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Baldwin County Homes Selling Faster than Last Year

The Baldwin County median home sales price in March was $247,500, an increase of 5.8 percent from one year ago. (iStock)

Sales: According to the Baldwin County Association of Realtors/Multiple Listing Service, Baldwin County residential sales totaled 631 units during March, down 0.6 percent from 635 sales in the same month a year earlier. March sales were up 37.7 percent compared to 472 sales in February. Results were 21.6 percent above the five-year March average of 519 sales. Two more resources to review: Quarterly Report and Annual Report.

For all of Baldwin County’s housing data, click here.

Inventory: Total homes listed for sale in the Baldwin County area during March were 2,979 units, a decrease of 0.3 percent from March’s 2018’s 2,987 units and an increase of 3.7 percent from February 2019’s 2,872 units. March’s months of supply totaled 4.7 months, equal to March 2018’s month’s of supply. March’s month of supply decreased 22.4 percent when compared to February 2019’s 6.1 months of supply. February’s months of supply decreased 23.4 percent from January 2019’s 7.9 months.

Pricing: The Baldwin County median sales price in March was $247,500, an increase of 5.8 percent from one year ago and an increase of 4.3 percent from the prior month. This direction is inconsistent with historical data (2014-18) indicating that the March median sales price on average decreases from February by 1.6 percent. The differing sample size (number of residential sales of comparative months) can contribute to statistical volatility, including pricing. ACRE recommends consulting with a local real estate professional to discuss pricing, as it will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. The average number of days on the market (DOM) for homes sold during March was 87 days, a decrease of 13.9 percent from 101 days in March 2019 and a decrease of 9.4 percent from 96 days in February 2019.

Forecast: March sales were seven units, or 1.1 percent, above the Alabama Center for Real Estate’s (ACRE) monthly forecast. ACRE projected 624 sales for the month, while actual sales were 631 units. ACRE forecast a total of 1,525 residential sales in the Baldwin County area year-to-date, while there were 1,460 actual sales through March.

ACRE’s statewide perspective: Statewide residential sales in February increased 10.9 percent year-over-year from 3,807 to 4,222 closed transactions. Year-to-date sales increased 6.4 percent from 2018. Home price appreciation in the state continued to climb, but at a slower pace, as the median sales price in February increased 3 percent year-over-year from $152,771 to $157,319. The statewide median sales price is also up 4.2 percent year-to-date. Although nationwide inventory levels are trending upward, Alabama’s residential listings decreased 8.9 percent from one year ago. Low inventory levels were a significant factor contributing to rising sales prices throughout 2018 and in the early months of 2019. With low inventory levels, it is not surprising to see homes selling more quickly than in previous years. Homes selling in Alabama during February spent an average of 99 days on the market, an improvement of 27 days from February 2018.

NAR’s national perspective: During February, total existing-home sales nationwide declined 2.2 percent from approximately 319,000 closed transactions one year ago to 312,000 currently. The nationwide median existing-home price increased 3.6 percent in February, marking 84 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said, “It is very welcoming to see more inventory showing up in the market. For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced homes is still needed. More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains.”

Source: Alabama Center for Real Estate

Baldwin County Condo Sales Double in March

The Baldwin County condo median sales price in March was $395,000, an increase of 25.4 percent from one year ago. (iStock)

Sales: According to the Baldwin County Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service, Baldwin County condo sales, which include condos along the Gulf Coast, totaled 179 units during March, up 18.5 percent from 151 sales in the same month a year earlier. March sales were up 92.5 percent compared to 93 sales in February. Results were 19.8 percent above the five-year average of 149 sales. Two more resources to review: Quarterly Report and Annual Report.

For all of Baldwin County’s condo sales data, click here.

Inventory: Baldwin County condo inventory totaled 760 units in March, an increase of 0.7 percent from March 2018’s 755 units and an increase of 2.8 percent from February 2019’s 739 units. March months of supply totaled 4.2 months, down 15.1 percent from March 2018’s 5 months of supply. March’s months of supply decreased 46.6 percent from February’s 7.9 months of supply.

