Make the Most of Fall: Outdoors at Home
By Kathy Knotts
Welcome to the annual CBM Bay Weekly Fall Fix-Up issue. This year we have decided to turn our sights on our great outdoor spaces and how you can make the most of them. We have all been spending more time outside—and at home. Now’s the time to plan for using that same space in the cooler months. For some, that means exploring using your home’s outdoor spaces in new and creative ways—adding an outdoor kitchen or a new deck. For others, it’s time to discover what your new home has to offer you in year-round function and leisure. It’s been a busy time for real estate—some of you may be ready to sell your home, and a fall fix-up could be the difference-maker in gaining an edge with potential buyers.
Maryland’s September 2021 housing market witnessed a slight dip in units sold, down 4.4 percent from last year. Despite the dip, the average price rose 6.1 percent to $428,342, compared to $403,528 last year, while the media sales price rose 8.2 percent.
“While months of inventory is not where it was last year—1.2 today versus 1.8 last year—it’s still an improvement compared to last month, August 2021, when it stood at 1.1,” said Craig Wolf, 2022 president of Maryland Realtors. “Prices remain healthy, and inventory is slowly creeping back into the pipeline.”
One concern facing the housing market is the threat of inflation. Although the majority of experts believe inflation will level off, according to Bankrate more than a third of the nation’s economists expect inflation to be more significant than previously thought.
“Housing prices tend to rise with inflation if demand increases as investors turn to real estate as a safe investment,” said Wolf. “The concern we always have as an association of more than 30,000 Realtors is how this might affect first-time home buyers as they shop for their first home. Housing affordability remains an issue in this market. On the other hand, if inflation sticks around, it could cool the market as rising rates price some buyers out of the market.”
Planning on hopping on the hot market before it cools down? Local real estate professionals have some suggestions on impressing potential buyers with specific improvements.
Mike Dunn of Schwartz Realty says screened porches and verandas are worthwhile additions. “Outdoor patios and decks are always in demand,” says Dunn. “And outdoor custom grills and fire pits are also very popular items.”
In our annual Fall Fix-Up issue, CBM Bay Weekly presents you with ideas to spark your imagination and resources to make your outdoor spaces the envy of your neighbors. Whether you are looking to buy, sell or simply enjoy your home through the cooler season now is the time to put your plan in action.
Dream Homes to Inspire Your Projects
By Family Features
Who doesn’t love to drool over the HGTV dream home each year, with all of its top-of-the-line features and gorgeous upgrades? We’re showing you some award-winning outdoor spaces so you can do a little dreaming, too.
These 2021 National Association of the Remodeling Industry National Contractor of the Year Award Winners showcase a variety of ideas for upgrading your outdoor spaces. Find the complete list at nari.org/cotywinners. And feast your eyes on these.
Residential Landscape Design/Outdoor Living Under $100,000 (top photo)
The clients wanted to upgrade a poorly draining, impractical backyard into an attractive, functional outdoor entertainment space that flowed from the renovated basement. The project included an outdoor area for entertaining, outdoor kitchen, spacious patio with a custom concrete fire pit, oversized ceiling fans, ample storage and landscaping complete with native plants around the perimeter.
“By working on this project, we learned how important it is to take a holistic look at what clients are trying to accomplish with their renovations,” said Thomas Boyce, president of Boyce Design & Contracting. “Often with outdoor living projects, designers and contractors look at the exterior of the home in isolation. We learned to look at how the interior and exterior of the home connect to each other to make sure the features and floor plan flow and work well together. By taking this approach, we were able to achieve a better finished product that is more functional and attractive for our clients.”
Residential Landscape Design/Outdoor Living $100,000-$250,000
A young, active family was looking to create a distinct outdoor living space with multiple entertainment spaces that tied in with the existing aesthetic and elevated the home amongst its neighbors. The low-maintenance backyard now features an outdoor dining area, sunken living room, entertainment area and additional storage space built with the home’s current architectural features while also maintaining a large enough yard for the kids and their friends to play.
“The aesthetic of the outdoor areas was designed not only for function but also to reflect the interiors and keep the inside-outside living feeling continuous,” said Tim Johnson, owner and founder of Livit Site + Structure. “For example, the shiplap used on the fire table is the same shiplap featured inside the home. Likewise, the Douglas fir timbers used on the pergola are the same as the interior ceiling beams.”
Residential Landscape Design/Outdoor Living Over $250,000
A 4,000-square-foot project built at four different elevations, the goals of this project included a safe way to move from the upper level to the backyard without coming through the house, a structure for shade and protection from mosquitoes and a pool with features that reflected the home. Adding a covered screen room with individually controlled wall panels, see-through fireplace, fountain, pool with sheer descent waterfalls, recycled rock walls and staircase from the upper elevation while enclosing it all within a stone wall met those expectations.
“A sound piece of advice for anyone building anything in the backyard: get a plan,” said Ken DePratt, owner of KD Poolscapes, Ltd. “Have it match your expectations list. Then, and only then, will you know if it matches your budget. We would recommend doing your research when taking on a pool project of any size. It’s hard to push that hole around once it’s dug.”
