10 Types of Trees to Avoid Planting in Your Yard

Types of Trees Not to Plant

Your yard is just as important to your home’s appeal as the inside is. When decorating your lawn, here are ten trees to avoid.

  1. Silver maple

The silver maple tree roots spread fast and shallow. They can easily bust underground pipes, especially if they are old and/or rusty. The tree itself is brittle. Wind or severe weather can snap the tree’s branches or knock down the trunk. If you still decide that you want a silver maple on your property, place it far away from the house, so damage can’t be down if/when it topples.

  1. Yellow poplar

For the first 50 years, a yellow poplar grows strong and tall. However, after this time, the yellow poplar stats to decline fast. Quite like the silver maple, the yellow poplar becomes brittle and becomes victim to winds and severe weather. If you decide to plant one of these, keep it far away from the house.

  1. Princess tree

A princess tree is also known as an empress tree. The princess tree grows rapidly. The seedlings can get spread all over your lawn and need to be pulled out by hand.

  1. Bradford Pear

While most people love the look of the Bradford pear tree for its spring blossoms, the blossoms don’t smell as good as they look. They produce an odor that’s been described as rotten fish, and they attract flies.

  1. Black walnut

Black walnut trees release a chemical called juglone, which is toxic for some other plants, especially for vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Their leaves can kill turf if not raked quickly and the green husks of the nut can stain clothes.

  1. Cottonwood

Cottonwood has very shallow and soft roots. In addition to their root system, the wood is prone to rotting, making it unstable in areas that have frequent severe storms. The cottonwood tree can also be damaged by insects and diseases.

  1. Mulberry tree

The mulberry tree produces a large amount of pollen. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to keep the tree out of your yard, it also attracts numerous insects, silkworms in particular.

  1. Ginkgo

The female ginkgo tree produces a fruit that smells like dog poop. Once the fruit drops to the ground, it becomes sticky. You can still buy a male ginkgo, which doesn’t have the same issues. However, it’s hard to tell the difference between the sexes when the trees are young.

  1. Sweetgum

Sweetgum trees have large surface roots which can take a toll on your home’s foundation, lawn, pool, patio, and any other nearby structure. The tree also produces fruits that are difficult to remove from the ground.

  1. Weeping willow

There’s no doubt that weeping willows are beautiful. However, its roots suck out all the water from the soil, making it difficult to plant anything else besides the willow. In addition, they grow really tall. On average, a weeping willow is 75 feet tall but can grow up to 100 feet.

Types of Kitchen Countertops

Kitchen Countertops

There are many different types of kitchen countertops on the market. It can be overwhelming when starting to redo your kitchen. Here are six of the most popular types of kitchen countertops to help get you started.

  1. Laminate

Laminate countertops cost about $10 to $40 per square foot. Another term for laminate is Formica. Formica is technically a brand name for a combination of paper and resin. This is formed together with high heat and pressure. It’s cheaper than the stone counterparts and can be made to resemble wood or a more expensive stone. However, because it’s cheap, laminate countertops can be easily scratched and chipped. This means that you will most likely need to replace the countertops at some point during your time in the home.

  1. Marble

Marble is one of the most expensive options at $100 to $150 per square foot. Though it is expensive, it does look good! Marble adds polish and class to a home and mixes well most other fixtures in your kitchen. However, marble is a porous material. This means that the material is high-maintenance and will need to be resealed every few years. They can also chip and stain easily.

  1. Corian

Corian countertops are a mix of acrylic and polyester materials. It costs about $40 to $65 per square foot. Corian countertops can be made in a variety of colors and can be manufactured to look like natural stone. They are nonporous, meaning they are easy to clean. However, they scratch more easily than stone and are less resistant to heat. That means that leaving a hot pot or pan on the counter can cause it to warp.

  1. Granite

Granite is one of the most popular materials chosen for kitchen countertops and costs approximately $60 to $100 per square foot. It is made from a naturally occurring composite of quartz, mica, and feldspar. Because granite comes straight from nature, each countertop is as unique as the homeowner! Granite is a resilient material. They are hard and difficult to scratch. However, granite is expensive relative to other materials. It is also difficult to repair should the granite chip.

  1. Concrete

Concrete has recently become a popular countertop material and costs about $65 to $130 per square foot. These countertops are custom-poured. Because of this, homeowners can use their creativity to add anything to the design, such as stones, glass, or tiles. They are sturdy and do not easily chip or scratch. If you do end up chipping it, it can be fixed fast by mixing and pouring in more concrete. However, since concrete has to cure, you need to wait a bit before using your counters. If you’re looking for a one-day switch, then concrete countertops might not be for you. Additionally, these countertops are porous, meaning they can stain easily and will need be resealed regularly.

  1. Butcher block

Butcher block countertops are made of thick, fancy wood and generally cost about $45 to $100 per square foot. These countertops work well for those who want a more sustainable kitchen, as it is a renewable source. However, they are high maintenance. If they are not resealed regularly, about every six months, mold and bacteria can grow. Butcher block also lowers resale value because of how high maintenance it is.

Saving on Home Construction Costs

Home Construction Savings

Finding the perfect house can be difficult. If your home search is coming up empty, you may want to consider constructing your own home. As you may imagine, building a home comes with more costs than buying an already constructed one. However, here are a few things you can do to cut down home construction costs.

  • Expand up rather than out

You can start your saving by simplifying your home design. Excavation and foundation are typically the most significant costs when constructing a home. The more a home goes out, the more foundation you need to construct. Instead, consider building a two-story home that equals the square footage of the one-story that you originally want to build.

  • Hire the right home builder

In order to build a cheaper house, you need to hire the best home builder, even if they are a more expensive option. It may sound counterintuitive, but this does actually save you money. A home builder who is inexperienced, uninsured, or unlicensed can actually cost you more money in the long run. An experienced builder can save you money by predicting potential problems. Search for reputable contractors with experience completing the type of home you’d like. Make sure that they are properly licensed and insured.

  • Become a general contractor

If you want to get more hands-on with the project, you can become a general contractor yourself. This can save you up to 20% on the cost of building your home. Make sure to bring in subcontractors to do the work you may not be comfortable completing, such as electrical or plumbing.   

  • Energy-efficient materials

Energy-efficient appliances can mean rebates, tax credits, and more. While it may cost more initially, the long-term savings may be worth it.

  • Avoid change orders

A change order happens when you want to send back an item, such as an appliance or backsplash, and pick out a different one. This adds time to the schedule, as you are waiting for the items to arrive, and extra money to the budget.

  • Avoid site preparation charges

Choose the best site you can afford and design a plan that fits around the site or can be modified for the site. Extra work such as hauling in-fill dirt, clearing trees, blasting rock, and grading are expensive and add extra time to the schedule.

  • Buy a large lot – and split it

Do you have a family member or a friend who you would love to be neighbors with? If you find a property that you love but it too large for just yourself, split it with that person so each of you can build your dream home.

  • Waterfront property choices

Do you want a waterfront property? Oceanfront and lakefront lots are already more expensive than other lots. Instead, consider building your home on a canal or bay lot. They are less expensive but are still water accessible.

  • Submit paperwork on time

One of the most costly delays in construction is getting your plans approved. Seek input from the appropriate people to have the project signed off on early and ensure you’re filling out the paperwork in the correct way.

  • Be aware of the depth

Keep the depth of the construction at 32 feet or less. Any deeper and you’ll need to construct additional features, such as roof trusses. This can add to the additional cost of the overall building. As we mentioned before, if you want a larger house, consider adding another story.

Pricing Your Home for Sale

How to Price Your Home

The most important factor when selling a home is pricing the home. An overpriced home won’t get attention and will lose its freshness in the first two or three weeks. After twenty-one days on the market, interest in a home wanes. Pricing a home too low shouldn’t be too much of a worry. Typically, lower-priced homes will receive multiple offers, which will drive the price up to market price. To properly price your home, here are five factors you should consider.

