7 Tips To Plan A Spring Yard ‘Tune-Up’ Before Listing A Home For Sale

7 Tips to Plan a Spring Backyard Tune UpThe oft-repeated maxim that there is never a second chance to make a great first impression is especially true when it comes to real estate. Street appeal may focus on a dramatic approach to the front door, but prospective buyers will be especially “wowed” by an appealing back yard.

Early spring is the perfect time to add some new plants, set out pots of blooming flowers and focus on one memorable feature. A little work now will pay big dividends later, in terms of buyer interest, increased showings, quick offers, and even a higher price.

Here are 7 ideas that are cost-effective weekend projects:

  1. Create a focal point: Find an antique garden trellis and plant some vines to create an arbor. Add a piece of sculpture or statuary either in the center of the yard or in a secluded garden spot. Install a “gate to nowhere” and add bright flowers on one side. Paint giant sunflowers on a privacy fence or on the side of a storage shed.
  2. Build a partial wall or shade trellis: There is little that’s more appealing that an an “outdoor living room.” Accent and define your patio space in an interesting way — use a sisal rug or paint a graphic design on the concrete — and fill the room with appropriate furniture. Add a small fountain or a charcoal fire pit to create a real gathering spot.
  3. Install a simple drip irrigation system: Minimize landscape upkeep by planning DIY drip irrigation that will keep planting areas looking their best. All that’s really needed is some tubing and a few fittings; the system itself can be attached to an outside hose bibb and operated by a simple timer. It’s not necessary to extend the system to the entire lawn; that would be a more costly and time-consuming project perhaps best left to a professional.
  4. Create a dry creek bed: If parts of the yard or garden are plagued by standing water following heavy rain, give drainage an assist by making a dry creek bed. It’s not too difficult and will add function and beauty to the back yard. Add some large boulders or a “Zen bench” to boost the appeal.
  5. Plant or hang solar lights: Define a pathway, highlight planting areas or just add night-time interest to the yard with solar lighting. Buy inexpensive versions at a home store, or order artistic lights from a catalog. They’re fun, functional and portable.
  6. Plant a specialty garden: Attract butterflies and hummingbirds with a patch of wildflowers. Build a small raised garden plot to grow kitchen herbs, or plant seasonal vegetables and edible flowers. Carrots. kale and rainbow chard are especially pretty and don’t take much space. Melons, squash and pumpkins have beautiful flowers and yield great fruit, but they do spread!
  7. Clean up, trim, weed and mow: Finally, don’t neglect the routine maintenance that is required in every yard, both front and back. Nothing else is as important to prospective buyers as an attractive, well-kept home exterior.

 

5 Essential Home Maintenance Skills Every Homeowner Should Know

Buying Your First Home? Learn These 5 Essential Home Maintenance Skills as Soon as PossibleNew homes can be scary. But when you take the time to think about it and plan ahead, maintaining a home is easier than you think. Here are five skills that will help maintain your new home for years to come.

Fixing A Toilet

It’s not as daunting as it sounds. Just remember that toilets work with gravity. The water wants to flow freely. Don’t be afraid to open that tank up and adjust the floater and valves as needed. Occasionally run the water (flush the toilet, turn on the sink) in unused rooms, like the guest bathroom, to keep the pipes clear and functioning.

Dealing With Animals

Sometimes your animal neighbors invite themselves in. While it’s always better to use professionals if you have a large-scale or persistent pest problem, there are steps you can take to minimize animal visitors before it comes to that. Check for termites by looking for raised, hollow tubes along the wood (tubes filled with bugs). If you have mice, and know how they’re getting in, block their holes with steel wool and set friendly traps. But make sure to release the captives far from your home.

Electricity and Water Awareness

Know how to shut off your electricity and water, just in case. Find the shut-offs when you first move in. And take the time to test the breakers and label them clearly and directly with permanent-marker. That way there is no confusion if one gets tripped.

