How [area] homeowners treat their yard this autumn can determine the quality of their yard next spring and summer. Here are some helpful tips to help you lay a strong groundwork for a great yard next spring:
Grass still needs regular care to stay healthy. Grass that is too high may attract lawn-damaging field mice. Shorter grass is more resistant to diseases and traps fewer falling leaves. Cutting the grass low also allows more sun to reach the crown of the grass. However, cutting off too much at one time can be damaging, so never trim more than a third of the grass blades off in a single cutting. Put mower blades on the lowest settings for the last two cuts of the season.
Compressed soil can hurt the health of the grass. Aerating punches holes in the soil and lets oxygen, water, and nutrients into a lawn. Use a walk-behind aerator or get an attachment to pull behind a riding mower.
Many mowers can mulch leaves with an attachment. Since mulching with a mower can mix grass clippings with leaf particles, these nitrogen-rich grass particles and carbon-rich leaf particles will compost more quickly. They can then return nutrients to the soil.
Use trimmers, chainsaws, or pole pruners to cut back trees, shrubs, and plants. Make sure branches are safely trimmed back from overhead lines and not in danger of falling on a home or structure in winter weather. You may need to tie or brace limbs of upright evergreens or plants to prevent them from breaking in high winds or snow. Call a professional arborist for big trees or hard-to-reach spots.
Fall is a great time to patch bald or thin spots in a lawn. The easiest way to do this is with an all-in-one lawn repair mixture (found at most garden shops and home centers). Use a garden rake or dethatcher to scratch loose the soil on the spot.
If you’ve noticed unusual signs of damage around your property, pests may be to blame. Rodents, insects and other types of pests can wreak havoc on properties. Here are some signs of pests possibly causing damage in your [area] home.
The sudden feeling that the floors in your home are unstable could be a sign of a pest problem. This may be especially true if you have hardwood floors that are damaged because of termites. You might notice the boards curling on your floor as damage persists. Flaking and crumbling may also become noticeable as your floors continue to deteriorate from the damage. Crushed-looking wood at structurally significant points can be another obvious sign of a pest problem.
Damage that’s impossible to see can sometimes be detected by performing a tap test on wood surfaces around your home. Wood that’s solid all the way through should produce a thudding sound when tapped, and any hollow sounds could mean that termites or other pests are wearing away at the wood. Hollow sounds also mean that significant portions of your wood have already been lost, and calling a termite treatment specialist and contractor to repair the damage can resolve the problem and protect your home’s structure.
If lights, appliances or other equipment around your home that’s powered by electricity start to fail, you might have a pest problem on your hands. Lights that dim or completely go out along with appliances that don’t have as much power or fail to turn on when plugged in could mean that pests are damaging the wires. Rodents are known to chew through wires, which can also create a fire hazard in your home.
Tubes that appear to be made of mud may be visible in your yard and even on the side of your home. These tunnels are often constructed by organ pipe mud dauber wasps to store their larvae. Termites are also known to build tunnels that look like mud but are made from a combination of soil and wood along with a substance consisting of their saliva and feces. You might find these lining walls and floors, acting as a sure sign of infestation if you find them in your [area] home.
According to the Department of Justice, there are 10 percent more burglaries in the summer than in the winter. Additionally, the rate of household property victimization and household larceny also peak during the hottest months of the year. This time of year also happens to be when most of us pack our bags and head out for vacation.
While you’re out enjoying the summer weather, you don’t want to worry about what’s happening at home. Here are 10 tips to protect your home while on vacation.
Over 30 percent of burglars enter a home through an unlocked window or door. A few weeks before your vacation, check the windows and doors of your home to be sure they shut and lock properly. Make repairs as necessary, and verify they’re all secure on the day you leave for vacation.
In addition to reducing the chance your home will be burglarized by 300 percent, many leading systems offer remote access so you can check your home security from your phone. You can even use your device to lock/unlock doors or check on pets via security cameras. Plus, your insurance provider may discount your home insurance premium by up to 20 percent when you install a security system – and that savings could help pay for your vacation!
