Top 10 Native Plants that will Thrive in Your New Jersey Garden
The key to gardening success in the northeast, with its variably cold, snowy winters and short, humid summers, is choosing plants already adapted to the local climate and soils, as well as the specific conditions in your yard.
By learning to read the varied conditions of your landscape — and you may have multiple habitats that are very different from one another — you can then look for plants that grow naturally in those conditions without needing water over the average 40 to 60 inches of annual precipitation in this region.
Instead of impulse-buying plants that strike your fancy in bloom at the nursery, first take a good look at what you have to work with.
Here are 10 plants, from herbaceous perennials to woody vines, shrubs and trees, chosen for their multiseason beauty and interest, wildlife value and adaptability to a variety of garden conditions found across the Northeast, from dry sun to moist shade. Other than irrigation in their first year or two and an annual weeding, once these plants are established in conditions to their liking, they should require little else to thrive in your Northeast landscape.
Native to rich Eastern forests and woodlands
Best shade perennial. Foamflower, shown here, is a beautiful semievergreen ground cover that blooms in a sea of pink and white foamy flowers in spring. Fairly deer resistant (definitely not a deer’s first choice), it is perfect for growing in shady areas underneath trees or in the shade of a house. In rich soil, foamflower can spread annually a few feet in each direction from stolons (underground roots), but it is never invasive like Vinca and Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), commonly planted ground covers that can escape into nearby woodlands.
Choose spreading varieties if you’re looking for a ground cover effect. Named cultivars found in nurseries are often labeled incorrectly as Tiarella cordifolia and are actually the clumping Appalachian species, Tiarella wherryi. These don’t spread from underground stolons, so read labels carefully if you prefer a spreading plant to fill an area.
2. Butterfly Milkweed
Native to open, sandy soils and uplands across eastern North America, but a rare species in most New England states
Best full-sun perennial for sandy or well-drained soil. This gorgeous native plant sports neon-orange blooms in early summer, attracting many butterflies and pollinators to its sweet nectar. Butterfly milkweed thrives in any sunny spot with well-draining soil, especially sand. As a milkweed, it’s an occasional food plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, although swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), which leafs out and blooms later than the orange milkweed, is preferred as a host plant.
3. New England Aster
Native to moist meadows and fields on the East Coast and south to Virginia
Best full-sun perennial for moist soil and late-season blooms. The purple flowers of New England aster, along with goldenrod (Solidago spp), signal the summer’s end here in the Northeast. An important nectar and host plant for butterflies and late-season beneficial insects, it loves full sun and moist soil, but it will put on a great show in any reasonable garden soil. Allow it to self-seed and create large drifts of fall color, and watch for monarch butterflies drinking nectar from the flowers, essential fuel for their long flight south to Mexico.
Some species are native to low woods and swamps, and others are adapted to high and dry exposed areas
Most adaptable flowering shrub. Serviceberry, also called shadbush, shadblow and juneberry, is a beautiful multistemmed shrub or small tree that grows in sun or the understory of larger trees. Clouds of white flowers cover serviceberry in April, and the early-season nectar is valuable forage for many pollinators. Birds flock to feed on the pink and purple edible berries that ripen in June. The fall foliage is a striking orange and yellow, especially when grown in the sun. Plants sold in nurseries are usually natural hybrids of local species.
5. New Jersey Tea
Native to sandy pine barrens and rocky soils of eastern North America
Best full-sun shrub for dry soils. This shrub makes it into the top 10 for its ability to thrive in the leanest and driest soils without wanting or needing fertilizer or watering. Planted in these conditions, it’s as close to a zero-maintenance flowering shrub that exists in the north. Billowy, white early-summer blooms attract hordes of pollinators and beneficial predatory insects that help control garden pests. New Jersey tea is hard to find for sale; look for it at native-plant nurseries in your region.
6. Highbush Blueberry or Lowbush Blueberry
(Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium angustifolium)
Native to a variety of habitats, ranging from swamps and bogs to woods, fields and rocky outcrops
Best edible plant. Blueberry is an essential Northern garden plant because of its delicious berries, fiery fall foliage and, depending on the species, ability to grow just about anywhere with some sun.
7. Trumpet Honeysuckle
Native to forest edges, woodlands and ledges in southern New England and south
Best flowering vine. Trumpet honeysuckle, also called coral honeysuckle, is a well-behaved flowering vine that attracts hummingbirds and won’t take over your house or yard the way Asian wisteria (Wisteria sinensis or W. floribunda) or English ivy (Hedera helix) can. Trumpet honeysuckle is perfect for twining up an arbor or along a fence line.
Important note: Don’t confuse trumpet honeysuckle with trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) or crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), which are also vines with trumpet-shaped flowers but should be avoided, due to their aggressive spreading through underground runners.
8. Gray Birch
Grows wild in abandoned fields and disturbed areas of the East
Most adaptable small tree. Gray birch is an attractive and fast-growing tree for sun or shade, wet or dry soil. It’s more resistant than other birches to the bronze birch borer pest. Grow gray birch to add quick and easy wildlife habitat to your property — its seeds and catkins feed birds, and its foliage hosts many butterfly and moth caterpillars, which in turn become a protein-rich food that birds use to feed their babies in the nest.
9. Red Maple
Native to swamps, forests, fields, and river and wetland edges
Most adaptable large tree. Grow red maple, also called swamp maple, for its fast growth when young and its multiseason interest. Its red flowers in early spring feed native bees, and its brilliant orange and red fall foliage rivals the iconic colored foliage of sugar maples, which are beginning to die out due to a warming climate.
