Fall: The best season for home improvement

21726746(BPT) – The rituals of fall include sending kids back to school, raking leaves and cheering on the hometown football team. In addition, a new fall tradition has emerged for America’s nearly 74 million homeowners — home improvement.

This fall promises to be particularly popular for home projects. Lower gas prices are boosting people’s discretionary income and Metrostudy’s latest Residential Remodeling Index points to a continued rise in activity.

Like many trends, there isn’t one particular reason fall has emerged as a popular time for home improvement, several factors play a role.

Energy efficiency is top of mind

With colder weather on the horizon, homeowners shudder at the thought of higher heating costs. They upgrade windows, layer in more insulation, service or replace old furnaces and, in some cases, do all of the above.

The weather is nice

Home improvement projects can be hard and even grueling work, particularly for DIYers. Lower temperatures and humidity create a much more comfortable environment for getting things done (and rhetorically keeping your cool when obstacles inevitably arrive).

The holiday entertaining wow factor

Everyone wants their home to sparkle when they welcome family and friends during the holidays. Completing a home improvement project during the fall sets up a big reveal when the holidays roll around.

Falling prices

Fall is an excellent time to save money by finding great deals on home improvement supplies and service. Year-end sales begin and discounts can be steep. Retailers like Lumber Liquidators, with their annual Yard Sale in October, often have discounts to clear inventory before the New Year. Also, contractors are busiest during the warmer months — their business cools as the weather does.

Facing tight timelines and tighter budgets, homeowners often need to prioritize their projects. Installing hardwood floors often provides a high return on investment, both from a quantitative (home value) and qualitative (pride in ownership) standpoint.

No matter what a homeowner chooses to do during the fall home improvement season, it will help reduce cabin fever during the winter months.

Fall is an excellent time to save money by finding great deals on home improvement supplies and service. Year-end sales begin and discounts can be steep. Retailers like Lumber Liquidators, with their annual Yard Sale in October, often have discounts to clear inventory before the New Year. Also, contractors are busiest during the warmer months — their business cools as the weather does.

Facing tight timelines and tighter budgets, homeowners often need to prioritize their projects. Installing hardwood floors often provides a high return on investment, both from a quantitative (home value) and qualitative (pride in ownership) standpoint.

No matter what a homeowner chooses to do during the fall home improvement season, it will help reduce cabin fever during the winter months.

5 tips for creating fall curb appeal

20682647(BPT) – Soon, all things pumpkin spice will be here, including the home visitors that bring them. In preparation of the door bell ringing, create a little spice of your own with some seasonal curb appeal. You don’t have to limit yourself to pumpkins and hay bales — below are tips and projects for sprucing up your home’s view from the curb this season.

Front door, first impressions

Your front door is one of the first things people notice about your home. Give your door a fresh face with a coat of paint in a bold fall color to draw the eye to this focal point of your home.

Another project is to replace the door entirely. Consider options with decorative glass accents, and stunning sidelights (windows on either side of the door) to add more natural light while maintaining a sense of style and privacy. Plus, as temperatures start to drop, Energy Star -qualified entry doors, like those from Pella, will help maintain your home’s energy efficiency. For entry door inspiration check out Pinterest, your resident showroom or your local home improvement store.

Accessorize with new hardware

Replace your front door hardware for a quick, easy facelift. Choose hardware finishes that compliment light fixtures, mailbox and house numbers for a polished, cohesive look. You’ll be delightfully surprised what a difference new hardware can make in creating an updated look to your home.

Refresh exterior body and trim colors

For a dramatic change, repaint your home’s exterior. It’s bold and can make your home stand out from other homes on the block. Not up for the bold change? To make an impact with a smaller change, add new trim colors. When updating trim, choose color schemes that match your home’s primary exterior color, or complement it with a fresh twist.

Create points of interest with plants

You don’t have to stop enjoying beautiful plants and flowers simply because summer is over. Add pops of color by arranging pots filled with hearty fall flowers like mums, sedum or asters around your front door, or on a porch or deck. Incorporate planters or container gardens of varied sizes, shapes and colors to add visual interest.

Accent with lighting

As summer light fades into shorter, darker days, add exterior accent lighting to the front of your home. Illuminate a walking path with ground-insert solar lights. Or consider solar spotlights to bring out landscaping or to shine on your updated front door. Install matching light fixtures outside your front door, garage door or patio door to provide well-lit entrances that are stylish and inviting to neighbors and guests.

