The Back Yard Deck: My Biggest Financial Regret

For many years my spouse and I watched our money carefully. Since we bought our first house in 1995, my spouse always wanted a deck. After over 10 years in the house, I relented and agreed to get a deck built. I figured since this was probably going to be the only house we would ever own, we may as well have a deck built. We lived in a town house and almost all the other houses had decks. So we listened to a contractor who gave a presentation, and we signed the contract to have the deck built. Aside from a couple of minor issues, the deck looked good.

The deck cost us $10,000. It was a fair price. Everything seemed all right until my brother-in-law mentioned we could have used the money as part of a down payment on a house. And soon the deck let us know it required either work or expense if we wanted it to keep looking nice. While there is the image of people putting a deck in their yard and then having wonderful cookouts, parties and romantic evenings, the reality is we didn’t use it very much. It was a convenience but a very expensive one. The initial investment cost over seven mortgage payments. If I compute the enjoyment value, it is worth over 15 years of vacations for us? Theoretically we could sell the house for more, but the reality is the state assessed the property as having a higher value and raised our property taxes.

Our decision to have a deck built wasn’t a completely stupid decision. It was by far the biggest expense we incurred with the smallest return for our money. It clearly wiped out the benefits of many years of frugality.

My advice to anyone who is thinking of a major addition to their house is to consider what else they might do with the money they are spending. They should also consider what additional costs there are to upkeep the home improvement and how will it affect their property taxes.

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