Free Newsletter: Spring
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The Green, Green Grass of Home
A lush, green lawn is the foundation of any home landscaping project but left uncared for, the lovely expanse you bought into may soon be infested with ugly weeds. But you can fight back. The best way is to stop worrying so much about the weeds and start worrying about the grass. A lawn with lots of weeds is trying to tell you something.
First, if you haven’t followed a regular thatching and aeration schedule, now might be the time to start.
Next, most lawn experts swear you can shade out most weed growth by mowing to a uniform height of at least 3 inches. Any shorter and it lets too much light hit the soil, encouraging many types of weed to grow.
Spring and fall are the best times to feed your lawn, but serious weed infestation is an excuse for a summer sprinkling. Fertilize enough, but not too much. Use a fertilizer with a high percentage of controlled-release nitrogen to provide a slow, steady nutrient supply. Water infrequently and deeply. If you water too little, weeds adapted to drier soil thrive. Provide infrequent, deep soakings—about one inch a week.
Hand-weeding is still the best defense if weeds haven’t spread too far. Pull annual broadleaf weeds while they’re young—before they flower and seed. Once the weed is out, promptly reseed the bare spot; otherwise, new weeds will fill it in.
There are several household items, including cornmeal, vinegar, vodka, soapy water, and hot water that reputedly kill weeds on contact some by drying and some by burning. You can also cover your yard with newspaper, blocking the sun. Add water to create a mulch. If weeds begin to grow in the mulch, add more layers of newspaper. As the paper smothers out the weeds, it will also feed your lawn.
Use herbicides as a last resort. There are broad-based herbicides that basically kill every kind of plant except for grasses. Instead of spraying the whole lawn, try spot-treating isolated weeds or weedy patches to minimize environmental impact. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, gloves, and safety goggles during application.
Eventually, good lawn habits can become second nature. If taken care of, the lawn will provide you and your family lush, carpet-like softness for all of your outdoor events.
While You’re Away, More Than the Mice Play
More than 2 million burglaries are reported each year in the U.S., or about one every 15 seconds. And with summer vacations in full swing, the nefarious burglars are looking for their playgrounds. Don’t become one of their statistics.
The most expensive solutions, in this case, are the best. Studies show that homes with a professionally installed home security system and monitoring are far less likely to be targeted by burglars.
According to security firm ADT, facial recognition locks will be standard security by 2025 just like the movies. But the costs of these high-tech systems can be prohibitive. For those of us with less disposable cash, there are plenty of affordable actions that are nearly as effective. It’s quite simple, lock up, light up, and make lists. Cooperation from friends and neighbors helps, too.
One of the first things many new homeowners forget to do is change the locks. Though it may seem unnecessary, one can never be certain there aren’t copies of the old keys floating around. Change the doorknobs and add new deadbolts. It will probably run less than $100.
Get extra key copies made and leave one or two with people you trust, so you don’t have to shell out hundreds more to a locksmith when you inevitably lock yourself out.
Make sure all windows lock from the inside and use a locking bar on sliding doors in addition to the regular lock.
Lock and close all garage doors when not in use. Automatic door openers should never be left in your vehicle. Don’t hide spare keys outside. Just leave them with trusted people.
Trim vegetation from windows and illuminate areas where shadows fall. Exterior entrance lights are essential, and motion-detecting lights are recommended.
The next step is minimizing losses. Why not organize a “test burglary?” Have a friend roam through your house for three to five minutes, and see how many small valuables he or she can get away with. Use the information gained to lock these items away in a designated hiding place, a safe, or even an off-site security deposit box.
Now comes the last part. Keep serial numbers for valuables and keep descriptions of items that don’t have serial numbers, including photos.
Maintain good communication with neighbors and perhaps form a Neighborhood Watch. A throwback to Colonial America, the Neighborhood Watch concept was revived in the 1980s to strengthen relationships between police and communities. Neighborhood Watch members report suspicious activity or crimes immediately to the authorities.
Seller’s Side: Helping Buyers Beat the Heat
It’s getting hotter each day, so why not entice a few extra buyers in with the promise of a refreshing cool down? You’ll make your home more appealing, potentially bringing in more offers after an open house or home showing.
A few hours before the guests are to arrive, turn the thermostat down a few degrees. The chilled air will be a great welcome to the arriving buyers. Have ceiling fans on a low to medium speed for better air circulation.
Instead of the stereotypical cookies baking in the oven (which will heat the kitchen up), provide a pitcher of lemonade or ice tea with a set of disposable cups. As they wander the yard with the refreshment, they’ll be better able to envision themselves enjoying summer days in their new home.
You’re likely already planning on repainting a few rooms to give the home a fresh look. When you choose colors, pick cool tones, like blues and greens. A subtle accent wall can change the way the home feels, or at a minimum add cooling colors in easy ways like throw pillows. To add to the cool feel without actually lowering the temperature, make sure any water features are on and prominently displayed.
Buyer’s Back: Summer Home Buying
The summer housing market can be just as fiercely competitive for home buyers as the spring market was. In a competitive market, it’s important to be flexible. That could mean going with a fixer-upper, even if you were imagining a move-in-ready dream home. There are just more of them out there: The number of starter homes on the market is shrinking, but there are 8.3 percent more fixer-uppers among them than there were six years ago.
When homes are flying off the market within days, it’s easy to think a listing that’s a week or so old is a red flag. It’s often because a buyer got cold feet and pulled out of a deal on a perfectly good house. But thanks to the assumptions people make about older listings in busy markets, the delay can cause the price to come down.
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