Mouth-Watering Outdoor Kitchens

What they typically cost, and tips for getting the most return on your investment.

Outdoor kitchen on home backyard deck
Image: Aniko Levai of Place of My Taste

Building an outdoor kitchen is more than an indulgence: These backyard beauties can improve your home’s value. Outdoor kitchens typically get a 71% return on investment, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS® — and that’s on top of your own outdoor-cooking joy.

The investment can be a little — or a lot. These five outdoor kitchen ideas fit a range of budgets and homes.

#1 A Tiny Outdoor Kitchen for Limited Spaces

Small outdoor entertaining area with grill and oven
Image: Field-Issue

If you boil down an outdoor kitchen to the basics, what more do you need than a grill, a little oven, cupboard space, and a cozy place to sit? This setup does it all efficiently, for as little as a few hundred dollars if you already have outdoor electricity. An electrician will add to the cost.

Concrete outdoor kitchen with sink and wood-burning oven
Image: WWOO Concrete Outdoor Kitchens

Modular kits, like this one from WWOO (starting around $1,500), can be customized to suit your backyard. Some companies even offer design help for additional cost.

The galley-inspired layout here also does double duty by adding privacy. (Keep in mind the cool outdoor sink requires additional plumbing, which will increase the cost.)

#3 An Outdoor Kitchen Made of Concrete & Steel

White concrete and stainless steal outdoor kitchen
Image: Mrs. Rackley

DIY-savvy homeowners used concrete and cement board to create this L-shaped outdoor kitchen that mimics today’s indoor layouts. Guests relax at the counter while the host flips burgers — it’s open-concept living in the great wide-open.

No, this isn’t DIY 101, but if you’ve got the skill set you can do it for the cost of materials — and concrete is cheap. If you hire a pro, though, the typical cost is about $14,000 for a kitchen that includes an inset grill, steel drawers, ice chest, sink, and concrete countertop, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report.”

#4 An Outdoor Kitchen With Personal Style

Wooden outdoor kitchen with grill, mini fridge, and table
Image: Custom outdoor products by Rustic WoodWorx, LLC

Your outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. But it should match your home’s style if you want to get a return on your investment. This DIY kitchen fits the home’s rustic style and comes with enough storage any indoor cook would envy.

#5 An Outdoor Kitchen That Says “Sit a Spell”

Outdoor dining area with yellow umbrella over table
Image: Aniko Levai of Place of My Taste

Your outdoor kitchen can play the same role in your yard that your kitchen inside does: as the heartbeat of every gathering where guests will want to stay awhile. And bonus: The added deck and pergola could also kick up your home value a couple of notches.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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NAR: Home Prices Post More Gains in Second Quarter

August 7, 2019

Home prices in the second quarter continued to rise in the majority of housing markets across the country. Ninety-one percent of 178 metros tracked saw home price gains in the second quarter, according to the latest report from the National Association of REALTORS®, released Wednesday.

The national median existing single-family home price was $279,600 in the second quarter, up 4.3% from a year ago. Ninety-three of the 178 metros tracked saw price growth of 5% or more. Ten metro areas posted double-digit increases, mostly in more modestly priced markets like Boise City-Nampa, Idaho; Abilene, Texas; Columbia, Mo.; Burlington-South Burlington, Vt.; and Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J.

Tight inventory conditions, particularly at lower price points, are prompting home prices to accelerate in several markets, notes Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

“Housing unaffordability will hinder sales irrespective of the local job market conditions,” Yun says. “This is evident in the very expensive markets as home prices are either topping off or slightly falling.”

Home Sales Should Improve But …

In high-priced metro areas where the median home prices were $500,000 and higher, the single-family median prices fell when compared to a year ago, according to NAR. For example, the most costly area, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., posted a 5.3% drop. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., saw a 1.9% decrease in prices.

Yun says home sales should be higher, but he is cautioning that greater economic uncertainty could hinder business.

“The exceptionally low mortgage rates will help with housing affordability over the short run,” Yun says. “But if the low interest rates are due to weakening economic confidence, as reflected from a correction in the stock market, then the low rates will not help with job growth and will eventually hinder home buying and home construction.”

Housing affordability is declining, despite recent progress in wages, NAR’s report notes. National family median incomes rose to $78,366 in the second quarter. However, greater home price growth contributed to an overall decrease in affordability compared to the last quarter. For instance, a home buyer making a 5% down payment would need an income of $62,192 to purchase a single-family home at the national median price, while a 10% down payment would require an income of $58,918, and $52,372 would be required for a 20% down payment.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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What the Fed’s Rate Cut Means for Buyers

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday cut interest rates for the first time since the Great Recession took hold in 2008, though the move is not likely to deliver significant juice to an already favorable borrowing environment for home buyers. The federal funds rate, which is what banks charge one another for short-term borrowing, will now hover between 2% and 2.25%, according to news reports.

