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7 common home sales tactics that can backfire

When you list your home for sale, there are a lot of tactics you can put to use for attracting homebuyers and negotiating a quick and stress-free outcome. Some, like improving curb appeal and staging your home to look its best are good. Others, however, can actually harm your chances of a successful sale. Over the years I’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t, and rounded up the top 7 tactics to avoid the next time you put your home on the market.

#1: Haggling over repairs

Often, after an offer has been accepted and the buyer receives their inspection report, they will send a list of requested repairs to the seller. Some repairs are legitimate, but often buyers will send you their own personal wish list that goes above and beyond simple safety or functional issues. While you may feel that some of their requests are unnecessary, don’t be too quick to reject them all. Run the numbers and you might see that the cost of doing a few of the repairs they ask for is worth it when it comes to keeping the buyer happy and moving the sale forward.

#2: Trying to create a bidding war

Bidding wars are a home sellers’ dream. There’s nothing wrong with potential buyers feeling a sense of competition that can drive the price up. But be careful because mishandling this situation can easily backfire and leave you, the seller, on the losing end. If you receive multiple offers at the same time, an experienced Realtor on your side who has navigated this type of situation before is priceless. Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for that can turn a bidding war into a veritable battleground:

  • Setting an offer deadline that is too far away. Trying to draw more people in can seem greedy, make buyers nervous, and even result in them withdrawing their offers and leaving you with nothing.
  • Keeping buyers in the dark about how you will handle the situation. Set clear offer and acceptance deadlines, and keep communications open.
  • Ignoring a strong offer in an attempt to force weaker ones to increase their numbers and join in the game. A bird in the hand… well, you know the rest.

#3: Inflexible closing dates

Buyer and seller moving dates seldom line up perfectly. Your buyer may want to move in on a certain date in order for their kids to be ready for their new school. But it’s a week too early for the new home you will be moving to. Instead of digging in your heels and refusing to budge you might need to rent a hotel, stay with a friend, or take a short impromptu vacation to ensure the sale goes through.

#4: Getting too attached to “things”

Unless specified up front as a condition of the sale, custom fixtures, lighting, etc. are considered a part of the sale. If sellers fall in love with a special feature of the home and you decide after the fact that you’d rather take it with you, think carefully about how stubborn you want to be. This can cause trouble at the negotiation table. Avoid the situation altogether by removing or storing precious items that aren’t a part of the sale, or be willing to negotiate a replacement to keep both parties happy.

#5: Not paying closing costs

You’re almost done and then out of the blue, the buyer asks you to pay the closing costs. Don’t be too quick to say no. An experienced Realtor knows that there are several ways to handle this, from adjusting the offer to agreeing to a 2-way split. Again, do the math, and it might be worth it to ensure a smooth closing.

#6: Bad pictures

Between the internet and social media, nearly all potential buyers start their home search online and make snap judgements based purely on the photos they see. Blurry photos, dark images, and bad angles can torpedo interest in your home instantly, keeping potential buyers from ever crossing your doorstep.

#7: Overpricing

By far, one of the biggest mistakes sellers make is to set their home price too high. Do this, and you risk buyers skimming past your listing and looking for ones that are more in line with comparable homes in the area. Plus, homes that are overpriced tend to stay on the market longer, which makes buyers suspicious that there is something wrong with it. Working with an experienced Realtor is an invaluable resource for deciding on a fair price that offers the best of both worlds to both buyer and seller. Price it correctly and you’ll get people through the door and give them a chance to fall in love with it.

If you liked these tips, be sure to check out our article “6 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Home,” for even more home-selling tips. And if you are interested in selling or buying a home in the Arlington, Virginia area, please give me a call at 703.593.6320. I’m here to help!

Home design predictions for 2018

Between floral prints, statement floors, and Pantone declaring Ultraviolet as the color of the year, 2018 is shaping up to be a big year for color when it comes to home design and décor. Whether you want a total makeover, or maybe just a few new twists to freshen up your home, I’ve rounded up a few trends and predictions that I know homeowners here in Arlington, Virginia might want to explore.

To make room for all that’s new, Trulia predicts the list of things that are “out” this year includes exposed lighting, granite countertops and bamboo flooring. Zillow added to that list as well, naming succulents, bar carts and all-white kitchens as trends that will be fading away.