  1. Comparable listings

To start, list every similar home that was or is listed in your neighborhood over the last three months, within a fourth to half a mile from your home. If you live in an area where there are only a few comparable homes or the property is rural, you can extend this distance. Pay attention to dividing lines, such as major streets or railroads. Don’t compare any homes on different sides of the dividing line.

Compare homes with a similar square footage to yours and ones with similar ages. It’s possible that you can have a home built in 1950 next to a home built in 1990, and the home value will differ between the two.

  1. Sold comparables

Compare the original listing price to the final sales price to see if there were any price reductions. Additionally, compare the final sale price to the actual sold price to determine ratios. Adjust your pricing for house size, configuration, and any additional amenities the home may or may not have.

  1. Pending sales

The sales price for pending sales is unknown until the transaction closes. However, you can call the listing agent and ask for the price. Some listing agents may tell you what the home is selling for. You should also take note of how long the home has been on the market. This can give you an indication of how long your home will stay on market.

  1. Withdrawn and/or expired listings

Why didn’t these homes sell? Look for patterns to see if there was something underlying for all of them or if it was individual reasons concerning the home. If the sellers used a cheap brokerage firm, that could be a sign that the firm didn’t spend the money to advertise their home and you should mark not to use that firm.

  1. Market trends

What is the market trend? In a seller’s market, you should be able to price your home higher than the last comparable sale, since there are less inventory and more buyers. In a balanced market, try setting your price at what the last comparable home sold for. In a buyer’s market, you may want to price your home a little lower, since there are more inventory and fewer buyers.

10 Mistakes to Avoid During a Home Renovation

Home Renovation Mistakes

A home renovation is a big project to take on. If you are planning on doing a renovation, here are ten mistakes you should avoid making.

  1. An unrealistic timeline

Construction projects almost always take longer than expected. Usually, this is due to unforeseen obstacles, such as work time, weather conditions, and the time taken to get materials. Make sure to build extra time into your project schedule. This will save you stress if you go over what time you allotted for the project.

  1. Cheap materials

As the old saying goes, you get what you paid for. If you choose inexpensive materials, you are more likely to run into problems such as wood warping, rough saw cuts, and an overall cheap looking finished project. Always go for the highest quality materials you can afford, making sure to buy extra materials. Extra materials are needed in case of damaged items, incorrect cuts, or future repairs needed.

  1. Starting without a plan

Before you start construction, make sure you do your research. Know what building codes you need to follow, get the permits you need, and, if necessary, seek the advice of a professional.

  1. Skipping prep work

Prep work is as important as the actual project. Take the time to prepare your area. Tape off areas before painting, use drop cloths to protect furniture, and so on.

  1. Not preparing for a mess

Home renovations projects are messy! There’s no way around it. If you plan on staying in your home while the renovation is going on, it’s going to be loud. Cover adjacent rooms with drop cloths to protect them.

  1. Neglecting safety measures

Safety gear is important no matter how small a job is. Wear safety glasses, appropriate face coverings, and hire a professional when needed, such as for electrical wiring.

  1. Taking inaccurate measurements

Bad measurements lead to additional costs! Instead of going in blind, make sure to measure your materials twice before cutting. You can also consider hiring a professional to measure your materials for you.

  1. Using incorrect tools

Make sure that you are using the correct tools for each job. If you do not have the right tool in your toolbox, you can contact a rental company, who can provide the proper tools to you at an hourly rate. If you are hiring a contractor, they will typically have the right tools on hand.

  1. Failing to vet contractors

If you are hiring a contractor, whether it be for a whole project or just part of one, you need to make sure you do proper research. Look into reviews, look at the company’s Better Business Bureau’s listing, and take time to interview them.

  1. Overbuilding

Keep in mind what the other houses in your neighborhood look like. If you don’t plan on staying in the home for a while, it may be a better idea to scale back as having the renovations too opulent may make it hard to sell.

 

What is a Luxury Home?