10. Creeping Juniper
Native to dunes and sandy, gravelly or rocky outcrops, often seen growing on highway embankments
Best evergreen ground cover for full sun and dry soil. What it lacks in showy blooms, juniper makes up for with its tough disposition, growing in the toughest, driest soils. Its low, spreading habit creeps nicely around rocks and into awkward spaces, highlighting nearby showy plants and unifying landscape designs large and small. Easily the most drought-tolerant evergreen ground cover for Eastern gardens, juniper grows in any well-drained soil in full sun, including sand and on steep slopes.
Do you have a Jersey Green Thumb? What can you share about the plants thriving in your garden? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Instagram or Twitter Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
10 Top Secrets To Selling Your Home
So you’ve decided to put your house up for sale. Now what? Aside from hiring a real estate agent, there are a few other important matters to address before your home is listed and potential buyers start coming through the door. Some of these items, more important than others.
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Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Home
It’s important to remember that while you may look around your abode and see your dream home, not everyone will agree. After all, potential buyers aren’t buying your aesthetic. They’re after square footage, closet space, great light, and up-to-date—maybe even brand-new—appliances and fixtures. Thinking like a buyer, we uncover the Top 10 Secrets to selling your home fast for top-dollar.
Selling Secret #10: Pricing it right
Pricing is the most important aspect of selling your home and you need an experienced Listing Agent with extensive market knowledge. Your Agent will consider up-to-date information on what is happening in the marketplace and the price, and condition of competing properties. These are key factors in getting your property sold at the best price, quickly and smoothly.
RELATED: The Importance of Proper Pricing
Selling Secret #9: Half-empty closets
Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.
Selling Secret #8: Light it up
Maximize the light in your home. After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you have to do make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.
Selling Secret #7: Play the agent field
A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker. Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know your marketplace and understand the latest available marketing methods.
Look for a Real Estate Agent who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold.
Selling Secret #6: Conceal the critters
You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. If you’re planning an open house, send the critters to a pet hotel for the day.
Selling Secret #5: Don’t over-upgrade
Quick fixes before selling always pay off. Mammoth makeovers, not so much. You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do updates that will pay off and get you top dollar. Get a new fresh coat of paint on the walls. Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones. Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.
Selling Secret #4: Take the home out of your house
One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.
Selling Secret #3: The kitchen comes first
You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is. The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless, and the best part of it is that you’ll probably get 85% of your money back. It may be a few thousand dollars to replace countertops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated.
The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style. If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance. Why one? Because when people see one high-end appliance they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.
Selling Secret #2: Always be ready to show
Your house needs to be “show-ready” at all times – you never know when your buyer is going to walk through the door. You have to be available whenever they want to come see the place and it has to be in tip-top shape. Don’t leave dishes in the sink, keep the dishwasher cleaned out, the bathrooms sparkling and make sure there are no dust bunnies in the corners. It’s a little inconvenient, but it will get your house sold.
Selling Secret #1: The first impression is the only impression
No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house. Spruce up your home’s exterior with inexpensive shrubs and brightly colored flowers. You can typically get a 100-percent return on the money you put into your home’s curb appeal. Entryways are also important. You use it as a utility space for your coat and keys. But, when you’re selling, make it welcoming by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.
What home selling secrets do you have to add to our list? We want to hear from you! Sound of on our Facebook Page, Twitter or Instagram feeds or connect with us on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for great tips for homeowners and sellers delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
7 Important Things Home Sellers Often Forget to Do
When you’re selling your home there’s so much to do: find a Real Estate Agent, do touch-ups, get that balky air conditioner fixed, look into staging… It’s no wonder that sometimes things fall between the cracks. Big things. (We’re not pointing fingers, promise!)
Our arsenal of experts—aka real estate agents who have worked with many home sellers—identify the to-do’s that sellers typically overlook. We promise you, these tasks are well worth the time it will take to complete them (which isn’t very long at all).
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Home
Heed this sound advice, and there’s a good chance selling your house won’t be nearly as stressful as everyone tells you it is.
To-do No. 1: Google your address
Not all sellers scour the Internet to find out what’s being said about their property, but they should. Nearly all buyers – 90% – search online during their hunt for a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. You should be aware of what your online listing looks like, since it will influence the kinds of impression, questions and concerns buyers will have.
For example, Google Maps’ street view of your property may not show improvements that you’ve made, so you’ll want to be sure to include those updates in your listing.
To-do No. 2: Account for improvements and issues
If you’ve owned your home for a while, make a list of all the problems you’ve solved while you’ve lived there. This could include chimney fires, water damage, or a flood in the basement. Whether you solved the problem or not, you should disclose this information to the buyer so you don’t wind up in a lawsuit after the sale. Disclosing “invisible improvements” that you’ve made, like re-grading or adding a French drain system, can also be a great source of comfort for buyers.
To-do No. 3: Check your real estate agent’s references
An agent’s bad behavior or incompetence could cost you time, money, and peace of mind, so it’s well worth taking extra steps to find the best real estate agent for you. Ask friends for recommendations and check online reviews.
RELATED: Read Patrick Parker’s Online Reviews
Check that the Agent’s you’re considering have a current real estate license – with no complaints filed against them. Meet with the Agent and reach out to a few of their references directly.
Real Estate Agents should be happy to provide a number of references for a new client to call. As far as talking to your friends about a Real Estate Agent recommendation or reading online reviews, here are some things to look for:
• Did you have confidence in your Real Estate Agent?
• Do you think he/she had good knowledge of the local market?
• Did your Agent communicate well and keep you informed during the entire transaction?
• Do you think that he/she negotiated well on your behalf?
• Did your Agent have good vendors who could assist you?
