How Much Yard Do You Need?

When we work with buyers, one of the biggest items on their House Hunting Wish List is this: Yard space! Some people want a little, some people want a lot. Some people don't want the hassle of lawn care, while others want a big yard for all the outdoor projects they imagine themselves doing, as soon as they move in. The trouble is, a lot of homes, especially in the popular near-east and near-west neighborhoods, don't always offer a ton of yard space. We caution home buyers against automatically ruling out homes that otherwise fit their needs, just because the yard appears smaller than what they'd envisioned.

Instead, we encourage buyers to ask themselves the following questions, so they can consider how much yard they really need:

Do I garden? Some gardens really do require a lot of outdoor space. But a small yard doesn't mean the end to your green-thumb dreams -- flower boxes can add curb appeal and color, container gardening can make any porch burst with life, and an amazing amount of food can be grown in just a couple of raised garden beds. A small yard can still give your inner gardener plenty of space in which to tend and grow.

Start your home garden with tips from a Master Gardener in Madison WI

Do I enjoy outdoor entertaining? Sometimes people think they need a big yard for entertaining. But a small lot can be transformed into an urban oasis with the proper planning. Is there room for a deck, porch, or patio big enough to comfortably sit 6-8 people? Is there space for a grill? If so, there's little need for a wide expanse of fenced-in green.

Do I have kids and/or pets? Common wisdom suggests that if the answer to this question is yes, then you need a big yard. But common wisdom isn't always wise! We've seen a trend lately of parents and pet-owners forgoing big, private yards, and opting instead to buy homes near interactive green spaces, such as city parks, dog parks, and playgrounds. Not only does this mean more home options will be available to you in your home search, but it gives you and your family a nice way to connect with others in your neighborhood.

Do I enjoy yard maintenance? We don't know a lot of people who say an enthusiastic YES! to this question. Ideally, how many hours each week do you want to devote to lawn care -- mowing, weeding, trimming, planting, raking, shoveling, etc.? A large lawn always involves more work than you first assume. If you don't love yard maintenance, and if you don't want to pay someone else to maintain it for you, then a smaller yard might be the way to go.

An experienced Realtor can walk through an outdoor space with you, to determine if and how it can meet your needs. And when the rest of the home fits the bill, just remember -- it's surprising how much you can do in a smaller outdoor space!