Skip to main content


map-marker-altLocations | ATMs

5 Backyard Projects with the Best Return on Investment

With summer around the corner, many us are heading outdoors to entertain guests or enjoy a meal. Unfortunately, if you're like us, then there's a good chance the outdoor living space hasn't been upgraded, maintained, or even touched, in the past six months. This puts the prospect of "tackling the backyard" in the overwhelming—project camp.

Man installing outdoor lighting.

Where do you start? Here are a few outdoor projects that give you the best return on investment.

Adding outdoor lighting.

Good landscaping can add up to 28% to your home's overall value, according to one landscape economist. And outdoor lighting can play a big part in creating a desirable, visually pleasing landscape.

In fact, one survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that 41% of home shoppers rated outdoor lighting as "essential." Tasteful lighting can also help prevent people from slipping and falling AND it makes your property a more difficult target for intruders. Online home improvement site has some tricks to help you up your home's curb appeal.

Replace the front door.

We know this one's not technically in the backyard, but your potential return on investment is so high, we thought it deserved a spot on the list. How high? Remodeling Magazine's recent Cost versus Value surveycompared 30 popular remodel jobs across the country.

Replacing an existing entry door with a steel version recouped owners 101.8% of their project cost. A fiberglass entry door replacement had a 72% return.

Since replacing an entry door is project that many people can handle on their own (with some internet research), this is a good, weekend project to start with. TIP: Family Handyman offers a helpful website with instructions about how to replace the door yourself.

Upgrade that deck.

Upgrading an existing deck or adding a new one varies substantially in cost, depending on the type of materials you want to use and the size of the deck. But most experts agree that the payoff is well worth the money and effort.

Remodeling Magazine puts the addition of a wood deck at an 80% return, and a composite deck at a 68% return. If you already have a deck, simply adding some stain can go a long way. Whichever route you choose just remember to keep the look of the deck in line with the rest of the house. Decks and patios should appear to have been in place since the home was built.

In one HGTV article, Leslie Sellers, president of the Appraisal Institute, states that an out-of-proportion project throws off a home's balance aesthetically, but also detracts from its home value. Just because an extravagant patio costs a lot to complete doesn't always mean you will see a cost-worthy return when it comes time to sell.

Plant windbreak and shade trees.

This project can make your outdoor living space more appealing visually, it's environmentally friendly AND it could save you money on your energy bill. According to one article, younger is usually better when it comes to planting to trees, but if you're planning to sell your home within three to five years, you'll need some size to get the full effect. The best size to buy is 8' tall, 1-2” in diameter, sitting in a 15-gallon pot ($50-$150).

Add an outdoor kitchen.

Like a deck addition or upgrade, outdoor kitchens vary greatly in time and money spent. When budgeting your project, be sure to consider the area you live. If you're in Arizona or New Mexico, future buyers are more likely to pay top-dollar for a robust outdoor kitchen as they can use it far more than their Pacific Northwest counterparts—giving you a greater return on your investment. You'll also want to consider what your property and home value will be after the kitchen addition or upgrade.

As a good rule of thumb, you never want your home to go beyond the level of the neighborhood. Additionally, if a big outdoor kitchen increases your property value, your property taxes may also increase accordingly. HGTV offers a helpful article on this topic.

Which outdoor projects should you avoid? In general, a pool, pond or sunroom may be great to enjoy, but they're expensive and often don't pay off when it comes time to sell.