Blog :: 04-2021

7 Amazing Projects That Make Your Backyard an Oasis

But not all are equal when it comes to investing in your home.

After spending so much time at home, you want — you need! — a backyard getaway, not a bootcamp that’s all about mowing, weeding, and raking. 

Time for a second honeymoon with these ideas that’ll turn your labor-loving yard into a leisure-loving one. Some will even enhance your home’s value. Others, at least, won’t ding it. (You definitely don’t want to do that.)

Let the backyard oasis begin with these ideas:

#1 Al-Fresco Dining

Ample, built-in seating and wood-fired pizza on-demand. And while wood-fired ovens are famous for pizza, this isn’t a one-note investment: You can serve up any meat, veggie, or bread — making this a full-on outdoor oven. Low-maintenance hardscaping means you can focus on your party, instead of mowing grass.

Or go for the full farm-to-table concept:

Pluck some veggies from some chic, metal raised beds (easy to maintain), prep them in an outdoor cooking island with a built-in grill (and green roof, which keeps it cooler underneath), and treat yourself to the freshest cuisine around for your backyard staycation.

Even better, since the entire ground area is pea gravel, you can spend less time mowing and more time dining.

But does it add value? Outdoor living and cooking spaces (rooms, really) almost always do. As do low-maintenance hardscaping features — like the patio. Raised steel garden beds, not so much, though.

#2 An Outdoor Room Just for Leisure

Spend Saturday afternoon napping in your outdoor space — not laboring over it. Easy-care plants look lush with minimal intervention, including ground cover and stone to replace grass.

Install horizontal privacy fencing, and you’re ready for one legendary siesta (adorable dog recommended, but not required).

But does it add value? See above about outdoor rooms (and the lovely plants definitely boost it, too). Win-win.

#3 A Yard for Playing

You don’t have to give up playing in the backyard just because you’re an adult. Make your yard a grown-up rec center with a fire pit and bocce ball court (or cornhole, ladder ball, even giant Jenga).

Wood-paneled privacy fencing elevates the adults-only aesthetic, and low-maintenance gravel keeps the focus on fun instead of maintenance.

But does it add value? Seriously doubt it (except for the fence). But it’s your yard. Remember, joy is an ROI of a different sort. Plus, the court is easy enough to erase with some basic landscaping (always a good value add).

#4 A DIY Pool and Pit

An affordable, stock-tank soaking pool paired with a DIY fire pit and seating is everything good about a pool (laps, shmaps, right?), without all the cost and maintenance.

Add a little wood-fired heater, and it’s a hot tub, too (just make sure it’s one designed for hot tubs — for obvious reasons).

But does it add value? Only to you. And since it’s easy enough to remove, it’s not hurting it either. If you love it, then you’re getting a whole different kind of ROI — where dollars don’t apply.

#5 A Me-Only Retreat

A Malibu spa day may not fit into your schedule (or budget) this year, but stealing away to this hideaway for 30 minutes at a time can be easily penciled in. Now where’s the “Do not disturb” sign?

But does it add value? Not really, especially since the shed isn’t plumbed and lacks power. But backyard sheds-as-rooms never seem to disappoint buyers.

#6 An Epic Slide

Jack up a playhouse with a slide that makes their friends go “Whoa.” And while they’re spending a few hours running up the stairs (or climbing up a cargo net) and racing down the slide, you get some much-deserved “me” time: not a lousy ROI. 

But does it add value? The slide, no. The playhouse? Again, no plumbing, no electricity, probably no gain — but the landscaping is a sure-fire win.

#7 Lighting for After Dark

Do resorts shut down at dusk? They do not. To make your backyard an all-hours destination, incorporate outdoor lighting into your vision. Forget tiki torches; opt for permanent overhead, task, and mood lighting — just like you would indoors. Efficient solar and LED lights are great for outdoors. With the right glow, you can squeeze even more hours of delight out of your backyard staycation.

But does it add value? Oh, yeah. A no-brainer. Outdoor lighting is great for curb appeal(and safety).

Original used by permission: Amy Howell Hirt

5 Relationship-Saving Strategies For Any Couple Buying a House

Buying a house is exciting. Arguing while buying a house? Not so much. Here’s how to keep the peace while house hunting.