Home décor trends to watch for in 2018 are an interesting mix of old-school design, (think floral prints and grandma’s wallpaper), and cutting-edge décor that’s social-media ready, including:

  • Bar cart redo. If you’re looking for something simple to update your home, don’t throw out your bar cart, just transition it to what’s in trend – coffee! Resurface your cart and restock it with all your coffee essentials for something that will be much more functional for daily use in your home.
  • Floral prints are showing up everywhere, but in home design you’ll see this especially in items such as statement chairs, draperies and throw pillows.
  • Statement floors. Classic hardwood floors get an update with lighter woods in different rooms, herringbone settings, or bold tile “rugs” inset into the floors that make a big statement.
  • Strong accent rugs fit perfectly with the trend of statement floors, especially in dining and family rooms, libraries, offices and dens. Bold colors and patterns, and even layered rugs have been catching eyes and making statements in homes for sale in Arlington already this year.
  • Light wood cabinets will be warming up all-white kitchens this year, particularly with flat fronts and clean lines.
  • Matte metal hardware goes great with light wood cabinets, plus it has a warmer feel that shiny gold or silver, so predictions are strong for matte hardware in 2018.
  • Wallpaper is back, but don’t worry, it’s not your grandma’s wallpaper. Contemporary patterns that fit every homeowner’s style are a great way to create a statement wall in a large room, or to turn smaller rooms, such as a guest bathroom, into a statement all its own.

Six mistakes to avoid when selling your house

When you put your house on the market it’s easy to find lots of advice for all the things you can do to increase your chances of a quick and lucrative sale. I find that often missing from those lists are a few things you should NOT do that can actually harm your home’s attractiveness to potential buyers. With more than 30 years of helping people buy and sell homes in the Arlington, Virginia area I’ve seen just about everything, so I rounded up these 6 common mistakes to help future home-sellers (and buyers) when it’s time to put their house on the market.

#1: Overpricing: Ask too much and your property won’t sell. Working with an experienced Realtor is an invaluable resource for deciding on a fair price that offers the best of both worlds to both buyer and seller. Comparing similar properties nearby and experience with the local area are both necessary parts of deciding on the right asking price.

#2 Getting in the Way: While you want to be helpful and able to answer questions quickly, there is such a thing as being too present, especially when potential buyers are touring the home. For open houses and scheduled showings, it’s best for you, your family and even your pets to vacate the home. Buyers need to feel at home, able to ask questions or make comments without worrying you’ll overhear them, and be comfortable imagining themselves as the new owners. If you stick around it creates an awkward situation that could cost you the sale. Let your Realtor handle showing the house, and enjoy a cup of coffee or a walk to the local park while they are there.

#3 Dirty, Cluttered Homes: A little mess never hurt anyone, but it can definitely harm the home-selling process. While your house is on the market make it a priority to keep it clean, neat and uncluttered. A dirty, messy, or even smelly home will leave a bad impression right from the start. If your home is cluttered with too much furniture, kid’s toys, or rampant tchotchke collections, it can make the home seem smaller and less welcoming.

#4 Too Much Empty Space: A totally empty home also puts some obstacles in your way to a quick sale. If you’ve already moved out, ask your agent to recommend a staging service that can turn those empty rooms into a warm, inviting space. Staging a house with furniture and decor gives buyers a better idea of the space and potential of each room, allowing them to picture themselves living there.

#5 Too Much Personality: When buyers tour your home for sale, you want them to be able to picture themselves living there. Family portraits, personal décor, and lots of personal items such as trophies and certificates everywhere you look can get in the way of that. Remove a good percentage of your personal décor throughout the home so that buyers can have an easier time imagining themselves living there.

#6 Choosing the Wrong Realtor: Choosing the right real estate professional is simply the most important decision you will make when selling your home. You want to work with someone who is experienced in the industry and the local community. An experienced Realtor will help you every step of the way from setting the asking price to advice on staging to getting the word out to prospective buyers in the best way possible. They will also be your voice in sharing the value of your home and highlighting key attributes that make it more likely to attract offers that will benefit your bottom line.

While this list is full of tips for what NOT to do, I hope you can also see between the lines for what CAN be done to support a great home selling experience. If you are interested in selling or buying a home in the Arlington, Virginia area please give me a call. I’m here to help!

How to give outdated built-ins new life

While 80’s-era big hair and Miami Vice fashions have come and gone, one thing from that decade still lives on in many homes – oversize built-ins. Once valued as an element of luxury and superior design, these combination bookshelves and cabinetry are still often found in everything from kitchens to living rooms to grand master suites. Unfortunately, all that 80’s glamour tends to give homes a dated look. Homeowners aren’t sure what to do with them, and potential buyers are not impressed, moving on to the next house for sale.