Pricing: The Baldwin County condo median sales price in March was $395,000, an increase of 25.4 percent from one year ago and an increase of 5.3 percent from the prior month. This direction is consistent with historical data (2014-18) indicating that the March median sales price on average increases from January by 1.3 percent. The differing sample size (number of residential sales of comparative months) can contribute to statistical volatility, including pricing. ACRE recommends consulting with a local real estate professional to discuss pricing, as it will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. The average number of days on the market (DOM) for condos sold during March was 85 days, a decrease of 5.6 percent from 90 days in March 2018 and constant with 85 days in February.

Forecast: March sales were 40 units, or 28.8 percent, above the Alabama Center for Real Estate’s (ACRE) monthly forecast. ACRE projected 139 sales for the month, and actual sales were 179 units. ACRE forecast a total of 338 residential sales for Baldwin County condos year-to-date, while there were 345 actual sales through March.

ACRE’s statewide perspective: Statewide residential sales in February increased 10.9 percent year-over-year from 3,807 to 4,222 closed transactions. Year-to-date sales increased 6.4 percent from 2018. Home price appreciation in the state continued to climb, but at a slower pace, as the median sales price in February increased 3 percent year-over-year from $152,771 to $157,319. The statewide median sales price is also up 4.2 percent year-to-date. Although nationwide inventory levels are trending upward, Alabama’s residential listings decreased 8.9 percent from one year ago. Low inventory levels were a significant factor contributing to rising sales prices throughout 2018 and in the early months of 2019. With low inventory levels, it is not surprising to see homes selling more quickly than in previous years. Homes selling in Alabama during February spent an average of 99 days on the market, an improvement of 27 days from February 2018.

NAR’s national perspective: During February, total existing-home sales nationwide declined 2.2 percent from approximately 319,000 closed transactions one year ago to 312,000 currently. The nationwide median existing-home price increased 3.6 percent in February, marking 84 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said, “It is very welcoming to see more inventory showing up in the market. For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced homes is still needed. More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains.”

 

Source: Alabama Center for Real Estate

5 New Homeowner Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid

The following is a guest post from Jessica Thiefels

Become a first-time homeowner is one of the most exciting and stressful times of your life, even after the closing papers have been signed and key is in hand. Suddenly, you’re faced with a whole new set of challenges: how to manage a home that’s yours, not your landlord’s. There are a lot of opportunities to learn—and as you learn, mistakes will be made.

Luckily, many new homeowner mistakes can be easily avoided with a little preparation. Don’t let the following potential mistakes damper your excitement. Instead, plan ahead and keep these tips and tricks in mind as you learn the ropes of being a homeowner.

Ignoring Routine Maintenance

You likely just did a walk-through with a licensed inspector during the homebuying process, so you’re aware of what issues need attention and which can wait. That’s not where home maintenance stops. Home maintenance includes tasks you may have never thought of before, like cleaning the gutters, power-washing the house, prepping your pipes for winter and much more.

The best way to avoid missing these critical tasks, which could lead to costly damage, is to set up a quarterly or monthly maintenance schedule for all of the areas of your home. This should include indoor and outdoor maintenance as well as details like plumbing and electrical. Use this checklist from Better Homes and Gardens as a starting point to creating one that’s specific to your home’s unique needs.

Not Budgeting for Additional Expenses

Moving can be expensive but any veteran homeowner will tell you that there’s always more to budget for—and these issues seem to pop-up out of nowhere, like a broken washer right after you need to patch a leak in the roof. Plan for the unexpected by putting away extra money for emergency house needs.

Experts at HGTV suggest putting away 1 to 3 percent of your home’s purchase price each year to develop an emergency fund. They give the example, “For example, if your home cost $300,000, set aside at least $3,000 each year. Make one large deposit or spread the amount out in monthly deposits.”