A Regular Deep Clean

On a regular basis, give your house a deep clean. Scrub the bathrooms, clean the kitchen appliances and floors/walls. Doing this will not only prevent the accumulation of dirt and grime, which could lead to bigger problems later on, but will also give you a chance to do a run-down of your house and see what needs fixing/updating/replacing.

Be Prepared

Gather your home maintenance kit (Home Maintenance for Dummies has examples) before you need it, and keep it up. If you use all the nails, replace them. It’s also a good idea to make a maintenance calendar with notes on what needs to be done during a particular season.

Finally, in being prepared, don’t forget to maintain your fire and carbon monoxide detectors with regular checks and battery changes (suggested every six months, regardless of battery life).

Contact your mortgage professional, who can help you get started on your road to home ownership.

Benchmark Mortgage

4 Neglected Home Maintenance Tasks That Are a MUST

4 Neglected Home Maintenance Tasks That Are a MustThere are a number of home maintenance tasks that are easy to forget about in favor of more obvious renovations, but forgetting to do some of them can end up costing you a lot down the road. If you’re hoping to keep your home in tip-top shape, here are a few tasks that you shouldn’t forget about.

Sealing Off Access Points

Small rodents and insects can wreak havoc on your home if they gain access, so ensure that you maintain the foundation of your home and seal off any areas where these pests might get inside. Check all the windows and doors, and survey the foundation of your home, making sure to patch up any areas where sealant or mortar has come loose.

Cleaning The Shingles

The reality of algae eating away at your roof shingles can be an unpleasant, expensive renovation, so clean your roof on a regular basis before any black streaks can take your shingles with them. Simply mix together hot water, bleach and detergent and spray this from your garden hose on a cooler day so you can save your roof from rot. This will also save you the cost of having to hire a professional

Maintaining Your Wood Deck

There are few things that will age your yard like a poorly maintained deck, so take the time to re-stain and seal your deck so it doesn’t quickly see the effects of time and weather. While harsh weather can have an ill effect on your deck’s appearance, properly maintaining it will mean you can avoid the high cost of replacement that will be required.

Keeping It Clutter Free

Many homeowners get pretty comfortable in their home, and this can often mean that many boxes of unused items get stored away. Instead of keeping old items though, do a clean out once every 6-12 months to get rid of the things you don’t use. By having a clean basement and garage, you’ll also have the ability to notice many other maintenance issues that might not be visible with all the extra stuff.

There are a number of maintenance tasks around the home that people often forget, but neglecting to complete them can often times cost a pretty penny down the road.

Benchmark Mortgage

Three Painting Tricks To Make Your Home Look Amazing

Three Subtle Painting Tricks That Will Make Your Home Look Amazing This Spring When it comes to painting the walls of a house, sometimes subtle is best. You want to add design, color, and texture to the walls, but you don’t want it jarring to the eyes. Here are three subtle painting techniques you can try on your home walls.

Tissue Paper Texture

One easy way to add texture to walls is to use tissue paper. You apply the tissue paper to the walls and it stays there until you want something new.

Crumple up a piece of tissue paper into a tight ball and then open it up and smooth it out. Small textured lines will appear on the paper. Those lines will remain when you use the paper on the walls.

Use the colored wall paint as glue to adhere the tissue paper to the wall. Paint an area of the wall that’s a little bit bigger than the piece of tissue paper. Press the paper to the painted area and smooth it out so all the edges stick to the wall. Paint over the tissue paper. Repeat the process until the entire wall is covered.

Sponge Color-on-Color Technique

Natural sponges create a unique look on painted walls. If you use two versions of the same color, satin and semi-gloss, then it creates a subtle look that isn’t shocking to the eyes. The color is the same but the shine is different.

Paint your wall with the satin color paint. Let it dry completely. Dip the top of the natural sponge in the semi-gloss paint. Dab the sponge to the wall over and over. It’s OK to overlap the paint in areas and you aren’t going to completely cover the wall.