• Did your Agent return calls/emails in a timely fashion?
• Would you recommend this person? Why? (Or why not?)
To-do No. 4: Insist on social media marketing
You staged your home beautifully, picked a competitive price, and listed the property, but there’s something else you’ll need to prepare before you’re fully ready to sell – a social media marketing plan. Video tours, floor plans, and photo galleries promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are must-dos.
You want to make sure that your Agent is using all avenues to attract the right buyer for your home. Make sure your home has a presence on your Agent’s website, their agency’s website, and is promoted on various sites that will market the home and give information about open houses.
To-do No. 5: Make sure the doorbell rings
Ah, attention to detail. It’s those little cosmetic repairs that could cost you your home sale. If buyers see that you can’t even be bothered to repair a busted doorbell, they’re automatically going to think about what else may need fixing and view the home negatively.
First impressions make all the difference. A well-kept home, starting with the view from the curb, gives the perception that the seller has great pride in the home and has taken good care of it – which translates into less energy and costs for the buyer as they prepare to move in.
To-do No. 6: Clean inside everything
Storage is a huge selling point for homes. So be warned: Buyers are going to poke around inside closets, drawers, cabinets, ovens, refrigerators, and even the dishwasher, whether they’re cleaned or not—so you’d better make sure they are clean.
Spending the money on a service to deep-clean your home will come back to you at least 10 times in your sales price. Even if you’ve swept up and scrubbed all surfaces to a shine, you’re not done until dust, crumbs, and creepy crawlies are cleaned out from within the small spaces too.
To-do No. 7: Clarify which items are not included
You don’t want a buyer to fall in love with your house because of the custom window treatments and then rescind their offer when they find out the curtains aren’t for sale.
The law says that anything bolted to the wall or ceiling goes to the buyer unless specifically excluded in the contract. If you want to take your flat-screen TV, chandelier, or custom pot rack, be sure to label it as soon as the house goes on the market, so that buyers don’t bank on owning that item and wind up disappointed.
Are you a recent seller who with items to add to our to-do list? Are you a buyer with feedback for sellers on how their property could have further won you over? We want to hear from you! Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
6 Bad Habits to Avoid If You Hope to Sell Your Home in 2017
Everyone has a few flaws. But if you plan to sell your New Jersey home in 2017, these foibles can literally cost you—we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. What’s more, many homeowners may not even be aware that certain actions can hurt their odds of selling their home (that is, until it sits on the market with no takers).
To help clue you in, here’s a list of regrettable blunders to kick to the curb starting now, even if you plan to put your home on the market next year:
Bad Habit No. 1: Overimproving your home
Dying to install new kitchen cabinets or retile your master bath? Home sellers often assume any upgrades they make to their home will pay them back in full once they sell, but that’s rarely the case. On average you will recoup just about 64% of the money you spend on renovations once you sell—and certain improvements can actually work against you if they’re unusual or undesirable in your market.
For instance, as much as you may be dying for a bidet in your bathroom, many others may not. Likewise, even if you consider a new swimming pool a plus, many homeowners don’t want the hassle of maintaining it (or the dangers if they have young kids).
Do this instead: Check out blog post on Home Improvements that offer the Biggest Return on Investment to see which upgrades provide the best value – and ask your Agent for advice on which amenities are hot (or not) on the Jersey Shore.
Bad Habit No. 2: Renovating without permits
We know it’s a pain to apply for permits before you knock down that wall or add a deck, but this corner-cutting will come back and bite you when you decide to sell. Without proper permits, buyers may worry whether the work done on your place is up to code—and as a result refrain from making an offer.
Do this instead: Don’t be a scofflaw; pull necessary permits. Usually, building permits are required for any renovation that involves opening/building walls, electrical, and plumbing changes.
Bad Habit No. 3: Limiting showing hours
Sure, no one wants to leave their home at dinnertime. But buyers are busy juggling work, family, and looking for a new home. If you limit showings to a few hours on weekends, you might miss a potential sale.
Do this instead: Stay flexible and cooperate with buyer’s agents who want to show your house, even if it’s inconvenient.
Plus, limiting showing times gives buyers the impression that the you may be a “difficult” seller. That can turn them off even more.
Bad Habit No. 4. Overlooking curb appeal
Even if you lavish tons of attention on prepping the inside of your home for buyers, it’s easy to overlook the outside. But keep in mind, your curb appeal is the very first impression buyers have of your home, so it pays to put some elbow grease into prettying up the exterior, too.
Do this instead: Make sure your paint job is pristine and your lawn is tidy and mowed. Also replace dead shrubs, prune trees, put out some potted plants, mulch garden beds, and freshen mailboxes.
Bad Habit No. 5: Relying heavily on open houses
Open houses were a great way to sell a house in, like, 1975. These days, the vast majority of houses are sold through the Internet.
Do this instead: While you can and should hold open houses, don’t depend on them too much. Look for Agents who mine for buyers by using the Internet and Social Media.
Bad Habit No. 6: Not following your Agent’s advice
Sure, you no doubt know more about your home than anyone else. But your Real Estate Agent knows more about how to sell it. And your Agent may make some suggestions you might not like to hear, like that you need a new paint job or that the asking price you had in mind needs to be lowered a bit. It’s tempting to take offense or just ignore this advice, but if you do, you could risk seeing your house sit on the market and grow stale.
Do this instead: Listen to your Agent. That doesn’t mean blindly following all advice. But when it comes to pricing, consider the comps your agent presents, not your gut feeling or wishful thinking. Agents buy and sell hundreds of houses in their career; you’ll probably buy and sell a handful in your lifetime. You’re paying for their experience, so follow their advice.