Getting Locked Out

Being a new homeowner can make you more susceptible to being locked out: you have the new keys, you run out to get something and realize that the new key isn’t on your old keyring. You walk outside with the trash, forgetting that the new door locks behind you.

This mistake can lead to another one: choosing a locksmith that’s not reputable. In your hurry to get back into the house, it’s easy to forget to do your research and listen for clues that something’s not right.

That’s why experts from Lokology Locksmith share an important tip, “Ask the locksmith for an estimate prior to their arrival. If the locksmith cannot give you a quote or a price range over the phone—that should be a red flag.” This is a simple way to test whether a company is reputable to reinforce the quick research you did.

Making Major Renovations Right Away

It’s exciting to think about how you’ll make your new home feel more like yours with renovation projects. While small changes are to be expected, major renovations should wait. Give yourself time to live in the home, see how it feels, and determine what larger renovations will look like as needs arise.

For example, you may find the location of your fridge makes it hard to move around the kitchen seamlessly. This might be a focus of your kitchen renovation that would have otherwise not been considered.

Making Major Life Changes at the Same Time

 As you can see, becoming a first-time homeowner is a lot of work. Adding to that by having a baby or getting married at the same time only increases the likelihood that you’ll make mistakes or become overly stressed. If possible, leave yourself time to get to know what it’s like to be a homeowner and avoid making costly mistakes that come with being stressed, and in-turn, overlooking simple details.

Avoid New Homeowner Mistakes

There are some mistakes you can’t avoid—but many others that you can. As you get familiar with your role as a homeowner, keep these simple mistakes in mind. If you plan ahead as best you can, you’ll be able to enjoy all the excitement of owning your first home with less stress and frustration.

Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

5 Ways to Pay for a Pricey Home Remodel

Remodeling your home can be a great way to change your living space without buying a new house. Whether your overgrown starter home needs an extension or you want to add luxury upgrades to your basic bathroom, a remodel can give you the home you want using the resources you already have.

One roadblock, however, can be cost: renovating or remodeling can end up being an expensive ordeal. Before you write off your chances of renewing your living space, consider these five methods of raising cash for your project. No matter what credit profile or financial situation you have, you can find a way to afford the changes your home needs.

  1. Taking out a home equity line of credit

If you own your own home, you may be eligible for a line of credit that ties to the equity you already have in your home. HELOCs are variable-rate loans that you can borrow against over time, and the terms of your HELOC will vary due to your creditworthiness. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) works best for those who have paid off most or all of their home’s mortgage.

You can expect to borrow up to 85 percent of your home’s value, minus whatever’s left on your mortgage. Since the amount you’ve already paid toward your mortgage will be used as the collateral for your loan, a HELOC won’t be an option for those who owe more than their home is worth. Remember that with a HELOC, your home is put up as security and can be forfeited to the bank if you don’t make your payments on time.

  1. Choosing a personal home improvement loan

A personal loan comes with less risk than a HELOC, so it’s a safer way to borrow for that new tile in the kitchen or an upgraded garage door. A personal home improvement loan is generally unsecured, meaning it’s only tied to your creditworthiness. With an unsecured loan, you won’t lose your house if something goes wrong. You also have more freedom on how to use the funds from this loan, including:

  • Home repairs
  • Renovation supplies
  • Consolidating existing credit card debt

Homeowners often choose a personal loan because they don’t require collateral for approval and because they offer set monthly payments that can be paid off in a few years. With that lower risk level comes a lower loan amount: home improvement personal loans will generally be smaller than a HELOC.

  1. Borrowing from family or friends

Asking for money can be difficult, especially when you’re asking people you love. But turning to your friends and family for help funding your renovation may be worth considering. With a legally-sound contract in place for repaying the money, borrowing from your personal circle may be profitable for both parties. Your friend or family member will earn interest on the loan amount, and you will move one step closer to that dream addition.

