Real Estate Roundtable: Trick Out My Yard!

945 North Sea Mecox Road, Water Mill
A rendering of what’s in store for the backyard at 945 North Sea Mecox Road in Water Mill.
Courtesy of Douglas Elliman

Pools and hot tubs are nice, but who doesn’t love a tricked-out backyard? During the COVID-19 pandemic, people spent more time at home than ever before and homeowners have upgraded their outdoor space in ways big and small. We asked some of the top agents what types of new features they are seeing people splurge on and what backyard element offers the best value when it comes to investing in your property.

Here’s what they had to say:

Mala Sander, The Corcoran Group

Mala Sander

“During COVID, we fully embraced year-round outdoor living, even in cold temperatures. Our backyards became “living rooms” with pergolas and canopies, with built-in heaters and outdoor fireplaces. Not to mention the fire pit and fully outfitted kitchens that incorporate grill, sink, refrigeration and ice, and a cooktop. The spring also brought out the gardeners in many of my clients. They were looking for gardens with flower beds, and areas to put in vegetable gardens, chicken coops and bocce courts! These amenities are very much in demand. But the most coveted backyard amenities include a dock, an infinity edge pool, and endless views. You’re lucky if you can get all three, but if you know, you know — the backyard that does have all three is a triple mint investment — and this happens to be my specialty: waterfront property!”


Lawrence Ingolia, Sotheby’s International Realty

Lawrence Ingolia

“During the pandemic backyards became playgrounds. With no travel on the horizon, and time on their hands, people transformed their yards into their dream vacations. Some of the yards could even put the coolest resorts to shame, complete with LED lights and hot tubs that spill over into pools. I had one client who installed a zip line complete with a platform high in a tree for maximum velocity. An outdoor kitchen is nothing compared to my client who decided to become a grill master. He had a mason build a giant bluestone structure for his Grillworks barbecue with a built-in smoker. I saw many high-end audio systems installed outside — some even installed underwater speakers in their pools. Managing to stay warm on chilly evenings was trending. Several clients installed overhead heat lamps into the ceilings of their covered porch. Others installed electric heat panels under their outdoor tables to keep their legs warm on cool nights. With some extra time, and a little imagination, people made their backyards their own Fantasy Island.”


Enzo Morabito, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Enzo Morabito

“I’m finding that people are investing more into the aesthetic of their backyard. They are really beginning to create their own environments to fit their needs and doing it in a very artistic way. We had just moved into a new house last March which was not yet completed. The very first thing we did was upgrade all of the patios and the stonework around the pool. We played with lighting, creating a beautiful, reflective effect to the trees at night. We planted a wildflower garden for color and added an AstroTurf pad so my son can practice lacrosse without grinding up the lawn. In the next phase, we’re planning for an outdoor kitchen, which I think is the greatest thing a homeowner can add for extra value, along with a pool house. Combining the two to create a pool house that acts as a full-service refreshment stand would add tremendous value and wow-factor to an outdoor space. I’ve seen restaurateur and builder Willie Degel do this really well, resulting in a space that’s covered but can completely open up and has everything an avid cook could need or want. It’s absolutely a standout feature and a great investment.”

Philip G. Grossman


Philip G. Grossman, Brown Harris Stevens


“Pools and hot tubs are great but during the COVID pandemic our buyers wanted to experience the outdoors while in the privacy of their own homes. Putting greens are in and I’ve seen open lawn areas turned into a mini putting course. Water features also are a top priority and this can include the installation of a pond with a waterfall feature to the ultimate — a landscaped group of ponds with Koi, waterfalls and plantings. It’s all about thinking outside the box and letting your mind go with your dreams…”

Amy L. Kirincic, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty

Amy L. Kirincic

“Backyards are extensions of our homes, they are where we relax, entertain, rejuvenate and connect with nature. During COVID they had become more important than ever before. There have been many renovations and transformations of outdoor living spaces that allowed us to gather with family and friends safely. Many of my clients have added screened-in rooms, covered porches, patios and gazebos as a way to extend their living space and allow a seamless flow between indoor and outdoor spaces. Since we were unable to travel last year, backyards have also become a place to escape. Many homeowners have added quiet Zen spots in their yard to unwind and decompress after leaving their home office. A smaller upgrade to backyards that have become very popular are fire pits. Families are able to relax and reconnect around the fire pit by sharing stories or simply enjoying their time together. In today’s world dining, relaxing and spending time with friends and family comfortably outdoors is important. Upgrading your outdoor space with any of these features whether large or small, will give you many years of enjoyment and add value to your property.”

Cee Scott Brown

Cee Scott Brown, Compass

“Now more than ever, people crave extra outdoor spaces and they are getting creative with what is possible. I am seeing landscape designers being asked to design gorgeous, private and comfortable outdoor rooms perfect for entertaining, working or cooking. It’s amazing what can be done with plant material and outdoor accessories. Also, who knew?! Bocce and Pétanque courts, as well as horseshoe setups, are making a reappearance. Not surprisingly, outdoor kitchens are getting more and more elaborate: Lynx grills, pizza ovens, full kitchens in lovely outdoor settings.”


Aimee Fitzpatrick Martin, Saunders & Associates

Aimee Fitzpatrick Martin

“Heated pools and hot tubs are often just a starting point for outdoor enjoyment. In 2021, the focus is on creating multifunctional lifestyle spaces. To that end, elaborate folding and sliding door systems are helping homeowners transition their lives from the indoors to the outdoors and allow the views to blend. Decks become another living room filled with beautiful ambient lighting, all-weather furniture, outdoor rugs and flowing drapery. Cozy, private nooks create places to escape, from garden “rooms” to two-person hammocks and large porch swings. Outdoor sheds and pool houses function as remote work spaces. These days, outdoor dining is more of an experience, thanks to large outdoor bars and tricked-out kitchens with pizza ovens. Dining can be enjoyed under wisteria-covered trellises or in the garden. Après-dinner, head to the outdoor fireplace or fire pit for smores or a brandy. And we can’t forget about the kids (or the kid in all of us)! Outdoor fun zones include all-weather pool tables, tennis courts, basketball courts and workout/yoga areas. The whole picture comes together to create your personal resort. It’s an oasis from the stresses of the world.”

This article appeared in the July 2021 issue of Behind The Hedges. Read the digital version here