NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Finding the best outdoor home improvement projects that will help you recoup your costs once you resell your house can be tricky.

While all buyers have their own preferences, there are some home additions that generate a better return on investment for owners.

One popular trend is creating more outdoor space in your backyard by adding a deck, pergola or benches, said Dan Faires, a Manhattan home and garden designer.

"Homeowners are choosing to upgrade their current outdoor space and expanding it," he said. "People want them because a deck is part of the home now. It creates a zone that you want to hang out in."

Installing a real wood deck can recoup more than 80% of the costs when it comes to selling a home, Faires said. Owners who choose to use real wood such as redwood, cedar or Douglas fir, will discover it makes decks more valuable, compared to composite decking made out of recycled materials mixed with wood.

"Wood is sustainable and is going to last for many years to come," he said. "It's definitely worth the investment because of wood's natural beauty and it wears well."

Outdoor living spaces are in high demand for homeowners, with a 92% popularity rating, according to the 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

"We've seen a growing demand from buyers who want functional outdoor spaces when conducting their search for the perfect house," said Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty, a San Diego company which helps homeowners renovate and sell their homes. "Homeowners can add value by creating backyard retreats as an extension of the home by adding decks, patio, outdoor dining spaces and garden sitting areas. According to Remodeling Magazine's "2014 Cost vs. Value" report, 87.4% of the cost of building a wooden deck can be recouped when selling."

Cleaning up and trimming landscaping and adding new, affordable plants is another way to add improvements on a small budget, he said.

"Adding new plants will give your yard a pop of color and won't break the bank," Christian said. "Low maintenance yards appeal to people who want to conserve water and save money down the road."

Purchasing and installing energy efficient appliances will add value, said Amanda Brown, regional director, Re/MAX of New Jersey. Outdated appliances could be off-putting for potential buyers who want to reduce their carbon footprint and have lower electricity bills.

 

"Updating those old tinkers to sleek, sustainable appliances increases your home's visual appeal while decreasing energy costs," she said.

Enclosed front porches are not a good addition, because it eliminates the opportunity for potential buyers to connect with future neighbors, she said. Aboveground pools are also they are outdated, meaning most potential buyers will consider them less than aesthetically pleasing. In addition, they are costly to remove, so devote your funds to another upgrade that is more appealing to a large number of people.

While a converted garage seems like extra living space, which some sellers would assume adds value to a home, but this feature can be undesirable, Brown said. It eliminates the ability to protect vehicles from the elements and decrease storage space.

Avoid upgrading inconsistently throughout your house, she said. Avoid making major upgrades to one portion of the house. Buyers would rather see consistency in a potential home rather than a brand new kitchen and bathrooms with dated appliances and hardware.

Experts recommend dedicating time to landscaping before deciding to sell your home since it takes time to develop. If landscaping is done correctly, it is sure to add value to your home and give you money in return.

While landscaping is most important, other outdoor upgrades such as a patio or a fire pit can create a relaxing atmosphere and add value to your home. On the flip side, things like adding a pool will generally decrease the value of your home because many buyers see pools as high-maintenance items with costly upkeep, Brown said.

In warmer parts of the U.S., such as in southern California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida, some buyers expect a home to have a pool, so this is something a homeowner should certainly consider adding to their property, said Leslie Piper, a housing specialist with realtor.com, a San Jose-based national real estate portal.

Varying estimates indicate that a home with a pool can add approximately 5% to the sale price, said Willan Johnson, CEO of VivoPools, a Los Angeles pool builder. If the rest of the neighborhood has a pool, homebuyers expect the same of their property. In its absence, it can reduce a buyer's perception of the home's value.

"Consider a poorly landscaped back yard, with no pool, no spa, during a heat wave in southern California," he said. "In addition, there are many new features that make a pool that much more valuable and entertaining. Multi-color LED lights allow you to add a new dimension to our evening parties."

Vlad Zachary, director of omni-channel at Upshot Commerce, a Boston e-commerce platform company and a home-improvement aficionado with ten years of experience, designed and built his own pergola for $1,000 in materials and tools.

"I haven't sold this home yet, but the increased curb appeal and overall reaction of realtors I know and from my neighbors tells me this will be a hit," he said.

"Web appeal" is the new curb appeal, so investing in landscape amenities will help attract home buyers to your property who are searching via the web, said Piper.

"Statistically, 90% of buyers preview a home on the web prior to seeing the property in person, so this is an important factor to consider," she said.

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet