Home Trends: 2015

conway nh home trendsSingle-residence homes have seen quite the evolution over the past several decades, growing from 983 square feet in the 1950s to a few thousand square feet in 2015. Home trends, including size, change from year to year. From Early American interior design, to shag carpet, to pastels, what is “in” is constantly shifting.

First, a rundown of what is on its way out:

  • Matching furniture
  • Ombre look
  • Solid-colored accent walls
  • Chevron
  • Mirrored furniture

Home designers and style experts are mostly in agreement with what is hot in home design for 2015. Here is a look at home trends for 2015 (but we should warn you-it might not be this way tomorrow):

Bathrooms

Home designers are finding homeowners are asking for the luxury treatment in what used to be the most private room in the home:

  • Large soaking tubs centered in the middle of the room, to evoke a spa feeling
  • Geometric 3-D tile
  • Lots of color, less white
  • Modern design with natural elements

Kitchens

CNN recently spoke with Steve Murray, owner of Murray Homes out of Sarasota, Florida. Murray gave some insight into home kitchen trends most recently requested by home buyers. Luxury homeowners are asking for:

  • Custom pantries, which can include mini sinks and a built-in coffee center (think smaller kitchen)
  • Refrigerated drawers, allowing for extra chilled storage throughout the space
  • Touch cabinets, with the capability to open with a brush of a hand
  • Steam ovens, offering a new way to cook efficiently

Relaxing Spaces

We want our outside spaces to also feel like the inside with inviting seating and fire pits around luxurious swimming pools. We also want:

  • Getaway rooms (didn’t we use to call these “family rooms”?)
  • Roof space, using screens and foldable walls in order to bring the outside in, and vice versa. Also called three-season rooms, these would include fire pits and sitting areas.
  • Wine rooms and bars with new designs to utilize the space underneath stairs as wine storage
  • Courtyards

Fixtures and Floors

Wide plank floors and gold tones are predicted to rise in popularity this year, as well as incorporating natural elements into these pieces.

  • Mixed metals
  • Natural tones
  • Brass fixtures with a satin finish
  • Sandstone tiles

Best in American Living also mentions trends in garage design, which are not only detached, but a short walk from the actual home. Also, both attached and detached mother-in-law dwellings to accommodate grandparents and kids moving back in with mom and dad. Other popular designs for 2015? Wallpaper with geometric designs, shades of blue and gray, as well as modern and mid-century design make the list. It may sound like a given, but top technology and environmentally friendly design will also be in-demand, from the kitchen to the living room. Whether you live in an apartment, a log cabin, a large home in the city, or a small dwelling in the suburbs, trends come and go. No matter your style, your space should always be as personal and unique as you are.

Misleading Mortgage Myths

north conway homesThe national average for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.86% last week. That (and the data listed down below) is according to Freddie mac’s most recent survey. Their Chief economist, Len Keifer, believes that 2015 is shaping up to be a great year. While we don’t normally encourage you to “buy in” to the national trends in real estate, I thought it might be worth our while to peek outside the box a bit and see what is happening outside the White Mountains region. While it does not determine our market, it certainly has some impact. Let’s take a look.

Regardless of the color of your lapel pin, with a growth rate of 250,000 per month for over a year, you can’t argue that jobs have increased across the country. Because of this, we have seen a strong increase in consumer’s buying power and the first-time homebuyer age group is gaining steam as well. Consumer confidence has a large impact on real estate. As we saw in the softening market a few years ago, if folks don’t have confidence that they will have a job tomorrow, they are certainly not going to venture out and take on a mortgage. As we see this job growth trend continue, we should continue to see the first-timers jumping on board.

If you have been reading along (in the national media) for the last couple of months, you have seen the word “affordable” floating around quite a bit. The numbers state that about 80% of homes in metro markets are affordable for a median family income to purchase a median priced home. I like this metric simply because it is very general, but allows consumers (like you and I) to gauge ourselves against a “real” set of numbers. If we find ourselves at or above the national average for income, we can feel better about moving forward towards home ownership.

We are also seeing rental rates start to creep up into an area that is making mortgages seem more attractive. With increases of over 11% in the last three years, renting will start to make less financial sense for the average buyer. To clarify, renting may still be the best option for you when the conditions point you in that direction. The comment here is simply to say that financially, buying a home can be more affordable in the long run.

