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Spend your $$$ on outdoor renovations, not these typical renos

This past weekend at the Toronto Fall Home Show was a great opportunity to learn about what’s new in home renovations and more importantly, what you should be investing in. To my surprise, however it’s not kitchen and bath renos. They don’t even make the top 10 list! Carson Arthur, landscape design expert, urges you to hire a landscape design contractor NOW!

This is where you SHOULDN’T spend your money

“For me, I am always paying attention to new statistics on where to spend money,” Carson tells the crowd. “I’m trying to convince you to spend money outside.”

Not surprising since he’s an outdoor designer that sees a space and envisions where the outdoor living space is (as opposed to visualizing a kitchen renovation).

“I want you to let me know if you agree with the following statement,” he asks the audience.

  • No one has an unlimited budget. (Audience agrees).

“I’m not on Dragon’s Den,” Carson says, triggering laughs among the crowd. “For every penny I spend on my house, I want to know that it’s a penny well spent.”

Carson wants his investment to come back to him in the form of ROI – return on investment, whether it’s tomorrow or 10 years from now.

  • Homeowners want to make the most on the sale of their house. (Again, how could the audience not agree?)

Carson jokes to the crowd: “For anyone that doesn’t agree with this statement, could you please come up to the stage after the presentation? I’d like to buy your house for less than its worth.”

  • Today’s homeowners have included the sale of their house into their retirement plans.

“98 per cent of Canadians say the sale of their family home, part of that money is going to retirement or to investments, to make sure you have enough,” says Carson. “It’s so important to pay attention to the marketplace.”

  • Homeowners plan an execute indoor renovations first.

“Even I did and I’m the garden guy,” he says. “Guess which renovations make you more money? Outdoor renovations, not kitchens and bathrooms.”

Tell me you’re not shocked right now.

You will not see a great return on investment when it comes to these room renovations.

You will not see a great return on investment when it comes to these room renovations.

Your ROI on kitchen and bath renos isn’t that great

“For every dollar you spend on your kitchen right now, if you sell it tomorrow, you’ll get $0.70 cents per dollar,” Carson tells the audience. “You’re actually losing 30 cents.”

Carson asks the crowd why that is. He blames home improvement shows (yes, the very shows he’s been on himself!).

“We’re constantly showing you how to do indoor renovations for a little mess money and get a high-end look,” he says. “They [future buyers] immediately say that’s probably worth a dollar amount – and the amount they say is 30 per cent less than it was actually worth.”

The same goes for bathroom renovations, which Carson says the average return on investment is $0.60 cents to the dollar.

How does your outdoor yard factor into this?

Carson is the outdoor guy, right? Well, it’s a good time for him, because his industry is going to get a huge boost if homeowners start taking his advice!

Outdoor renovations are all the rage. Here’s what people are looking for:

  • Front doors;
  • Curb appeal (yay landscaping, Carson says);
  • Decks (yay landscaping, again, Carson says!);
  • Garages (which is where Carson stores all his landscaping tools, so yay!).

Why you need a new front door

“It’s the very first thing a buyer physically touches when they come to your house,” says Carson.

If your front door looks run down and the paint is chipping, then buyers and visitors may make the assumption that the whole house isn’t properly cared for.

The ROI on a front door? 102 per cent.

“There’s no other renovation you can make money on. They hold their value.”

The front door is a great opportunity to make a statement and play with colour. “It draws the eye right to where you want them to go,” says Carson.

Ready to invest in a front door? Our directory features dozens of door contractors. These experts can give you options in terms of materials, glass inserts, and colour styles. Start investing in your home wisely.

These doors make a statement.

These doors make a statement.

Curb appeal is essential

If the front of your home is covered in flowers, buyers immediately devalue it because it’s too much work. You want a healthy amount of greenery without going overboard.

Not only that, but the colour of your home shouldn’t stand out like the flowers do.

“If your house is that brightly coloured, it’s going to be worth the least amount of money,” says Carson. That’s why he recommends looking at the colours of the houses in your neuighbourhood. “Buyers want to be part of a community.”


Your backyard needs a deck

Your home is immediately worth almost 10 per cent more because it has outdoor usefulness, says Carson.

Carson shows the audience a picture of a house that’s 975 square feet – not that big. But there are a ton of decks in the backyard. Buyers overlook the fact that the home is small because of the grandeur of the backyard.

The house went $180,000 above asking price.

Carson tells us a story about decks and why your home needs them. A deck will last up to 7 years. Remember, it gets into contact with wind, rain, sun, snow, etc. “That can be next week,” he says about Canada’s weather patterns.

Your backyard needs a good deck, one that will last. But instead of putting in a $2,000 deck in a backyard that will last only a couple of years when the homeowner wants a deck to last 10 years since that’s when they’ll be selling their home, Carson suggests a $6,000 composite deck.

She hesitated because of the price, but Carson’s logic is this: “You’re going to have me back to replace that deck you didn’t look after and it only lasts 7 years. Then I have to charge you a lot more money. If we put in the composite right now, you’re never going to see me again.”

She has a lovely composite deck right now, one that requires very little maintenance, yet will last up to 10 years.

decks (3)

Does your backyard need a deck? Don’t forget to consult our directory to find a decking contractor. You might be spending a lot of money now, but you’ll be thanking yourself in the future when you reap the rewards of a successful ROI.


Most homeowners will agree that their garages are full of clutter – so much clutter that the cars won’t fit in the garage!

Here’s why you need to invest in garage storage solutions:

“If you have a garage and it’s done properly, your house is immediately worth almost 20 per cent more than your neighbour.”

Your garage should include the following features:

  • Light so you can see where you’re going;
  • Lockable storage to prevent kids from getting into things they shouldn’t;
  • Work space to do your potting, automotive repairs, etc.
Most equipment is off the floor, making the space look bigger than it actually is.

Most equipment is off the floor, making the space look bigger than it actually is.

If you have a problem garage, then you need to hire a decluttering and organization specialist to see your garage and make suggestions on how to improve the space storage-wise. The winter season is coming! Get the project done now and you won’t have to sit in your very cold car that’s been sitting outside overnight!

Lessons learned

You work hard for your money. If you’re going to spend it improving the look of your home, why not invest in quality renovations that will make you money?

“Why spend money that you’re not going to get back?”

We might be heading into the cooler season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin working with a landscape contractor right now! Use our directory to find a landscape design contractor. Get a head start now and you’l have a foolproof plan for later!

More in Outdoor Renovations

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Why your fall landscaping should include natural flagstone

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