The Fed says its decision to lower interest rates, which comes after months of pressure from President Donald Trump, is designed to stave off the threat of an economic downturn. But it’s unlikely to translate into additional mortgage savings for many buyers. With the interest rate for a 30-year loan already hovering below 4%, the Fed’s move may be more meaningful for buyers with other types of financing, says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®. “Many borrowers will benefit, especially those with adjustable-rate mortgages and commercial real estate loans,” Yun says. “The longer-term 30-year fixed-rate mortgages will see little change in the near future because they had already declined in anticipation of this latest move by the Fed.

“These low interest rates will partly help with housing affordability over the short-term. Both rents and home prices have been consistently outpacing income growth. The only way to mitigate housing-cost challenges as a long-term solution is to bring more supply of both multifamily and single-family homes to the market,” adds Yun.

Still, lower borrowing costs are helping buyers manage rising home prices. For example, buyers who spend $1,500 on monthly mortgage payments can afford to purchase a $402,500 home this year compared to $367,500 last year, when mortgage rates averaged 4.57%, according to realtor.com®. “Last year, buyers would have needed an additional $145 a month on top of the $1,500 to afford a $402,500 home,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist.M

In some locales, buyers’ money can stretch even further. “An extra $35,000 in purchasing power, depending on where you are in the country, can really make a difference to buyers today,” Hale says. “It still counts, even with home prices up 6% nationally. That increase in purchase power is greater than the national price increase.”

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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Stress-Free Homes Are a Trending Niche

From family and jobs to finances and health, life can get complicated. “Zen is in demand,” as one real estate pro says. Learn how you can provide that.

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Whether it’s a luxurious $45 million estate in California or a modest $250,000 two-bedroom house in Ohio, marketing a home’s stress-relieving qualities is a growing trend. Today, developers, builders, and interior designers are trying to make homes that offer that soft landing at the end of a day. And homeowners need it—about eight in 10 Americans say they frequently (44 percent) or sometimes (35 percent) encounter stress in their daily lives, according to a recent Gallup poll. 

Helping clients find a soothing place to come home to can become a niche in the real estate world. And, understanding what stress-relieving designs are available can help you and your agents guide clients to a happy purchase.

Reaching Female Homebuyers

Since 2003, Design Basics Inc., in Omaha, has been gearing many of its residential blueprints toward easing stress because that is one of the four important elements women look for in a home’s design. Why women, you ask? Well, 91 percent of home purchases are influenced by women, according to the Harvard Business Review. Additionally, the National Association of REALTORS® 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that the number of single female buyers continues to rise, and are currently the second largest buyer group at 18 percent behind married couples at 63 percent.

Paul Foresman, director of business development for Design Basics, says the company took data and research on female buyers of all ages and backgrounds and created the Woman-Centric Matters home design program. They discovered the four primary elements women are looking for in home design: entertainment, stress relief, storage, and flexible living. Foresman travels across the country talking to builders about the program.

“Everyone lives differently. But women tell us that they want to come into their home and feel like it is a place of respite. They look for homes that make their life easier, more convenient, more fun, and more inviting to others,” he adds.

The High End of Less Stress

Residence 950 infinity pool

Home designs by Greg Malin, CEO and founder of Troon Pacific in San Francisco, are adding amenities such as lap pools with underwater speakers that play music and art galleries with chaise lounges so you can take it all in.

“What’s the best luxury in life? My late wife would say it’s your health,” Malin says. So, he builds homes with his passion for sustainability and wellness in mind. Less stress in a person’s world can help with their health. For instance, cables in all bedrooms of his homes are shielded to mitigate electromagnetic field waves, which can cause the body to emit stress signals that can lead to high levels of adrenaline.

His company also uses biophilic design, which bridges a homeowner’s lifestyle with natural environment around them. “We’re trying to connect people to nature. One of our homes offers a yoga deck. Plus, each [development] project offers a wellness center with a sauna, steam room, a place to have a massage, meditation area, and outdoor shower,” he adds.  

Joel Goodrich, agent at Colwell Banker Preview International in San Francisco, has shown Malin’s stress-free homes several times to clients. He also is a friend of Malin. “Perhaps, we are living in more stressful times than ever before. People are looking for their homes to be an oasis or retreat from life, the world, and business,” he says. “These homes are designed to feel like a retreat. Zen is in demand.”