So with rents creeping up, mortgage rates at comically low levels and housing at its most affordable in years, what is keeping you from throwing down this copy of the Sun and heading to the bank (besides it being Saturday!)? Perhaps it is the fear of the dreaded 20% down payment. Perhaps it is that lingering blemish on your credit report. The reality is much different than those two myths would have you believe. Let’s tackle the down payment myth first.

In the world of Freddie Mac, qualifying borrowers who buy within “maximum loan limits” (up to $417,000 in most areas) are able to get loans by putting less than 20 percent down. Beyond that, low-income and first-time buyers can get conforming loans with as little as 3 percent down from Fannie Mae AND Freddie Mac. The Veteran’s Administration and the Federal Housing Administration still offer mortgages at 3.5% down.

Of course there is some “fine print”. You’ll need to meet credit and income qualifications (derr!) but at least you can get yourself into a home and stop paying someone else’s mortgage for them (i.e. rent!). “For those of us who work in real estate, we are happy with the changes made to the lending practices over the last few years,” notes Badger Realty agent, Brett Newton. He continued, “The truth is, it was the LACK of those logical and intelligent requirements that got the industry in trouble in the first place.”

Speaking of that “blemish” on your credit report… The myth of needing “perfect” credit is also just that: a myth. Of course a higher credit score nudges you towards a better rate, but you can still get an FHA loan with a score as low as 580. If your score is at 650 or above, you are now able to take advantage of Fannie or Freddie’s conforming loans. In general, the less money you provide as a down payment, the higher your credit score needs to be. If your score is up in the 700 range, your down payment can be comparably minimal.

The market is getting stronger every day and lending institutions are gaining steam right along with it. Lenders ARE, in fact, offering jumbo loans and loans without requiring income verification. It is just that now they are offering these loans to buyers, whom they have determined, actually deserve them. (What a concept). In general, lenders are reviewing 15 – 20 factors to determine your loan amount, interest rate and required down payment. If you work to ensure you financial house is in order, you might find yourself in a REAL house before you know it!

Finding Feng Shui

conway nh homesFeng Shui, in a nutshell, would mean really small furniture! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Seriously though, it is a “Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment.” Yes, I got that from Wikipedia. We have all at least heard of the concept and some of us even make efforts to work it into our rooms, homes and offices. Whether you are a fervent believer or not, it is hard to refute the fact that a room utilizing these ideas really does “feel” better. Whether you are selling your home or simply want to “Feng Shui”-up your existing space for your own benefit, let’s take a look at a few areas on which to focus your attention.

The first concept is balance. If you look at a room and find there are large pieces of furniture on one side and these are not comparable to the items across the room, you are most likely out of balance. Many homes have a combined living/dining area in which this idea of being off-balance is fairly common. With one side containing couches, chairs and an entertainment center, the other side of the room can’t compete with (typically) wooden table and chairs. The “weights” of each side are not in balance.

An easy fix for this is to open up the area with the larger furniture by moving those large pieces to the exterior walls. This helps give the room a lighter and more open feel and allows the larger items to lose their place of prominence. The addition of a glass table or table with wiry “thin” legs can also highlight the airy feel of the living area side and works to balance out the thinner legs of the dining room’s table and chairs.

One of the more common ideas with this system is that of “flow”. And we’re not talking about the swelling Saco! Flow simply means you can physically and mentally get “through” a room without impedance. One of the more obvious examples of this would be a room that greets you, as you walk into it, with the back side of a couch. The couch immediately stops you from walking into the room and mentally stops your brain from “taking in” the rest of the room.

Some people are really good at jamming way too much furniture into their homes. I promise I’m not going to get on a kick about clutter, but suffice it to say: less is more when it comes to furniture in your living space. Not only is it annoying to have to wriggle your way through the living room to get to the bathroom, it is mentally stopping the flow of the room and removing the balance we just gained from the earlier paragraph. Try to walk through your home (end to end) without having to think too much. If you find yourself winding and twisting too much, it is likely time to make some changes.

Every room has a focal point. While some are not always obvious, they are present and make an impact on how you perceive the area. Just like the idea of “flow” from above, are there items in the way that block the access to the focal point of the room? Using the couch example, you would not want a couch to be between the entryway of the room and the fireplace. Make sure the centerpiece of the room is accessible and is not blocked (physically or mentally) from the main entrance.