Luxury Homes

During your real estate search, you may have come across the term “luxury” or maybe you’ve been watching a lot of Million Dollar Listings. Either way, the term luxury seems to appear a lot, but what exactly does “luxury” mean?

What makes a home luxury?

In real estate listings, luxury is all about the details. If there’s nothing to back up the word luxury in the home’s description, this is a red flag. This usually means the agent is just aspiring for the property to be luxury rather than it actually being luxury. Here are some qualities you can look for to determine whether a property is luxury.

  1. Price

The lowest price you can expect for a luxury home can be anywhere between $500,000 and $3 million. In some hot markets, such as New York City, the lower end of luxury falls around $4 million.

  1. Location

The phrase “location, location, location” is especially true in the case of luxury properties. Luxury properties tend to be in the most highly coveted locations in a city, state, or county. Be that because of a beach or mountain view, nearby the town center, or overlooking the cityscape.

  1. Quality

Standard construction materials, finishes, appliances, and design won’t fly for luxury properties. Materials such as marble, hardwood, crystal and professional-grade kitchen appliances are featured often in luxury properties. Another marking of quality comes from who designed the building. Renowned architects bring a sense of prestige that other buildings don’t have.

  1. Amenities

Amenities such as concierge services, fitness centers, movie theatres, arcade rooms, and more all make a home luxury.

  1. Privacy

Many high-end buyers want their home to be a true escape. Privacy is a huge concern for most of these buyers. Features such as a large yard, high walls, and gated entrances with security guards all provide extra privacy and protection for these buyers.

What to Do If You Get a Low Appraisal

Low Appraisal

An appraisal is an estimation of a home’s value. But what happens when an appraisal comes in under the home’s selling price? Here’s how to deal with a low appraisal.

Why do low appraisals happen?

The first thing you must ask yourself is why the home appraised for less than the home’s sale price. There are a number of reasons why this may occur. Some of the most common are:

  • Declining market values due to fewer buyers and a larger inventory of homes
  • Incorrect evaluation by the underwriter
  • Overpricing by the seller
  • Fallout from a lot of foreclosures and/or short sales in the neighborhood
  • Inexperienced appraiser who doesn’t understand local influence on value
  • Artificially inflated prices, resulting from multiple offers

Solutions for low appraisals

After you figure out why your appraisal may have been lower than expected, it’s time to think of ways to solve your problem.

  1. The seller can lower the price

If the home was overpriced, the seller can lower the price. This is often the best solution to a low appraisal problem. It’s an easy way to satisfy both the buyer and the lender. The seller doesn’t need to lower the price. However, there is no guarantee the new buyer’s lender will appraise the home higher than the first buyer. Additionally, the seller will have to go through the trouble to sell the property again, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

  1. Buyers can make up the difference

A low appraisal does not mean that a lender won’t lend to a buyer. The lender will just lend based on the agreed-upon ratio in the contract at the appraised value. Buyers can make up the difference in a cash payment. In some cases, the lender will not allow the buyer to give cash for the difference. In this event, the lender will have the buyer pay part of the seller’s closing costs.

  1. Sellers can offer a second mortgage

If the buyer cannot come up with the money to pay off the difference, the seller can offer to take out a second mortgage, which the buyer will pay back in smaller payments or in one lump sum at a later date.

  1. Ask for a list of comps

Ask agents involved to put a list together including recent comparable sales in the area at the agreed-to sale price. Once you have the list together, submit it to the underwriter and ask for a review of the appraisal. Try to get comps that are similar to the property in question.

  1. Order a second appraisal

If your loan in an FHA loan, you can ask your lender for a list of approved appraisers. Either the seller or buyer can pay for the second appraisal. The second appraisal may come in higher than the first, especially if the first appraiser was inexperienced. If your loan is a conventional loan, the second appraisal is subject to the rules of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct.

Seven Types of Doors

Types of Doors

Doors are one of the most important factors in your home. Not only are they functional, but they can also add flair to a room. If you’re thinking of adding new doors to your humble abode, here are seven different types to consider.

