These days, homeowners (and potential buyers) are constantly looking for ways to get the most “bang for their buck” when it comes to their living spaces – and people are increasingly looking at the outside of their homes as additional living space.

Given that you want to get the most enjoyment possible out of your outdoor spaces while still minimizing your costs (and maximizing the potential returns in the future if you ever decide to sell), where should you put your energy and dollars?

Here are some of the best options:

A Patio

A patio space is easily the number one thing that you can do to transform your backyard into a haven for fun with family and friends.

The best part about adding a patio is that you can customize your design according to your budget. If you have the funds, a multifaceted patio with a wall and all the extras is fantastic.

If you don’t have deep pockets right now, start with some paver stones and a nice set of all-weather deck chairs and a table. You can always add to the patio with more elaborate extensions later – if you want. A simple patio can also be seen as the starting point for your eventual outdoor renovations.

Either way, you automatically have a good spot to sit and take your morning coffee or hold a barbecue with friends.

An Outdoor Kitchen

Speaking of barbecues and friends, if you really want to create an outdoor oasis and you have the money to splurge, why not go for a full outdoor kitchen?

An outdoor kitchen practically screams “luxury living,” and they can be pretty elaborate. A roof for shelter so that the space is functional rain or shine, natural ventilation for comfort and – of course – a high-tech grill and functioning sink are necessities. You also don’t want to skimp on the specialty appliances, like pizza ovens, wine fridges and dishwashers.

Set next to your existing (or newly built) patio and dining area, this can make your home the go-to spot for family and friends since all of the hoopla can be kept safely outside.

A Fire Pit

What if you don’t want to go quite that elaborate (or expensive) with your outdoor plans, but you’d still like to create a cozy spot that encourages people to gather around for relaxation and fun?

A fire pit can be the answer. They’re among the most popular backyard additions and they really ratchet up the usefulness of your outdoor areas. A small, portable fire pit or chiminea is really more of a functional accent piece for a patio, so we’re talking about a permanent installation of brick or stone that is designed to last.

This is often a fairly low-cost improvement that can give you years of joyful use and make it easy for potential buyers to see themselves having similar good times.

Privacy Enclosures

Does your backyard feel a wee bit exposed to the rest of the world? Does it feel like the hungry eyes of your neighbors are turned your way and neighbors are looking for an invite every time you put burgers on the grill? It might be time to improve the privacy of your space before you tackle any other projects.

Privacy enclosures can take numerous different forms. A large, wooden fence, for example, can be used to create an instant sense of privacy and exclusion from the outside world, but so can strategic fence panels and stone walls, which can be combined with trellis panels, garden screens and evergreen boundary plants. (If you have a smaller backyard, the use of a combo of materials and greenery can keep the space from feeling a bit claustrophobic.)

Water Features

Do the events of the last few years have you feeling less than “zen” even when you’re trying to relax in your own yard? You may want to consider adding a water feature that will soothe your spirit and make your yard feel like a peaceful haven away from all the hustle and madness beyond.

Koi ponds are popular in some areas, but they do take more year-round upkeep than many homeowners want to handle, so research these carefully before you commit. A solar-powered fountain or a waterfall might be lovely, peaceful alternatives that you can keep up with way less effort.

New Landscaping

When you look around your outdoor spaces, do you see lush, vibrant plants, arrays of colorful blooms that keep changing throughout the seasons, and the kind of trees that you rely on for either beauty or shade? Or, do you see a few evergreen shrubs and some grass?

While everyone’s taste is a little different, adding new landscaping with plants that make you feel like you’re in an enchanted garden three out of four seasons of the year can definitely upgrade your outdoor spaces.
Shade trees, once they mature, will also cut cooling costs inside your home, so that’s an extra reason to invest. Plus, the extra foliage, done correctly, will increase the “curb appeal” of your home when it comes time to resell.

Lighting Features

Landscape lighting, whether you limit yourself to solar-powered outdoor lights that line the patio and paths in your backyard or you go more elaborate with wired-in spotlights, is a must-have.

Fairy lights and Edison bulbs can be used to create a festive, magical atmosphere at night that your guests can enjoy, while the other kinds of lighting will keep people from tripping over stray roots and rocks as they enjoy their evening at your home.

Plus, you can’t go wrong with a little extra lighting on the exterior of your home. Not only does it add nighttime charm, it discourages prowlers and potential thieves – and that’s also a major bonus for potential buyers who may be more worried about safety than aesthetics.

So, What’s the Bottom Line?

Whether you intend to stay in your home for the next five years or 50, pick the outdoor embellishments that you will use and enjoy the most. When you genuinely love your living space, that will show – and ultimately help future buyers see themselves having the same kinds of good times there in the future.