The last idea is that of feeling too “boxed” or cramped in the room. Right in line with the ideas from above, you don’t want to make your room feel like you are having book club every day. Boxing-in the room with chairs, couches and other furniture seals it off from the rest of the house and obviously blocks the flow of the room. Once again, this also makes it more difficult to walk through the home and creates a feeling of cramped, contained living quarters.

less is moreThe “boxed” idea is one in which you will have to adjust for your needs. I don’t entertain large groups very often so the need for lots of indoor furniture is minimal. I can minimize my couches and chairs and leave the room and the home feeling open and airy. For those of you who DO entertain often, you can be strategic with your placement of these items between parties and still maintain the flow and open feel of the home.

Whether you are selling the home or not also plays a huge role in how you lay out the area. “For showings and pictures, you want to have the least amount of furniture possible which still maintaining a lived-in look and feel,” notes Badger Realty agent, Diane McGregor. Potential buyers should be able to easily walk through the home (without the zigzagging from before). A minimizing of large and cluttered furniture placement also helps when taking photos for the listing.

If you are selling your home or just want to find a better balance in the space you live, take a little time to brush up on your Feng Shui knowledge. Not only will you end up with a more livable and pleasant space in which to live, you will find a more positive response from potential buyers (and your Realtor!).

Housing Options for Older Adults

north conway homesLet's be honest, none of us is getting any younger.  (Even though you LOOK younger!)   ;)   Here are a few tips on how to get a handle on some different housing options for mom and dad.

Jack and Jill are thinking about selling their house (the one up the hill). They are both 65, their kids are grown and have kids of their own. They’re ready to retire together. What are Jack and Jill’s options?

Real estate options for older adults are not confined to the traditional nursing home or assisted living facility. More modern dwellings have developed in recent years, allowing individuals to choose a living environment based on his or her independence level and preference for community type.

There are choices available to older adults when it comes to housing solutions:

  • If Jack and Jill were to choose to stay in their home, a reverse mortgage is one path they could take. This is a process by which money is borrowed and the payments are charged against the equity of the home.
  • The USDA and HUD have a variety of programs available to older adults who would rather live independently, including mortgage insurance, housing choice vouchers, and rural rental assistance.
  • If an adult would rather live in an apartment setting, HUD has made available a Subsidized Apartment Search, organized by state and updated on a regular basis.

Not everyone will choose to live in a single dwelling home or an apartment environment. In those cases, there are other options available to older adults. They include

  • Independent Living Communities: Often in the form of studio apartments, condominiums, and townhomes, these communities and the amenities that they offer vary from place to place. For adults who are active, independent, and can live without assistance, this residential option may be ideal.
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities: These type of communities provide levels of care, so Jack and Jill and remain as their needs change. CCRCs offer independent living assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care.
  • Living with family: In the year 2013, 51 million Americans lived together with a grandparent and at least one other generation, a rise of 10% between 2007 and 2009. Lennar homebuilders became the first to introduce a multigenerational family home, making it possible for large families to live together.

Housing Protection

The national Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968, protects older adults from housing discrimination based on age. Landlords are prohibited from making certain decisions for tenants based simply on a person’s age. They are, however, required to allow reasonable accommodations for individuals who have a disability or specific need for service animals.

Jack and Jill have options. If they want to remain in their home up the hill, there are resources available to help them remain independent and settled. If they would rather live in close proximity with a like-minded community, affordable choices can be found nationwide. From apartments, to retirement communities, to multi-family dwellings, Jack and Jill do not have to worry about the future. With the right resources and a plan for what’s to come, the real estate options for older adults have exciting potential for the future!

Why Your Credit Score Matters When Buying A Home

conway NH real estate financeIf you have made any type of large purchase in recent years, it is more than likely that there was a credit report run on your financial history. Opening a new credit card, bank account, or applying for a loan are all opportunities for a credit report to be performed. When you make the decision to purchase a Conway NH home, a credit report will probably be run by the lender in order to determine your reliability as a borrower.

According to Equifax, your credit score is a 3 digit number calculated from your credit report, used to determine if you are likely to pay back loans, debts, and gauge your level of risk as a borrower. The typical range of a credit score is between 300 and 850.

How is my credit score calculated?

There are various factors related to calculating your credit score, including:

  • The types of accounts you have
  • The amount of credit you have available
  • The amount of time you have had a credit history
  • The history of payments made/late payments

Other factors impacting your credit score include bankruptcies, previous foreclosures, and late payments on outstanding accounts. One free credit report is available to you yearly, which you should access so that you are aware of what is being reported in regards to your financial history. Check for errors and negative marks so that you can work on improvements before applying for a home loan.