Many homeowners focus on the main body of their home and forget to secure the garage. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to help protect your garage from a break-in, including installing motion detector lights on the corners of the garage, ensuring the garage service door is locked, and hiding valuables out of sight. If you leave a car in the driveway, be sure to remove the garage door remote. A burglar won’t think twice about breaking into your car and using the remote to access your garage.
Light timers are affordable, easy to install, and can help deter criminals by making your home look occupied. Choose a timer with a “random on/off” option, so your lights turn on and off at various times throughout the day and night, making it difficult for burglars to determine if the home is vacant.
Over one-third of burglars enter a home through the front door, often using the homeowner’s “hidden” key. If there’s a key under your doormat or in another obvious location, remove it. You may also want to consider replacing your traditional front door lock with a keyless lock so you don’t even have to worry about keys.
Assuming you trust your neighbors, it’s a good idea to inform them you’ll be on vacation and leave a number where you can be reached. Make them aware of anyone who might be going into your home, such as a house sitter or dog walker. For extra protection, ask your local police department and neighborhood watch to be on the lookout for any unusual activity near your home.
Prepare your home for your departure by putting valuables – grills, bikes, and tools – in a secure shed or garage, and trimming shrubs so burglars can’t conceal themselves while trying to break into your home. If you have a gate that provides access to your yard, make sure it shuts and locks. Scan your property for anything a burglar might use to break into your home, such as a brick or hammer, and take it inside.
Enlist the services of a house sitter to keep an eye on your home while you’re away. He or she can pick up fliers left at the door, bring in the mail, and take garbage and recycling bins to the curb. These things help hide the fact you’re not home.
Protecting your house from a break-in is important, but you also want to avoid problems with utilities, like electricity or water. Unplug appliances, turn off the water valves to all sinks, the dishwasher, and washing machine, and test your smoke detectors.
If your lawn is overgrown, it can be a telling sign to people that no one is there to do upkeep. If you don’t have a regular lawn service, consider scheduling lawn maintenance once or twice while you’re away.
Many folks enjoy spending time outdoors in their own yards—provided they’re landscaped just right. And what people want in landscaping changes all the time. So what are the top landscaping trends of 2019? The National Association of Landscape Professionals, a trade organization with about a million members, provided its annual forecast of this year’s must-haves.
“What we’re seeing is people’s desire to make their outdoor living space an extension of their home. People are being very intentional with how they want to use their outdoor spaces,” says NALP spokeswoman Missy Henriksen. “It used to be people would put in the basics of outdoor decks or patios. Now people are looking more at how they will use their space. So perhaps the pergola they put in has shading so if they work outside they can see their laptops. We’re seeing more requests for charging stations.”
It’s not enough to just have a scenic backyard. Homeowners want it to be functional too. That means the things in that yard need to serve multiple purposes. For example, a vertical vegetable garden grown on a trellis can also serve as a privacy fence. Or a retaining wall can include built-in seating, good for conversing with friends or watching movies projected onto a screen. Folks are getting creative!
“We’re all very busy people,” says Henriksen. “Instead of people putting a new feature in their landscape, they expect it to be more than just pretty.”
Forget waking up early on the weekends to tend to the garden. Homeowners these days are embracing new technologies that take away the humdrum tasks they dread—like mowing the lawn and watering the plants. So they’re investing in things like robotic lawn mowers, programmable irrigation systems, and lighting that turns off automatically. Set it and forget it!
This isn’t your grandmother’s pergola. These overhead structures, which provide shade and a place to string lights and hang plants, are getting a 21st-century upgrade. This means enclosed versions with space heaters, state-of-the-art sound systems, and sophisticated, built-in lighting.
“People now design around them,” says Henriksen, adding things like outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and seating areas. “People are recognizing they are magical experiences to be enjoyed outside.”