For more curb appeal inspiration, follow Pella on Pinterest and Houzz and visit Pella.com to connect with your local Pella representative for ideas on how to transform the look and comfort of your home inside and out.

6 backyard projects you can’t skip this fall

20433901_web(BPT) – When it comes to caring for your yard, maintenance is crucial – especially during the fall when it needs to recover from the wear and tear of summer and prepare for winter’s harsh conditions. Knowing what your lawn and garden needs from season to season not only makes it easier for you to stay organized with your list of backyard to-do’s, but it also allows you to identify and treat any problems before they become bigger issues down the road.

Get your lawn and garden back in shape and ready for the coming season by completing these fall backyard projects.

1. Patch and seed – Extreme summer weather conditions like heat, excess rainfall and drought can lead to diseased or dead patches of grass throughout your yard. If you notice an affected area while inspecting your lawn, treat the problem area immediately and then reseed it. This will nourish grass, plus help it establish strong roots needed for growth in the spring.

2. Plant bulbs – Give your spring garden a head start by planting bulbs 5 to 8 inches deep, depending on the size, with the pointy end up. You can also plant bulbs in clusters. However, since bulbs can be hard to tell apart, be sure to keep the labels intact until they are planted.

3. Remove leaves and small debris – Leaves, small twigs and light dirt can quickly accumulate in your yard during the fall and if not removed, can cause soil compaction and make your yard look messy. For a quick cleanup solution, use a leaf blower to easily move debris from your lawn, driveway or patio. Opt for a blower like Troy-Bilt’s new Jet leaf blower that achieves a perfect balance of speed and volume with its mixed-flow fan design, helping you clear your yard efficiently and effectively. Jet also has an optimal weight balance, so the blower is stable and easy to control. When removing leaves, make sure they are dry and wind is at a bare minimum to ensure an easy removal process.

4. CompostFall isn’t too late to start a compost pile as it takes six months to one year to develop into rich soil you can use in your garden. Keep in mind, compost decomposition slows down during the cooler months, which is why it is important to retain heat needed for decomposition by refraining from turning your compost pile.

5. Prune – Pruning is considered the best preventive maintenance for your trees and shrubs, particularly in the fall and late dormant season. Look to prune diseased or dying branches, but be sure not to remove unreasonably large branches. This leaves exposed stubs that can potentially cause health problems.

6. Weed – Though a year-round yard task, it’s extremely important to pull as many weeds as possible in the fall. As cooler temperatures set in, weeds start to store food in their roots for the winter. Prevent weed regrowth by pulling or digging weeds out of the ground with a weeding blade or use a homemade weed control solution, such as a combination of vinegar, water and dish soap.

For more lawn and garden tips, backyard project ideas and information about the Jet leaf blower, visit troybilt.com.

Fall projects to make your home sensational

20003730_web(BPT) – There still is time to complete your unfinished outdoor projects. Sixty percent of homeowners will accomplish a home improvement project this year, according to survey data from the Zillow Digs Summer Home Improvement Trend and Spending Survey.

Follow these tips to make your home’s exterior shine.

* Smooth over concrete surfaces. In order to prevent trips or falls, now is a good time to fix and patch those cracks in the driveway or garage.  Be sure to fix them now before they get larger and you could incur larger repair costs. It will also help prevent any future accidents. Small cracks can be fixed with concrete caulk while large cracks require a patch. Make sure to clean out the crack before applying either of these substances.

* Repaint the deck. Improving your deck, patio or porch is the seventh most popular home improvement project according to RE/MAX and it’s easy to see why. When you picture yourself outside, you probably picture yourself sitting on the deck. So, make your deck stand out with a fresh coat of paint. “Decorating outside of your home is now all the rage,” says Matthew Mead, author of Backyard Style. “Your deck needn’t be brown and sullen. Infuse your backyard space by selecting whatever color you want and spray the floor of your deck with the Wagner Flexio 890. Your deck will be the toast of the neighborhood.”

* Give your old patio furniture a new look. If you’re going to reinvent your deck, why stop there? Why not refresh your patio furniture to complement your deck’s new color, too? “Revive any outdoor furniture with an easy spray using the Wagner Flexio 890,” says Mead. “With a simple coat of paint you can transform tables, chairs, and anything wicker in any hue or shade you desire. In my new book Backyard Style, I show how to take simple flea-market finds and, with some paint and very little effort, transform them into show-stopping decorative accessories.”

