The backyard bonus apparently boasts a high return on enjoyment and cash.

By Marisa Spyker
Photo: Stephen DeVries; food styling: Erin Merhar

We might swoon over our spa-like master bath or relish kicking back in our high-ceilinged living room, but come summertime, if there’s one place we all want to be in our home, it’s outside of it. Naturally, we spend a lot of time transforming the square footage around our homes—the patios, the front porches, the gardens, and the backyards—into inviting hangouts.

But if you’ve been jonesing to turn your alfresco lounge space into something a little more, consider this your wallet-approved permission.

According to a recent analysis by Zillow, there are certain home features that tend to strike buyers’ fancies more than others (so much so that they may even reach a little deeper into their pockets). When it comes to the backyard specifically, that magic money maker appears to be an outdoor kitchen.

Photo: Rick Lew

In their 2019 “Home Features That Sell” analysis, the real estate marketplace looked at listing descriptions from 4.6 million home sales around the country between 2017 and 2018 to see if there were any commonalities among homes that sold significantly higher than expected. (The “higher than expected” bar was set by comparing the home’s sale price to that of similar homes in the same area.)

As it turns out, there are. In researching the listings, Zillow found that homes which mention 10 different bonus features (including “steam ovens” and “wine cellars”) tend to fetch more cash when sold than most. In the backyard, that applies to a feature that’s made for entertainers—an outdoor kitchen, which is shared among homes that sell 25 percent above expected values.

Related: Get Inspired by Touring Some of Our Favorite Outdoor Dining Spaces: 

If you’ve been following outdoor trends for a while, this might not come as too much of a surprise. According to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects, outdoor cooking spaces were the most popular kitchen-related feature requested by clients for the second year in a row in 2018. And, depending on where you live, they can be so in demand that homeowners might see an ROI on an alfresco cooking space of up to 200 percent.

For those who think outdoor kitchens are strictly a luxury add, think again. While it’s true that you can trick out a backyard entertaining space with rotisseries, smokers, pizza ovens, ice makers, dishwashers, and more, you can also cut costs by sticking with the essentials: a good-quality grill, countertop prep space, cabinetry, and sink or mini fridge (or let’s be honest, a wine fridge). According to HomeAdvisor, depending on what components you choose, the average cost for a full-on outdoor kitchen installation can range anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000—at least part of which, remember, you just might earn back in the end.

Convinced your backyard needs an outdoor kitchen yet? Find our tips for creating a party-perfect outdoor space here.  

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