If you have a solid relationship with someone who has expressed an interest in helping out, they may be a sound choice for financing that home remodel. For the sake of your relationship (and your financial security) make sure you create a contract that both parties are willing to honor.

  1. Finding a low-interest credit card

Credit cards can be a helpful way to finance purchasing the supplies and building materials you’ll need for your home renovation project. You may even qualify for a retail card to a home supply store, which come with cash-back rewards and big discounts on your home repair buys.

Unfortunately, not all builders and contractors take plastic, or they may charge an exorbitant processing fee. While it might be tempting to simplify your purchase with a cash advance from your favorite card, remember that this comes at a hefty price. Interest on cash advances can be 25 percent or more. If you choose a credit card cash advance, make sure you are prepared to pay the debt off quickly. Pay close attention to even the standard credit card APR as well. If you carry a balance month to month, you may end up paying high amounts of interest.

  1. Saving up your cash

This method of financing won’t cost you a cent in interest or origination fees, making it the only risk-free option on our list. If possible, saving up for a large expense is one of the most compelling financial options.

However, depending on the reason for the renovation, you may need to act quickly. Leaky pipes or a damaged roof can become huge problems if you let them go untreated. One other drawback to cash is inflation: the cost of building supplies can increase anywhere up to 30 percent in a given year, with new tariffs only driving up the costs. By the time you save up what you need, your project cost may have doubled.

To choose the right financing option, we recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • How much will I need to borrow?
  • Do I want to put my home up for collateral?
  • Will borrowing money from family or friends strain those relationships?
  • Does my funding choice carry additional fees or penalties?
  • Will I need a one-time loan or an ongoing line of credit?
  • If I need additional repairs or upgrades in the future, do I have to apply for a separate loan or account?
  • Do I need to consolidate other debts or pay for additional purchases?

With the right funding, you can act quickly to turn your current home into the house of your dreams. Your renovations should also raise your home’s value, giving you more equity and even making it easier to sell your home someday.

Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

8 Guides That Make You a Better Homeowner

The following is a guest post written by Jessica Thiefels.

Homeownership in the U.S. in increasing, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, the Q2 2018 U.S. homeownership rate was 64.3 percent, up from 64.2 percent in Q1 2018 and 63.7 percent in Q2 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Being a homeowner is exciting and rewarding—not to mention it comes with a lot of perks. No more landlord, no more renting, and no more leases. While owning a home has a long list of benefits, it also comes with great responsibility and hard work. Being a good homeowner means retaining the value of your home with continuous maintenance, keeping your financial health in check and much more.

Luckily, there are many tools and guides available to help you be the best homeowner you can be. Below are eight of our favorite guides and tools to help you be a better homeowner.

HomeAdvisor: True Cost Guide

If you plan on renovating your home, head over to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide. This tool gives you accurate estimates for common home renovation and repair costs.

Whether you are planning on remodeling your bathroom or installing a new garage door, True Cost can help. The tool takes real costs from real home projects and combines it with local and national cost data to give you the closest estimate for what you can expect.

Use this estimate to vet potential contractors and companies so you can avoid working with someone who will charge too much.

Consumer Report: Homeowners Insurance Buying Guide

Homeowners insurance is critical, as the protection for your most valuable and expensive asset—your home. However, not all homeowner insurance policies are created equal, and with so many to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you.

Consumer Report’s Homeowners Insurance Buying Guide not only gives homeowners tips on how to choose the best insurance but it also provides ratings for the top homeowners insurance companies such as Allstate, Amica and State Farm.

If you’ve already signed up with homeowner’s insurance, use this guide as a way to evaluate whether now is a good time to switch to a new provider, negotiate rates, or update your current coverage.

Zillow: Home Value Calculator

Understanding the market value of your home is important for insurance purposes, property tax, financial planning and if you ever plan on selling.

Zillow’s Zestimate tool estimates the value of your home using millions of public and user-submitted data points. It also takes into account special features, location, and market conditions. While Zillow’s Zestimate is useful, it’s important to note that it’s an estimated market value not an official appraisal.

