5 outdoor improvements that add value to your home. These outdoor improvements maximize living and entertaining space at a reasonable cost.

If you haven’t jumped on the outdoor living space bandwagon yet, now is the time.

“Next to energy efficiency, perhaps no other market trend is changing the landscape of new-home design than outdoor living,” David Barista, editor-in-chief of Professional Builder, wrote in a recent column on the site.

These outdoor improvements maximize living and entertainment space without dramatically impacting overall costs, he added.

They also increase your home’s value: 51 percent of buyers surveyed by Realtor.com earlier this year said that outdoor living space was the most attractive quality in a home, over even open floor plans and curb appeal. To that end, more than half of homeowners told Houzz.com they would be improving their home’s outdoor footprint this summer.

And there’s more: Outdoor living spaces, defined as kitchens and entertaining spaces, were the second most popular trend in outdoor design, following gardening and landscaping, according to the 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey of landscape architects.

Adding an outdoor living space can be rewarding both personally and financially, so consider these projects that pull double duty.

5 Outdoor Improvements That Add Value to Your Home

#1 Do Some Gardening and Landscaping

Gardens and landscaped spaces are perennially popular, and though they may need the most annual maintenance of everything on this list, not all gardens are so needy. Look for native plants or drought-tolerant plants that thrive in your region, which are both low-maintenance and typically less expensive. Also, consider adding shade trees or tall shrubs near windows that have the added benefit of lowering energy bills in the summer by blocking the sun’s warm rays from overheating your home.

#2 Add a Pergola

Pergolas are archways that cover a patio or deck dining area and typically have a wooden slatted roof. Installing one over your existing patio or deck provides several benefits, including better shade, opportunities for more greenery and lighting, as well as protection against bugs should you choose to install breezy curtains. Expect to pay at least $1,000 for a 10 feet by 10 feet do-it-yourself kit, or about $3,000 to have the same size pergola installed by a professional. Luckily the additions, such as vines, hanging flowers, strings of lights or fabric doors are cheap. According to the landscape architecture survey, 83 percent of homeowners and buyers are into these.

#3 Build a Deck (or a Patio)

Adding a whole deck is pricey, but it also effectively adds a whole outdoor room, plus decks provide a high return on investment at 74 percent for composite and 87 percent for wood, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost Vs. Value Report. Plus you can build a 10 feet by 16 feet raised deck, a standard size, for as little as $1,500 if you do it yourself or about $3,500 to have someone do it for you. Conversely, you can build a paved or stone patio for about 30 percent less, though its return on investment is harder to calculate. Patios, terraces and decks are high on the wish list for homeowners and buyers, a whopping 98 percent want them, according to the landscape architecture survey.

#4 Freshen Your Curb Appeal

Don’t wait until it’s time to sell your home to start caring about curb appeal. There are a million good reasons to have a better-looking home, and most of these kinds of improvements are simple, relatively inexpensive and long-lasting. Repaint your home if it needs a fresh coat; patch or repave your driveway; install a new steel door that will increase both security and energy-efficiency (plus Remodeling Magazine says it will pay for itself in resale value); or simply dig in the dirt and clean up the grass.

#5 Consider an Outdoor Fire Pit or Fireplace

While fire pits or fireplaces may not be the most immediately enjoyable outdoor addition, they continue to poll well in surveys of buyers and homeowners, and with a cooler-than-usual summer expected in some areas of the country, that may make a small fire desirable in the backyard. Fire pits can be very inexpensive, starting from as little as about $100 for a simple, transportable pit. Installing one starts at about $500, while installing a fireplace starts at about $1,500 and can run up exponentially from there, depending on design. Fire pits and fireplaces ranked third in the most popular outdoor living features on the landscape architecture survey.

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