Want advice about selling your home? Contact us today for a free consultation or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE™ email newsletter for articles and tips like these delivered straight to your inbox.
6 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Look High End
Your home’s appearance is a reflection of you and what type of person you are. Living on the Jersey Shore you’ll find diversity among décor.
The coastal themes of the water and the contemporary art remain strong when it comes to making a home look high end. With a few good tips you can walk with pride by creating a high end home, even when you’re on a budget.
Here are a couple of considerations that may peak your curiosity:
1. Pastel Paints
You can see heads nodding to the interior design trends for 2017. Pastel paints mixed with natural pieces of furniture and sleek industrial accents. This look is easy to achieve by replacing your ivory white walls for more subdued colors like yellows, blues and greens. Bright colors, browns and boring neutrals are out when it comes to making a home look more Chi-Chi.
2. Abstract Art Piece
Add a touch of nature with a vase, abstract art piece or some other type of organic flair to the room. On the flip side try adding metallic finishes such as copper and silver to accent these rooms. You will find this look across the board in magazines such as Coastal Living.
Do-it-Yourself Wainscoting, Chair rails, Board and Batten are all excellent weekend projects that can enhance the way any room looks. Just be sure to do your painting first and look in places like Pinterest for additional DIY ideas.
3. Wooden Valances
Wooden valances are easier to create than most people think and are a welcome addition to any window treatment. Paint these wooden boxes to either match or contrast the walls and you’ve got a look that is stunning in just about any room.
4. Kitchen Tile Blacksplashes
The kitchen can be updated by adding things like a DIY tile backsplash that extends from countertop to cabinets. This will make even the most outdated kitchen look new again. One major trend that we are seeing a lot of this year is the ‘subway’ tile look. This is a clean, simple look that will match in a multitude of decorative applications.
TIP: Don’t forget the laundry room! Many people are taking the time to give this room some love and attention by placing backdrops behind the ole’ washer and dryer. They are using ‘neat freak’ solutions to storage and really creating a welcoming invitation to this area.
5. Backyard / Outdoor Living Spaces
Backyard living spaces are huge now. Many families find themselves enjoying their porches and patios more than ever before. When you live in a place like the Jersey Shore, you’ve probably got a deep love for being outdoors. Your home will be upgraded by taking the time and investing in making this gorgeous area. Things like plants, fire pits, decorative stones and waterfalls can add to the ambiance and the value of the home. Places like Houzz.com are an excellent resource for other decorating ideas for these outdoor spaces.
6. Curb Appeal
Entryway and curb appeal are important to beautifying your home and should be given special attention. You don’t want to spend your time grimacing and wincing each time you pull into your driveway. Paint the exterior in a pleasant color that’s complimentary of the surroundings.
Use art instead of plants as a focal point. Garage doors need to be updated and todays newer selections are not only inexpensive, they’re super modern.
No matter if you’re a new homeowner or you’ve been in your place for years, there are a lot of things that you can do to make your place look like a million bucks with spending a fraction of that amount. Do you have something to add to our list? Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
27 New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners
Heading into a new year, we feel an obligation to make resolutions.
Personal resolutions can be motivating, exciting or just plain silly. This year I will… eat healthier, save money, run the Long Branch 5K, learn to surf in Monmouth Beach, do the Asbury Park Polar Bear Plunge.
As a homeowner, resolutions can also be empowering. Some are mission-critical for a solid financial year, others maybe fall in the wish list.
Need ideas? This list should get you started:
1. “Lose weight.”
Losing the weight of excess possessions save time (you know, like looking everywhere for your shoes in a cluttered bedroom), money (where did I put that bill?) and your mind (psychologists agree that clutter and stress go hand-in-hand).
2. Get organized.
The logical next step to decluttering is to find a logical place for what’s left.
Need inspiration? Walk through a home storage store or get yourself on Pinterest for some seriously clever organizational ideas.
3. Save energy.
Saving energy is good for the planet and it’s also great for your pocketbook. EnergyStar appliances are just the start.
• LED bulbs are much more efficient and now come in warmer tones and dimmable options for a more homey feel. Use a lighting calculator to measure energy and cost savings.
• Water heaters expend energy storing hot water. The Department of Energy says tankless water heaters are 8 percent to 34 percent more energy efficient than standard water heaters, depending on usage.
• Going solar no longer has to be ugly roof additions. Have you seen the new Tesla solar tiles?
Saving on energy can even have some great tax implications! Check out our article on the best energy enhancements for optimal tax write-offs.
4. Build green.
Going green is more than energy usage. It’s also about sustainability and healthful choices in finishes.
• Change out laminates and carpets for natural hard surfaces.
• Remove asbestos (with a professional).
• Use sustainable and recycled materials like bamboo, cork and Vetrazzo.
• Need to paint? Go with a low- or no-VOC non-toxic paint.
• If you’re texturizing a wall, try Earth plaster instead of gypsum.
5. Get healthy.
Create a workout space, so there’s no excuse when the weather turns. If you’re looking to move, check out neighborhoods with nearby trails, fitness centers and amenities.
6. Just fix it.
You’ve walked by that broken switch plate how many times?
Go through the house like a home inspector and create a checklist of repairs that need to be done. When it comes time to sell and appraise your house, you’ll be glad these were done.
7. Set yourself (debt) free.
Those who carry debt and struggle to pay it off are twice as likely to develop mental health problems, according to a study by John Gathergood of the University of Nottingham.
Paying off debt sets you free in so many ways, plus it’s great for your credit score. Think of all the things you could do in the future with the money you save on payments and interest (maybe even pay off your home early — see #20).