Does my credit score matter when I want to buy a home?

Mortgage lenders will check your credit score before determining if you are eligible for a home loan. Every lender is different, and experts will offer different opinions on the exact score to shoot for in order to secure a conventional mortgage. Bankrate.com suggests a FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score of 620 or better in order to better your chances of obtaining a mortgage loan, and a score of 740 or higher for the best rates and a wider variety of loan choices.

The higher your credit score, the more eligible you may be for a better interest rate on your mortgage. That is why it is important to fix potential issues related to your credit, to not apply for several loans or credit cards in a short amount of time, and to stay current on payments. Lenders want to partner with borrowers who are most likely to have a credible history, low account balances, and a variety of credit types. The FICO website, helpful in providing information on credit reports and credit scores, notes that technology allows mortgage lenders to speed up the loan approval process and approve applications in a matter of hours for those borrowers who have a higher credit score.

When you combine responsible spending habits, diligence in obtaining yearly credit report, and wise decision-making when it comes to credit cards, you have all of the ingredients to contribute toward a successful mortgage lending experience.

Spruce Up For Springtime

conway NH real estateI’ll admit it. It is challenging to “think spring” when it is mid-30’s and snowing out. That said, we did have a touch of (almost) 50 last week and if that jerk of a groundhog was right, we’re almost out of the woods. I absolutely love spring. Not just the warmer temps but the growing green landscape, the bursting flowers and the drier (less icy) trails for hiking and biking. Another great thing about spring is the ability to open up the house, air out the winter blues and do a little (literal and figurative) house cleaning.

One of my favorite things to do in the spring is (like lots of other folks) have a yard/garage sale. Typically I run through my clothes and other “stuff” to clear out the items that I no longer use or haven’t touched since I looked at them last spring. This is a good way to build your pile for the sale and make room for new stuff (no, wait… that’s not right!). Don’t be afraid to hit up your neighbors as well. There’s always more attention at your sale if there is more stuff on the tables. Neighborhood-wide sales are also a growing trend and tend to be a “win” for all involved.

Once you have exhausted the sale, it is time to donate. Not only will you help someone out less fortunate than yourself, your donation is tax deductible. Many locations have simple drop-off spots and some will even come to your house for larger items. In some larger cities, the municipality will even hold “large-item” days that let you dispose of those things that are not “fit” for donation. Take full advantage of these opportunities to eliminate those items that you are simply sick of seeing every time you pass them in the garage or basement.

If we get a warm weekend day, take the opportunity to tackle those “once-in-a-great-while” cleaning chores. I recommend the warm weather so you can open the house and let that fresh spring air inside as well. Cleaning the gutters, behind the couch, under the bed and all those other hard-to-reach spots is a great activity for this springtime day and will give you a great feeling of accomplishment. You might even tackle the windows at the same time and take advantage of the warm air while you can.

If the weather outside is, in fact, frightful focus your efforts on an over-stuffed closet or junk-drawer. We all have them and all of them could use a little attention. You could get really fancy and install some sort of organizers in these spaces. These are great for sectioning off areas for keys, coins, shoes, sweaters, etc. They also make things so much easier to find when you need them.

Before you sell, donate or throw away that ratty, old set of chairs or patio furniture, consider a little remodeling for them. Assuming they are in solid structural condition, a little sandpaper, paint or fabric can bring new life to these items and save you a bunch of money in the process. “There is a reason people call the town dump the swap meet,” notes Badger Realty owner, Dick Badger. He continued, “They recognize that one person’s trash could be valuable to them in multiple ways. It works in real estate as well. A property that many would consider a waste is seen as a great opportunity by those with more experience.”

north conway NH real estateIf your front yard is finally free of snow take the opportunity to give some new life to the curb appeal of your home. A freshly raked lawn, a few colorful flowerpots and even a new doormat can all have a big impact on the appearance of your home overall. Last week we talked about the benefits of adding a new front door or new garage doors to the home for overall remodeling value. Those items will also add some life to your home this spring as well.

Last, but not least, add a little color to the home. If replacing the front (or garage) door is not in the budget this spring, turn your attention inside the home and to less costly updates. Swap out some of the drab beige curtains and furniture for items with more color and pizazz. That’s right, I just said “pizazz”! Much like the impact of a colorful front door, painting a cabinet or other piece of furniture with bright, springy colors will liven up the room and bring some of that long-awaited spring feel right into the home.

