landscaped patio raises the value of your home by 12.4 percent. Today’s best-selling improvement is a backyard terrace that abuts the family room. It costs anywhere from $12 to $50 per foot, depending on how fancy you want to get. Consider an oversize sandbox as a play space for your kids. Cover it with bird netting rather than plastic sheeting to keep the critters away while letting sunlight naturally sanitize the sand.
Full outdoor kitchens
From $15,000-$100,000, they include refrigerators, grills and sinks. The fancier the brand and the bigger the size make it today’s backyard status symbol.
A ‘year-round’ yard
Your yard can look leafless and drab in the winter months, but flowering shrubs, colored bark, ornamental grasses and colored berries all add color in the cold seasons. According to SmartMoney.com, hedges alone raise property values by 3.6 percent.
Often called “Malibu lighting,” it runs on solar power and is easy to install. It shows off your garden at night, silhouettes your trees, keeps everyone safe from tripping and keeps burglars away.
Smart backyard tips
Make a five-year plan
Everything doesn’t have to happen all at once. Plantings mature at different rates, and you can add new features each year.
Test your soil
The soil is just as important as what’s going into it. You can test your soil by contacting your county agricultural agency. They’ll send back the results with instructions on what you’ll need to add to improve it.
Hire a professional landscape designer
They charge $50-$75 an hour. You can pay them for the design only and do the installation yourself.
Don’t forget an irrigation system If you don’t have the time or interest in watering yourself, consider an irrigation system to keep the backyard looking good. It’s expensive — at least $3,000 — but potential buyers will love it.
What not to do
The truth is that some backyard projects scare off prospective buyers. Here are the splashy additions you shouldn’t do:
Swimming pool: Your home’s crown jewel is an eyesore in the winter, needs constant chlorine monitoring in the summer and usually needs to be closed in by a fence for safety. A typical pool costs $75,000 to install, but no buyer will pay your extra $75,000 when they buy your house.
The sport court: This multipurpose area for tennis matches and basketball is seen as a huge patch of asphalt where the beautiful yard should have been.
Fruit trees: Your fragrant orchard is a magnet for rotting fruit and the flies that feed on it, and calls for constant pruning.
Built-in fire pit: This barbecue haven for alpha males is seen as a stone monstrosity. A portable barbecue would be better.
A concrete patio: The broad expanse of concrete creates a parking-lot type of yard where rain collects in puddles.