All that’s needed, however, are a few simple alterations and some fresh new thinking to transform built-ins into an attractive and functional feature. Thanks to the design minds prevalent on places like Pinterest and Houzz, you can find any number of ideas to fit your design style, function of the room, and all that the modern world demands.

Here’s a round-up of ideas I’ve seen in homes here in the Arlington, Virginia area that fit every type of home and family. I hope one of them stands out for you.

>> Simplify: Fancy molding and overly detailed scrolls and curlicues are just too much. Remove all those elaborations and get down to the foundation of your built-ins. You’ll probably find classic woods that can be stained or painted to create a simple, classic, streamlined look that will complement any style.

>> Paint, stain or paper: A coat of paint, a new shade of stain, or even some creative paper wallpaper inserts can instantly, and inexpensively, transform built-ins. Try colors that match your rugs, furniture or even art in the room to make the built-in seem like a recent addition. And put some pizzazz in your built-in by papering the back of cubbies with patterned wallpapers.

>> Transform doors and drawers:  Update your built-in by adding new hardware. Change the look by replacing solid doors with see-through glass, or even just removing them entirely.

>> Use creative lighting: Add light fixtures to highlight displays in your built-in and add ambiance for the room. If outlets are a problem, there are other options such as battery-powered LED lights that are inexpensive and long-lasting.

>> Go undercover: Have some fun and create a secret space for fun or functional activities. Re-arrange shelving and have special doors installed that can cover and close off the built-in until you want to use it. Inside you can create anything from a gaming or entertainment center to home office, art or crafting space for special activities you want to keep all to yourself.

10 design trends that make a home look dated

When trying to sell a home, the power of first impressions cannot be overlooked. Prospective buyers can make snap judgements based on what they see, often making up their mind before they see the full property. One thing that can hurt a home’s first impression factor is outdated décor. What looked great 10 or 20 years ago may not translate to buyer’s design sensibilities today. When it comes to avoiding bad first impressions, here are ten trends that have run their course.

  1. Wall to wall carpeting in main living areas. While carpet is fine in smaller rooms, hardwood floors in larger rooms give homeowners the ability to use artfully placed rugs that coordinate with their furnishings and display their personal style.
  2. “Greige” everywhere (grey + beige): What was once at the height of fashion for paint colors in kitchens, bathrooms, and pretty much throughout the home is now falling from grace. Designers are predicting a transition from the popular gray color palettes of the last few years to warmer mochas and taupes in 2018.
  3. Chevron patterns. A trend you saw everywhere from carpets to wallpaper to art and accessories, chevrons had their moment – and that moment has passed. Choose instead to use classic patterns in rich colors and materials and you’ll be fine.
  4. Mirrored dressers. A few years ago you couldn’t turn the page of a home style magazine without seeing at least one piece of furniture covered in mirrors. From dressers to nightstands to entryways and living rooms, you’re guaranteed to see your reflection somewhere. But the trend has faded, and homeowners (probably sick of cleaning fingerprints daily) are calling it quits on mirrored pieces.
  5. Whirlpool tubs in the master bath. Sumptuous spa-like showers with natural materials and luxe hardware are more in line with today’s trends while whirlpool baths are more often used for holding potted plants than providing the amenities today’s buyers is looking for.
  6. Mid-century modern. For a while, this vintage decor trend was so popular it seemed almost standard. But “Mad Men” has been off the air for two years now and designers are saying it’s time to let it go and move on.
  7. Featured in almost every episode of HGTV’s mega-popular Fixer Upper, shiplap graduated from the shed to the home and has been the darling of home décor for the last few years, much like Joanna Gaines. Quirky and quaint only works for some people, though, and shiplap’s glory is fading as classic materials make their way back. If you love farmhouse style, shiplap is fine. But it just doesn’t work in Tudors or Colonials, of which we have a lot here in Arlington, VA.
  8. Sliding barn doors. Again, if you love farmhouse style, then go for it. But sliding barn doors in Tudor, Colonial or Victorian homes don’t really work, and potential buyers will just see something that they need to replace.
  9. All white kitchens. White on white on white is just too much. All-white kitchens have been the go-to design choice for homeowners and design professionals for many years now. But the ultra-white palette that became almost standard for the past decade is evolving to meet the preferences and needs of new generations seeking color, contrast, and lots more pizzazz in the heart of their homes. If you’ve got an all-white kitchen, the good news is that it’s easy to update it for universal appeal. Read this article for ideas that add color, warmth and interest to all-white kitchens with ease.
  10. Man caves. Homeowners still value getaways, but design trends are moving away from the classic man cave to spaces designed for more universal appeal. Think less sports bar and more luxury living spaces where anyone can relax and indulge their love for everything from arts and crafts to spa-like yoga studios or peaceful places to just sit quietly or binge watch Netflix without interruption.

