Weekly Tip

So, You've Done Your Spring Cleaning, What's Next?

So, You’ve Done Your Spring Cleaning, What’s Next?

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Summer is in full swing and it’s time to get out and enjoy the sunshine! You’ve been tackling clutter and investing in smaller projects around the house to spruce things up, whether you are looking to sell or just update a little, but what’s next on the list? It’s time to talk about curb appeal, and more specifically, landscaping.  Curb appeal has to do with how your home looks to passers-by and often times it’s thought of as a large, expensive investment but it can be done in a budget and environmentally friendly way.

Something that can make one of the biggest differences in your homes appearance is trimming shrubs and trees and keeping the lawn mowed. Trim away dead branches as well as ones that may hang in the way of walkways and obstruct the view of the home. When mowing your lawn, it’s actually a common misconception that you should mow it shorter so you won’t have to mow as often.  If a lawn is kept short it will dry out more easily resulting in brown patches and gives opportunity for weeds to take over. Ideally the grass should be about 3” tall.

Another simple option is to add colorful flowers in pots to front porches, by entry ways or next to stairs.  This will make the house feel bright and inviting without breaking the bank.

Now on to the toughest, and most fun, part of landscaping: picking your plants! One of your best options is to go with native plants. This means plants that will naturally thrive in the environment and will often need little care (meaning you won’t have to be outside watering them every day). You have to also be careful not to select any invasive plant species.  These are species that are not native but are well adapted to the environment and will thus multiply rapidly.  This will often come at the expense of helpful native plants.  A good example is purple loosestrife which is choking out local cattails which serve as an important food source. It may be beautiful but it does more harm that good. Seven Days has a short informative article on the aptly named “Botanical Bad Guys” which can be found here.  Another common no-no is a burning bush, they look lovely but they will quickly take over the areas where they are planted.

The items listed below will provide a quick checklist to determine which plants are the best for you!

  • Know your zone!
    • This refers to the temperature zone that you live in.  This will allow you to know what plants can grow and thrive in your environment.
    • Vermont covers zones 3-5 so if you aren’t sure your exact zone within the state picking plants that can survive in zone 3 is your best bet.
    • The zone for a plant can be found online as well as on the seed packet or the label that comes in the pot of the plant.
  • Know what your looking for in a plant
    • For example, if you want to stop mowing the lawn all the time pick plants like creeping thyme to serve as ground cover.  They have beautiful flowers, don’t grow very high and they are boot friendly! You can walk on them!
    • Want to attract butterflies? Swamp Milkweed is a great option. Contrary to its name it doesn’t need to grow in a swamp and it’s a favorite of Monarch butterflies.
  • Decide where you’re planting, if the area is very shaded planting a shade loving plant like Maidenhair Fern so it won’t need much tending. The same goes for the inverse, a sun loving plant won’t need constant watering to survive.

There are tons of easy to find resources online and in local libraries to discover what sorts of plants will work best for you.  Also, check when local nurseries (also a great source for information) are having sales or events you may be able to get the plants you want for a lower cost.  Large stores are also an option to purchase plants from just make sure to check the plants over so you know they are in good condition.

Happy Planting!

What is an Appraisal?

When you begin the process of buying or selling a home, you may be imagining how happy your kids will be playing in a larger yard, or how pleasant it will feel to finally move to the lake house of your dreams.

But before you can settle into your new space, one thing to be completed is the home appraisal. You’ll want to have an appraisal done during the buying and selling process. But what exactly does it entail?

An appraisal is an estimate, based on unbiased research, of the fair market value of your home. Appraisals are important when it comes to getting financing for purchase. Most homebuyers need to get a loan of some kind, and most lenders are going to require an appraisal before they will lend that money to you.

Why? The house you’re going to buy functions as loan collateral. If you take out a loan for $300,000 and you aren’t able to pay, the lender needs to be sure that they can recoup their losses through the collateral. If the house you bought with that $300,000 loan is worth $300,000, the lender should be able to recover the loss.

