Your Spring Landscape To Do List

As the days warm and become longer, it’s time to start thinking about the spring. In addition to cleaning up around the house, there are several landscaping activities that you generally want to do in the springtime. The question is, where do you start?

If you’re not sure how to tackle your spring to-do list, here are a few suggestions. These are some of the most common landscaping tasks that need doing once things start to warm up, and knocking them out early can make other landscaping tasks easier as the year goes on. Who knows, taking care of some of these items might even get you inspired to take on a larger landscaping project later in the year.

Prune the Trees and Shrubs

Early spring is a great time to prune most of your trees and shrubs, since it’s before they get into a strong growth period. Early pruning allows you to shape them the way you want them to be and gives you a chance to eliminate unwanted overhangs and encroachment. If you wait until there’s new growth you can actually stunt some of that growth and make it harder to control how your trees and shrubs are forming.

Prep Your Lawn

If you want your lawn to look its best, you need to show it some love in the spring. Aerate the lawn to help break up soil, dethatch it to help it grow in thicker, and sow some seed to fill in bare spots.

Clean Up Your Flower Beds

If you’ve got flower beds around your home, chances are they could use a bit of picking up after the winter. Get rid of any damaged plants, pull any weeds or grass that tried to get established during the winter, and tidy up any debris or other crud that might have found their way into your beds. You should also pull away the winter mulch surrounding your perennials and divide them to get your beds off to a good start.

Feed and Protect

While you’re working on your lawn and your flower beds, go ahead and take the time to prep them for spring growth. Add new mulch to your beds as needed, give your lawn a nice dose of fertilizer, and make sure that all your other plants are similarly fed and protected. Everything’s going to be doing a lot of growing in the coming months, so you want to make sure that they have everything they need.

Plan Your Summer

This is also a good time to prepare for late spring and summer projects as well. If you’re going to have a garden, take the time to start prepping it now by tilling the soil, working in compost and starting some of your spring seeds indoors. If you’re going to undertake a construction project or add new features to your lawn, go ahead and start clearing the area. The work you put in now will make things so much easier later in the year.

Ready to Get to Work?

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5 Top Repairs to Tackle Before Listing Your Home

When you put your home on the market, you obviously want to get as much as you can for the property. A lot of things can affect your home’s value, including many items that are largely out of your control. That’s not saying that you can’t do anything to bring the value up before listing your home, however. In fact, there are some things that you absolutely need to do before you even think about sticking that “For Sale” sign in the yard.

Depending on what city, county and state your home is in, there may be code requirements you need to address before you’re allowed to list or sell your property. On top of that, however, here are five fixes that you can make to help get the most from your home when you sell.

Water Stains

If you’ve got water stains on the ceiling or walls, they tell potential buyers that there are leaks somewhere. It’s possible that you already took care of the leak, but a buyer isn’t going to know that, and will likely assume that there’s still a nasty surprise waiting for them somewhere. You obviously need to track down the leak and repair it, but after that’s done you should do something about the water stain as well. Don’t just slap a thin coat of paint on them and call it a day, either; take the time to do it right so that the stains don’t reappear.

Slow Drains

If you have slow drains in your home, this can be a big red flag for some home buyers. They might ask about the plumbing, or even want to run more water to see what the water pressure and drains are like everywhere else. To head off potential problems it’s important to do your best to take care of the issue. In many cases it’s a relatively easy fix, though there are some causes of slow drains that will take a plumber to straighten out. Still, the effort you put into it now can result in a higher selling price once someone buys the house.

Switches and Outlets

People don’t want to buy houses that have electrical problems. If your switches or outlets look discolored or beaten up, this can lead people to assume that there are problems even if there aren’t. Take the time to replace any damaged, discolored or malfunctioning switches and outlets, along with any non-working fixtures or “mystery switches” that you might have around the house. Even if it’s not a very big job, it can have a major impact on how potential buyers view your home.