With our newly added extra hour of daylight, the days are getting warmer and the evenings are becoming more useful. If you take the time now, in the early spring, to tackle your spring cleaning chores (or opportunities!), you will be better prepared to accept that invite for an after-work bike ride or hike when the time comes. Happy spring(ish) and happy spring cleaning.

Migration Madness

north conway nh real estate communityAs kids we moved a lot. More than my brother and I would have preferred, but “duty called” as they say. Our family moved around Northern New England until I was in 6th grade. After that we stayed put. As an adult, I have found myself bouncing around the country a bit as well. I have lived in Maine, Minnesota, West Virginia, Colorado and finally New Hampshire. My motivations have ranged from college choices, employment choices and even once “just because”.

The Demand Institute just released a survey of U.S. households related to their desire and motivations to move. 1 household in 5 say they plan to move in the next 5 years. The U.S. Census bureau also provided some statistics. Out of our population of 282,556,000 people, 40,093,000 moved last year. That’s a total of just over 14%. They further broke that number down as follows: 23,468,000 moved within the same county, 7,728,000 moved to a different county within the same state, 7,628,000 moved to a different state, and 1,269,000 moved to a different country. OK, enough with the stats, let’s look more at the “why?”.

As for the specific reasons people moved, 75% of those surveyed noted a location-based reason for the relocation. The top reasons were a desire for a safer neighborhood (30%); moving closer to family (27%); better climate (26%); closer to work (25%); and moving for a new job entirely (23%). Now, we certainly can’t help those folks that are looking for a better climate. You either love winter and all that it brings, or you tolerate it for other reasons. If I had to live in a place that wasn’t white-washed for a couple months out of the year, I think I might go nuts!

As the census indicates above, most folks don’t really go too far when they move. 59% of those surveyed said they were going less than 30 miles from their current home. We can safely assume those people are focused on neighborhood or job. I hardly think that a move to Wolfeboro is going to gain you any benefits with climate!

The folks in the survey also ranked their characteristics for the new location based on those they felt were “very important”. Amenities/services in walking distance were very important to 39% of them. Other items ranking in that category were a good school district (34%); close to work (32%); diverse neighborhood (26%); and near public transit (25%).

Another of the top rated factors for people’s desire to move was a “walkable” community. These communities have been reporting stronger home-price growth and those living there report a better quality of life since having moved there. Both of those are pretty strong selling points for living in a place where you can walk to work, to the store and to a friend’s house.

Lastly, those surveyed indicated which amenities they most wanted to have near their new residence. Grocery stores topped the list with 63% saying a short drive was OK and 22% wanting it within walking distance. Restaurants were next with 56% tolerating a short drive and 20% desiring walking distance. Parks and green space were 40% and 35% respectively and retail shops came in with 57% saying a short drive was OK and 12% wanting them in walking distance.

“One of the favorite parts of my job is listening to new buyers list their desired amenities in a town or neighborhood, confidently knowing that our town can satisfy most if not all of their needs,” notes Badger Realty agent, Kevin Killourie. He continued, “Many residents take this area for granted because they have been here for so long. I think it is important to stop and appreciate how amazing the valley is.”

I can’t help but mentally scan around North Conway and note the abundance of neighborhood “gold” we all get to enjoy. Whether you live right in town or swing through for dinner or shopping, the amenities listed above are all within minutes of your home or your parking spot. Countless restaurants, retail stores, parks and trails and the rest are all literally at your fingertips (toe tips?). The next time you find yourself wandering around town, stop for a second and smell the roses (or the fudge!). I think you’ll learn to appreciate where you call home.

Render Rockin Returns On Your Remodeling

north conway nh home improvementCold enough for ya? OK, the next person that asks me that or, better yet, makes a comment about how cold it is, is getting stuffed into a snow bank! Don’t get me wrong I love winter. I love the nose-hair-freezing temps. I love the squeak of dry, frozen snow under my feet (and skis!). I love the crisp mountain air and I love the beauty of the season. That said – I’m ready for spring!

Spring is the season of renewal and rejuvenation. Lots of “wanna-be” Tim Taylors head to their favorite home supply store and fill the truck (or sedan) with tools, goop, electronics, appliances, lumber and anything else that will fit the budget, fit the project and fit in the vehicle.