Puls: The Ultimate Guide to TV Mounting

With TV’s being part of the modern home, more and more people are mounting them to make space and create a cleaner look. However, mounting your TV isn’t the easiest homeowner task and one that can lead to a lot of damage, both to your home and your TV.

Puls’s guide is a great resource if you want to mount your television without ripping out a wall or making one too many holes—you own that wall afterall, so you want to take good care of it. The Puls blog is also filled with homeowner guides for your garage door, kitchen and more, so keep it bookmarked.

CrimeReports

CrimeReports is an online tool that provides up-to-date information on crimes within your neighborhood. All you have to do is type in your zip code to see what’s happening or what has happened recently.

The tool also allows you to set update alerts, so you always know if something is going on in your neighborhood. You can even register your security camera as a resource for local law enforcement, keeping your home and your neighbors safe.

Remodeling: Cost Vs. Value Report

When deciding what to remodel in your house, consider both use and need within the house, in addition to return on investment (ROI). The Cost Vs. Value report is put out each year and tells you which renovations will lead to the greatest and lowest return.

For example, the 2018 report found that a garage door replacement has the greatest return. Consider this data as you embark on new home projects to make sure you’re getting the most for your time and money.

Home Depot: DIY/How-To Guides

Are you the handy type who likes to take on home renovation and décor projects yourself? Home Depot has a robust selection of DIY and how-to guides on a variety of home projects, including lawn and garden ideas, shower door configuration and kitchen backsplash guides.

These how-to guides and helpful DIY videos provide step by step instructions as well as material recommendations pulled straight from their shelves. It’s a one-stop-shop for those looking to start a home passion project.

TreeHugger: EnergySavvy

Being an eco-friendly homeowner doesn’t have to be expensive. EnergySavvy is an online tool that helps homeowners minimize wasted energy and save money. Create a profile and get a score based on your current energy efficiency. Once you’ve done that, the tool then finds different ways you can improve your energy efficiency. The tool even suggests contractors to help you implement the improvements and find rebates to make it cost-effective.

Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

Baldwin County February home sales up 15 percent from 2018

The Baldwin County median home sales price in February was $237,272. (iStock)

Sales: According to the Baldwin County Association of Realtors/Multiple Listing Service, Baldwin County residential sales totaled 472 units during February, up 15.1 percent from 410 sales in the same month a year earlier. February sales were also up 32.2 percent compared to 357 sales in January. Results were 3.4 percent above the five-year February average of 345 sales. Two more resources to review: Quarterly Report and Annual Report.

For all of Baldwin County’s housing data, click here.

Inventory: Total homes listed for sale in the Baldwin County area during February were 2,872 units, an increase of 2.6 percent from February 2018’s 2,798 units and an increase of 1.3 percent from January 2019’s 2,836 units. February’s months of supply totaled 6.1 months, a decrease of 10.8 percent when compared to February 2018’s 6.8 months of supply. February’s months of supply decreased 23.4 percent from January 2019’s 7.9 months.

Pricing: The Baldwin County median sales price in February was $237,272, a decrease of 0.4 percent from one year ago and a decrease of 5.1 percent from the prior month. This direction is inconsistent with historical data (2014-18) indicating that the February median sales price on average increases from January by 1.2 percent. The differing sample size (number of residential sales of comparative months) can contribute to statistical volatility, including pricing. ACRE recommends consulting with a local real estate professional to discuss pricing, as it will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. The average number of days on the market (DOM) for homes sold during February was 96 days, an increase of 1.1 percent from 95 days in February 2018 and an increase of 4.3 percent from 92 days in January 2019.

Forecast: February sales were three units, or 0.6 percent, below the Alabama Center for Real Estate’s (ACRE) monthly forecast. ACRE projected 475 sales for the month, while actual sales were 472 units. ACRE forecast a total of 901 residential sales in the Baldwin County area year-to-date, while there were 829 actual sales through February.