Once dry, the satin paint will show from beneath the semi-gloss paint creating a neat shine effect.

Taped Stripes

You don’t want bold multi-color stripes on your wall because it will stand out too much. Subtle stripes create a beautiful effect.

Choose two colors that sit side-by-side on the color spectrum. Or, choose two similar colors from different companies. Paint companies tend to have slight differences in colors.

Paint the walls your first color choice. Let it dry completely. Tape the walls using painters tape to make stripes. Make them horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. Make them wide or thin. It’s up to you. Paint the walls again with the second color choice. Paint right over the tape. When you remove the tape, the first color will show.

These simple and subtle paint techniques will make your walls beautiful. This is especially useful if you plan to sell your home and want to increase its value.

Benchmark Mortgage

3 Easy Ways To Make Over A Room With Light

Let There Be Light! 3 Easy Ways to Make over a Room by Adding New Light Fixtures Light is an important design element that can be used to influence your interior decor in a number of ways. In fact, you can experience a major transformative change on the overall style and ambiance of a room by making a few simple lighting changes.

Consider how these ideas can help you to improve the look of your space with great results, and think about ways that you can improve your space by making a few changes.

The Addition of Spotlights

If you have fine pieces of artwork, decorative display areas or other features that you want to illustrate with beautiful clarity, the addition of spotlights is a great idea. You can shine light on these special features in your home by installing a single, bright fixture with a focused beam overhead, or you can use track lighting to highlight larger features. In some cases, the design or layout of your room may be sufficient to allow lighting to be placed at eye-level or even below the fixture to shine upward at it.

Background Illumination

While spotlights can shine a focused beam of light on fixtures, you can also use background lighting for ambiance. Consider how you can incorporate background lighting with under-cabinet kitchen lighting, dimmer recessed lighting placed behind a sofa or other features. Generally, these are lights that do not provide direct lighting, and the light may not be the main source of light in the room. It may even have a hint of color to it for a dramatic flair that further establishes ambiance.

Beautiful Lamps

Another idea is to use beautiful or decorative lamps in your room. These may be smaller desk lamps, towering floor lamps or table top lamps. There are lamps available in a wide range of colors, sizes and styles. The lighting from the lamps may influence ambiance and provide functional lighting, but the decorative nature of the lamps themselves can enhance the décor even when the lights are not turned on.

There are many different types of lighting that can influence your home’s décor, and in many cases, it makes sense to incorporate each of these styles of lighting in a single room to enjoy different benefits. You can study your room layouts and designs today to learn more about how the existing light fixtures influence decor, and you can make a few appropriate changes to enjoy better overall results for your space.

Benchmark Mortgage

5 Cool Ideas For Green Home Remodeling

5 Cool Ideas For Green Home RemodelingEvery home seems to have a never-ending remodeling list. As you consider tackling your next project, it usually pays off if you also think about helping the environment.

Green remodeling can last longer, utilize recycled materials and typically end up saving you money in the long run. Below are several environment-friendly ideas that will have your neighbors green with envy.

1. Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are a shallow depressions in your yard planted with native shrubs and flowers. When there is a large rainfall, all the water rushes along roadways picking up dirt and pollutants along their way to drainage systems and eventually rivers and streams.

Rain gardens catch water run-off, which reduces the street flooding and makes for cleaner water sources.

2. Reclaimed Hardwoods

Using reclaimed wood is all of the rage right now – and it’s easy to see why. Reclaimed wood helps the environment by being recycled and repurposed from other structures. Turning an old barn into your new hardwood floors not only saves trees and looks great, but is an interesting conversation point.

3. Paper Covers Rock

Most kitchen remodels usually include the discussion of to go with granite or quartz countertops. However compressed paper or glass surfaces are actually better for the environment. Instead of harvesting natural resources, you’ll be recycling resources that have already been used.