8. Remodel right.
Is it time to update a dated bathroom? Replace the garage door?
If you’re wondering what improvements will lead to a better return on investment when you sell, check out our article on which home renovations offer the greatest return on investment. Our Agent’s can also tell you what improvements are best for your neighborhood and house type.
9. Maximize your mortgage.
A recent Zillow study showed that Americans spent more time researching a car purchase than their home loan. Since the Fed announced that it’s planning three rate hikes in 2017, it’s wise to refi sooner than later.
Have you reached the loan-to-value needed to remove your mortgage insurance? Make an appointment to talk to a lender for a mortgage checkup.
10. Learn to DIY.
The more minor fixes (and if you’re really skilled, major fixes) you can do yourself, the more money you save.
11. Plan to maintain.
Create a maintenance calendar to remember those routine maintenance tasks, such as replacing furnace air filters, changing smoke detector batteries and winterizing sprinklers.
Whether it’s a paper calendar or your iCal on your phone, plan out scheduled maintenance so you won’t hear that relentless beeping of the smoke detector in the middle of the night — or run out of propane before the steaks are done (tragedy!).
Is this the year to buy a rental property? Or a vacation home?
This will really require you to understand your financial situation, so talk to your financial advisor and an Agent who understands investment properties.
13. Take an inventory.
That new flat screen television and 360 viewer you got for Christmas are going to need coverage. If disaster happens, do you really know what’s in your house?
14. Do the double check.
The Insurance Information Institute says a standard policy covers the structure and possessions against fire, hurricanes, wind, hail, lightning, theft and vandalism.
Most other disasters are add-ons. Talk to your insurance agent and make sure you have not only enough property coverage but also enough liability coverage.
15. Get a “CLUE”.
Your homeowners’ insurance premiums are dependent on a number of factors, such as credit score and the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report of claim history.
You can request a free report from LexisNexis.
16. Make your neighborhood better.
Get involved with your local HOA, neighborhood watch or community events. The first step to a better neighborhood is your personal involvement.
For news, information about issues that effect your community and to keep in touch with your neighbors; you can also join the Community Facebook Pages and Group we maintain. Like the Bradley Beach, New Jersey Facebook Page or join the Groups for Bradley Beach, NJ Residents, Ocean Township, NJ Residents or our Jersey Shore and Monmouth County Lifestyle Group.
17. Save water.
Dry climate areas struggle for water in dense population centers. Watering restrictions can turn your grass brown and overuse can cost you with tiered billing. Even the New Jersey climates experience seasonal droughts or below average reservoir levels.
Xeriscape what you can outside and look for indoor appliances that use less water. If you live in a state with conservation legislation, get those regulators on your shower heads and hoses.
18. Get dirty.
Landscaping is essential to curb appeal. So this year, really plan to keep up with it or think about going to a more easy-care style.
Out back, consider a garden to save money on better produce. Get a composter for garden and food waste.
19. Plan for emergencies.
Natural disasters and social disruptions are unwanted, but they happen. To be ready, you actually need to prepare!
Do you have a family evacuation plan? Emergency supplies? Go to ready.gov for a ton of ideas on prevention and disaster preparedness.
20. Get smart.
Smart home features make your home more efficient and easy to use, even remotely. Look for these to be the “wow” factor that could make your house stand out. Who doesn’t love Alexa-enabled appliances?
21. Make extra mortgage payments.
You can take thousands of dollars and years off your mortgage by putting an extra amount towards the principal each month. For a $400,000 at 4.25 percent interest with 25 of its 30 years left, you could save $21,107 and take two years off by paying an extra $100 per month.
RELATED: How To Pay Your Mortgage Off Early
What could you save? Try Bankrate’s handy extra payment calculator.
22. Pay off your second mortgage.
Whether it’s a one- or multiple-year plan, it won’t happen if you don’t budget for it.
23. Scrutinize your property tax.
If you live in an area where your home value has dropped since the last assessment, you need to really look at that bill.
Is the assessment correct? Is it going up faster than the sale prices of comparable homes? You can appeal via your local appraisal review board.
24. Optimize your withholding.
If you’re a first-time homeowner, you’re going to enjoy those new deductions. Be sure to talk to your tax advisor about adjusting your paycheck withholding accordingly (unless you like Uncle Sam making money off your income instead of you!).
25. Pay bills, especially your mortgage, on time.
It goes a long way to improving your credit. “The longer bills are paid on time, the higher the FICO Score should rise,” says myFICO. “That’s because as recent “good payment” patterns appear on a credit report, the impact of past credit problems on a FICO Score fade.”
26. Cook dinner.
You know that fabulous kitchen you had to have when you bought your home? Use it!
The USDA’s 2016-17 Food Price Outlook shows the price of groceries decreased in 2016, with a less than 1.5 percent increase in 2017, but restaurants will continue to climb beyond 2016’s 2.4 percent increase.
You’ll also eat healthier at home by controlling what goes into your body. If you own a home with a less-than-stellar kitchen, cooking will probably motivate you to make some appliance and feature upgrades that will pay off when you sell.
27. Get hip.
Dated cabinets and 1980s fixtures don’t help your resale value. Evaluate your style and start looking at upcoming (not past) trends.
Although we’re still in a “sellers’ market” that will likely change in the next few years. A modern home (unless it’s a historic property) is simply more appealing and makes the buyer feel like it’s move-in ready.
Your house is your biggest asset. While not all of these resolutions are essential, aim to start out by focusing on your mortgage and personal finances. What do you have to add? Where might you start? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.
Here’s to a healthier, happier and successful New Year!