Trip Hazards

Are there any loose bits of carpet or wood on your floor that you’ve learned to just step around? Fix them before you have people in to look at the house. You might have gotten used to them, but a potential buyer won’t be. They’ll see potential tripping hazards as something they’ll need to fix, and they’ll negotiate the price down as a result.

Walls and Ceilings

Are your walls drab, dull and damaged? Take the time to fix any holes or dings before you list the house. A little bit of drywall repair can go a long way, and this can be a perfect time to update the look of your rooms with a fresh coat of paint as well. Don’t neglect the ceiling either, since those little issues that you’ve learned to overlook will stick out like a sore thumb to potential buyers.

Need Help?

If you have some repairs to make before listing but don’t know where to start, we can help you find the pro you need to get your home in tip-top shape.

Cool in the summer and Warm in the winter

Keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter is one of the big goals of most homeowners. There are a number of ways to do this, including upgrading the windows to more energy-efficient models and performing seasonal maintenance on heating and cooling systems to keep them operating at peak condition. One thing that’s often overlooked however is the influence that attic temperatures can have on the temperature of your whole house.

You may have seen suggestions about installing automatic attic vents to help regulate the temperature in your attic. Is there something behind this, or is it just another upgrade to your home that provides very little benefit? You might be surprised at how effective automatic attic vents can be.

Hot Attic, Cold Attic

It’s pretty common knowledge that hot air rises. The question is, where does all that hot air go? If your attic isn’t well vented, it can build up within the attic itself and increase the temperature of your attic space significantly. The problem with this is that future hot air won’t really have anywhere to go, causing it to linger in the house itself for longer. This is great if it’s the middle of winter and you’re trying to keep your house warm, but you can see how it might be a problem during the heat of summer.

You can run into the opposite situation as well if you have open vents in the attic. Heat can escape more easily, but if it’s cold outside you’ll find all that heat escaping much faster than you would like. This in turn causes heat within your house to escape faster, making it harder to stay warm in the depth of winter’s chill.

Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, the end result will be the same: higher energy costs to keep your house cool in the summer or warm in the winter.

Proper Attic Venting

Attic ventilation is part of the key to solving this issue, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. During the summer, you want open attic vents to expel heat and keep your attic as cool as possible. In winter, you want attic vents to be closed to hold heat in for as long as possible. You can open and close these vents manually as part of your seasonal preparations, of course, though this won’t be a perfect solution. The truth is, unless you open or close the vents to account for all the temperature fluctuations during the year, you’ll still be losing money to unnecessary heating and cooling.

Automatic Attic Vents

This is where automatic attic vents come into play. These vents are connected to thermostats (and sometimes even humidistats) to monitor the condition of your attic and open or close the vents as needed based on what things are actually like in the attic. If the temperature goes too high during the summer or if it becomes too humid, the vent opens and lets that unwanted heat and humidity escape. If temperatures drop, the vents close to prevent outside heat from coming in. The opposite happens during the winter, keeping the vents shut to keep warm air in your attic.

Some automatic vents function as simple ventilation units, possessing little function beyond opening and closing. Others include connected fans to force air in or out of the attic to even greater effect. Regardless of the vent type you choose, however, adding one to your attic can make a notable difference in how warm or cool the attic air gets during the year.

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March 18, 2020 The Forecast for the AZ Real Estate Market

Sharing a article from Michael Orr, founder/Manager of the Cromford Report

A number of people seem to assume that we are heading for a recession and that home prices will fall. The first assumption is quite reasonable. The second assumption is based on fear and has little analytical data to back it up. Obviously anything can happen in an uncertain and disrupted world, but a fall in home prices is still looking very unlikely from today’s numbers.

In 2005 the housing industry started to sicken because homes were being used as speculative commodities not for places to live. In 2005 I met a man in his early 20s who owned 12 homes in the Phoenix area, all with no occupants. How had he been able to buy them? 100% loans from unscrupulous lenders who went bust between 2007 and 2010. The housing industry (and more particularly the lending industry within it) was the cause of the 2008 recession. Phoenix was a hot spot for the cause of the problem, as was Las Vegas.