Calling All Backyarders: Fall is Your Time
By The TurfMutt Foundation
Backyarding, the trend to move many indoor activities, outdoors, is now a permanent way of life. During the pandemic, learning to work, entertain, vacation, exercise and relax in one’s own backyard, became a necessity—and people are learning it’s often a better way to live.
According to the TurfMutt Foundation, identifying your backyarding personality type is an important first step in creating a backyard that supports your family’s needs and desires.
“Fall, in particular, is a critical season for your backyard,” says Kris Kiser, president of the TurfMutt Foundation. “The work you put into your yard now will reap benefits all year long. Work your landscape and your landscape will work for you,” Kiser quips.
Two backyarding personality types in particular—the Expert Landscaper and the Work from Home Pro—can really shine this fall. Here’s why.
Expert Landscaper: This personality type knows that yard work done in the fall provides a double benefit because what you do in autumn to maintain your yard sets the stage for its health and vibrancy come spring. Fall yard chores—removing leaves, pruning trees, and cleaning out flower beds and garden plots—are par for the course.
Work From Home Pro: As a work from home professional, you have been living for fall when the temperatures are perfect for taking your office outside. All you need is a strong Wi-Fi connection, your nicest leisure wear, a jacket for chilly morning meetings, and you’re ready for work in your backyard. Nature is your video call backdrop, and you have set up your outdoor office for success by using shrubs and patio planters to distinguish your outdoor office space from other backyard activity zones.
No matter your backyarding personality type, you can have a fabulous family yard this fall and beyond with these simple steps:
Remove leaves: Mulching leaves rather than raking and bagging them is good for your lawn and the environment. As shredded leaves decompose they feed your lawn, naturally.
Mow at the right height: Cut grass until the first hard frost. Find the just-right length for your species (typically between 2-3 inches) to keep your grass healthy when it turns cold. Overseed grass, and don’t forget to aerate the lawn in fall to prevent soil from becoming compacted and covered with thatch – a thick layer of roots, stems and debris that blocks water, oxygen, and nutrients from reaching the soil.
Water wisely: If you’re not getting at least an inch of water each week, keep watering throughout the fall. Install watering solutions, such as smart controllers on irrigation systems, to conserve water.
Plant bulbs and flowering shrubs that will give blooms in spring and summer to feed our pollinators, like birds, bees and butterflies, as well as provide beauty for those natural, video conference backdrops.
Plant a tree for shade or cover. It may take a few years to grow to shade-producing height, but it’s an investment in your outdoor space.
Identify the ideal time to prune specific tree and shrub species, and do so accordingly. Depending on what is in your yard, fall may be the perfect time.
Consider putting in decking or a hardscape to create an area to set up a desk or table. Make sure adequate electricity is available to power those laptops and other devices.
Learn more about backyarding and creating the yard of your dreams at TurfMutt.com.
Illuminating Ideas for Hanging String Lights in Your Backyard
So, you’ve created the backyard of your dreams and love everything about it— except that seeing your surroundings can sometimes be a challenge once the sun’s gone down. As the days grow shorter and we head into fall, it’s one of the best times of year to enhance your backyard life at night.
While hiring someone to install outdoor lighting can be really expensive and involved, patio string lights are a simple, cost-effective solution. Best of all, you can create a look that reflects your style using any number of patterns.
In a recent episode of the “Done-In-A-Weekend Projects” online video series, called “Light Up Your Life,” expert landscape designer Doug Scott demonstrated how to hang string lights, as well as discussed what to consider before, and while, doing so. Here are his steps for adding fun, personality and light to your outdoor living and dining spaces:
1. First determine how long your string lights need to be and how many strands you’ll need. The only other materials you’ll need for this project are appropriate, outdoor-grade hardware (such as cup hooks or a similar fastener) and possibly an extension cord.
2. Next you’ll want to sketch your design to make sure you capture what you’re going for and second, to ensure you’re purchasing the correct number and lengths of lights and hooks. For a more relaxed look, you may want a crisscross or free-form pattern. For a more uniform look, you can simply hang lights across the center or around the perimeter of the space.
“Regardless, just make sure your design represents you and how you want to live outside,” says Scott.
3. When measuring your lights, be sure to add a few feet on each pass to allow for slack. One other thing you’ll want to consider is whether you’ll be able to make light connections in discreet places, ideally where they connect to the wall, post or tree.
“Having a connection in the middle of a swag won’t be the end of the world, but you’ll want to minimize this as much as possible,” says Scott.
4. Install your hooks according to your plan. Then, hang your lights with the bulbs removed to decrease your chances of breaking them. You’ll also want to make sure that your first strand reaches an outlet, or you have an extension cord that will. Once you’re satisfied with your general look, install one bulb in each strand to test that everything is working properly. If all is good, install the rest of the bulbs, light them up, then kick back and enjoy.
Need some inspiration to get started? A free downloadable guide from Exmark, which provides helpful illustrations and brief descriptions of five commonly used string light patterns, can be found by visiting Exmark’s Backyard Life at Exmark.com/backyard. There you can also access other original video series, including “Prime Cuts” and “Dream Yards,” to help you make the most of your backyard.
With a few supplies and a little creativity, brightening your backyard and enhancing your backyard life at night can be a simple DIY project.