10 Low-Cost Tweaks to Help Your Home Sell
Many homeowners won’t even consider listing their home, because they can’t afford extensive remodeling to get it ready for sale. But sometimes it’s not the major renovations that buyers notice.
Consider this checklist of cheaper to-do’s before hanging that for-sale sign.
1. Quick-clean the exterior and landscape.
They don’t call it curb appeal for nothing. Check for loose or clogged gutters and broken or missing flashing materials, which help prevent leaks behind the gutters. Cut the lawn and trim the bushes. Make sure the garage doors open and close properly. Wipe down lawn furniture. Fix any dangling shutters.
Estimated costs: Completely replacing gutters can be expensive; replacing just parts is more economical. A 10-foot gutter starts at $6; downspouts start at $8. High-end garage doors cost $1,000, but a decorative garage door hardware kit starts at $19.
2. Make that door (and doorbell) stand out.
Many homeowners don’t come in through the front door, but prospective buyers do. If you’ve ever gone house hunting you know it takes a moment for your Realtor to get inside that lockbox to get the door open. During this time, buyer’s are sizing up the immediate exterior. Fix cracked or peeling doorways with a fresh coat of paint and be sure the bell actually rings.
Estimated costs: Exterior paints start at $30 a gallon; doorbells are $10 and up.
FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your House
3. Evaluate every entrance.
It’s not just the front door that will get the once-over. Doors offer a huge bang for the buck visually, so update interior doors or at least replace hinges and knobs. Junky bifolds with double-swing or heavier solid-core doors can also stand to be replaced.
Estimated costs: Bronze door hinges can cost $3; solid-core, unfinished pine interior doors start at $99.
4. Look down.
People walk in and wipe their feet. One of the first things they’ll notice is the condition of the floor, says Goode. Stained carpets, raggedy rugs and scratched floors are fairly easy fixes.
Estimated costs: You can rent a carpet steam cleaner for $60; the cost of area rugs varies significantly.
5. Select the right scent.
Beware the four most dreaded words in real estate: “What is that smell?” Buyers will associate musty odors with mold damage or disrepair, so eliminate any nose agitators. Clean out litter boxes, make sure your animals are bathed, banish the kids’ stinky sports equipment to the basement or garage, and throw out that science experiment in the fridge. Find one scent (or complementing scents) you love and use it throughout the house to avoid scent overload.
Estimated costs: Scented candles can cost $10; plug-in odor eliminators start at $17.
6. Spot treat any blemishes.
Walls are an excellent canvas, but they also clearly display age, dirt, indifference, even foundation issues. Fix any scuff marks, nail holes and paint cracks. Remove all peeling wallpaper and repaint in neutrals to maximize the natural light.
Estimated costs: Spackling paste starts at $18; interior paint costs $28 a gallon and up.
7. Have a place for everything.
If buyers see that your stuff doesn’t have a home, they won’t want your home. Make sure anything that’s not on display — shoes, coats, papers, pots, pans — is tucked away and neatly organized.
When closet space is at a premium, repurpose other areas for storage. Finish the garage walls and floors and add some simple storage to make the room part of the home. This can yield great return on investmet!
Estimated costs: Attractive bins and baskets cost $20 and up; basic shelving systems start at $200.
8. Check the tracks. You may no longer notice that lopsided utensils drawer, but potential buyers will. New cabinetry may be out of the question, but fix bent drawer tracks and slides, replace dangling pulls and tighten screws and handles.
Estimated costs: Basic rail-drawer-track kits start at $3; decorative cabinet knobs start at $4 each.
9. Give the appliances some elbow grease.
Buyers want stoves that shine, not evidence of last week’s tuna casserole. Clean the oven, refrigerator, microwave, sink and any other appliance that will be included in the purchase of the home.
Estimated costs: Most cleaning products start at $4; elbow grease is free.
10. Finish with finishes.
Bathroom gut jobs can be pricey, but replacing finishing elements such as faucets, showerheads, towel racks and toilet paper holders can significantly brighten a room. If you have polished chrome faucets or shower valves, you can pick up any chrome accessories and they will match, unlike satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze. New shower curtains, towels and mats will also help the room look updated and clean.
Estimated costs: Showerheads can cost $40 and up; bath towels start at $10; faucets are $70 and up.
What tips do you have for sprucing up the home on a budget? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter feed or on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox.
Jersey Shore Home Sellers:
Up Your Game to Compete With Newly Built Homes
Homeowners are notorious for thinking their home is better than their neighbor’s, but when you are ready to put your home on the market it’s crucial to be realistic about the competition.
If you live in an area where builders are constructing new homes that are similar in style or price range to your own, then your competitors include not only the other existing homes on the market but also the newly built properties.
There is nothing you can do about the fact that your home is five, 10 or 30 years old, but by investigating the trends in new homes you can analyze what to do to make your home appeal to buyers.
Check Out the Competition
Before you put your home on the market it is wise to look at other homes in your price range that are for sale, including both resales and newly built homes, because this can give you ideas about how to position your home and how to price it appropriately.
Here’s what to look for:
• Property condition
A newly built home will be pristine and perfect, with fresh paint and the assistance of an expert interior designer. You can get ideas of the latest decorating trends in a model home as wells ways to maximize the best features of your home and minimize the least appealing features. Beware of overspending when you begin to improve your home for sale, but do think about fresh paint in the new neutral tones of pale grey or beige rather than pure white and notice the lack of clutter in model homes.
• Put yourself in the buyers’ frame of mind
When buyers look at homes they want to visualize how they would live in it, not how you’re currently living there. This means that you need to do things as basic as keeping dishes put away, beds made and towels neatly hung up, and as subtle as removing personal items and replacing them with neutral decorative elements.