However, say you buy a house listed at $300,000 and find out later that it’s only worth $200,000. This is a problem for both parties, as it leaves a significant deficit. While the difference in true market value and list price will rarely be so extreme, there’s still a chance that a home may be purchased for an incorrect value.

So, take the time to schedule an appraisal! An appraisal is done by a licensed appraiser not associated with either buyer or seller, and is completed after both parties have signed a contract and negotiated a price. At this point, everyone is hoping the appraised value will be as close as possible to the agreed upon price so there is no further need to negotiate. Make sure the sales and purchase agreement you have signed allows you to step out of the contract or renegotiate the price if need be.

The seller usually pays for the appraisal, which can cost a few hundred dollars. An appraisal is not an inspection, though an inspection should also be completed. This will look for issues with the home that you might have to pay to fix down the road, while the appraisal determines current value.

An appraiser will consider two things when looking at a home. When visiting the property, they will examine the quality and condition of interior and exterior items, like the roof, foundation, windows and appliances, as well as what materials they are constructed of. Amenities like central air, fireplaces and pools will add to the value, as will upgrades to the home. As a homeowner, you can let the appraiser know about any major improvements you’ve made, and make sure the house and yard are clean and neat for the day of the appraisal.

In the second part of the process the appraiser will look at comparable properties, homes in the area similar to yours that are on the market or have recently been sold, to get an idea of the true market value of the home.

It usually takes a few days to get the final report after the appraisal has been completed. Once this is done, you’re free to move forward with the next step of your home sale!

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Photo by lumaxart - 3D Realty Handshake, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3590909

Pros & Cons of Holding an Open House

When it’s time to sell your home, you and your realtor will use a number of different marketing tactics to attract buyers and increase the chances of selling. Alongside techniques like virtual tours and the use of social media to promote the property, open houses are still a common practice. However, there are different opinions as to whether an open house is an essential piece of the home selling puzzle—and whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

Positive: Attracting New Buyers

An open house is a great way to attract those who are interested in buying a home, but don’t know how to start. These potential buyers may not have a realtor or know how to set up a showing, but seeing an open house may peak their interest. They can connect with your realtor to learn more about the process, possibly leading to a sale.

Negative: Attracting Casual Visitors

Just as an open house will attract serious buyers, each time there will be visitors who fall under the “nosy neighbor” category. Maybe someone across the street has always admired your home and wants to see the inside, or passersby are stopping in just for something to do. These visitors may not necessarily be harmful, but if this is the only interest you get, it can feel like holding an open house was a waste of time. Visitors can also include unqualified buyers, who may be interested in the property but are not able to afford it.

Positive: Preparation

If you’re still living in the home, you have to go the extra mile to prepare for your house to be shown, constantly focused on keeping things neat and tidy. Hosting an open house can be a great way to limit the number of individual showings your house may get while on the market. Rather than arranging for four or five private showings, you can prep your home once to receive multiple visitors.

Negative: Damage

Having multiple people walk through your home is an opportunity for damage to occur. This can be as minor as having dirt tracked throughout, or as major as having personal property stolen. It’s also possible that someone who walks through may be “casing” the home for a future theft.

Positive: Low-pressure environment

Because an open house is a more casual affair, visitors are able to check out the home at a leisurely pace without feeling added pressure from a realtor

Negative: Low Sale Percentage

While there is no reliable statistic for the number of home sales that come about directly from open houses, the 2014 National Association of Realtors stated that nine percent of buyers found their home from a yard sign or open house. If we limit that to just include open houses, very few homes are sold directly because of open houses.

Positive: True Feeling and Live Feedback

Virtual tours give potential buyers a visual of most angles of a home, but only by physically walking through the space is it possible to get a true sense of what the home feels like. A serious home buyer is going to want to see the house in person. It’s also great to get live feedback from multiple sources, even those who aren’t serious buyers, about the positives and negatives of the home.

The most important thing an open house is going to do is to give your home added exposure, which is imperative when selling. The more people who know about your property, the more likely it will sell. Ultimately, it is up to you as the homeowner to decide whether or not to make an open house a part of your selling plan.