The 5 Backyard Upgrades That Net the Best ROI (And 2 That Just Aren’t Worth It)

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

If you’re reading this, it’s a safe bet you’re planning on updating your home this year. (Subject matter aside, recent Zillow and Realm research found that 72 percent of homeowners are considering a few upgrades in 2022.) And if you’re looking to get the biggest bang for your buck, shift your focus just outside of your house: Updating the backyard can net you the highest return on your investment, the research found.

But that could mean going in dozens of different directions, dropping five figures—or more—to create an epic outdoor space. So which ones are worth the time, energy and funds, especially if you’re thinking about selling in the next few years? And which improvements really don’t give you the bang for the buck? Read on for our top picks on both ends of the spectrum.

One quick note: These figures are based on averages of nationwide data, so the costs and ROI may vary in your area, and depending on what materials you choose.

backyard improvements roi fire pit
Trevor Tinker (@iamtrevorseye)/Getty Images

Best: Install A Fire Pit

These days, people want to enjoy every square inch of their homes as often as possible—outdoor spaces included. If you live in a colder climate, in particular, a fire pit can be very alluring. (Though, even in warmer ones, s’mores has a universal appeal.) Realm, a renovation planning service, estimates that you’ll recoup roughly 150 percent of your investment here. So, say that stone fire pit set you back $4,000; it’ll add roughly $7,000 to your home’s value when you put it on the market.

Best: Build a Wood Deck

Expect to recoup about 66 percent of the costs of building a wood deck—63 for composite—according to Remodeling magazine’s 2021 Cost Vs. Value Report. As materials prices have steadily climbed since 2018, the value has declined, but overall, a deck is still a highly sought-after home feature. If you’re putting in the effort on this one, make sure you’re doing it to enjoy it yourself, first and foremost. The increase in home value is more of a bonus.

backyard improvements roi hero
PC Photography/Getty Images

Best: Tidy Up The Landscaping

You don’t have to have the lushest lawn on the block, but doing what you can to avoid dead and overgrown spots—and keep weeds at bay—is crucial. ROI estimates here vary widely, largely because landscaping projects can encompass so many things, but across the board, most experts cite it as a top thing to do before putting your home on the market. It’s called curb appeal for a reason, and it most definitely extends to the backyard.

A Virginia Tech study on how landscaping affected people’s perception of a home’s value came down to three factors, in this order of importance: how sophisticated the design was, the size of the plants and having a diverse range of plants. Having a set of foundation shrubs with a statement-making tree or two and an island of plants—with about 20 percent being annuals or perennials for a pop of color—had the highest impact. If you can take your yard from average (say, a patchy field of grass) to layered and colorful, you could see a 10 to 12 percent increase in your home’s value, according to the study.

Best: Fence Things Off

Wilson was an awesome source of insight on Home Improvement, but imagine how tiring it’d get to have a neighbor perpetually all up in your business if you didn’t have a 6-foot-tall privacy fence like Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor? Installing a fence can provide a sense of sanctuary from the outside world, keep pets from escaping (or your neighbor’s from tearing through your begonias) and help buffer outside noise. Expect to net about a 50 percent ROI for a wood fence, and 70 percent or more for a metal or stone one.

Best: Spring for an Outdoor Kitchen

You know how an updated kitchen helps sell a home? So does a sleek outdoor kitchen. A survey of 1,250 real estate agents found that nearly half recommended making this upgrade as a way to attract potential buyers. It’s a surprise-and-delight moment that has people instantly envisioning themselves entertaining alfresco…even if the fanciest dish they cook is frozen Pizza Bagels. As far as outdoor upgrades go, this is one of the pricier projects to take on, so make sure it’s something you’ll truly enjoy—using and maintaining—before splurging.

backyard improvements roi pool
Giselleflissak/Getty Images

Worst: Installing A Pool

In warmer climates, a pool is much more of a draw, but across the board, the costs to install and maintain one often outweigh the appeal of being able to play sharks and minnows whenever you want. Interest in pools surged as much as 200 percent at the start of the pandemic, but since then, the number of installations has fallen dramatically. Additionally, hire-a-pro service Thumbtack has seen a 59 percent spike in searches for swimming pool removals year over year. Why? The service’s home expert says the rising costs to maintain said pool, coupled with how much of the yard they overtake (and potential safety concerns for families with young children, who make up the largest demographic of homebuyers right now) likely make them less appealing.

Worst: Swapping Grass for Artificial Turf

The allure of never having to mow your lawn again is hard to pass up—so much so that Thumbtack saw interest in installing artificial turf climb 275 percent last summer—but if you’re upgrading with resale value in mind, you’re better off investing in a landscaping service. The low-maintenance look can be a turn-off, reducing the value of a home by 5 percent, according to one estimate. However, this upgrade will reduce your water bill, and in drought-prone areas, it could be a very attractive perk to potential buyers. If you don’t like the look of artificial grass, you could always opt for a groundcover that calls for little water or try pavers.

candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, kitsch-lover

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...