How rooftop decks are becoming the must-have amenity for 2016

Published in MarketWatch

When Conrad Lifsey and his partner, Derek Loftin, who own a luxury RV rental company in Palm Springs, bought a house 2015 in a property development called Sol, what sealed the deal for them wasn’t inside, but up on the roof. “No other property in Palm Springs had a rooftop deck and it really set things apart,” said Lifsey, 52. “It’s a place we like to go at sunrise for yoga and sunset for cocktails,” he said.

In fact, three-fourths of the 46 homeowners in Sol have opted to add 150 to 300 square-foot rooftop decks to their property, said Rudy Herrera, principal of Family Development Homes in Palm Desert, Calif. It’s a $50,000 upgrade, but it allows views of the 10,000 foot-high San Jacinto Mountains, the sixth-biggest mountain range in the lower 48 states. “Given the views, it’s criminal not to have one,” he said.

They’re not alone. When it comes to improving your home’s value in 2016, homeowners (and property managers) are finding one way that’s going through the roof, literally.

Additions of rooftop decks have been accelerating for the past several years, said Pete Reeb, a principal at John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. He said about 5% of projects he’s seen currently have rooftop deck plans, but said that number is likely to grow. Builders are finding great success in attracting buyers and beating the competition by offering thoughtfully designed and integrated rooftop decks in new home projects,” he said.
Rooftop decks aren’t new, in fact, many homes, especially Craftsman-era ones built on the West Coast included them as sunlight and fresh air were seen as part of a healthy routine, said Leonard Miller, regional president of Richmond American, a subsidiary of Denver-based MDC Holdings Inc. MDC, +0.04% But rooftop decks didn’t come without issues, he said. “A flat rooftop deck was notorious for leaking. Now, modern decks have better sealing and better integration into the design of the house,” he said.

Roof decks work best in high-density areas where there isn’t a lot of usable outdoor space, and there’s actually something worth seeing from the deck, like a lake, or an ocean or a city skyline, and have been popping up in the Southwest, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, and even the East Coast, said Reeb. Richmond American’s Miller added that his company features rooftop decks on the interior units of lots in developments to help sell them when the homes on the exterior lots can block views.
Marnie Oursler, owner of Marnie Custom Homes in Bethany Beach, Del. said her clients along the mid-Atlantic shore are also asking for rooftop decks. “Homeowners want another place to gather and be outside,” she said. Homeowners are making concessions on the indoor space to accommodate the higher level of finish for the exterior living space such as outdoor kitchens and rooftop decks, she said.

And it’s not just residential rooftop decks that are growing in popularity, commercial properties, apartments and hotels have been adding them as well, alongside features such as as dog-walking parks, pools with waterfalls and even basketball courts.

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