• Look at your curb appeal
Model homes typically have fresh landscaping and freshly painted trim, so you should do the same for your house to attract buyers. Invest time in sprucing up your exterior and consider painting your front door and replacing the hardware for a modern look.
RELATED: Curb Appeal Tips from the Pros
• Check out the finances
Builders sometimes offer incentives to buyers such as closing cost assistance or paying for optional features. If you feel your home won’t sell without offering some type of concession yourself, you can lower your price, offer some closing cost help or even offer a lump sum of cash that the buyers can use to pay a decorator or for upgrading the flooring. This could be particularly valuable if you have an older home that looks dated but you want the buyers to be able to put their own individual stamp on the property.
Consult Your Real Estate Agent
Patrick Parker Realty Experts can offer suggestions about inexpensive improvements you can make to your home and can talk to you about local market trends. If you are in a market with few homes for sale, you may not need to be so concerned about new construction because there will be plenty of buyers to look at your home; but in a softer housing market you may need to get creative with incentives or a reduced price to attract buyers.
As a seller, how have you won out over the competition of newer homes? Post your stories on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter Feed or on LinkedIn. Plus don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.
Five Renovations that Increase the Value of Your Home
According to HGTV, “Home improvement projects cost about 20 to 25 cents on the dollar. The other 75 to 80 cents spent go directly back into the home through increased value.”
There are some projects, however, that deliver the greatest return on investment.
Here are five renovations that add the greatest value to your home:
Because the kitchen is still considered the heart of the home, it’s the primary area where people seek value in a remodel. When a buyer is walking through a prospective home, the kitchen is generally the first destination on their agenda because families still spend a lot of their time there. A variety of renovation opportunities can increase the home’s value, with projects that work for any budget.
The easiest and most apparent upgrades in kitchens are for countertops and appliances; buyers almost always expect granite countertops in today’s housing market, and there are a number of alternatives to granite slab, such as granite tiles or soapstone, if slab simply isn’t an option. Likewise, stainless-steel appliances add instant value because they won’t ever go out of style due to the neutral nature of their finished look.
A larger project to consider is custom-built, solid-wood cabinetry. If the current cabinets in your kitchen are outdated and made from materials such as melamine, buyers will likely see a project they will need to take on in the future. Determine your budget and decide if extra features, such as glass cut-outs and soft-close hinges, are necessary for your renovation.
In addition, if you have a half or whole wall that breaks up the continuity of the floor plan, consider removing it to open up the space to the living area. Open floor plans are always in style, and they can make the space appear bigger.
The second most important area for buyers is the bathrooms. Bathrooms are often an obvious target for renovations because they provide value easily without requiring extensive costs. Simply cleaning the space or updating it with a fresh coat of semi-gloss paint and some new grout can make a difference, so there you really have no reason not to consider customizing it.
For more involved renovations, buyers want to see updated vanities, tile or stone features and flooring, and floating glass or walk-in showers if the space can accommodate them. Be sure to keep at least one bathtub in the house; families with children require them for bath time. If a shower–bath combo fixture is the only thing that fits, accent it with unique shower curtains that fit the style of the home.
The floors of a house are another area that catch the buyers’ eye because they take up most of the space. Outdated tiles or dingy carpeting, wood that needs refinishing, or noticeable vinyl flooring are likely to be noticed – and red-flagged in a buyer’s mind – as something they’ll have to update after purchasing the home. Simple updates to important rooms can make a big difference in creating a sense of value.
Depending on your budget and style, you can choose from multiple ways to renovate floors. If wood flooring is the best fit for an area, options range from new or refurbished solid wood to engineered hardwood, which looks similar to solid wood but holds up better with time. The same goes for carpet, the pricing for which varies depending on the materials and thickness of padding you choose.
TIP: If you already have solid wood floors but they’re scratched or look lackluster, try refinishing them before you consider a total replacement.
If the structural components of your home aren’t in good condition, your value will plummet. An appraiser will mark off major value points if anything is out of order, and buyers are likely to be scared off by a house that isn’t in certified working order. It’s a potential hazard to their health and safety, and the renovation project will be their responsibility after they purchase the home. In addition, if the inspector marks these areas on their checklist, you may have to fix the issues before the buyer agrees to close or risk legally disclosing the issues publicly in the future.
Because it’s still a buyer’s market, anything that’s not in the best isn’t likely to garner the same attention. For resale purposes, it’s critical that you have everything in working order. Realistically, everything already should be; you shouldn’t be living somewhere with faulty structuring, and neither should a future owner.
RELATED: To Sell Your Home Think Like A Buyer
TIP: If you find issues with the home and have to replace structural pieces, consider going with an eco-friendly option; buyers are becoming conscious of the trend, and it saves money and reduces waste in the long run. Check out New Home Source’s review of green building features to determine which ones will add the most value to your home.
A real estate book is always judged by its cover; before a buyer can see any of the high-value upgrades you’ve made to the interior of your home, they have to like its exterior. If the outside space isn’t updated and clean, potential buyers may not ever step inside. Simply put, if it looks like you don’t care about the outside of the home, it’s going to seem like you don’t care about the inside, either.
Updating your home’s curb appeal can as simple as cleaning things up a bit and keeping vegetation from getting overgrown and unkempt, or it can be as large and dramatic as replacing the lawn and xeriscaping with native, drought-ready plants.
Your home’s exterior is equally as important as your yard; fresh paint and clean windows can go a long way, and installing a new statement door is a guaranteed booster. If the outside looks organized and taken care of, buyers will have a sense of care and value – even if you invested minimal amounts of time and money.