ACRE’s statewide perspective: After a strong 2018, statewide residential sales in January increased 1.1 percent year-over-year from 3,320 to 3,358 closed transactions. Home price appreciation in the state continued to climb as the median sales price in January increased 5.5 percent year-over-year from $143,152 to $151,015. Although nationwide inventory levels are trending upward, Alabama’s residential listings decreased 7.4 percent from one year ago. Low inventory levels were a significant factor contributing to rising sales prices throughout 2018. With low inventory levels, it is not surprising to see homes selling more quickly than in previous years. Homes selling in Alabama during January spent an average of 106 days on the market, an improvement of 10 days from 2018.

NAR’s national perspective: During January, total existing-home sales nationwide declined 9 percent from approximately 313,000 closed transactions one year ago to 285,000 currently. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said, “Existing home sales in January were weak compared to historical norms; however, they are likely to have reached a cyclical low. Moderating home prices combined with gains in household income will boost housing affordability, bringing more buyers to the market in the coming months.”

Click here to view the entire monthly report.

The Baldwin County Residential Monthly Report is developed in conjunction with the Baldwin County Association of Realtors to better serve Gulf Coast consumers.

Source: Alabama Center for Real Estate

Alabama statewide home sales in February up 11 percent from one year ago

The statewide median home sales price in February was $157,319, an increase of 3 percent from one year ago. (Getty Images)

Sales: Alabama statewide home sales totaled 4,222 units during February, up 10.9 percent from 3,807 sales in the same month a year earlier. February sales were up 25.7 percent compared to 3,358 sales in January. Results were 23.9 percent above the five-year February average of 3,409 sales. Two more resources to review: Quarterly Report and Annual Report.

For all statewide housing data, click here.

Inventory: Homes listed for sale statewide during February totaled 21,051 units, a decrease of 8.9 percent from February 2018’s 23,106 units, and a decrease of 4.4 percent from January 2019’s 22,029 units. February months of supply totaled 5 months, a decrease of 17.8 percent from February 2018’s 6.1 months of supply. February’s months of supply also decreased from January’s 6.6 months of supply.

Pricing: The statewide median sales price in February was $157,319, an increase of 3 percent from one year ago and an increase of 4.2 percent from the prior month. This direction is consistent with historical data (2014-18) indicating that the February median sales price on average increases from January by 0.6 percent. The homes selling in February spent an average of 99 days on the market (DOM), a decrease of 21.8 percent from 126 days in February 2018 and a 7.4 percent decrease from 106 days in January. This indicator can fluctuate from month to month because of the sampling size of data and seasonal buying patterns.

Forecast: February sales were 184 units, or 4.6 percent, above the Alabama Center for Real Estate’s (ACRE) monthly forecast. ACRE projected 4,038 sales for the month, while actual sales were 4,222 units. ACRE forecast a total of 7,576 residential sales year-to-date in 2019, while there were 7,580 actual sales through February, a difference of less than 0.1 percent.

NAR’s national perspective: During February, total existing-home sales nationwide declined 2.2 percent from approximately 319,000 closed transactions one year ago to 312,000 currently. The nationwide median existing-home price increased 3.6 percent in February, marking 84 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said, “It is very welcoming to see more inventory showing up in the market. For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced homes is still needed. More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains.”

 

Click here to view the entire monthly report.

The Alabama Residential Monthly Report is developed in conjunction with the Alabama Association of Realtors and its local associations.

Source: Alabama Center for Real Estate

6 Steps for Designing Your Garden

The following is a guest post by Francesca Singer

Spring is coming, which means it is almost prime time for gardening. Whether you are a novice gardener or an old pro, there are a few critical actions to take when you set out to design a garden. Read on for six steps for designing your garden–and get started stat!