4. One Shower Head

It’s tempting to use multiple showerheads and powerfully flushing toilets. However, reducing your water usage saves you money. Install low-flow water fixtures and limit yourself to just one fantastic showerhead in each bathroom. You’ll help the earth and your pocketbook by saving water.

5. Passive Solar Design

Solar panels are a great way to trap the sun’s energy and reduce your utility bills. However, if you’re not ready to directly tap into the grid, then there are ways you can remodel your home using passive solar design. Concrete floors and thick concrete, brick or plaster walls soak up the suns rays during the day and release them at night when the temperature drops.

Going green doesn’t have to hamper your lifestyle or your home’s design. With the five green remodeling ideas above, you’ll add value to your home, help the environment and put money back in your bank account.

Contact us!

Don’t Overlook These Important Factors When Buying A New Home

Don't Overlook These Important Factors When Buying A New HomeMost of the time when buying a property, there are a few obvious factors that you will consider – such as the location, the number of bedrooms, the accessibility to schools or your workplace, the need for repairs and any interior features. However, there are a few things that might not have crossed your mind during your house hunting but are still quite important.

Water Quality

Most home buyers don’t even think about the water quality at the property until they get to the inspection stage. However, if you find out that the home has hard water this will dull your clothes when you wash them and irritate your skin.

Hard water will also create calcium deposits within your showers and faucets and even inside your washing machine and dishwasher. Have the water tested so you know its quality and can look into options for a water purification system.

Cell Phone Reception

When looking at a house, don’t forget to pull out your cell phone and check to make sure that you get good reception. There are a number of “dead zones” throughout the country and you don’t want to buy a house where you can’t make a phone call on your cell.

If you have found your dream house but it has poor phone coverage, there is the option to buy a wireless cell phone signal booster.

Lead, Asbestos And Other Health Risks

When buying homes that are older, make sure that you have the home thoroughly inspected for any health risks such as lead paint or asbestos insulation.

These materials were commonly used several decades ago, before anyone realized how toxic they really are. If you find any toxic substances you can have them removed safely or look for a healthier home.

Slope Of The Land

Take a walk around the property and look at the land around the house. Is it flat, or does the earth dip or slope in one corner of the property? Keep in mind that when it rains, water will flow to the lowest point on the property.

If the house is at the bottom of a slope you might have issues with dampness collecting around the foundations. This can be corrected only with serious landscaping, so it’s much easier to buy a house on higher ground.

These are just a few factors to consider that you might not have thought of when buying a house. For more real estate tips on property, contact your real estate professional.

 

Benchmark Colorado

How To Create The Perfect Garage Workshop

Creating The Perfect Garage WorkshopMost men, and even handy women, dream of a perfectly organized work space where their tools are orderly and they can tackle that list of home DIY projects.

However, renovations can get put on hold because there’s not a designated place to work. Tools are usually scattered throughout closets and the kitchen table serves as a workbench.

You can create a space for all of your improvement projects by turning a section of your garage into a construction-friendly, wonderfully organized haven for your tools and home makeover endeavors.

Below are easy steps to building the perfect garage workshop.

Make Sure You Have Adequate Space

Ideally, you’d still like to be able to get your cars in their designated space, so look for a vacant area at the back of the garage or along one side. If you’re garage isn’t quite large enough, then you might want to consider adding on to it or building an outdoor shed.

Create A Work Surface

For your work surface, you could repurpose old kitchen cabinets with a counter or build yourself a rough table using lumber from your local hardware store. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s sturdy. Cabinets will provide storage for all of the nuts, bolts, paint and little tools you’ll accumulate.

Clear A Wall

Whether this is above your workstation or alongside it, you’ll want an open area to hang up and organize your tools, so that they don’t clutter your surface. Put up a pegboard and create custom spaces with hooks.

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes will seeing all your tools hanging with in reach — and a desire to fill it up.

Install Decent Lighting

You need to see what you’re doing when working with power tools. High-intensity lights, such as halogens or LEDs are perfect for brightening up your space. Utilizing them in track lighting or on bendable gooseneck fixtures can help you adjust the light to exactly where you need it.