The hot color to incorporate into your yard this year is pink. NALP expects homeowners will pick roses, petunias, zinnias, and hibiscus flowers in shades of coral and blush to add color to outdoor spaces. Light blush tones could even become the “new neutral.”
Homeowners looking to add sleek pizzaz to their outdoor escapes may want to turn to metal elements, like steel and iron, to incorporate into their design. This can include accents like decorative art, focal points such as streaming fountains or mini waterfalls, and furniture.
Buying a home in [area] is exciting. But it can come with some unplanned surprises. One of these is unexpected home renovation you may need to tackle after moving in. These can be sudden repairs or upgrades required that even your home inspector didn’t foresee.
New data show that many buyers encounter unplanned improvements needed soon after taking possession. A good chunk of them lack the funds to cover these repairs.
Don’t get blindsided by an unexpected home renovation soon after you become an owner. Aim to have extra money set aside in the event of a fix-it emergency. And know where to turn to in a pinch for resources like contractors and repair experts.
The recently published 2018 NerdWallet Home Improvement Report had some interesting findings. Among its revelations:
Bruce Ailion, Realtor and real estate attorney, says he’s not surprised by some of these findings.
“Consider that about one third of buyers are first-time buyers. They have had no experience with home ownership and its hidden costs and responsibilities,” he says.
Angat Saini, attorney and owner of Accord Law, also isn’t shocked by the report’s results.
“We often get calls from buyers after they move into a property. They say they’re looking for some sort of remedy to deal with unexpected repairs or damages,” Saini says.
“But it’s extremely difficult for a buyer to recover funds from the seller in such cases,” adds Saini. “That’s because most purchase agreements only provide a warranty on items within the home up until the closing date. It’s rare for seller to provide a home warranty on the structure, electrical, plumbing, or other key system or component.”
Say your home inspection didn’t find any red flags. That doesn’t mean your home is clear from problems. Mechanicals, appliances and materials can break down or present a defect at any time. This can even happen hours after closing on your home.
For example, the roof can suddenly start leaking. The oven can stop working. A pipe can abruptly burst and cause water damage. If it’s not covered by a warranty or your homeowner’s insurance, you may have to cover repair or replacement costs.
“A home is a complex system,” says Ailion. For example, “a home can experience a premature failure in a water heater, dishwasher, refrigerator or HVAC system.”
“There are certain costly items in a home that don’t last forever. These include roofs, windows and furnaces. These can lead to major financial headaches without the proper planning and budgeting,” Saini says.
A big culprit? Lack of education on the issue, insists Saini.
“Industry professionals like agents, brokers, inspectors and lawyers should be educating buyers better on the duties of home ownership,” he says. “First-time buyers have to take responsibility and learn the facts. But some of the blame can fall on the professionals who may not have taught them what to expect.”
Another problem is lack of due diligence.
“Inexperienced buyers fall in love with a home. They often purchase it, warts and all,” Ailion adds. “But they can overlook the risks. They often fail to request that the seller replace older items. They could have insisted on a home warranty to cover all or most of the cost of the repair.”
Ralph DiBugnara, senior vice president with Residential Home Funding, says this often happens with younger buyers.
“Most millennials are just concerned with getting in the home. They qualify for financing,” says DiBugnara. “But they don’t take into account all the other bills that come along with owning. These include wear and tear, maintenance and repairs.”
Want to prevent buyer’s remorse? Yearning to protect yourself from the financial pain of paying for an unexpected home renovation? Try these tips:
Finally, shop around. It seems obvious, but studies show that most consumers don’t get multiple quotes — for mortgages or other home-related services.
When you need an item repaired or replaced, ask friends and family for referrals to experts they trust. “Real estate agents are a great source for a reference to a quality contractor,” says Ailion. Also, “Try to get multiple competitive bids. And be patient while shopping around. Currently, there are skilled labor shortages in most markets. That makes it difficult to find affordable skilled workers.”
