YOUR MONEY-Summer livin' is easy, but doesn't come cheap anymore

Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:00am EDT
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By Lou Carlozo

CHICAGO, March 14 (Reuters) - As a Brooklyn-based architect, James Schaefer works on properties with some very high-end patios - think in the $100,000 range - which, of course, gets him thinking about his own. His own scale is a little lower, about "$25,000 to get a start at it," Schaefer says.

For that, his 19 x 35 ft. (5.8 meter x 10.7 meter) outdoor space in Park Slope will get pretty souped up. "We will definitely put in a grill, piped-in natural gas and it would be fun to put a bocce lane in there," he says. "We'd like a nice table, some lighting and we'd plant a tree, but since we don't have lots of space, it might be something smaller like a Japanese maple."

With home improvement spending dramatically on the rise, backyards are vying with bathroom renovations and kitchen upgrades for homeowner dollars. Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies forecasts double-digit gains in home improvement spending for 2014. First-quarter spending in 2014 on home improvement was estimated at $144.7 billion, up from $127 billion the same period in 2013 - a jump of nearly 14 percent.

"Over the last five years, after the financial collapse in 2008, the industry has seen steady growth," says Jonathan Freeman, president of, a Chicago-based website. "Homeowners demand and want a great outdoor living space as part of the total package of a home and homebuilders list it as a high priority for new construction."

Any money spent could add to the value of a home. "If the patio costs $12,000 to $20,000, you'll probably get $40,000 back as long as it's big enough to put some tables and chairs out there," says Ben Salem, a real estate agent with Rodeo Realty in Beverly Hills, California.


The question of what you'll stack those patios with often depends on your gender, says Blanche Garcia, owner of her own design firm in Montclair, New Jersey. "I find that women like to upgrade more with plants and foliage around the property, outdoor pergolas and enclosures that can be created for entertaining. Men go for more of the higher end gadgets like outdoor kitchens and barbecues."   Continued...