Don’t let the thought of a home improvement project send you scurrying all over the house for tools. Take one weekend to follow these four steps and create a designated space for your garage workshop.

Everything will be in one place and it won’t matter how long a project takes or how much of a mess you make!

 

Preventing And Clearing Clogs In Your Home

Preventing And Clearing Clogs In Your HomeYou’re brushing your teeth and you turn on the faucet. It’s not draining and starts to back up. Here’s the dilemma; do you spit and let it sit or run to the kitchen? One thing is for sure; having a clogged drain can be a major annoyance.

Clogs not only frustrate a homeowner but they can be hard on your plumbing. The added pressure they create puts stress on your pipes and can shorten their lifespan.

So end the issue by following the guidelines below. You’ll learn how to prevent clogging and clear the ones you already have.

No Food Down The Drain

Even if you have a disposal, it’s not good for your pipes to have sticky, mushy food shoved through them. Peel vegetables and scrape plates into the trashcan.

Also, avoid pouring grease down the drain. Animal fat can congeal into a solid and form a blockage. Instead, store it in a sealable container in the freezer. Once it’s full, trash it!

Only TP In The Toilets

All feminine hygiene products should be thrown away, because most don’t dissolve quickly enough and can cause a backup. And be sure to secure toilet lids from curious children, because you have to admit that it is pretty fun to watch almost anything go “bye-bye.”

Hair Today, Problem Tomorrow

Don’t wash loose hair down the drain. Collect it and throw it away after your shower. If you shed a lot, it might be beneficial to install drain screens to catch loose hair and make it easy to dispose. Be sure to clean these out every few weeks.

Chemicals Should Be Used With Caution

Be wary about using chemical drain cleaners. They can erode cast-iron pipes and usually don’t remove an entire clog, so it can easily recur. You should consider hiring a professional plumber to snake your drains; or better yet, buy your own augur at the hardware store for about $15.

Homeowners can be hard on their drains. From hair to food, clogs are a time-consuming frustration that might cost you big. Treat your plumbing with a little love and it’ll reward you by quickly removing water and waste from your sight!

 

Quick Tips To Beat The Heat And Save On Your Electric Bill

Beat The Heat With A Programmable ThermostatSummer always brings with it a hard choice: Do you turn down the thermostat to stay cool and resign yourself to high power bills? Or, do you sweat it out to save some dough?

If you’ve been struggling with this dilemma, don’t fret.

With a programmable thermostat, you can beat the heat and save money, too. They are easy to install and can save you over $100 a year.

The key is that they have different temperature settings for certain times of the day. The latest models can be self-installed, are easy to program and can be controlled over the Internet.

Save Energy

This is obviously the biggest perk. Not only are you helping the environment, you’re also helping your monthly budget.

You can preset the thermostat to adjust the temperature when you’re away from the house, so you’re using less energy. Then it can kick back on just before you arrive home.

Save Money

You’ll immediately see a difference in your utility bills when you set your programmable thermostat to turn off for eight-hour periods while you’re at work. Every little bit counts!

Save Yourself The Frustration

If you’re going to be home early from work or are arriving back from a week long vacation, don’t worry about coming home to a sweltering sauna of a house.

Most modern thermostats allow you to access their controls online through a computer, or even your smart phone. With the touch of a button, you’ll arrive to a perfectly comfortable home.

Save Even More

Below are a few tips to keep bills down and your thermostat running efficiently.

  • Make sure you place the thermostat away from air vents, open doorways and windows with direct sunlight.
  • Try to set temperatures for longer increments, such as when you’re at work or while you’re asleep.
  • Every time you hit the buttons you’re using more energy.
  • If your thermostat runs on batteries, change them once a year.

Don’t waste any more energy! Make the investment in a programmable thermostat and start saving this summer. The convenience and lower utility bills will make you glad you did.

Benchmark Colorado