Homebuyers aren't just clamoring for the upgraded kitchen and bathroom amenities when they look at and ultimately buy a new house. Climbing up the priority list is the outdoor room.
Indeed, nearly 60 percent of the 1.8 million new homes built last year have a patio, porch or deck, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. In addition, outdoor hearth products were sold in record numbers for the second straight year.
An independent 2003 survey of gas grill owners with household incomes of $75,000, or more, revealed that half have an outdoor room.
And what makes up an outdoor room? A good barbecue grill, a dining table and chairs, lighting for night, a patio umbrella for shade and a portable heater, chiminea or fireplace.
Outdoor rooms with just the basics can cost as little as $2,500, the HPBA says. An extreme outdoor room can cost up to $100,000 or more if homeowners want high-end landscaping, an in-ground pool, and a premium built-in grill housed in an exotic island, then the price tag will rise.
The National Association of Home Builders, in a consumer preferences survey released last year, found that outdoor features are very important for buyers in all price ranges.
Buyers in the $250,000 to $500,000 and the $500,000 to $1 million ranges both said rear decks, patios, exterior lighting, and a lot with trees were "must haves."
A screened rear porch is preferred by both groups; a fenced yard was strongly preferred. And when it comes to lawn sprinklers, the group in the lower price bracket "strongly preferred" while the upper group considered them a "must have."
Many say outdoor spaces promote family unity.
"If well-designed, outdoor living areas can greatly expand the usable square footage of a home," said Anne Olson, owner of Olson Architecture in Niwot, Colorado, in a March 20 Chicago Tribune article.
In the same article, Mary Cook, a Chicago interior decorator who spoke at the International Builders Show, said outdoor rooms are increasingly popular.
"Outdoor grilling is a big trend, even in colder climates. A built-in gas grill can be located just outside the kitchen to allow for year-round grilling."
Meanwhile, the HPBA says the facts don't lie -- consumers are spending money outdoors:
- Consumers spent $3.2 billion on new outdoor furniture last year.
- Some $40 billion was spent on landscaping and garden upgrades.
- One-third of the $200 billion spent on home remodeling last year was for outdoor amenities.
- Many new outdoor rooms come with elaborate kitchen components, like cabinets and storage areas, countertops and cooking islands, refrigerators, sinks and running water, electrical outlets and lighting.
- Almost 70 percent of gas grill owners cook out throughout the year an average of one to two times a week. Chimineas, portable heaters and firepits help make it comfortable outside in the colder weather.
- In the survey of gas grill owners, half of those with outdoor rooms have a stereo system, 10 percent have TVs, 28 percent have swimming pools and 18 percent a hot tub or spa.
- Mosquito eliminators are also gaining in popularity -- another sign that outdoor comfort is key.