In 2020, housing is an innocent bystander to a probable recession caused by a pandemic. It has supply at extremely low levels and most homeowners have a large amount of equity. Even if they lost all their income and could no longer pay their mortgage, they could quickly find a buyer to release that equity. There is little likelihood of them facing foreclosure because the lender can be paid off with the sale proceeds. Only when demand collapses do the banks have to foreclose to get their money back. At the moment demand is still well above normal and has only shown very tiny signs of easing. In 2006 demand fell off a cliff yet home builders continued to build even more new homes because lenders continued to write ill-advised loans in huge numbers.

In 2020 builders are probably going to have to build fewer homes than they wish because of shortages of labor and materials. We are unlikely to see a glut of homes on the market for a very long time. A successful vaccine for the novel corona virus is more likely to appear before a surplus of homes could possibly develop.

Because the virus has not been contained yet, except in several parts of Southeast Asia, we are likely to see a lot of people out of work. We do not yet know how long it will take to get control of the pandemic in Arizona, but many people may be out of work for quite some time. These people are more likely to be renters rather than homeowners. Landlords may find it much harder to collect rents and the yields from their portfolios are likely to fall. Some may decide to evict tenants and sell their properties. At the moment the extra supply would be welcomed and receive multiple offers, even in these troubled times. The evicted tenants still exist and therefore still represent demand for shelter of some sort. There will be hardship, but not a flood of homes with no-one to live in them.

Housing demand is created by the existence of people and increases when more people turn up and decreases if they go away. In 2005 the people we were building new homes for were largely imaginary. In 2020 they are very real and migration trends have been very favorable with families and individuals moving to Arizona from other parts of the USA.

All the indicators for the Central Arizona housing market remain very healthy at the moment and we will report any change as soon as we spot one. There is no cause for panic and if you are delaying a purchase because you think the price will come down, you are probably making a poor decision.

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Cleaning Services: A Cost-Benefit Approach

Cleaning up around the house isn’t a task that a lot of people enjoy. It can be especially harrowing if you have a big family or just have a schedule that seems constantly packed. There are probably times when you’ve thought that it would be so much easier to just hire somebody to come in and do the cleaning. And you totally can! There are a number of cleaning services that can provide you with the cleanliness and sanitation you require. The question is, should you hire someone?

There are several factors that can go into the decision to hire a cleaning service. If you’re not sure whether you actually want to call in a cleaning service or not, here are a few things to consider.

How Much Cleaning Is Needed?

The first thing that you should consider is exactly how much cleaning there is to be done. If you only have a small amount of cleaning that’s needed at any given time, there may not be much of a benefit to not just doing it yourself. If you need more cleaned up, though, the benefit obviously grows with the workload.

How Often Is Cleaning Needed?

Another factor in how much of a benefit there is to hire a cleaning service centers around the frequency with which cleaning is needed. If you find that you really only need things cleaned up once every month or two, that probably isn’t an insurmountable task and there’s relatively little benefit based on frequency. If your home could use a good cleaning every week or possibly even a few times a week, however, there could be a huge benefit to hiring it out.

Of course, this should also be weighed against the amount of cleaning required; needing a significant amount of cleaning once a month might still provide a strong case for hiring a cleaning service. Even if cleaning amounts differ, such as one large cleanup followed by periodic maintenance cleaning, the overall benefit could still be substantial.

Do You Have Time to Clean?

The amount of free time that you have can affect the degree of benefit you’d see from hiring a cleaning service. If you’re constantly busy and have very little free time, having someone else do the cleaning would provide a significant benefit. On the flip side, if you find yourself with hours of time in which you don’t have anything to do, you could put some of that time toward cleaning tasks; this would reduce the benefit of hiring a service.

