Beautifully landscaped small outdoor spaces can make a sale. Even a 3m x 3m space can be transformed into an oasis, says Nichola Vague, landscape architect for Zones.

Larger is better, but even tiny areas of otherwise dull and/or wasted space can be turned into indoor-outdoor living, barbecue areas or just a tranquil space to sit.

Patios and decks are super important for properties in buyers' minds. Even a small space can become a selling point.

Planned well, outdoor landscaping can double the size of the living area. Even a balcony can be transformed into a chic space with a bit of creativity.

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Thanks to retractable roofs, outdoor heating solutions, and PVC curtains these spaces can also be used 12 months of the year.

Martin Cooper, managing director of Harcourts Cooper & Co on the North Shore, says homeowners can usually double every dollar spent on landscaping small outdoor spaces.

"In today's changing styles of living, small outdoor spaces can be an extension of the living space of the home or unit," he says.

"With the use of rain and sun shelter covers, outdoor lighting and outdoor heating combined with Auckland's pretty moderate climate, we are finding there is a big uplift in interest from buyers for beautifully landscaped spaces."

Kiwis want to entertain even when they have a small space, says Cooper. So a cleverly designed tiny space is a real selling point.

What's more, don't underestimate the effect of buyers looking out the window at an open home and seeing a beautiful space instead of an ugly fence or neighbour's property, says Cooper.

Landscaping increases the number of potential buyers and, as a result, the price at auction – especially when two or more buyers have fallen in love with the property.

"Our more entrepreneurial agents are (recommending to vendors) to get landscaping people in to enhance the outdoor spaces," says Cooper.

People buy a home because it feels right. If you have a peaceful Zen-like feeling in the outdoor space it sells better."

Creating these spaces not long before selling makes them appear fresh – especially if old trampolines, worn furniture and overgrown or outdated plants are replaced.

Landscaper Vague says the key is to start with a plan and keep your palette of materials and plantings simple. "If you do that you can get some quite striking results. It is a lot more cohesive.

"I start with a critical look at what's there already. If there is a lot don't be afraid to rip stuff out.

"Next give the place a good clean and a coat of paint to fencing or retaining walls," says Vague. "Then you know what you are working with."

The design needs to tie in with the house and its the surroundings. Even if the space available is a glorified backstep area colourful pots will transform it into desirable space, she says.

Vague has never been employed to design a backdoor step, but has helped friends transform theirs. "Don't use anything too small. Use something with a bit of scale. As soon as you bring pots outside they shrink."

It's usually best to buy new rather than use your collection of old planters. What's more,
the plants need to be luscious and young. Having a series of matching pots and plants can be very dramatic if planned well.

There may be building needed. A variety of screens or trellis can transform a small space. It's also possible to plant to create privacy. Vertical gardens that add colour and interest to otherwise boring walls are popular.

Cooper says more of his agents are seeing owners getting really creative with small spaces. Water features are popular, he says, and increasingly homeowners are even fitting outdoor speakers to add ambience.

If you're selling you may not need to buy the furniture. This can be supplied by a home staging company. This fits with what Cooper is seeing at open homes.

Although some homeowners can plan and execute their own DIY small space, it's usually best to employ a professional. Paying for a landscape architect to do a plan for a small outdoor space would start from about $1000, says Vague.

Additional costs will depend on the size of space and materials and plants used. If you don't have much of a budget garden planning apps and staff at garden stores can help. Pinterest could be a source of many ideas.

Vague's top tips for small outdoor spaces: keep it simple, keep in mind what the space will be used for, and be bold.