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February 09, 2024

Creating a Backyard Bonanza

We’ve all heard the saying. “Not in my backyard.” It is used so frequently; it has its own acronym: NIMBY. Whatever your thoughts on the saying, there’s no denying that it seems to imply that backyards are pretty special and need to be both cherished and protected. This was very apparent during the Covid lockdowns as many invested in major backyard upgrades.

Suffice to say, some sort of private outdoor space is high on the wish-list for many home buyers.

Backyard in Brooklyn

Just ask my daughter Sarah and her husband Jeremy, who live in Brooklyn. They initially had an apartment on the top floor of a three-story townhome converted into three separate apartments. Not only did they not have a backyard, but they also didn’t even have a balcony. Fortunately, prior to the lockdown, they found a new apartment to lease. This was another three-story town converted into separate apartments. However, this time they were lucky enough to rent the first floor which had a backyard!

This meant they could get a dog. Let me introduce you to Joey B – named after LSU national championship quarterback Joe Burrow.

This was a major game changer in their lives. Sarah and Jeremy are not alone in their desire for a pet. According to the U.S Census Bureau, 63.8 million (49.6%) of the 128.5 million homes in the US have at least one pet. There are one or more dogs found in 49 million homes! While many apartments allow dogs, living on the top floor of a three-story walkup when it’s cold and the dog must “go” is not fun – especially in the middle of the night.

But wait! There’s more. Backyards come a multitude of new activities and capabilities. In the case of Sarah and Jeremy, they planted flowers and herbs. They could also grill outside. They even hosted a Louisiana crawfish boil – which has become an annual event. Their backyard is actually bigger than their apartment.

The Cottage Style Apartment

The benefits of a backyard are many and hence the vast appeal of the detached rental cottage. You might have heard them called horizontal apartments, but the concept is a small apartment-sized cottage. Often, they are built as duplex units, but they are closely clustered together and are considered multi-family by zoning departments.

Many developers have chosen to fence in their backyards. This has its pluses and minuses. On one hand, a fenced backyard creates a challenge for yard maintenance, leading some to add canine turf to the backyard which requires no maintenance and is perfect for dogs to do their business.

On the other hand, a fenced backyard is almost a necessity if you own a dog – or simply want a little extra privacy and security. I once had a client who said he liked to sit in his backyard in his gym shorts, tank top, drink beer from a can and smoke a cigar. He valued his private backyard space where he could relax and let his guard down. Perhaps you want a space to for your own cookout with friends and family.

And as the days get warmer, let’s not forget some like to sunbathe in their private backyards and may want to avoid those annoying tans lines. In this case, NIMBY should it should mean Nobody-In-My-Back-Yard.

The next time you find yourself showing a house, paint a picture of all the possibilities that even a small outdoor space can provide (maybe leave out the last one). A backyard can become one of the most personalized and fun spaces in the house. Enjoy it!

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This post was written by Housing Design Matters