backyard deck renovation installation

3 Ways to Prioritize 11 Outdoor Remodeling Projects

With warmer weather on the horizon, many homeowners are gearing up for outdoor home improvements. But remodeling isn’t cheap. With thousands of dollars on the line, prioritizing projects is essential.

What’s the best way to set your priorities? The 2023 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Research Group examines three perspectives, using feedback from homeowners, real estate professionals, and landscape professionals.

The new report evaluates 11 outdoor remodeling projects, which can vary dramatically in size and scope. To help survey respondents provide consistent feedback, the project parameters were defined as follows: 

1. In-ground pool addition - Install an 18-foot-by-36-foot in-ground pool with gunite walls, 3-foot to 7-foot depth, and a standard filtration system. Include a 3-foot-wide-by-4-inch thick concrete perimeter surround. ($90,000)

2. Landscape lighting - Installation of a standard 600W transformer and 20 LED lights. ($6,800)

3. New patio - Install a backyard 18-foot-by-16-foot concrete paver patio, dry set over compacted gravel and sand base. Paving material at $7 to $10 per square foot. ($10,500)

4. New wood deck - Build a 14-foot-deep-by-18-foot-wide wood deck attached to the house with a ledger. Decking, railing, and stair treads are constructed with cedar lumber. The stairs are 4 feet wide with an open riser. All cedar is finished with a clear deck sealer. The lower structure is covered with pine or fir lattice. ($16,900)

5. Fire feature - Install a dry stacked natural stone kit and gas burner with a 10-foot diameter flagstone patio. ($9,000)

6. Overall landscape upgrade - Install a front walkway of natural flagstone 3 feet wide and 30 feet long. Add two stone planters 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. Install five flowering shrubs and one deciduous 15-foot-tall tree. Mulch with landscaping bark. ($9,000)

7. Landscape maintenance - Annual mulch application, mowing of 2,835 square feet of lawn, pruning of shrubs, and planting approximately 60 perennials or annuals. ($4,800)

8. Irrigation system installation - Installation and management of irrigation system for a lawn that is 5,000 square feet. No boring is required. ($6,000)

9. Standard lawn care service – Includes six standard seasonal fertilizer and/or weed control applications on 5,000 square feet of lawn. ($415)

10. Tree care - Includes three applications of tree fertilizer, regular spraying, trimming, and pruning, as well as removing one 30-foot-tall tree. ($2,875)

11. Outdoor kitchen - Install one inset grill, stainless steel drawers, ice chest, sink, and 60 square feet of concrete countertop, made from veneered masonry stone. ($15,000)

Option 1. Joy Scores

Consumers remodel their homes for various reasons, and most are satisfied with the results. For example, after remodeling, owners report having a greater desire to be in their homes (68% of respondents), increased enjoyment in their homes (60%), feeling happy (52%), and feeling satisfied when they see their completed project (45%).

Joy Scores for Outdoor Remodeling Projects

Source: National Association of REALTORS® 2023 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features

Consumers rated all 11 outdoor remodeling projects highly, with joy scores at or above nine on a 10-point scale. The top three projects were an in-ground pool addition (10), landscape lighting (10), and a new patio (9.9). 

Even though the top three projects earned nearly identical joy scores, they differed significantly in terms of the most important result:

In-ground pool addition – Better meets homeowners’ needs (32%)

Landscape lighting – Beauty and aesthetics (45%)

New patio – Better functionality and livability (52%)

High joy scores play a crucial role in loving your home. But if you’re concerned about making wise financial decisions, it may be preferable to consider other methods for setting project priorities.

Option 2. Cost Recovery

Members of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) provided cost estimates for each project, averaging anonymous responses from national survey data. It’s important to note that every project is unique, and prices will vary depending on geographic region, property, and scope of work.

Remodeling typically improves a home’s resale value, but some projects provide a better cost recovery payback than others. Therefore, members of the National Association of REALTORS® were asked to define how much homeowners can recoup on each project upon selling a home.

Cost Recovery on Outdoor Remodeling Projects

Source: National Association of REALTORS® 2023 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features

Interestingly, the least expensive project—standard lawn care service ($415)—had the highest cost recovery (217%). In sharp contrast, the most costly project—in-ground pool addition ($90,000)—tied with a fire feature for the lowest cost recovery (56%). 

Option 3. Recommended by REALTORS®

When a REALTOR® is representing a homeowner who wants to sell their property, the agent may suggest improvements to help the property attract a larger pool of buyers. Those recommendations often include outdoor remodeling projects.

(Note that the term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.) 

Share of REALTORS Who Recommend Outdoor Remodeling Projects Before Selling

Source: National Association of REALTORS® 2023 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features

Among the 11 projects included in the report, REALTORS® were most likely to recommend landscape maintenance (74%), standard lawn care service (53%), and tree care (44%). Landscaping-related projects may not earn the highest joy scores among homeowners, but they can dramatically improve a property’s curb appeal and suggest that the home is well maintained.

REALTORS® were least likely to recommend an irrigation system installation (2%), a fire feature (2%), an in-ground pool addition (1%), or an outdoor kitchen (1%).

Learn More

NAR Research publishes numerous research reports for home buyers, sellers, and homeowners. In addition to its flagship Remodeling Impact Report and its newest report on outdoor features, you can learn more about remodeling impacts for DIY projects and considerations for animal owners.