Can You Afford a Cleaning Service?

After you have an idea of how much benefit there is from hiring a cleaning service, compare that against the cost of bringing cleaners in. Look up prices or request quotes from some cleaners in your area to figure out how much of a financial burden the cleaning service would be. You might even want to develop a few different cost models, figuring out how much it would cost to bring them in weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even on demand.

Should You Hire a Cleaning Service?

Once you have both your approximate benefits and costs figured out, it’s time to compare the two and make sure that there’s enough benefit to justify the cost. If the cleaning service would cause you a financial strain, then there would obviously have to be a substantial benefit for you to hire them. If it would be easy enough to fit their services into your budget, however, the requisite benefit to make it worth your while will be much less. Comparing these two factors will make your decision much easier and can provide insight into how often and to what degree you’ll want their services as well.

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Debt Consolidation 101

If you’re carrying around a lot of debt, the number of payments and the various interest rates you have can make managing it quite difficult. Some people choose to get this under control through debt consolidation. By consolidating your debts, you can reduce multiple items to a single payment with a single interest rate, making your finances easier to manage. Before rushing into debt consolidation, though, it’s important that you take the time to understand exactly how it works and what its benefits are.

Consolidating Your Debt

As its name implies, debt consolidation is the process of combining multiple debts into one that is (theoretically) easier to make payments on. Debt consolidation can even combine different types of debt such as loans and credit cards into a single debt. At its most basic, debt consolidation establishes a new loan or line of credit and then uses that to make payments against the other debts to pay them off. This leaves you with a single remaining debt. Depending on how you manage your consolidation, though, there may be a few differences in your experience.

Consolidation Loans

Taking out a loan to consolidate debt is one of the most common forms of debt consolidation. These loans are typically pretty straightforward, since the borrowed money is used to pay off existing debts and you simply need to pay off the loan after that point. In some cases, you may even be able to piggyback debt consolidation on top of a loan taken out for a purchase, borrowing extra to pay off existing debt. Just be sure to check with your lender to make sure this sort of use is okay before borrowing the money for it.

Credit Card Consolidation

Credit card consolidations typically occur when taking out a new card, using balance transfers to consolidate your existing balances to a single card. This is especially useful if the card has an introductory interest rate such as a 0 percent APR for six months or some other promotion. The theory remains the same, however; instead of having balances across multiple cards, you have only one balance to focus on and pay down.

Debt Management Programs

Though not necessarily a true “consolidation”, debt management programs are another way to get debt under control. These programs can negotiate with debtors, allowing you to make payments on a negotiated schedule without worrying about late fees and other costs piling up. You may have restrictions placed on you such as not being able to take out additional loans, but you will have the advantage of not having to work through getting your debt under control by yourself.

The Effects of Consolidation

Debt consolidation can have a major impact on your financial health, both improving your credit score and helping you to pay down your existing debts faster. It can also save you time and money, since you’ll only have one set of interest charges instead of multiple to keep track of. Best of all, most forms of debt consolidation won’t have a negative impact on things like buying a house since there isn’t a special classification to the loans or transfers in most cases. Even debt management won’t necessarily interfere, since its restrictions are usually focused on unsecured loans instead of secured ones like a mortgage.

What to Watch Out For

There are a few things that you should be careful of when looking into debt consolidation. Perhaps the most important is to avoid getting yourself even deeper in debt once you pay off the balance of your credit cards or other lines of credit. The goal is to pay off what you owe, so hold off on using your cards again until you’re more financially stable. You should also watch out for predatory lenders and fraudulent debt consolidation companies that will charge you a significant amount for things that you could manage on your own for free.

Is Consolidation Right for You?

If you aren’t sure whether debt consolidation is right for you, We may be able to get you in touch with loan experts who can advise you on getting your finances in order without having to sacrifice your big dreams like owning your own home.