Advice from experienced home buyers

In today’s market, it’s highly unlikely that the first home you buy will be your permanent home. Statistics show that the average American will move more than 11 times during their life. No matter how many times you move, though, you deserve to enjoy your space. Which means you need to be a smart home buyer. Yes, you need to understand things like mortgage rates, area comps and local schools. But experienced home buyers know that there are a lot of “little” things that make a big difference when it comes to choosing a home that’s just right for you. So when you’re making your lists and getting ready to start your next house hunt, be sure to consider the following:

1) Buy the space you need – not want

Lots of square footage can dazzle first-time homebuyers. But all that extra space can also mean more money and work down the road for everything from the purchase price and property taxes to furniture and maintenance. Before you start looking for a home, decide how much space you really need. You should only buy as much home as you need and only spend as much as you’re comfortable with.

2) Scope out the neighborhood and street – a lot!

One thing you can’t change about a house is its location, so take the time to make sure you investigate beyond its borders. After all, you’re not just buying a house, you’re buying the neighborhood. Visit the home during different times of day to see how busy street traffic is. Turn off your car and listen to noise levels from homes and nearby parks, schools, businesses or even neighbors. After all, no matter how much you love your home, if there’s a weird sewage smell every morning or the next door neighbor has a garage band that practices late at night, your pleasure will wear off fast.

3) Always get a home inspection                                                 

Unless you are planning on buying a teardown, we strongly recommend this step, and find that experienced home buyers insist on them. For single family homes and townhomes, having a professional survey done of the property, even if not required by the lender, is always a good idea.

4) Expect the unexpected

When you buy your first home, it might come as a shock all the “extras” that pop up. Things you might not have anticipated, like larger utility bills, home repairs, or landscaping fees. There are also things like additional furniture to fit the space, new flowers for your front lawn, rewiring for a home office, etc. All of these can add up so it’s a good idea to set aside extra funds to account for the unexpected.

5) Know your non-negotiables and stick to them

Before you start seriously shopping, consider your lifestyle and what you really need (not want) to create a home you love living in. Make a list of non-negotiables including things like number of bedrooms or bathrooms, location, and amenities to help guide both you and your Realtor during your search. If you must have a garden, check out sun, shade and soil factors. If you work from home, check on cell and wifi reception or HOA restrictions before making the commitment. If you must have gluten-free, organic foods, check for stores nearby that can provide what you need. And for pets who need space to run, make sure they will have the space and the security to make you both happy.

6) Drive your commutes

Map out routes to and from everyday commutes such as for home, work, school, grocery, and gas. If you’re able to, try the drive during the actual hours you would be commuting. A house that is “just a few miles” off the beaten track may seem idyllic, but if it adds an extra 30 minutes to your daily commute you’ll need to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

7) Use professional movers

Bribing your old college buddies with tacos and beer to help with moving into your first condo may have worked out well, but it doesn’t cut it for moving a family and everything that comes with it. Moving can be a stressful time without having to worry about if your precious belongings will arrive safely. Choosing the right moving company is an essential part of making sure your possessions are in the right hands. When you’re ready to choose a moving company, use this checklist to ensure a good experience.

8) Use an experienced Realtor who knows the area and the market

Your Realtor can make or break your home buying experience. If you know where you want to live, choose a Realtor lives and works in the area you want, and has built up a reputation for exceptional service and results. Ask for referrals, check Realtor websites, read testimonials, meet them in person to hear what they have to say, then make an informed decision. Experience counts. Passion for the area is a must. And a commitment to your satisfaction should be on your non-negotiable list.

If you’re ready to buy, sell, or learn more about the real estate market in the Arlington and surrounding Northern Virginia area, I invite you to give me a call at 703-593-6320. (Email’s good too at mike@mikesellsvirginia.com).

7 strategies for choosing a home inspector

An important step in the home-buying process is choosing a home inspector, something that you don’t want to leave in the hands of Google. While I leave the choice up to my clients, I do provide them a list of several in the area they can contact, along with the following information to help them “inspect their inspector” and make the right choice.

