Lyon Landscape Nursery project in New Jersey pairs bluestone with clay pavers.

The good news for homeowners is that new hardscape projects have a good return on investment when it comes time to sell, while providing an increased level of happiness for as long as they stay in their homes, according to recent research findings by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP.)  Pine Hall Brick landscapers have seen this first hand. 

The 2023 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features, which was released in March 2023, examines why homeowners complete outdoor remodeling projects, the value of undertaking these enhancements and homeowners’ increased happiness after completing an upgrade. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way Americans use their homes for daily living, relaxation and entertainment,” said Dr. Jessica Lautz, NAR deputy chief economist and vice president of research, in a prepared statement. “Homeowners have embraced their outdoor spaces — transforming them into oases with pools, patios, plants and greenery. These outdoor features are embraced by the homeowner and can also attract buyers if the owner wants to sell.”

pavers started on forever patio

The PennStone showroom in Lancaster, PA, supports expansive paver projects. 

The research covered the typical cost of 11 outdoor residential projects as estimated by the National Association of Landscape Professionals and the estimated cost recovery, defined by REALTORS ® as the amount homeowners can recover on a project upon selling a home. It also measures the experience that consumers had, including a Joy Score, or a measurement of how happy they were with the improvements.

Demand: patios, not wood decks

The research showed that compared to all 11 projects examined, patios were among those that were most in demand, especially following the pandemic.

Landscape professionals saw the most increased demand for a new patio (55 percent) an overall landscape upgrade (61 percent) and landscape maintenance (58 percent). Conversely, they saw the least increased demand for a new wood deck (15%), an in-ground pool addition (25%) and tree care (29%).

In terms of enjoyment, rated on a scale from one to 10, patios ranked high, at 9.9, alongside inground pools and outdoor lighting, which were scored at 10 out of 10.

Millennials Trend Outdoor Kitchens

Above and below: unique enclosed “outdoor kitchens.”

White Mortar

The view from Pine Hall Brick designers and installers

A spot check of several professionals in the hardscaping industry backed up the research’s findings.

John McGrann, president of Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based PennStone, which specializes in high end patios and outdoor furnishings, said he saw a huge uptick in demand during the pandemic. He said that fire features, especially, have skyrocketed in Pennsylvania’s cool climate, quadrupling between 2019 and 2020 and staying the same through 2022

“It started when people were choosing to be outside because it was a safe place to be,” said McGrann. “And people discovered how valuable it was to have high-quality outdoor space. It does enhance your home when you choose to put it on the market in the future.”

He said that homeowners wanting to build or expand outdoor rooms should plan on finding a professional designer – and coming up with a plan. Perhaps money’s not in the budget to install everything at one time, but homeowners can, for example, put in electric and natural gas lines underneath a patio to add an outdoor kitchen and exterior lighting in the future.

And McGrann urged homeowners to think about what they want to accomplish. Putting a small, affordable grill and side burner and some usable storage, and locating it near your indoor kitchen, can make sense than putting in things that are not necessary and can be reached by going into your back door a few steps away.

“There are lots of strategies to achieving these projects and making them add appropriate value to your home,” said McGrann.

This patio by Quality Landscapes NC expanded the homeowner’s space on a badly sloped lot, adding a fire pit and seatwall, perfect for entertaining. 

JB Brown, owner of Burlington, NC-based Quality Landscapes, which specializes in installing hardscapes, said that he is seeing an increasing interest in hardscapes, with patios and fire pits more popular and fireplaces and outdoor kitchens less so, because of the expense. But he said that true value comes when homeowners invest in natural materials.

“I would rather go with clay pavers or natural stone, because they look better and are more natural than concrete,” said Brown. “And that will translate through when you sell the house, because it is a higher-end product when compared to the concrete

Brown says he always recommends pavers over gravel, because it makes a better surface for walking – and always recommends clay pavers, because they are more durable and won’t fade, because their color goes all the way through.

Alex Lyon owns Franklin, Massachusetts-based Lyon Landscape Nursery, which specializes in landscape design. Lyon agrees with Brown, specializing in granite and bluestone, paired with clay pavers for many of his projects.

In his area, Lyon says a “plain patio” doesn’t inspire customers. For him, increased home value is a given but his business objective is making customers love their back yards.

“While the hope is to increase the value of a property, which a good project does, the primary goal is to enhance the property as well as increase living space and enjoyment of a casual outdoor living experience,” said Lyon.

“Another crucial point is to realize that there isn’t any one aspect that makes a project ‘NICE.’ The hardscape needs softscape, drainage, expert stonework, extensive knowledge of plant material, irrigation, lighting, as well as some sort of structure (pergola, portico, deck, porch, etc. It is really about using all these elements and combining them in a cohesive design.”

A full outdoor kitchen with plenty of gathering space around a large firepit made this classic Concord, MA, property a “forever home” for the owners. Design and installation by Roots & Rocks Landscape Artisans.

The bottom line: Pricing and popularity

Of the list of projects that were examined, three – patios, fire features and outdoor kitchens – could reasonably use products by Pine Hall Brick Company might reasonably be specified, including clay paversPaver Tiles™  and Thin Brick veneer.

For a patio, measuring 18 feet by 16 feet, using segmental paving and a stone and sand compacted base, the estimated cost is $10,500, of which $10,000, or 95 percent, would be returned to the homeowner when the house sells.

For a fire feature, to include dry stacked natural stone, a gas burner and a round 10-foot patio, the estimate came in at $9,000 and the return on investment was $5,000, for a 56 percent return.

For an outdoor kitchen, which included an inset grill, stainless drawers, an ice chest and 60 square feet of concrete countertop, along with veneered masonry, the estimated cost was $15,000, of which home sellers could count on getting all of it back.

As it related to all three projects, seventy percent or more of the homeowners said they had a greater desire to be at home, had both an increased sense of enjoyment and accomplishment when the project was completed – and at the same time, recorded a score of at least 9 or more out of a possible 10 in their enjoyment of their new space.