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Don’t Panic, Prevent

There has been a significant amount of concern raised recently about COVID-19, a relatively recently discovered disease caused by a type of virus known as a coronavirus. A lot is still unknown about the virus and the disease that it causes, and this is causing some people a great deal of anxiety about it. Major conferences and events are being canceled, people are buying up supplies (even if they shouldn’t), and the internet is filled with memes teaching people how to wash their hands.

COVID-19 has the potential to be a serious illness. Here’s some info that can help you to protect yourself, especially if you’re confused by some of the contradicting advice that you might have seen online.

What Is COVID-19?

Even though it’s mostly referred to simply as “coronavirus”, the virus that causes COVID-19 is actually a novel coronavirus that’s been designated “SARS-CoV-2” and sometimes referred to as “2019-nCoV.” COVID-19 itself is a potentially severe respiratory illness that typically presents with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. While most people who become infected with COVID-19 recover, the disease can be severe and even fatal. Those at greatest risk from COVID-19 are individuals older than 60 years of age and those with preexisting conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

Decluttering to Prevent Illness

If you want to clean up to try and prevent coronavirus infection, a good first step is to declutter your home. This will eliminate surfaces where the virus could linger, making it easier to disinfect your home and keep it clean. Decluttering can also have a positive effect on mental health and anxiety levels, which can improve your overall wellbeing and even provide a bit of a boost to the immune system.

Disinfecting Surfaces

The US Centers for Disease Control recommend disinfecting surfaces with regular household disinfectant wipes and sprays. While many of these have not been tested specifically for use against SARS-CoV-2, they are effective against some other common coronaviruses and are likely to at least reduce infectiousness if not kill the virus completely. Other household cleaners and disinfecting practices are also likely to be at least partially effective.

Handwashing Stations

One of the best defenses against COVID-19 is good handwashing practices. As such, make sure that you have soap available by every sink and clean towels ready for use after washing your hands. Printing out a guide to proper handwashing and placing it near your sinks can also be a good idea, especially if you have young children who are still learning how to wash their hands properly. If you have any, having hand sanitizer accessible for times when you can’t wash your hands is also helpful.

Don’t Panic

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t panic. Don’t stockpile supplies that you don’t need, buy sensible amounts of the things that you do need, and take reasonable steps like avoiding large crowds and not shaking hands. One of the best ways to stay safe from COVID-19 is to keep yourself clean, keep your home clean and apply some common sense to your preparations for the disease.

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Maintain Your Homes’ Style – in Style

Home remodels offer an opportunity to change the look and feel of your home. This can be great if you live in an older home with outdated fixtures and other hardware. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take the time to match their remodel to their house and end up with a look that’s a bit less than optimal. The remodel won’t necessarily look bad, but it may be unsatisfactory because it doesn’t quite match the architecture and style of the house itself.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to redo everything in its original style when remodeling your home. That would all be rather boring, wouldn’t it? You simply need to make sure that you fully take your home into account when designing your remodel. This is easier than you might think, once you know what to plan for.

What Style Is Your Home?

Before you can plan out a remodel based on the style of your home, you need to figure out exactly what that style is. There are a lot of possibilities out there, ranging from Victorian and Colonial designs to Craftsman homes, Ranch homes and other more modern styles. You may already know which architecture style your house was built in, either from existing architecture knowledge or discussions with your Realtor before buying the property. If you aren’t sure, though, there are a number of resources that can help you find out. You can research home styles online, talk to fans of different architectural styles or even look at the original listing for your home if you have a copy. Regardless of how you find out, learning about your home’s architectural style is the first step to accenting it with your remodel.

Learning Your Style

Once you know your home’s style, take the time to learn a bit about it. Learn the key points of the architecture, distinguishing features and everything else that makes it stand out from similar home designs. If there are fixtures, doors, windows or other home features that are commonly associated with your home style, you should learn what those are as well. This may seem like a lot of work, but the details about your home style that you learn now will go a long way toward helping you design a remodel plan that really accentuates the best things about your home.