A typical American household spends $2,060 a year on electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Unfortunately, if a home isn’t efficient, a lot of that energy goes to waste—possibly as much as three-quarters of it, according to Renewable Nation, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit focusing on affordable and clean energy. Here are some money and energy saving suggestions from Renewable Nation’s app for homeowners.
1. Start by getting a home energy audit. Whether through the Building Performance Institute or the Residential Energy Services Network, certified professionals can conduct a home or building assessment that will help shed light on where energy is being lost and which systems are operating below par. The findings can be used to identify cost-effective improvements to make the property more comfortable and efficient.
2. Seal air leaks. Homebuyers are willing to pay a $7,095 more for a home that will reduce energy costs by $1,000 a year, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Sealing leaky windows, doors, and electrical outlets with caulk, expandable sealant, and weather stripping will help. Hiring a professional to insulate and seal ductwork in forced-air heating and cooling systems can also help lower energy bills by as much as $400 a year, Renewable Nation says.
3. Consider water usage and the water heater. Heating water is typically the second-largest energy use in a home, and can alone cost $600 or more a year, according to Renewable Nation. A homeowner can cut those costs in half by switching to a hybrid water heater that combines a standard water heater with a heat pump. If that’s not an ideal option, simply washing clothes in cold water can save $63 a year in energy costs.
4. Get a smart thermostat. Heating the overall space of a home or property is the largest energy expense, accounting for about 45 percent of residential energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. An owner can save 10 percent each year on heating bills by turning down the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) for eight hours a day. A programmable thermostat can help accomplish that.
5. Avoid the “phantom” menace of energy drains. Electricity used by electronics when they are turned off or in standby mode are a major source of energy waste. Smart power strips can help eliminate the problem of phantom loads by shutting off the power to electronics when they are not in use.
6. Upgrade the fridge. If a refrigerator or freezer is more than 15 years old, it may be so inefficient that a new one would pay for itself in energy savings in just a few years. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy says modern refrigerators and freezers consume 20 to 25 percent less energy than older models.
7. Flip the switch on smart lights. Replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with Energy Star models could save $75 per year.
8. Look for the Energy Star label. If you are considering appliance upgrades, remember that using products with the Energy Star label can help save up to 30 percent on related electricity bills.
For those of us who live in cold-weather climates, the winter months are synonymous with hibernation mode. Who wants to go outside when you have to shovel 2 feet of snow just to see the sidewalk?
But don’t let the next blizzard or polar vortex take the wind out of your home renovation sails. A frigid winter weekend is the perfect time to tackle an indoor project (as long as you can coax yourself away from your blanket and your Netflix queue).
Not sure where to start? Read on to find inspiration for your next weekend project, whether you only have an hour to spare or can dedicate a full weekend to home improvement.
Time: Half a day to two days
Tools: Score tool, tile cutter or wet saw, power drill, grout, joint compound, joint knife
Maybe you don’t have a backsplash in your kitchen, or maybe you’ve been putting off replacing your existing one. Either way, updating your backsplash is a project you can easily accomplish in a weekend.
“This is an area of only 30 square feet in most homes,” says Yuka Kato, content manager at Fixr, a marketplace for contractors and homeowners. The relatively small scope makes this an ideal project for tile novices.
If you’re a renter and you can’t install permanent decor, pick up some peel-and-stick tile to add temporary (and totally removable) pizazz to your backsplash.
Time: One to two hours
A smart thermostat can help you save money during the winter months, when you’re most likely to rack up expensive energy bills. And the best part? You can easily knock out the installation in a couple of hours over a weekend.
Do your homework before you head to the store, so that you know which thermostat will best fit your needs. And make sure to review the instructions ahead of time, to be sure you’re comfortable with the installation—nobody wants to get stuck with a dysfunctional thermostat in the dead of winter.
Time: An hour
Tools: Scissors, utility knife
Wallpaper has made a serious comeback, but today’s bold hues and prints are a departure from the granny-esque designs of yore. If you’re curious about this trend but not quite ready to go all-in, start by wallpapering an accent wall rather than an entire room.
