For apartment owners around the world, the experience of having to stay at home for months during the current global pandemic has emphasized the desirability, importance and value of having private outdoor space. In March, amid orders for people to stay at home worldwide, people stood on their balconies across Italy singing melodies together to pass the time, which brought joy during an otherwise unprecedented time.
In New York City, the nightly 7 p.m. ritual of residents joining their neighbors in saluting first responders included many who joined from their balconies or terraces and helped to unite the city in one of its most challenging moments.
While outdoor space has always been considered an appealing feature to homeowners, most of us have emerged from quarantine with a new appreciation for access to the great outdoors. We all need a place to step outside, breathe in the fresh air, get a dose of Vitamin D and have space for humans and pets alike to run around and be active.
Here are a few things to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of searching for a home with outdoor space, determining how much of it you need and evaluating how much value it adds to your lifestyle.
[Read: How to Set Up a Home Gym]
What Type of Outdoor Space Makes Sense for You?
If you’re a homebuyer with dreams of having your own outdoor oasis, it’s important to ask yourself some essential questions: How much space do I need, how do I intend to use it, and what am I willing to pay for it?
It’s easy to want your outdoor paradise to be palatial, but with that comes a premium on the initial purchase price, along with the time commitment, effort, and cost of upkeep. Are you an avid gardener with a green thumb? Do you often host large gatherings and enjoy entertaining? Will a small space outside your home suffice for your own personal use?
Before beginning your search, determine your needs and preferences, and how much they’re worth to you. Is there enough space for that outdoor grill you always wanted, a table and chairs to enjoy your morning cappuccino or a glass of wine at sunset, or a little patch of grass just large enough for a swing set? Taking the time to think about how much space is just enough, and how much might be too much, is critical to narrowing down potential homes.
If you’re in the middle of a major urban center, know that outdoor space comes at a premium, and may look different compared to the front lawns and backyards more common in suburban and rural areas. New York City is a metropolis of vertical living with limited room for private outdoor use, which ultimately makes having your own outdoor space more costly. Most pre-war buildings (built 1900-1940) in New York were not constructed with balconies, and only a few top-floor apartments have terraces.
Other urban locales like Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta offer more outdoor opportunities in both apartments and private homes for two reasons: First, apartment buildings in these cities were all built more recently, and therefore, private balconies and terraces were incorporated into their plans. Second, the urban planning for most American cities other than New York was designed across a more spread-out geography, allowing for more suburban neighborhoods within the city limits. And if you’re house hunting in the suburbs or country, the chance of finding a home with outdoor space is even greater.
How Will You Make the Most Out of Your Outdoor Space?
Once you’ve decided on what kind of outdoor space you’re considering — a balcony, a terrace or a home with a large backyard — it’s important to think a few steps ahead about how you’ll maintain it financially, and make the most of it. The smaller the space, the lower the cost. If you’re purchasing an apartment with a large terrace and want to turn it into a fully equipped garden, what costs are involved to convert it and maintain it with the proper irrigation?
If you’re buying a home with a big backyard, what are your plans? Mowing the lawn and even simple landscaping can be surprisingly expensive. And if there’s a pool, the cost of upkeep can be exorbitant.
There could also be environmental factors with more land. Is there a fuel tank or septic system to worry about?
For a property with a pond, the water feature offers a peaceful and romantic setting, but it also adds potential environmental issues that come along with having wetlands on your property. You’ll have to monitor algae and bacteria levels and keep a closer eye on small children, and the standing water can attract bugs, insects and other unwanted critters. Think ahead about how you will properly address these issues by doing your research and perhaps enlisting a professional to help.
How Does Outdoor Space Add Value to Your Home and Everyday Lifestyle?
There’s no question that being outside, immersed in nature on a beautiful day, brings tranquility and bliss. What is that paradise worth to you?
Homeowners with spacious backyards and terraces or balconies may have previously underappreciated going all out to optimize their properties. In today’s world, we’ve seen a recognizable resurgence in building outdoor improvements, both to pass the time and to add value to our daily lives at home.
Perhaps in years past you might have gone to a recreation center or your local town pool to swim laps and participate in outdoor activities because you didn’t want to deal with the hassle of maintaining your own pool. Whether it’s building your dream swimming pool, growing an herb garden, building a fire pit or adding a swing set and bocce courts to the lawn, having an outdoor space of your own to do with as you please is now more appealing than ever.
At the end of the day, it’s all about how we can make our homes the most comfortable and enjoyable place to live and pass the time, both inside and out.
More from U.S. News