Adapting Your Style

Once you have a good idea of what works with your home’s architectural style, it’s time to start planning your remodel to work with that idea. You can look for fixtures that are similar to more traditional offerings but that better match your personal taste, or for example select a traditional door but opt to paint it in a color that will go better with your new siding choices. Your goal should be to find a balance between more traditional offerings for your home style and your personal decorating preferences. That way, the choices you make will fit in beautifully with the overall design of your home and its existing accents.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean everything has to match perfectly, either. There is a lot of room for you to express yourself through choices that might otherwise clash with your home style, using that disparity to draw attention either to your choice or to the design of the home itself. There are many options available to you, and because you know what’s expected for homes like yours you are free to go with the traditional or to shake things up as you see fit.

Perfecting Your Style

If you want to find a style that’s a perfect match for your home but aren’t quite sure what works best, it may be time to call in a pro. Whether you need a contractor to bring it all together or a designer or decorator to make sure everything works with your architecture, we can connect you with the right pro for the job. Give us a call!

The Arizona North Chapter of ASID runs a promotion each year where you can get an hour or two hour package of interior design help at a discount. All funds raised go toward student programs and education. Visit azn.asid.org for more information.

Under the Umbrella Policy

Insurance is important, especially for homeowners. There are a lot of things that can go wrong around the house, and having a good insurance policy helps to guard against unexpected problems or accidents that can occur. What happens when your homeowner’s policy isn’t enough, though? There are some instances where you may find yourself in need of a bit more coverage than your current policies offer. This is where an umbrella policy comes in.

Umbrella insurance policies provide you with additional liability protection on top of your existing insurance coverage. If you’re like a lot of homeowners, though, you might not be sure whether you need an umbrella policy and may not even know exactly what coverage it provides. If that’s the case, here is some information to help you decide whether you need an umbrella over your head.

What Is an Umbrella Policy?

Umbrella coverage is known by a few different names: personal umbrella policies, umbrella insurance and even umbrella liability insurance. Regardless of what it’s called, though, the coverage is designed to protect individuals from large liability claims and judgments. These policies cover some of the biggest causes of liability claims including bodily injury, property damage, landlord liability and similar situations. As the name implies, they are intended for personal claims and won’t cover liability due to contracts (beyond property rental agreements in the case of landlords) or business losses.

How Umbrella Policies Work

An umbrella policy acts as additional insurance coverage once the primary insurance liability limit is reached. For homeowners, this means that if someone is injured on your property or you face some other significant liability, the liability coverage in your homeowner’s insurance or other policy will be used to cover the cost first. If the liability is substantial and requires a larger payout than what your policy limit covers, the umbrella policy will take over to cover the additional amount.

It’s worth noting that umbrella policies aren’t just for homeowners. They can provide coverage over other types of insurance as well. Many homeowners also use umbrella coverage to protect against automobile accident liability as well, since a car accident could easily cause property damage or injury that exceeds the liability coverage offered by a lot of car insurance policies.

Why Get an Umbrella Policy?

Having the extra liability coverage provided by an umbrella policy is a good way to put your mind at ease. Not only does it ensure that medical and other costs that can result from accidents will be taken care of, but it also provides additional protection against lawsuits that might arise from those same accidents. This becomes particularly important if you own a fixer-upper or are in the process of slowly remodeling your home, since the little imperfections and other problems that you hope to eventually fix can increase the likelihood of accidents or other damage. While it’s possible that your existing insurance will cover your liabilities, the umbrella coverage gives you an extra layer of protection.

Is an Umbrella Policy Right for You?

Whether you need an umbrella policy depends on your current lifestyle, the home you live in, its state of repair and even the coverage limits of your existing insurance. In most cases you won’t be required to have umbrella coverage, unlike a homeowner’s policy or mortgage insurance often required by lenders. You should take the time to consider your situation, shop around for umbrella policy quotes and think about whether an umbrella policy will give you a little more security.

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