Before you and your partner start sending each other links to the home of your dreams, have a few conversations about the home buying process. 

A couple buying a house should talk about money, of course, but also about their expectations for their first home. Talking now will keep you productive, positive, and focused on finding the right house. It will also help you manage buying-a-house stress on your relationship. 

OK, we’re about to get a little “Modern Love” here. 

Related: Understand the Steps to Buying a Home

#1 Get On the Same Page About Expectations

No matter how connected you two are, there are still unspoken and undefined expectations between you. Especially when it comes to a couple buying a house. Buying can reveal relationship problems, because it’s the biggest financial transaction you’ll make, and there are a lot of emotions and expectations tied up in the idea of home.

Listen to your partner and commit to the idea that each person has a voice in every issue. “That would be my No. 1 principle,” says Donna R. Baptiste, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and professor at Northwestern University’s Family Institute. “Two people must respect each other’s right to have a say.”

How to start? Ask questions like:

  • Why do you want to buy a house?
  • What’s the most important thing to consider, in your opinion? 
  • How long do you want to live there?
  • Do you want something perfect or a fixer-upper?
  • What do you think our budget should be?

We also recommend filling out our first-time buyer’s worksheet, which will help you and your partner get on the same page — literally.

#2 Be Prepared to Back Down

Not every decision will be 50-50. Equal say is not always the standard,” Baptiste says. 

But both of you should be willing to accept no for an answer. This prevents gridlock. And ceding some control makes the decision on which home to buy a shared one. 

Consider the situation faced by work-from-home clothing designer Veronica Sheaffer and her husband, teacher Keith Dumbleton. They bought their prewar apartment on Chicago’s far North Side four years ago. 

While scrolling through listings, Sheaffer fell for the property’s vintage millwork and spacious layout, but the building was 12 miles from the centrally located neighborhood they’d been living in. Sheaffer accepted the hours the new location would add to Dumbleton’s school commute could be a deal breaker. 

“I gave him the power of refusal and prepared myself for losing the place,” she says. Knowing that Sheaffer was conscious of the sacrifices he’d be making, Dumbleton agreed to move forward with making an offer. “Her being open to me saying no allowed me to make that decision, and I don’t regret it.”

#3 Do Scenario Planning

New homes have a way of changing life’s routines. 

Does one of you take the dog out? If so, that beautiful sixth-floor walk-up may affect the dog caretaker’s mornings (and moods). Does one of you do most of the outdoor chores? How do you really feel about taking care of a massive lawn? That house that sits on top of a hill is gorgeous, and the views! But will you like hauling bags of groceries up the three flights of stairs to the front door?

“I ask a couple to have it sink in,” says Dan Sullivan, a REALTOR® at Compass in Chicago. “What is it going to physically be like living in that property, day in and day out?” 

The more you think it over together, the happier you’ll both be after you move in.

#4 Ask An Expert

As a couple buying a house, you may be in full agreement or you may be at an impasse, but either way talk to a real estate agent and, as Baptiste recommends, “submit to the idea of getting good advice.” 

A good agent is like a reference librarian and a personal coach in one. They can help you navigate the home buying process minutiae, like finding a good mortgage broker or dissecting the details of a home inspection. 

An agent can give you the knowledge you need to make a wise decision. And she can pump you and your partner back up when your energy has ebbed because you’ve looked at 22 houses and not seen one worthy of an offer. Or you put in an offer and it fell through. 

Leaning on a professional to offer perspective and help work through disappointment releases some buying-a-house stress on a relationship. “As much as possible, as early as possible, I try to get [couples] to see the big picture,” Sullivan says. 

#5 Recognize You’re a Team 

Involving an agent in the home buying process can have another unexpected outcome, says Sheaffer. It brought her and Dumbleton closer together. 

Having the agent participate in discussions — and even occasionally disagreeing with her — “helped us [see] that we know each other, we know our lifestyle. Anything that will allow you to bond more with your partner is always positive.” 

The agent got them to talk to each other about what they wanted and didn’t want in a house. It helped them hash out their likes and dislikes, constructively. 

Instead of letting buying a house lead to relationship problems, turn the experience into a chance to learn and grow together. Talk. Listen. And get good advice from a smart agent. You’ll end up as homeowners — with an even better connection. 

What’s not to love?

Written by and used with consent from House Logic.