Tips for Alleviating Stress at All Price Points

Most home buyers are looking for respite in a haven from everyday stress. The good news is not all stress-free homes have to be multimillion-dollar properties. Here are some of the stress-reducing designs and products being showcased in homes across the country.

Natural light, plus dimmers. “People always gravitate to the bright, sunny spaces in a home. So, anything we can to do enhance natural light is popular,” Foresman says. Malin adds that lights with dimmers can also help reduce harshness, especially in bedrooms, for a more relaxing ambiance.

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Automated shades. Shades programed to open at sunrise can be a calming way to wake up without an alarm. They can also be used to reduce sunlight for those not ready to rise, Goodrich says. In addition to setting times, homeowners can pair smart shades with a digital thermostat, so they automatically open and close based on temperature.

A water feature. “Water can be very calming,” Goodrich says. In one extreme example, an international architect put a waterfall in the middle of a living room design and branded it. But a simple fountain in a sun porch or patio can do wonders, too, he adds.

Pet center area in home

Pet centers. Many buyers nowadays are seeking pet-friendly abodes, so features such as cabinets with pullout drawers for dog food goes a long way. Some want a dog washing station or a room for the pet itself. Electronic doggie doors have also become popular, where the dog has a collar that automatically opens the door to go inside or out.

Nature’s beauty. The ability to see flowers or greenery outside your windows—even in a big city—helps create peacefulness. In Malin’s homes, he plants green rows of bamboo or cypress outside the main windows, even in the heart of the Bay Area.

Covered outdoor living space. Foresman says you don’t have to cancel your plans if it rains when you have a covered outdoor area, which eliminates worry. Plus, coffee on the patio can still happen on rainy mornings. A pergola cover or easy-to-assemble patio gazebo are cost-effective ways to accomplish this.

Work-in pantry. Taking the walk-in pantry to the next level, some buyers want a prep area, sink, dishwasher, and sometimes an oven in what’s dubbed the “work-in” pantry, Foresman says. This eliminates guests seeing any mess while keeping the heart of the gathering in the kitchen.

Relaxing sounds and white noise. Malin installs speakers in master bedrooms and bathrooms, allowing for the sounds of waterfalls, forests, or whatever keeps the homeowners tranquil. For existing homes without built-in speakers, try a Google Home or Amazon Echo—relaxing sounds at open houses may even entice buyers.

Shipping vestibule. This involves a door or cupboard that opens for delivery people. They can leave the package behind the door without entering the house, Foresman says. You don’t have to be home when the delivery is dropped off, and locks can used from your smartphone to avoid theft.  

Dual owner suites. This newer building plan has quickly become Foresman’s top seller. It includes two suites on the main floor that can be used for older couples who don’t sleep in the same bed, multigenerational households, boomerang kids, friends who have purchased together, or live-in caregivers. “In many ways for all involved it’s a great stress reliever, with a private bathroom and enough storage,” he adds.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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Low 30-Year Rates Keep Buyers in Summer Market

Mortgage rates barely budged this week, keeping borrowing costs low for summertime home shoppers. Mortgage rates continue to hover near their 2016 averages. “We’re seeing a tug of war happen as the fixed-income market flashes warning signs while the equities market continues to march higher with optimism,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The data suggests the economy is weakening but is still on very solid ground, with high consumer confidence and a strong labor market. Closer to home, the housing market continues to slowly improve and gain momentum as we head into the second half of the year, which is good news and should keep the economy growing.”

Freddie Mac reported the following averages for mortgage rates for the week ending July 3:

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.75%, with an average 0.6 point, up slightly from last week’s 3.73% average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.52%.

• 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.18%, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 3.16% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.99%.

• 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.45%, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 3.39% average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.74%.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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Survey: Buyers Rank Commute Time Above Square Footage

July 5, 2019

Commute time is an important factor to buyers when they’re deciding on a home to purchase. Eighty-five percent of buyers say they would sacrifice other home features, such as lot size, square footage, and home style, in order to shorten their commute to work, according to a survey of more than 600 realtor.com® users. Forty percent say they are looking to reduce their commute time by up to 45 minutes.

In response, realtor.com® announced a new tool that enables buyers to filter their home-search results according to rush-hour and off-peak commute times. “Our commute time filter is different from others in the marketplace because it gives buyers the ability to toggle between rush-hour and off-peak commute times,” says Chung Meng Cheong, chief procurement officer for realtor.com®. “With a more holistic view of their drive to and from work, people are able to make more informed decisions about where to live and, hopefully, reduce some unnecessary stress from their daily lives.”