As has been done a couple of times over the past few years, I would like to explore a few of the more popular projects and see how they rate (in 2015!) for return on investment (ROI). Remodeling magazine put out a Cost vs. Value report and rated a bunch of projects simply based on their cost vs. their value (considering resale). Obviously, if you are remodeling just for your own satisfaction, you are free to do whatever you like. Go ahead and create that Batman cave in the basement!

In 2015, raising the roof is going to give you the best bang for your buck. Roof replacement, with an average cost of $7,740, increased the ROI from 2014 by a whopping 5.9%. This includes removing and replacing the existing roof, shingles, flashing, drip edge and trim. A significant job for sure, but you can rest assured it is money well spent.

Next in line, and another good selling point for homes on the market, is a new garage door (or doors). Not only are these a huge “curb-appeal” item for homebuyers, but they make a significant impact on everyone that comes down your driveway. Entry doors are next on the list, but garage doors are larger and will make more of an impression. If your garage is “habitable” work space, and more so if you have a finished area above the garage, the new doors will make this area more weather resistant and easier to control the climate.

A replacement (steel) entry-door provides the highest resale rating on our list. While the two above give you better ROI, the entry door has the highest impact on eliciting an offer. With an average cost of $923, this is also the least expensive project on the list and one that you, the homeowner, can be most involved with during the installation. “This is an opportunity to change the “face” of your home and make a statement, notes Badger Realty agent, Norman Head. He continued, “If you bought the house “previously loved”, there’s a good chance you have been itching to replace that door anyway.” Now is your chance.

While you are in the mood of re-facing your home, consider this opportunity to replace the siding. While this is one of the more expensive renovations you could undertake, it takes the cake with curb-appeal and impact. Vinyl siding should cost you between $5 and $8,000 depending on location and size of your home. When I built my home, I went with a forest green color for my siding. Yes, my friend shawn referred to my home as the “Shrek house”, but I’ve never been more proud to come home to my very own ogre. It blended with the surrounding evergreen trees and was the exact opposite of every other boring white house in town.

A few areas you may want to stay away from are adding a second story, installing a back-up generator, remodeling the home office and adding a sunroom. These projects, while possibly perfect for YOUR home, do not provide good ROI and certainly don’t do much to get your house sold. A couple of those projects don’t even give you a 50% return on the investment. Yikes!

Hunker down and relish these last few weeks of winter. Get out and play and maybe even build yourself a snowman. It will get you out of the house so you can stop thinking about all the work you have to do this spring and, if you build it awesome enough, it could increase your curb appeal right now! Your only investment is time.

The Grass Really IS Greener

north conway nh home lawnI’m proud to say that, of my many various jobs in the past, I was an irrigation tech. at Owl’s Nest Golf Course for a couple summers. While this was not the most prestigious job I have had, it was one of the most fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to cruise around in a golf cart (with a dump bed on the back) and ensure the grass stays plush and green? OK, maybe lots of you, but in those summers I learned a ton about lawn care. Combined with a year of landscaping work and you’ve got a guy who takes great pride in his home’s “curb appeal”. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years and a few myths that need to be busted.

Besides the obvious concerns about drought and water shortages, there really IS a best time to water your lawn and landscaping. In general, your goal is to get the largest amount water, the deepest into the soil. To minimize evaporation (and higher costs in some areas!) water your greens in late evening or early morning. At the golf course, our watering schedules were almost always complete by the first tee-time of the day. This allows the water to get deep into the soil, which is important for our next tip.

It is not necessary (or recommended) to water your lawn every day. Even in the heat of the summer (no, really… summer is coming, I promise) it is best to water every two or three days. This encourages the roots to “dig” deeper and will strengthen the grass (and other vegetation) at the surface. While I don’t expect you have a terribly accurate way to measure this, the recommended ratio is an inch of water to a foot of soil.

I’m very guilty of this next myth, but that’s because I spent countless hours on fairways and putting greens. I tend to cut my grass rather short, but the recommended length is around 3 inches. This does a couple of things. It keeps your “cut” to around 1/3 of the blade at a time (assuming you didn’t go 2 weeks without mowing). It also means your lawn will need less water, be more resistant to weeds and will just plain look better. Sure, the lawn will look manicured and “tight” if you cut it short, but after a hot spell it will be littered with brown spots and might not survive the damage. Make sure your blades are sharp as well. “Ripping” the top of the grass off the leaf is terrible for the plant.

