Blog

Blog Archive for March, 2014

10 Landscaping Mistakes to Avoid

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 26, 2014

gardening

After a long hard winter, you’re ready to get back outside and spruce up your landscaping. Before you let your enthusiasm overcome your sensibility, here are 10 landscaping mistakes to avoid:

1.     Jumped ahead without a plan.

It’s easy to walk into a nursery, spend a fortune, and get home with a carload of live plants that don’t fit with your yard. Before you buy even a seed packet, plan your landscaping. Decide what you want to plant and where, considering the sunlight or shade it needs to thrive. Think about how the colors are going to look when your plants are blooming, and when they’re not. Create a budget, including your tools and maintenance cost

2.     Didn’t consider the 360º view.

You might think how nice it will be to have a lawn ornament, pot, or tree outside your kitchen window, but don’t overlook how it looks from the opposite view—in other words, curb appeal. When planning your landscaping, consider what your yard will look like from both inside and outside your house.

3.     Ignored the maintenance required.

Before investing in your plants, shrubs, and trees, look at the care instructions. Will it need regular pruning, fertilizing, special food, or other maintenance beyond simple watering? Ask yourself if you’re going to commit to cultivating this living thing in the way it will require, or are willing to pay to have someone else do the yard and lawn care. Otherwise, your investment will be wasted, and you’ll be pulling up dead plantings.

4.     Planted the right plants in the wrong way.

Every plant comes with instructions for proper planting—how much light, depth, and space it requires. Be sure you’re putting them where they will have the right environment to thrive, including enough space to spread out.

5.     Over mowing the lawn.

Grass grows quickly, so you might be tempted to cut it shorter to stretch out the length of time between mowing. But if you cut your grass too short, you leave it susceptible to burning out in the hot sun. Not only do you have unsightly patches in your lawn, but you also invite bugs.

6.     Didn’t account for long-term growth.

Plants are going to grow, when maintained properly. Do you know how big they’re going to be next year? How about five years from now? Before you decide where to put your perennials, shrubs, and trees, consider the long-term growth. You might have to restrain yourself from over-planting in the first year or two, with the knowledge that you’re investing in the long-term growth of a stunning landscape!

7.     Failed to consider kids and animals

When you’re making your plan, think about the other living things moving in and out of your landscaped areas. Will your kids and pets be able to avoid stomping through those spaces? Do you know what kinds of wildlife are slipping in and out when you’re not looking? There are ways to deter rabbits, deer, and other unwanted guests, so take this into consideration when you’re choosing the plants and placement.

8.     Used pots that didn’t fit.

Nurseries use pots that are large enough for the plant in its current stage of growth. That’s not necessarily the size of pot to use when you transplant it. Think about the root system and be sure you’re giving the plant the room to spread out. Conversely, don’t plunk a small plant in a huge pot, because it could sink into the soil or soak up too much water.

9.     Forgot to consider color.

We all have our favorite plants and colors, but limiting your vision means you also limit the appeal of your landscape. Think about the color scheme you want, trying not to go overboard with a wide range of color that can look too busy. Decide where you want your color, and how to accent it with greenery. Foliage actually brings more attention to the color in your yard.

10.  Overlooked exterior lighting.

How will your yard and garden look when the sun goes down? If you want to enjoy your outdoor spaces in the evening, take the time to consider exterior lighting. Simple accents—like solar lights, lanterns, and strung lights—can be placed to highlight choice spots.

Its 38% cheaper to buy a home than to rent

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 21, 2014

new home

In the long run, its cheaper to buy a home than to rent. This is nothing new, but right now, it’s a lot cheaper. According to a recent Forbes article, the cost of homeownership is 38% less than being a renter.

According the Trulia’s Winter 2013 Rent vs. Buy Report, a mortgage is still a greater value than shelling out the monthly rent for a house, based on the current 30-year fixed rate of 4.5%. Trulia studies 100 metropolitan markets twice a year and says that even though housing prices are creeping back up, you’re still paying too much to live in a place that isn’t your own.

You might be thinking, “Well, of course, Trulia wants you to buy a house.” But the organization followed a careful model to come to this conclusion. They estimated prices and rents for comparable homes in similar neighborhoods, not just some broad estimation.

You can do the math yourself by calculating the monthly costs of rent/mortgage, plus maintenance, insurance, and taxes. Be sure to consider annual rent increases. Also include one-time expenses, like down payment, closing costs, or security deposit. Or use Trulia’s Rent vs. Buy Calculator.

The 38% figure varies from one market to another. Some cities, like San Francisco and Seattle, are seeing big rent hikes. However, housing prices are also higher there, so the margin between buying and renting is smaller—but still significant.

