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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 15, 201812:35 PM EST

Open-air living not restricted to new homes

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Adding outdoor living space appeals to homeowners, buyers of existing homes.
by: Andrew Warfield Staff Writer

Homeowners are finding creative outdoor living spaces are a welcomed addition to their lifestyles, a fact not lost on those who are shopping for their next home. 

Whether new construction or resale, the option of bringing the outdoors in — and the indoors out —  open-air living is having a positive affect on the real estate sales industry.

Homebuilders are designing the concept — or at least the option to include it — in many of their floor plans.

But homeowners with the opportunity to add open-air living space can enjoy it now and enhance resale later.

“I can tell you that outdoor living space can greatly increase the appeal and value of the home and also provide an area where people can relax and entertain friends and family, and that's something buyers are looking for,” said Realtor Kim Worbington, a member of the Christina Welch Team with Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside.

Worbington is a buyers’ representative who shows her clients both new construction and resales.

She has noticed homebuilders paying greater attention to outdoor living options and a growth in that feature in resales.

And her customers are paying attention.

“I think more people are thinking about how they live and areas of the home they would actually use and they don't want wasted space,” said Worbington.

“It's not anything new that homeowners are getting away from the formal living spaces and wanting more of the open concept, so when you can utilize your outdoor space and have that summer kitchen and fire pits with seating areas, you can take advantage of space that would normally go unused in your back yard. It is now seen as usable space you can take advantage of and not just something pretty to look at,” she said.

Remodeling contractors are benefiting from the trend as well as owners of existing homes are also wanting to capitalize on their underutilized outdoor space.

“From the design side, we have seen a lot of customers looking for a practical extension to the indoor living space,” said David Hacker, owner of Construction Specialties of Northeast Florida. “They are looking for outdoor spaces that are cost-effective, easy to maintain and have a practical application.”

Popular products, Hacker said, include secondary cooking accessories to complement the grill, including griddles, ceramic cookers, side burners and more. Outdoor cabinets made of materials to withstand the elements are on the increase and bar centers and ice chests are popular additions for families seeking to entertain.

“We have seen an increasing demand for linear outdoor fireplaces and gas fire pits in lieu of the traditional wood-burning pits,” Hacker said. “The typical finishes we see are a subtle contrast from the existing finish of the home. They still complement the existing home, but make the new features a focal point, which they should be. These are the fun additions to your back yard.”

Fun, said Jason Duggar, owner and lead designer of Scapes in Orange Park, because, depending upon topography, designing outdoor space without the encumbrance of walls provides virtually limitless options.

“The coolest thing is you can create whatever shape outdoor paver patio with multiple layers, add different textures like a cedar pergola, and uplighting,” said Duggar.

“Of course you have your fire pits and fireplace and built-in seating walls. A lot of people are going high-end on appliances for the outdoor kitchens. We have installed a Sub-Zero ice maker that makes specialty-shaped ice,” he said.

When adding open-air living, homeowners should always consider how it would impact resale. Like other improvements, there won’t always be a return on the investment depending upon the neighborhood’s prevailing price point. But if lifestyle trumps eventual resale, Worbington has encouraging words about marketability.

“I don't think it's necessarily on most people’s must-have list, but when you have outdoor living areas it becomes a huge selling point,” she said.

Either way, Duggar is happy to take advantage of the outdoor living trend.

“It’s cool to see how many people value outdoor living,” he said. “It keeps us in business.”

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