  1. Do your research: Start by asking family, friends, and trusted colleagues in the area for recommendations if they’ve recently purchased homes and had a good experience with their own home inspector. Your Realtor should also be able to provide you with a list of several options you can check out. You can also look for credentials from respected national organizations such as the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
  2. Ask what they check – and what they don’t. Home inspectors generally look at everything from the roof to the foundation and in between. But they are restricted to general visual inspections. Still, it’s important to know what they will and will not inspect. For example, your inspector will most likely check things such as water heaters, the furnace and electrical boxes. But they won’t check things that can’t be seen on the surface such as electrical writing inside the walls, or potential mold under the bathroom floor. If they see warning signs of potential problems they are unable to pursue, however, they will often recommend that you follow up with an expert such as a roofer, HVAC installer, electrician, etc. Having a clear understanding of what the inspector can and can’t do will ensure that you walk away from the inspection happy.
  3. Inquire if the inspector will do all of the inspections personally, or if they hire a third party to do the work? Know who will actually show up so you can check their qualifications beforehand.
  4. Ask up front what they charge. Typical rates here in the Arlington, Virginia area range between $300 to $600 depending on the size and type of house.
  5. Experience counts. Inquire how many inspections they’ve done, for how long, and if they are familiar with specific types of homes or issues your property might have. For instance, historic homes might have unusual features that new inspectors are not familiar with.
  6. Request a sample report be sent to you ahead of time. If this is your first home purchasing experience, or you want better insight into the services this person will be providing, seeing a sample of their work will demonstrate the type and depth of information you’ll be receiving, and allowing you to ask questions ahead of time.
  7. Last, but not least, be sure you can attend the inspection. If you are there during the process, your home inspector will be able to explain the home’s systems, how they work, point out any issues they see, and provide clarifications if needed. Don’t hire someone who won’t allow you to be there during the inspection, this is a definite red flag.

Why open floor plans are losing popularity

After decades of popularity, open floor plans have proven themselves to be more than just a fad. But as homeowners seek their own sanctuaries of solitude to escape from an increasingly noisy world, alternate home and living styles are quickly gaining ground in home design.

Traditionally, homes built prior to the 1990s were designed with lots of separate rooms in mind. But fast forward a couple decades, and spacious homes with fewer walls are more popular than ever. Open floor plans, where walls are removed from the main living space, kitchen and dining room to open them all up to each other, have become the go-to style for family homes. Think of just about every episode of HGTV’s Fixer Upper and you can hear them saying, “All we need to do is take out these walls and open up the space.”

However, just because open floor plans are popular, doesn’t mean they are for everyone. There are pros and cons to both ways of living, and deciding on what’s right comes down to each family and their specific needs.

One of the pros for an open floor plans is the ability to socialize, or keep an eye on, other people in nearby spaces. Parties and guests can be seen and heard easily, and mothers cooking in the kitchen can keep an eye on children doing homework in the living area. Homeowners who desire lots of light and a generally more spacious feel are also drawn to open floor plans.

For people who value their privacy, and crave moments of peace, quiet and solitude, however, a home designed with separate rooms will have much more appeal. Sometimes it’s nice to sit and read a book without distractions. Or escape from the noise of shoot-em-up action films or SpongeBob cartoons for a bit.

Modern aesthetics and the digital world we live in are also changing people’s attitudes toward open floor plans. People no longer want or need giant flat-screen TVs as the focal point of their living space, with teens streaming to their own devices, and parents escaping to their own spaces as well.

Separate spaces provide the function and privacy needed to deal with different needs of today’s family. Parents who work from home need a distraction-free zone that supports focus and productivity. Children need play spaces where they can make a mess, and parents love that separate zone so they don’t have to worry about people seeing the mess. Teens, well, we all know teens crave their privacy. And at the end of the day, Dad’s love their man caves and Mom’s love their mom caves.

When it comes to home design, open areas still have value for bringing everyone all together. But to best meet the needs of today’s homeowners, construction and design trends are slowly turning away from exclusively open spaces to creating the right mix of open space and separate zones that fit each family best.

4 ideas for boosting the value of your basement

Basements can be a gold mine when it comes to optimizing the space – and value – of your home. In fact, did you know that basement remodels typically recoup about 70 percent of their costs at resale, adding tremendous value to your home? Forget about stuffy storage space, cobwebs, and spooky dark corners. We’ve gathered five ideas for fixing up basements to create fun, useful, and attractive spaces that will prove a welcome addition to your home.

