BAM Key Details:

  • The 2023 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features by NAR/NALP revealed the contrast between REALTOR® recommendations for improving a home’s curb appeal and homeowners’ assessment of the emotional impact of each landscaping project.
  • Real estate professionals can use this data to help potential clients boost their home’s property value, even if they’re not planning to sell yet.

Most REALTORS® (92%) recommend improving a home’s curb appeal before listing to help maximize the seller’s ROI. 

The 2023 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) revealed a disparity between Realtor recommendations and homeowner preferences for improving a home’s curb appeal. 

Professional recommendations are typically based on financial ROI, while homeowner preferences have more to do with the emotional impact of each landscaping project.

It’s no surprise that nearly all REALTORS® and most homeowners place a high value on the curb appeal of a well-maintained yard. Healthy outdoor living and green spaces help the environment, increase home values, make communities more desirable, and improve people’s mental and physical health.

Britt Wood


During the COVID pandemic, demand for landscaping services grew and, as 79% of landscape professionals have reported, the scope of outdoor landscaping projects also increased. 

Behind that surge in demand were homeowners spending more time at home and wanting to make better use of the outdoor spaces available to them.

The NAR/NALP report shows homeowners benefit both financially and emotionally by remodeling or adding outdoor features to improve their home’s curb appeal and overall value. 

That said, choosing the right projects has a lot to do with whether a homeowner is planning to sell or just wants to get the most value out of their property. 

The 2023 Remodeling Impact Report (NAR/NALP)

The NAR/NALP report looked at 11 different outdoor residential projects and covered the following for each: 

  • Project Cost—the average or typical cost of each of these projects based on estimates by members of the National Association of Landscape Professionals
  • Estimated Cost Recovery & REALTORS® Recommendation—the amount of money homeowners can recoup on a project and the share of REALTORS® that recommend these upgrades to homeowners
  • Consumer Experience—the effect on consumers of having these projects completed, including a Joy Score, which measures the positive emotional impact

Those 11 outdoor projects include the following, in order of expense:

  1. In-ground pool addition ($90,000)
  2. New wood deck ($16,900)
  3. Outdoor kitchen ($15,000)
  4. New patio ($10,500)
  5. Fire feature ($9,000)
  6. Overall landscape upgrade ($9,000)
  7. Landscape lighting ($6,800)
  8. Irrigation system installation ($6,000)
  9. Landscape maintenance ($4,800)
  10. Tree care ($2,875) 
  11. Standard lawn care service ($415)

According to the report, consumers rated all the above projects highly, giving them Joy Scores of 9 and above (on a scale of 1 to 10). 

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way Americans use their homes for daily living, relaxation and entertainment. 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.

Dr. Jessica Lautz

NAR Deputy Chief Economist and Vice President of Research

Joy scores vs. REALTOR® recommendations

When you’re discussing outdoor remodeling projects with a potential client, get clear on their near-term goals for the property. A homeowner planning to sell and one that isn’t sure about selling but who wants to make their home more livable will have different outcomes in mind. 

Nowhere is this more apparent than the disparity between consumer Joy Scores for the 11 outdoor projects listed above and the ROI-focused recommendations of REALTORS®. 

Projects earning the highest Joy Scores were these:

  • In-ground pool addition (10)
  • Landscape lighting (10)
  • New patio (9.9)

Slightly lower Joy Scores went to the following: 

  • Outdoor kitchen (9)
  • Tree care (9.3)
  • Standard lawn care service (9.4) 
  • Irrigation system installation (9.4)

Source: NAR

As mentioned earlier, high Joy Scores didn’t exactly match up with REALTORS® estimates for project ROI. The least expensive outdoor project—standard lawn care service—had the highest ROI at 217%, followed by—

  • Landscape maintenance (104%)
  • Overall landscape upgrade (100%) 
  • Outdoor kitchen (100%)

At the other end of that spectrum, the lowest ROI was for an in-ground pool (56%), which also had the highest Joy Score, followed by—

  • Fire feature (56%) 
  • Landscape lighting (59%)

REALTORS®, on the other hand, focused on projects with the highest financial ROI—the share of the project cost that the homeowner could recover by selling the property. The outdoor projects recommended by the highest shares of REALTORS®: 

  • Landscape maintenance (74%)
  • Standard lawn care service (53%)
  • Tree care (44%)

Source: NAR

The lowest shares of REALTORS® recommended the following projects: 

  • In-ground pool addition (1%)
  • Outdoor kitchen (1%)
  • Irrigation system installation (2%)

Landscape professionals saw the biggest increases in demand for these projects: 

  • Overall landscape upgrade (61%)
  • Landscape maintenance (58%) 
  • New patio (55%) 

They saw the smallest increase in demand for the following projects: 

  • New wood deck (15%)
  • In-ground pool addition (25%) 
  • Tree care (29%)

Demand for landscape professionals increased during the pandemic

During the pandemic, especially during lockdowns, homeowners were spending more time at home. Having an outdoor haven/escape became more important, especially for those living in homes where private solitary indoor spaces were not an option. 

The ROI goal for these projects was more emotional than financial. Homeowners were more likely to invest in projects that helped them find more joy in the outdoor spaces on their property. 

For some, it was more about self-care or couples therapy than boosting their property value. For others, it was a way to prepare for once again welcoming family and friends to their homes. 

The NAR/NALP showed the biggest increases in pandemic demand for in-ground pool additions, landscape maintenance, and a new patio—all up 17%. 

It showed the smallest increases in demand for the following: 

  • Irrigation system installation (2%)
  • Fire feature (8%) 
  • Landscape lighting (8%)

Top takeaways for real estate agents

Keep this report and its visuals handy when discussing with your seller clients home improvement projects they could undertake before listing their homes. If they’re set on selling, the focus should be on projects with the best financial ROI. 

Homeowners who aren’t sure about selling might still be interested in learning more about outdoor projects that could boost their home’s market value as well as their personal enjoyment of the outdoor spaces they own. 

Being a real estate professional means playing the long game. If you can help potential clients improve the financial and emotional value of their homes, they’re more likely to think of you if and when they decide they’re ready to sell.