Nobody enjoys patio season quite like Midwesterners. Every year, Iowans flock to their porches and decks as soon as the temperature hits 60 degrees, soaking in the long-awaited sunshine.
But in the last few years, homeowners have taken porch sitting to the next level. Outdoor living is booming nationwide as people turn their yards into the ultimate getaway spaces.
With summer approaching in the Corridor, we’re taking a closer look at this trend—what it is, how it became so popular, and how it’s impacting the real estate market in the Iowa City area.
The Backyarding Movement
Like ‘social distancing’ and ‘flattening the curve,’ the phrases ‘indoor-outdoor living’ and ‘backyarding’ shot to popularity because of the pandemic.
During isolation, we were forced to find fresh air closer to home, and our backyards became our sanctuaries. We began to extend the comforts of home to our outdoor spaces, investing in all kinds of amenities for our three- and four-season porches, patios, decks, and yards.
This bridging of interior and exterior spaces is referred to as indoor-outdoor living. It’s also sometimes called backyarding—moving indoor activities outside.
Buyers, Sellers, and Builders: How the Real Estate Market is Reacting
It’s been more than three years since the pandemic started, and experts say the backyarding movement is here to stay—causing trickle-down effects for buyers, sellers, and builders.
According to HomeLight, outdoor living areas rank as one of the top three priorities for homebuyers. What’s more, those buyers want to make the most of their outdoor spaces regardless of the weather. In a 2022 Fixr study, 62 percent of real estate experts said indoor-outdoor areas that can be used year-round were at the top of homeowners’ wishlists.
If you’re buying a home, ask yourself what’s on your wishlist. Are outdoor amenities important to you?
If so, are you looking for an outdoor exercise area, like a pool or a basketball half-court? Would you prefer an area more suited to entertaining, like an outdoor kitchen or living room? Or do you simply want a low-key space to gather, like a fire pit or a deck with a view? Communicate these preferences with your REALTOR® so they can help focus your search.
Of course, there may not be a home that has the exact outdoor amenities you want. But don’t discount a home that doesn’t check all the boxes—look at the backyard’s potential. Is there room to pour a concrete patio, add on a deck, or carve out a fire pit? If so, do you have the skills to DIY your dream backyard or the budget to hire a contractor?
Takeaways for Buyers
- The backyard is your canvas. Simple additions or minor updates can make a space yours. An outdoor water feature, pots of colorful flowers, some comfy lounge chairs, and a canopy to provide shade on hot summer days can go a long way.
- Be mindful of how sun or shade might impact your outdoor activities. For example, it might not be ideal to have a pool in a backyard that’s mostly shaded.
- Don’t let a breathtaking backyard distract you from homes with your desired indoor features. Warm weather on a spacious patio is nice, but it might not be as important as the size of the kitchen you use every day.
Photo Credit: 2230 260th St NW in Tiffin, listed by Mike Bails.
The runaway seller’s market we’ve seen over the last few years forced many buyers to compromise on their wish lists and make quick decisions—or risk losing out on a home in the fast-paced market.
Now the market has begun to level out. This gives buyers more decision-making freedom—more time to explore listings, more room to be choosy, and more leverage to negotiate what they want.
Translation: Buyers’ opinions matter more than ever before, and all signs indicate they want outdoor amenities.
As a seller, this means you should capitalize on your outdoor amenities as selling points. Work with your REALTOR® to highlight your outdoor spaces in the listing photos, listing description, and your agent’s marketing efforts.
However, this does not mean you should take on a full backyard renovation before selling to attract more buyers. While these outdoor features can increase your home’s value and up your sale price, you likely won’t see a one-for-one return on backyard amenities.
For example, according to HomeLight, buyers are willing to pay an extra $2,000 for a freestanding hot tub—but that hot tub will likely cost you upwards of $3,000.
This study found that many outdoor amenities—outdoor kitchens, decks, and built-in hot tubs—wouldn’t recoup their full cost when the home is sold. All of these features have increased in value since the pandemic, but it still isn’t enough to earn 100 percent of your money back.
Our advice? Invest in backyard upgrades for your enjoyment, not to enhance your home’s resale value. Leverage what you have when you sell, but don’t add these amenities for the purpose of making money down the road.
Takeaways for Sellers
- If you’re still several years out from selling your home and considering adding outdoor features, be sure to weigh the actual enjoyment you’ll get with the potential value you’ll add to your home. Passionate grillers can have their outdoor kitchen and enjoy entertaining guests, but shouldn’t necessarily expect to see a huge return when it’s time to sell their home.
- Remember that certain features can actually detract from the value of your home—above-ground pools leave dead or unsightly patches of grass, and backyard basketball courts can be costly to remove. Pools and hot tubs also come with maintenance costs many homeowners would rather avoid altogether.
Photo Credit: 300 S Clinton St, Unit 706 in Iowa City, listed by Sean McIntyre.
Homebuilders are also tuning into the trend.
A National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey reported that 58 percent of builders and architects said connection to the outdoors will be a focus of their design choices in the coming years.
Rather than opting for the standard, open backyard of years past, these home designers are now focusing on multi-functional outdoor amenities. The most popular features they plan to include in future homes:
- Covered outdoor or open-air rooms (73%)
- Patios (68%)
- Decks (55%)
While it often takes time for national trends to reach the Midwest, builders in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids Corridor are already well ahead of the backyarding movement.
For example, when you search for new construction listings on our website, nearly 80 percent of new construction homes listed by Urban Acres agents mention ‘deck,’ ‘patio,’ or ‘porch’ in the listing description.
In other words, if you’re looking for a brand new home in the Iowa City area and love spending time outdoors, we’ve got you covered!
Takeaways for Those Building a Home or Looking for New Construction
- Just because your home is being built from the ground up doesn’t mean it has to include every feature you want from the start. Building on a budget might mean waiting to build out a deck or screened-in porch and initially prioritizing more important indoor features.
- Make sure to communicate to your builder or REALTOR® what your ideal outdoor space looks like. They’ll be able to help you brainstorm ideas and stay within your budget. They can also help you choose the right lot for your short and long term plans. If your dream home has a walkout basement that connects to a backyard patio, your agent and builder can help you find a lot that is already graded—or can be graded—for a walkout home.
Create Your Backyard Getaway
In our next blog post, we’ll take the backyarding trend a step further and provide tips for transforming your backyard into an outdoor oasis.