The One Thing I Will Never Sacrifice When Buying a House Ever Again

published Oct 18, 2022
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When I bought my newly constructed townhome outside of Denver, I didn’t think it was a huge deal that the backyard was naked, the landscaping left to me to conceptualize and execute. After all, it was a small plot probably better described as a courtyard. My tiny yard connects the detached garage to the back entrance, with a sizable patch that could be filled with brick, grass, faux grass or pavers — anything really, if I could just make up my dang mind.

Yet homeownership comes with some learning curves, and one that I learned is that new builds often cut corners. For instance, my upstairs bedrooms weren’t lined with baseboards and the spare bedrooms didn’t have any overhead lighting — not even those builder-grade boob lamps. But the biggest shortcut of ‘em all was the backyard, and there are many reasons why the next place I buy will have an already landscaped outdoor space (or, at the very least, a good start).

For one, I moved in during Colorado’s brief — albeit strikingly beautiful — fall season. It was just before our first snow of the year, which isn’t quite conducive to landscaping. So come spring, when the ground was beginning to thaw, I was ready to throw down some sod and get going. Then, I learned at an HOA meeting that my plans would need board approval. Not only that, but these plans needed to be drawn up by a landscape architect and detailed, down to the plants I wanted to put in and the materials I would be using. Oy!

More hurdles (or are they excuses?) came about — the backyard needed to be leveled, materials I had in mind needed to be reconsidered because of my gutter flow, and estimates for the entire project trickled in starting at $15,000. Amid the pandemic, when outdoor living spaces were all the rage, it seemed impossible to find a landscaper with availability, let alone one who would call back for such a small project. 

Meanwhile, other home tasks started to stack up and eat into my single lady homeowner budget, like replacing an oven with a gas leak, getting an HVAC tune-up, and upgrading some of the builder-grade finishes in the bathrooms. Did I mention the sticker shock of patio furniture?

The biggest challenge, I’ve come to learn, is psychological: Over the years, my barren yard has taunted me — a reminder that I’m prone to spin in circles when tasks seem so big that I don’t know where to start. While I usually feel confident designing spaces that feel like home to me and true to my aesthetic, the backyard is a completely blank slate. This is probably exciting to some, but it’s intimidating as heck to me. Would it make for a great before and after comparison? Absolutely. But much like it’s easier to put together a puzzle once the edges have been laid down, I’ve found I need a few starting pieces to confidently move forward.

I’ve dreamed up what I imagine the space to be; the purpose I want it to serve. In my imagination (and sketch pad), it’s like the courtyard of a Moroccan riad. I’ve even hauled home lanterns from Marrakech to outfit the area, and I picked up tile samples of patterns that I think would look great on a cement wall. I have a beige tassel umbrella awaiting deployment in warmer months when I can work outside while my Boston Terrier suns himself like a Sphinx, his bones baking on the cement pathway. 

Maybe next spring, the patio in all of its glory will come into existence. But for now I’ll enjoy the outdoor space in its most basic format: A stoop to sit on with my dog while we hear the cheers reverberate from the nearby high school football stadium, plus a spot to enjoy the al fresco dinners that come off my grill.