* Caulk around windows and any exterior joints, including doors. Many people think of this as a preventative project for winter, but a fresh application of caulk will protect cool air conditioning from escaping when you need it most.

* Make your home’s exterior sparkle. If your home suffered any damage during the winter, now is the perfect time for repairs that will make your home look great again. Walk around your home and look for damaged or missing siding. Replace these pieces and then use a pressure washer to clean and wash away excess dirt and grime. Using a special detergent appropriate for cleaning your home will give you better results. Once you’re done with the siding, don’t forget to grab the window cleaner and make those windows sparkle.

Each of these projects can return between 67 and 112 percent of their value to your home, according to DiGiorgi Roofing and Siding, not to mention the added joy you’ll receive from these home improvements. So get out there and get to work. The sooner you finish your project, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of the year in style.

Home Buying and Selling Tips for Fall

HGTV’s real estate site Front Door says the weeks between now and the end-of-the year holidays are the best ones to find a bargain. Here are some of their tips for fall buyers and sellers:
Fall Sellers:

· Replace faded summer plants with fall-blooming flowers and add autumn decorations to the home.

· Expect low-ball offers and be prepared with higher counter offers.
· Freshen up listing photos by shooting pictures that make it less obvious that the seasons have changed.
· Price the home to sell. A price that is a little lower than the competition may be a winning move.
· Be willing to show the property and hold open houses whenever potential buyers are ready.
 
Fall Buyers:
 
· Look for motivated sellers who have a reason to move on by the end of the year.

· Explore new constructions. Builders are often particularly interested in selling before the new tax year.

· Beware of fall maintenance issues. Consider overflowing gutters and leaf-covered lawns warning signs.
· Shape offers carefully. Even in this market it is possible to turn sellers off with a too-low bid.
 

Source: FrontDoor.com (09/16/2010)

Why This Autumn is a Great Time to Buy

This fall could be a particularly great time for first-time or buyers long out of the market to jump in, say a variety of real estate professionals.
Here are the reasons why:

 

  • Interest rates are likely to decline as Freddie and Fannie get government help.

 

 

  • The Federal Housing Administration recently boosted its loan limits to $729,750 in expensive areas. It’s going to take some of that back come Jan. 1, when the loan limit will shrink to $625,500.

 

The FHA allows down payments of as little as 3 percent, but that will rise to 3.5 percent as of Oct. 1. People scraping dollars together for a down payment should try to set their closing for the end of this month.

  • The tax credit will shave $7,500 off a first-time buyer’s federal tax bill due April 15. Buyers who don’t owe tax, will get the money as a refund.

The government’s definition of a first-time buyer is anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years.

Source: The Washington Post, Elizabeth Razzi (09/07/08)

Back to School Home Organizing

Back to school is always a struggle. After the first couple of weeks, things are bound to be lost, forgotten or “eaten by the dog.” Eliminate the confusion by following these great tips for keeping your home organized (and your brain un-frazzled) throughout the entire school year.

Color Coordinate Your Kids
Use each child’s favorite color to color code all of their belongings. The blue folders belong in the blue backpack with the blue pencil case, and so on. Keep a color-coded folder for yourself and include updated immunization records and other vital documents and store it in a convenient place. Photocopy the form the school sends home every year and file it away — no more wasting time looking up phone numbers and addresses year after year!

Create Calendar Central
As the school year goes on, your kids will sign up for various extra curricular activities. Most of the time, they can’t keep their own schedules straight, however, you’re expected to be responsible for everyone. Invest in a pre-printed wipe-off board (with plenty of room) and use color-coded markers to keep everyone’s schedules straight. Post it at a central location, like the refrigerator or the front door, and make sure everyone checks it either before going to bed or walking out the door in the morning.

No More Lost Papers
Each child should have their own three-tiered wire basket located near calendar central. Tell your kids to sort their papers into forms needing signatures, important documents (fund-raisers, school policies, PTA info) and art and awards. Make sure they empty their backpacks of these papers as soon as they walk in the door.

By following these tips, the school year should fly by smoothly, and your home should stay organized and clutter-free. And you’ll have more time to enjoy life without worrying about lost documents or forgotten schedules.