If you’re looking to replace your lawn (or that burnt spot you caused by cutting it too short), the best time for this is late-summer and early fall. Of course it is different for every area of the country, but your local lawn and garden folks can get you pointed in the right direction. This time of year is preferred because of the more consistent temperatures and the long hot days are behind us. I’m also told the crabgrass and other weeds are nearing the end of their lifecycles. You’ll need less water, less protection from the sun and heat and you’ll have a better-looking lawn when spring rolls around.

“Everyone knows that curb-appeal is important to selling a home. One of the more easily controlled areas of this is the lawn”, notes Badger Realty agent, Kathleen Sullivan Head. She continued, “A quick mowing before a showing not only makes the home look cared for and “clean” on the outside, but who doesn’t love the smell of fresh cut grass? (besides allergy sufferers of course!)”.

When it comes to watering, are a hose and sprinklers the best choice? Well, for playing in the sun and letting your kids have some fun, yes. But for being more efficient, saving money on water bills and doing a better job watering your lawn, no. The truth is an irrigation system, although a bit more expensive to install, will save you money in the long run and can take the pain out of having to think about watering at the right times of the day. With the scheduling and “rain catching” technology these systems employ, you will be amazed at how effortless and efficient the maintenance of your lawn will be.

Last, but not least, is the touchy subject of fertilizer. If you are going to head down this road I will simply encourage you to pay close attention to the labels on the product you purchase. Different types of grass will have different times of year they prefer to be fertilized. It is very easy to “burn” your lawn or fertilize the lawn at the wrong time in the growing cycle to render it almost entirely ineffective. My preference is using organic fertilizer instead of some of the nasty toxic stuff available at the big box stores. This stuff should not be washed into the streets, lakes, ponds or streams. The safer the product you put on your lawn, the less worried you need to be about where it goes during a rain storm. (Insert your favorite saying about thinking globally, but acting locally here!)

Getting (and more importantly keeping) your lawn looking great is not always an easy feat. You may be hindered by lousy soil, extreme sun exposure or strict watering regulations. All that said, you can follow a few of these simple tips to make the most of what you have. For now, just focus on keeping that shovel handy!

Buying a Home: What You Should Know About Home Inspections

north conway home inspectionWhen you buy a property, a home inspection may not be required. However, the little amount of money you spend to check for deficiencies and potential issues will be worth the cost. Each state’s language in the Contract to Purchase is different, and your real estate agent will be able to explain the process specific to the state in which you reside.

A home inspection done right will benefit both the buyer and the seller. If issues are present, the seller will be made aware and hopefully take steps to have those issues resolved. You, as the buyer, will be better prepared to make an educated and informative home purchase.

What is involved in a home inspection, and what can you expect when you arrange for one?

Finding a Qualified Inspector

  • Although your real estate agent may pass on recommendations for home inspectors, you ultimately decide who to hire for this process. Ask him or her for proof of state certification or membership in the NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors), NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors), how many inspections they have performed, and proof of licensing (if state required).
  • Inquire as to whether the inspector carries “errors and omissions” insurance.
  • Work with a home inspector who does not mind you coming along for the process. Good communication is key, and a professional will be willing to answer your questions and not mind explaining things.
  • The cost for the inspection will be dependent on several factors, including the experience of the inspector, the type of home, and the location. However, cost is not the most important factor you should consider.

What to Expect From the Inspection

Since the mid-1970s, standard guidelines for home inspections have been in place.The world’s largest organization of residential and commercial property inspectors (NACHI), has set forth International Standards of Practice for home inspections.

A qualified home inspector should focus on:

  • Exterior areas such as the roof, foundation, flashings, and gutters
  • Electrical outlets and switches
  • Walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Central air and heating systems
  • Plumbing
  • Attic, basement, and garage
  • Attached porches and decks

What a Home Inspection is Not

  • Home inspectors are not superheroes, with the power to see behind walls or look into the future for potential problems. A home inspection is based on what he or she can see, including obvious defects that may negatively affect the home’s systems.
  • A home inspection is not a pest inspection.
  • A home inspection is not a guarantee or a warranty.
  • A home inspector is not required (when a part of NAHI and NACHI) to determine the presence of mold or mildew.
  • A home inspection will not go into detail concerning every nook and cranny of the home.

A high quality, professional home inspection will be worth both your time and the cost required. Although no process is perfect, and future predictions on a home’s quality are difficult to determine, a home inspection can bring peace of mind as you journey through the world of purchasing a home.