Before you decide about making the move to homeownership or waiting it out in a rental, check out Trulia’s complete report.

Common homeowners insurance terms

Categories: Blog | Posted: March 13, 2014

Terms

When reviewing a homeowners insurance policy, does it feel like you’re reading a foreign language? There are plenty of terms and acronyms that you should know so you get the coverage you want and need to protect your investment. Here is a quick glossary of the most common home insurance terms.

Actual Cash Value: The value of your property at the time it is loss, damaged, or destroyed. This figure is calculated deduct depreciation from the replacement cost, so you might have out-of-pocket expenses.

Assessed Value: The taxable value of your property, as assessed by your municipality.

Betterment: An improvement you make to your home or property.

Blanket Policy: One policy covers more than one person or piece of property, such as multiple residences.

Deductible: The amount of money you are required to pay out-of-pocket; i.e., not paid by the insurance company.

Dwelling or Residence Coverage: Protection for your home and any structures directly attached to it.

Flood Insurance: Protection for damage caused by floods, which is not covered under traditional homeowners insurance; required for dwellings in designated flood planes.

Hazard Insurance: Coverage that provides compensation for physical damage caused by such hazards as fire, vandalism, and natural events like earthquakes and storms (excludes flood and acts of war or civil unrest).

Loss of Use/Additional Living Expenses Coverage: If you cannot live in your home as a result of a covered loss, such as fire, this coverage pays for your living expenses, such as hotel, travel, and meals.

Medical Expenses Coverage: Coverage that pays medical expenses for someone who is injured on your property or from any injury caused by a resident of your home (including a pet), regardless of where the injury occurs.

Other Structures Coverage: Protection for structures that are not permanently attached to your home, such as a detached garage or shed.

Personal Liability: Your legal responsibility for personal damages, such as if someone is injured in your home or bitten by your dog.

Personal Property/Contents Coverage: Protects your personal property, both at home and when you’re traveling. If, for example, your laptop is stolen from a hotel or airport, the loss is covered. You may need additional riders for expensive items like original artwork, antiques, or fine jewelry.

Replacement Cost: The current market value for an item that needs to be replaced.

Rider: An amendment or addition to your coverage.

8 reasons why new beats used

Categories: News | Posted: March 6, 2014

new_homes_shiny

With great pricing and availability today in new home communities, why would you ever buy a used home? While used homes or short sales may sound like a great deal, there are so many more reasons to buy new.

Here are 8 great reasons to consider new verses used as you dive into the housing market and become a homeowner.

1) Quality Construction: Have you ever visited an older home and noticed exterior paint pealing, floors creaking, and a slight breeze through windows or doors even when they’re closed? Each year construction methods improve. With more durable, low maintenance materials and improved building codes, a new home is more airtight and needs less overall care than their older cousins.

2) Pick Your Options: When you walk into a used home you see cabinets that aren’t your first choice, floor coverings that don’t match your tastes and more. When you purchase new, you get to sit down with an array of colors, materials, and styles to choose from in order to make a house reflect your own personal taste.

3) Cleanliness: How do you feel about old toenail clippings or what a black light might uncover as you walk across 5 year-old carpets in that “bargain” foreclosure? Not to mention the things that find their way into crevices of kitchens and bathrooms…in a new home you have the unmistakable pleasure of being the first person to live in the home. It’s truly a clean slate.

4) No Surprises: Used homes may seem like a great deal until you move in and 3 months later the hot water heater blows, the roof leaks, or the dishwasher needs to be replaced. New homes come with new appliances and guarantees.

5) Warranties: A good home builder will provide security against those surprises that happen with a used home. When you buy new you receive builders’ warranties, structural warranties, and the manufacturers warranties that come with new appliances and other materials used to construct your home.

6) Community Lifestyle: New home communities are designed with community in mind. Many have the benefits of walking trails, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and other amenities that bring the community together. Since everyone in the neighborhood is new you get to take advantage of making new friends and shaping the neighborhood and your lifestyle at the same time.

7) Energy Efficiency: With current industry standards pushing toward greater energy efficiency and smaller environmental footprints, homes are being built with everything from Low-E windows to low flow toilets to reduce consumption and keep bills down. Older homes do not have the benefit of these technologies.

8) No Updating Nightmares: Older homes often look like a good deal if you could just move that wall, put in better lighting, and gut the hot pink bathroom. What you don’t realize is a small project can get out of hand quickly when you peal back the surface. With a new home you can get involved in the process, choose your options and layouts upfront and get what you want the first time through.

These are just 8 of many reasons why new beats out used every time.

ask martha

Ask Martha!

email phone chat