If you have the space for a deck or porch, adding one is almost a guarantee that you will get your money back in the form of increased value. It’s important to have some sort of shaded structure that protects the front door – especially in areas with heavy weather and sun – so adding anything to a bare front will help. Manicured backyards are always a plus for buyers, even if they won’t use them. Regardless of your climate or the style of your home, decks and porches are features worth adding.
Realtors are often split on lighting renovation projects in terms of their added value; some say buyers love seeing built-in recess lighting and updated fixtures, but others claim that doing anything more than adding a dimmer to current lights is a wasted effort because buyers will probably customize the features anyway.
In the current real estate market, open floor plans are hot; if you want to sell soon, look for areas in your home where you can remove walls that aren’t load-bearing or take out clunky kitchen islands that don’t add to the room’s appeal. Buyers want a wide-open floor plan, and doing some of the work yourself isn’t likely to set you back too much.
Additional Tip for Today’s Sellers
Do your best to keep the value of the home in the same range as the other homes in the neighborhood; at first glance, it might seem like a good thing to out-value surrounding homes, but buyers are often wary of a house that’s too valuable to match its surroundings because it seems out of place.
FREE DOWNLOAD: How to Put Your Home on The Market and Attract Buyers Today
If the resell value is the only reason you’re renovating, it’s a good idea to conform to certain guidelines for each area of your home. If the changes are just for you and you’re only thinking about your selling ability in the future, have some fun and do it your way. Styles will always change, and if you love the updates now, they won’t represent wasted effort.
Did you recently sell? What improvements to your home did you find yield the best return on investment?
Photos source: HGTV
The 5 Spring Cleaning Trends that Go Way Beyond Clean
As daunting as the task sounds, spring cleaning can be a great boost to your mental health. Here are five ways to implement a whole-home system that has the power to change the way you feel about your home for the better.
If you’re among the 68% of adults, as reported by OnePoll, who feel daunted and uninspired about the prospect of spring cleaning, you may want to consider the positive mental aspects of meeting the task head-on.
Psychology Today reports on the negative impact clutter can have on our mind and bodies, and the long-term health benefits that can result from a thorough spring cleaning. Experts say the key to success is to go beyond clean to a decluttered and refreshed space. Here are five ways to implement a whole-home system that has the power to change the way you feel about your home for the better.
1. Remove It
It’s one thing to give your house a thorough clean, but it’s another to have a critical look at what you own, and get rid of the excess for a fresh start. To truly get the full mental benefit out of your spring cleaning, try categorizing your belongings using three piles: what you use, what you can sell, and what you can give away.
Books, furniture, and home goods can be great items to make a little money from and there are plenty of ways to sell your things beyond the garage sale method. Amazon, Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay, and Half.com are all great avenues to post your belongings for a quick sale. Textiles and footwear make great donations to help those in need.
2. Clean It
Once you’ve decluttered, you can then focus on giving your home the scrub-down it deserves by focusing on the details that get missed in your everyday cleaning regimen. From cleaning window-screens to scrubbing baseboards or cleaning carpets, a good cleaning will improve your mood and the look and feel of your home in no time. Just remember to make a list and go room-by-room if it all seems too overwhelming.
3. Paint It
If you’re considering new paint colors for your home, spring is the perfect time to change the look of your space and capitalize on any spring paint sales at your local hardware store. In many areas of the country, the weather will allow for open windows, which can reduce fumes and help speed the drying process between coats.
Some of the hot new colors for 2016 include:
- White. Yes white!
All white rooms feels fresh. In fact, Benjamin Moore even named Simply White, a clean, crisp, multipurpose shade, it’s color of the year for 2016.
Soft pastel colors are naturally soothing; they’re the perfect antidote to the busy world around us. Two pastels that you’ll see a lot this year are shades of pale rose and dusty pinks as well as airy blues. The two work well together as well as a wide range of other colors. Other pastels you’ll be seeing are lilac and soft, milky blues.
- Neutrals with a Modern Edge
Neutral rooms feel classic, yet modern at the same time. Think beyond all whites, creams, or grays and introduce soft colors, like the pastels mentioned above.
- Graphic Grays
Gray is a classic when it comes to home decor, but most shades we’ve seen have been on the pale side. This year, think about introducing darker grays, like charcoal. Dark gray walls would make a statement in any room. Pair them with lighter furniture and colorful accessories for a room that truly has character.
4. Organize It
Though it can be tempting to go straight to the organizing phase of spring cleaning for instant gratification, leaving it until after you declutter can save you from purchasing more storage for items you don’t need or use. Once your home is free of clutter, you can focus on meaningful storage for your items.
RELATED: Super Creative Storage Solutions
Remember that storage doesn’t have to be restricted to plastic totes. Baskets, boxes, and colorful bins can hold a variety of items while increasing the style factor of your home.
5. Decorate It
Time for the finishing touches with decor items that can mimic the colors of spring and bring the outside in. Throw pillows and curtains are an easy way to add a pop of color without overwhelming a space. If textiles aren’t your thing, small accessories grouped in threes can easily add seasonal flair to coffee tables, bookshelves, and mantles. Finally, colorful florals — whether real or artificial — can make a huge impact when placed in unusual containers like antique teapots, tin buckets, or even mason jars.
RELATED: How to Decorate Your Home Like A Pro
Whatever your style, going beyond the typical clean to simplify your space will not only make a beautiful space but will positively impact every aspect of your life, from activity level to stress to sleeping patterns and creativity. So break out the gloves and start planning!
And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like these delivered straight to your inbox!
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