Opt for a peel-and-stick removable wallpaper that you can easily take down once you tire of it. Unlike traditional wallpaper, the removal process is painless (for both you and your walls), which means this weekend project is feasible for renters and homeowners alike.
Time: A few hours to half a day
Tools: Power drill, screwdriver
Entryway storage is crucial—especially in the winter, when puffer jackets, snow boots, and scarves demand extra space. Marty Basher of Modular Closets suggests visiting the local craft store to purchase bookcases or shelving, so you can keep odds and ends organized in the entryway.
A wall-mounted shelf above the table will add space for hats and gloves, and you can install hooks for hanging keys or the dog’s leash as well.
“An antique, wooden small table with drawers can easily store small items like note pads, pens, a stapler, and other accessories,” Basher adds.
Time: An hour or two
Tools: A screwdriver
The weather may be dreary, but your home fixtures can still be cheery. A simple swap of cabinet hardware in the kitchen, the bathroom vanity, or an old dresser will breathe new life into your home’s appearance without breaking the bank.
If you have room in your budget for a more dramatic face-lift, install a new dining room chandelier or updated lighting in the foyer, or take the plunge on a statement fixture for above the kitchen island.
Time: An hour
Tools: Wrench, pliers
Over time, showerheads become grungy and gross. If yours is overdue for an upgrade, spend some time this weekend swapping out your old showerhead for a new, low-flow model. Not only will you take the ick factor out of your shower, but you’ll also save on your water bill.
“New showerheads spin the water droplets so that you actually feel like you’re getting more volume, not less, while you save,” Kato says.
Time: One to two days
Tools: Paint, brushes, drop cloth, painter’s tape (optional)
Painting is a perennial favorite project for DIYers, and for good reason: It doesn’t cost a lot of money, it doesn’t require any special skills, and it can be accomplished in as little as a day, depending on the size of your room.
If you’re considering selling your house in the spring, opt for neutral white, gray, or tan. If you’re planning to stick around for a while, why not go big and pick up a gallon of your favorite statement color?
“Painting a room is an easy way to change the mood of the space and add some color,” Basher says.
So go ahead—buy a can of that moody aubergine for your master bedroom or the turquoise you’ve been mulling over for the powder room. When you’re ready for a new color, you can paint again—a good project for next winter, perhaps.
The post Take It Inside: 7 Weekend Improvement Projects You Can Do in Your Pajamas appeared first on Realtor.com.
Some of the areas of your [area] home probably feel like an afterthought. After all, it’s not like you’ll be showing your linen closets off to your guests. But some overlooked spaces can provide you with quite a bit of functionality. In fact, some of the underutilized spaces in your home can actually become the most useful. By thinking outside of the box, you can turn what seems like wasted space and dusty corners into your favorite places in your home.
The space under the stairs is typically ignored or drywalled. But, with the right repurposing, it’s valuable square footage. Before you opt to drywall that empty area, consider making it into a kids’ play area. It might not be a great space for adults, but it’s the perfect area to set up with toy storage, or even to create a playhouse. No kids? The space under the stairs can make an ideal mini-library. Installing simple shelves means your favorite books stay dry, organized and easily accessible.
The mudroom is one of those spaces that you can’t live without – but don’t really want to see. It can become a dumping ground for backpacks, coats and shoes, so put it to work: rearrange to create a homework nook. If your kids tend to dump their backpacks there anyway, a small desk with supplied and dedicated study space makes sense. It’ll keep the endless papers and pencils out of your main living space and give kids a quiet place to work that’s still close to the action.
There’s nothing like your own bed – unless it’s the foot of your own bed. This underutilized space is ideal for solving storage problems, especially if your home is short on closet space. A hinged ottoman becomes the perfect place to put on shoes and can help stash away blankets, sheets, clothes and any other quick-access items. Or, add a desk and chair for study space that won’t fit on any of your walls. Rethink the space at the foot of your bed as functional square footage and it becomes more than just a place for your socks.