#1: In-Home Theater

Basements tend to be dark, so leverage that low lighting to create a home theater perfect for movies, gaming, or even watching old home movies with the grandparents. Creating a home theater isn’t as complicated as it sounds, or as costly. A large television with a wall mount, surround sound speakers, and comfortable seating can be purchased and set for much less than a full basement remodel, which can average between $35,000 and $50,000.

#2: Children’s Play Area

Dark and scary? Not when you get through with it. Your basement can become a kid paradise with just a few creative DIY projects. First, make sure the entrance (usually stairs) is safe for children. That’s a must. Next, have a professional contractor or home inspector make sure that the basement is safe. You’ll want to check for mold, make sure supporting walls or beams are secure, etc. Finally, have fun! Install carpet or rubber mat type flooring so kids can get comfy on the floor. Use bright and light paint colors and install good lighting to keep the shadows away. Set up toy areas, gaming areas and crafting areas. Be sure to let kids have a say in what they want, as this space is for them. And if they balk at first, remind them that the kids in Stranger Things spent most of their fun time in the basement, so it’s got to be cool.

#3: Adult Happy Hour and Entertaining

No kids in the house to cater too? Great! That means you get to use the basement to create a grown-up paradise perfect for entertaining. If you love wine, it’s the perfect place to install a wine cellar. Then go the extra mile and create a beautiful bar and lounge worthy of cocktail hour. Basements that have a walk-out entrance to a patio can be ideal for entertaining, giving guests a choice as the party flows both inside and out. Consider putting in a tile for easy cleaning and to give it a finished look, then scatter indoor/outdoor rugs around to soften the look. Finally, make sure the space is finished off with attractive lighting, art, and even mirrors placed throughout to brighten the space and entertain guests.

#4: Home Office / Craft Room / Photography and Art Studio

If you have a home business, hobby, or just love to get super crafty in your spare time a basement is perfect for each of these, or even all three at once! Installing permanent walls requires permits, inspections, tax assessments and the cost of hiring professionals to do the job, so save money and stress by creating your own room dividers using palettes, screens or room dividers. (Check out Pinterest for lots of great ideas). With the right lighting, furniture and lots of space to play with you can create several areas that cater to your passions without taking up valuable space in the living areas upstairs.

How to dress up your deck and turn your patio into a paradise

If you love the inside of your home, but feeling kind of “meh” about the outside, consider sprucing up unused patio or deck areas to create spaces that add pizzazz to your property while also boosting the value of your home. Outdoor rooms are a great way to increase the feel of your home’s square footage as you let what you love to do inside spill over into adjacent spaces outside. If you love the ideas, but are unsure how to get started, we’ve rounded up a few tips to help you get started.

First, define your space.

Choose a space that is easy to access, either right out the door or within very close distance to the home. Now define the area by deciding what activities will take place in it. When you picture yourself in the new space, do you see it as a place to relax with cocktails surrounded by luxurious seating with a crackling fire as the center focus? Or maybe you see yourself cooking dinners al fresco, tending container gardens, or painting on an easel in the fresh air. The best way to define an outdoor room is by the activity that will take place in it.

Next, define your style.

An outdoor room should be functional, but it also needs to be attractive, interesting, and a pleasure to be in or you’ll never use it. Once you’ve defined what the space will be used for, think about the style of décor you’d like to follow whether it be Tuscan farmhouse, Napa vineyard, or your own personal mix of style.

Finally, decorate.

No matter what you’ve decided to do with your patio or deck, there are a few classic design elements you can incorporate to punch up the wow factor. Water, for instance. The sound of water can set the scene for anything from a fun BBQ with the kids to a dinner party under the stars. You don’t have to bust your budget on having a waterfall installed, though, as even a simple birdbath or tinkling tabletop fountain can do the trick.

Every room inside has a floor, so outdoor rooms need them too. This element of your hardscape is worth thinking about as well. You can use flagstones, tile, brick, or concrete stamped or stained to look like just about anything. Another hardscape idea is to install a fireplace or fire pit in your outdoor room. They give your outdoor space a nice place to gather round, and can extend the practicality of spending more time outdoors by several months.

Whether you are transforming a spacious deck or a tiny patio, creating outdoor rooms that fit your lifestyle are a great way to ensure you’ll enjoy your home just that much more.