Home shoppers can enter basic search information, such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and location desired. They can then filter listings to match their preferred commute time. Commute times are offered in 10-minute increments up to 60 minutes or more. All of the available homes that match the search parameters and commuting distance will then be displayed. The Commute Time Filter is available on realtor.com®’s iOS app and will soon be available on Android, as well as mobile and web versions.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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Gap Widens Between What Buyers Want, What’s for Sale

Home buyers are finding fewer homes for sale that are meeting their price expectations. Half of all home buyers say they’re looking for a home priced under $288,000. But that is 9.1% below—or $27,000 less–than the median list price of currently available homes, a new realtor.com® study finds.

“The price difference between what buyers are searching for, closing on, and what’s available on the market demonstrates just how big the gap is for entry-level home buyers,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “Buying a first home has always been a challenge, but with such a slim number of entry-level homes available, it’s especially difficult now.”

The median sales price of homes purchased in April was $267,000, which is about 15% or $48,000 less than the price of the inventory currently on the market, according to National Association of REALTORS® data.

Realtor.com® researchers estimate that about 94,000 more homes priced between $100,000 to $340,000—or a 15% increase—are needed to satisfy the imbalance between what buyers want and what is available. However, it’s homes priced above $750,000 that have seen the most growth in inventory lately, rather than the lower end of the market, researchers note.

“Entry-level homes continue to be difficult to come by as the inventory composition shifts more and more toward higher-priced homes,” Hale says. “This is causing smaller and more affordable homes to appreciate rapidly, resulting in a mismatch between what buyers are able to spend and what sellers expect to receive.” Smaller homes (those between 750 to 1,750 square feet) have appreciated 12.1%, or 3.5 times, faster than mid- to large-sized homes (3,000 to 6,000 square feet), realtor.com®’s analysis finds.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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Mouth-Watering Outdoor Kitchens (And Surprise! Their ROI Is Great)

Building an outdoor kitchen is more than an indulgence: These backyard beauties can improve your home’s value. Outdoor kitchens typically get a 71% return on investment, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS® — and that’s on top of your own outdoor-cooking joy. The investment can be a little — or a lot. These five outdoor kitchen ideas fit a range of budgets and homes.

#1 A Tiny Outdoor Kitchen for Limited Spaces

If you boil down an outdoor kitchen to the basics, what more do you need than a grill, a little oven, cupboard space, and a cozy place to sit? This setup does it all efficiently, for as little as a few hundred dollars if you already have outdoor electricity. An electrician will add to the cost.

#2 An Outdoor Kitchen From a Kit

Modular kits, like this one from WWOO (starting around $1,500), can be customized to suit your backyard. Some companies even offer design help for additional cost.

#3 An Outdoor Kitchen Made of Concrete & Steel

DIY-savvy homeowners used concrete and cement board to create this L-shaped outdoor kitchen that mimics today’s indoor layouts. Guests relax at the counter while the host flips burgers — it’s open-concept living in the great wide-open.

No, this isn’t DIY 101, but if you’ve got the skill set you can do it for the cost of materials — and concrete is cheap. If you hire a pro, though, the typical cost is about $14,000 for a kitchen that includes an inset grill, steel drawers, ice chest, sink, and concrete countertop, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report.”

#4 An Outdoor Kitchen With Personal Style

Your outdoor kitchen doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. But it should match your home’s style if you want to get a return on your investment. This DIY kitchen fits the home’s rustic style and comes with enough storage any indoor cook would envy.

#5 An Outdoor Kitchen That Says “Sit a Spell”

Your outdoor kitchen can play the same role in your yard that your kitchen inside does: as the heartbeat of every gathering where guests will want to stay awhile. And bonus: The added deck and pergola could also kick up your home value a couple of notches.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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Mortgage Rates Drop to 2-Year Lows

This marks the sixth consecutive weekly decline for mortgage rates, leaving some borrowers wondering how low will they go. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.82% this week, the lowest average since September 2017. 

“While the drop in mortgage rates is a good opportunity for consumers to save on their mortgage payment, our research indicates that there can be a wider dispersion among mortgage rate offers,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “By shopping around and getting a single additional mortgage rate quote, a borrower can save an average of $1,500.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending June 6:

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.82%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.99%. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.54%.

• 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.28%, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.46% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 4.01%.

• 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.52%, with an average 0.4 point, alling from last week’s 3.60% average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.74%.

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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