Step 1: Location, Location, Location

Like so many things in life, with gardens, location is everything. Determine where you want your garden to be. There are a few important considerations to keep in mind. If you want a landscaped garden around your home, you will have to take into account the shadow cast by the house, drainage, and other logistical issues. If you want a vegetable and herb garden, you will need a place that receives full sunlight for most of the day but especially in the morning.

Step 2: Map it Out

These days, drawing out an aerial perspective isn’t difficult. Use some of the tools technology has given us, like Google Earth, to make an aerial image of your property or the specific part of your property where your garden will go. You don’t have to be a skilled artist to do this: you need a printer and some tracing paper. It doesn’t have to be perfect, either. You just want a visual reference of your site.

Step 3: Evaluate Your Options

Walk around your future garden site, make observations, and take notes. Note where the shadows fall during the day, which direction prevailing winds come from, and where water drains during heavy rains. Using your site drawing and some tracing paper (or multiple copies of the drawing), note these conditions on your map where they occur.

Step 4: Scale Your Drawing

This may sound difficult, but it really isn’t. The easiest way to make a scale drawing is to find the edge of a wall, measure it, and then decide on a unit to represent each foot. A good scale for design is ¼ inch to a foot. That would make a fifty-foot length just over twelve inches in your drawing. Again, it does not have to be perfect.

Step 5: Plant Selection

Finally, the fun begins! Make a list of all the plants you want, and if you’re not sure, visit a local gardening center and see what types of plants are available. There are also numerous online gardening guides to ornamental plants, or you can visit a local campus or botanical garden for inspiration. Make sure you select for species that will thrive in your hardiness zone.

Step 6: Planting Plan

Garden designers everywhere love this step: it’s the reward for all your hard work. Using your scale drawing and your notes on site conditions, create a design for planting. Have fun with colors, heights, and textures, but bear in mind which plants can tolerate shade and sun to ensure their success. Draw in your plants to the dimension they will be when mature so you can make sure they aren’t overcrowded.

And voila– you now have a solid design for a successful garden. If these six steps for designing your garden seem like a little too much work, or you aren’t sure how to put them in action, don’t hesitate to ask a landscape professional for help. It may seem like a lot of work, but that work will pay off when your garden is the envy of the neighborhood.

 

Francesca Singer is a former farmer & landscape architect who is passionate about organic gardening, DIY everything, and the great outdoors. When not writing, she can be found working in the garden, wrangling her toddler, or wielding power tools.

Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

Spotting Foundation Issues When Buying a Home

The following guest post is from Sarah Hutchinson

Buying a home is both exciting and stressful. After all, you want to find a place that suits your living needs and is in great condition. One of the biggest concerns is that the property you purchase is structurally sound, and this often starts with the foundation. Consider these tips about how to spot potential issues when viewing homes with your real estate agent.

Courtesy of Ram Jack

Watch for these warning signs

When touring homes, keep an eye out for the following signs of foundation problems. Pay extra attention if you’re looking at homes built more than a decade ago or in an area with clay soil, which is notorious for damaging foundations.

What to look for on the outside:

• Horizontal cracks in the foundation itself

• Stair-step cracking in exterior bricks

• A chimney that leans away from the house

• Gaps above windows and doors or around the garage door

• Sunken porches or stairs

What to look for on the inside:

• Cracks in the drywall

• Misaligned windows or doors that are hard to open and close

• Sloping floors or cracked tiles

• Cracks in the ceiling

• Any separation between walls and the ceiling

• Moisture in crawl spaces or the basement

What should I do if I see these warning signs?

Many buyers run for the hills when they think a home’s foundation isn’t structurally sound, but you don’t need to immediately rule out a house if you believe it has foundation problems. Take a deep breath and investigate the issues—the more you know, the better decisions you can make. Keep in mind that some situations will only require minor repairs, while others can be quite complex.

Start here to weigh the pros and cons:

• Ask the seller if they’ve had foundation repair work or an inspection done. In most cases, sellers are required by law to disclose foundation issues.