If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated guest room, you know how great the space can be. But while it’s an ideal place for friends and family to crash, it can sometimes go unused. Instead of keeping one room as just a guest space, double up on functionality so you can use it when you’re home solo.
Turn your guest room into a sleek office part of the time, or store craft supplies in the guest room closet for when you’re feeling creative. There’s no reason to leave an entire room unused except for when you have house guests. Be a little selfish and use the room for yourself the rest of the time.
Most people would say the linen closet is one of the most underrated spaces in a home. But that doesn’t mean you have to fill it with linens and blankets. If you’re able to store extra blankets in bins underneath each bed, you’ll free up an entire closet for things that make more sense to you. Whether it’s outfitting your linen closet as bathroom storage for products and towels or making over your closet as a storage pantry, think beyond sheets when rethinking your linen closet.
The space over each door in your home is a treasure trove for storage and decor. With simple shelving solutions, you’ll find a totally new space to store books or to show off souvenirs and decor items that don’t have a home elsewhere. Simple, straight shelving is easy to install and remove and can add plenty of character to an otherwise stark hallway.
The typical garage is a catch-all space for anything you don’t want in your house. But it can also be valuable space for other interests. With the right storage solutions, you can get larger items off the ground, opening up precious square footage. Store bins up in your garage trusses to get rarely used items out of the way. Then, use wall hooks to keep bikes and gear organized. With your new floor space, you could have a great indoor gym, a lounge, a rec area for rowdy kids or even a music studio.
Congratulations — you’ve finally found a house in [area] that you love, and your offer has been accepted. Now what? The next step in home buying is doing your inspections. While this process isn’t extraordinarily difficult, it does help if you go into it as informed as possible.
Put simply, you don’t have to do any inspections if you don’t want to. Alternatively, you could choose to do some, but not others. It’s entirely up to you. Your comfort level should dictate which make the most sense for you to elect to perform.
Each decision has its own advantages and disadvantages. Typically, when people choose to waive inspections, they do so in order to put themselves in a stronger bargaining position with the sellers. When you agree to waive inspections, you’re essentially saying that you’ll agree to buy the home, regardless of any problems that it has. You’re also not going to ask for any fixes or money toward future repairs.
That said, going this route is scary for most buyers. After all, buying a home with problems unknown is a huge leap of faith. Most choose to take a happy medium, where they elect to do a property inspection, plus one or two supplemental ones for things like radon or wood-destroying insects.
Once you’ve decided which inspections you’re going to perform on the home, your next step is figuring out which company you feel most comfortable working with. Know that these types of inspections can’t be completed by just any contractor. The job requires a certified inspector in order to be considered valid and applicable to the transaction.
The two societies responsible for certifying home inspectors are The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and The Professional Association of Building Inspectors (PABI). No matter who you ultimately choose to inspect your home, make sure they are a member of at least one of these two organizations. If not, save your money and look elsewhere.
In addition to checking certifications, you should also do some additional research to make sure that you choose the right company for your needs. Go online and read reviews from other customers to learn about their experiences. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask inspectors some questions of your own.
Inspections often get a bad rap because they come at a cost, but, ultimately, they’re there for your benefit. They show you what, if anything, might be wrong with the home as it is right now. They also give you the opportunity to negotiate any fixes that must be made before you buy the home.
They’re also your “get out of jail free” card. Inspections are contingencies, which means that, in order for the transaction to continue to move forward, they need to happen on time and be resolved in a way that both the buyer and the seller agree upon. Otherwise, you’re free to walk away from the transaction with your deposit money still in hand.
There’s no such thing as a totally secure home. If the prize is big enough, even minefields, electric fences and armed guards won’t deter criminal masterminds.
But that doesn’t mean you have to give up. Here are some of the steps most likely to help you secure your home:
Any combination of the above could encourage burglars to skip your home and move onto a more vulnerable one.