• A routine home inspection may not be enough, so have a specialized foundation company, like Ram Jack, assess the home.

• Research the potential cost of repairs to help you determine a fair price. A wealth of information is available online—search for “foundation repair cost” to get an overview of what to expect.

• Find out if the issues will affect your financing. Often, houses with unresolved foundation problems can only be purchased with cash or a special type of mortgage.

What if a home I’d like to buy has had the foundation repaired?

Many buyers would look at this as a positive, especially if the repairs were done by a reputable contractor who offers a warranty. The best foundation repair companies offer a lifetime warranty that is transferable when the home sells. Just be sure that all the proper permits were pulled at the time of the repair and that there hasn’t been any trouble since. If the foundation has been stabilized, any remaining cosmetic issues can be resolved easily and quickly.

What if I’d like to make an offer but don’t want to end up with a nightmare on my hands?

Make sure your offer is written up with contingencies that protect you if things turn out differently than expected. A contingency will make your offer dependent on specific conditions, such as inspections or repairs. Discuss your options with your real estate agent.

Should I ask the seller to fix the foundation as part of the sale?

You can ask the seller to make the repairs, but it’s common for them to reduce the price of the home and sell it “as is.” If you aren’t up for making the repairs yourself, you may need to look for a different house. Additionally, some buyers worry that if the seller is held responsible, they will choose the most affordable option, not the most thorough one.

Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

Trends in Landscaping Design to Try This Year

The following is a guest post by Cat Murphy.

Whether you’re trying to sell your home or update the one you recently bought, there are plenty of ways to modernize your landscaping and add a touch of refreshing curb appeal. The latest trends include homeowners stepping outside the box with landscaping designs that have Mother Nature’s best interest at heart. Here’s a list of this years most up and coming popular trends.

Growing Produce

If you’re going to add plants to the garden, you might as well also grow something to eat. Planting edible options, like fruits and vegetables, is a great way to add interest and beauty to your landscaping that also offers plenty of health benefits. Growing food in your yard is a trending design that allows you and your guests to appreciate how food is grown. It’s also great for the environment and helps cut down on the weekly grocery budget. Choose fruits and vegetables that thrive in your community for an easier way to manage your garden.

Privacy

Speaking of privacy, you don’t have to install an ugly wooden fence. Plant a quick growing hedge or shrub to provide an extra barrier between your outdoor living space and your neighbors. Even a low growing shrub, like a boxwood, can create a semi-private feel to an area without hindering the view. Planting trees is another excellent way to add privacy and natural beauty to compliment a house.

Asymmetry

Shapes found in nature are rarely perfectly straight lines. Many homeowners now prefer the creativity of nature by reflecting curved or slanted lines in their landscaping. Slight curves on the outside edge of a garden bed and curved walkways are trending right now. These asymmetrical lines not only make your home more appealing, but they also create a softer overall look that embraces nature’s shapes. You can also include a free formed garden bed in the middle of a large lawn space that will add value to your home as well. Be sure to use a weed eater to properly trim all edges for the best look possible.

Xeriscaping

So you want a beautiful lawn and garden, but what if you don’t have time to keep it maintained? Xeriscaping is both a popular landscaping technique and design that incorporates plants acclimated to a specific region and decreases the amount of maintenance by using less turf. These plants are typically locally native plants that require little to no added water. They do well in the current climate conditions of the area and can be left alone for the most part.

Xeriscaping also encourages homeowners to replace lawn areas with non-organic mulching options, like stone, to create a truly unique look. While xeriscapes are more common in arid regions of the country, some homeowners use this type of landscaping in smaller portions of their yard that are either hard to access or have trouble growing other plants.

Adding any one of these landscaping techniques to your yard will help raise the overall curb appeal of your home. Consider changing a problem spot in the yard to a xeriscape or adding plants that provide nutritious food options. Creating privacy with quick growing plants as well as incorporating curved lines into your yard are other trends in landscaping design to try this year.

Source: Coldwell Banker Blue Matter