  1. Hinged single door

A hinged single door is the most common type of door. However, the room must the space for the door to swing. An interior hinged door is typically lightweight with two hinges. Exterior hinge doors are heavier and often have three hinges instead of two.

  1. Flush door

This is usually the least expensive choice. It is a simple flat slab. If the door is made of hardwood veneer, such as oak or birch, the door can be stained. In other cases, different materials look best when painted.

  1. Panel door

A panel door typically has three or four horizontal rails and three vertical stiles. The spaces in between them are filled with thinner panels. A decorative molding, called sticking, surrounds each of the panels. These doors work well in both traditional and modern home styles.

  1. Pocket door

Pocket doors slide completely into the wall when open, allowing you to open the doorway without taking up any floor space. However, these doors require you to have enough room in your wall without any electrical or plumbing lines running through it.

  1. French door

A French door adds a charming touch to any room. They are typically two doors, side by side, and are often made with glass panels. They are commonly used for exterior patio doors, but can be used inside as well, if the door opening is wide enough.

  1. Bi-fold door

A pair of bi-fold doors are popularly used for closets that are six feet wide or more. Each door takes up about half the swinging space that a hinged door does.

  1. Sliding door

A sliding door has one or more sliding shutter. This is based on opening available. These are often used for porches.

How to Choose a Contractor

Choosing a Contractor

Are you thinking about remodeling a portion of your home? Before you do, you have to make sure you are hiring the right contractor for the job. To make sure you have the perfect person, follow these steps.

  1. Get recommendations

First things first, get recommendations from trusted friends and family. Afterward, look at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of members in your area. In addition to these two sources, you can talk with a building inspector or your local lumberyard. They will know who meets code requirements and who buys quality materials.

  1. Phone interviews

After you make a list of possible contractors, call each one for a preliminary interview. Ask questions such as:

  • Do you take on projects my size?
  • Can you give me a list of previous clients?
  • How many other projects would you have going on at the same time?
  • How long have you worked with your subcontractors?

These questions will give you a sense of the company’s reliability, availability, and how much attention your project will be getting.

  1. Face to face meeting

After your phone interviews, narrow down your list to four or five companies and meet them face to face. During your face to face time with these companies, you should be able to get an estimate and ask them any additional questions you have. It’s crucial that you can communicate well with the contractor. After meeting with a contractor, check the company’s profile with the Better Business Bureau to see what other customers thought about working with them. You may also want to perform a background check. To do so, make sure you have the full company name and address. The background check will help ensure that the firm as a current state license and insurance coverage. It will also help determine any formal complaints or legal action taken against the company in the past.

  1. Look at the facts

Call up former clients and ask how their project went and ask if they can send photos of the finished product. You may also want to consider visiting the job site of a current project to see how the contractor works. Look to see if the job site is clean and safe.

  1. Get bids

To compare bids, ask each company to break down their price in terms of cost of materials, labor, profit margin, and other expenses. Materials generally cost about 40 percent of the total cost, 15 to 20 percent is covered by profit margin and the rest covers overhead. However, the price shouldn’t be the be all end all decision maker. In fact, if you get an extremely lowball bid, you shouldn’t consider it. Often, these bids mean that the contractor is cutting corners or just desperate for work. The most important factor in choosing your contractor is how well you two can communicate.

  1. Set a payment schedule

A payment schedule is how you will pay your contractor for their work. Typically, for a large project, 10 percent is given at the contract signing, followed by three payments of 25 percent throughout the duration of the project, with the final 15 percent given once everything is complete.

  1. Put it in writing

Now it’s time to sign the contract. Make sure that your contract is very detailed and includes every step of the project, including:

  • Payment schedule
  • Proof of liability insurance
  • Worker’s compensation payments
  • A start and projected end date
  • Materials and products to be used
  • Requirement for the contractor to obtain lien releases from subcontractors and suppliers

In your contract, you may also want to set some boundaries for the work site. Establish ground rules for smoking, bathroom use, and any other issues that may be of concern to you.

What is a Tax Return?

Tax Return

A tax return is the form or forms used to report income and file income taxes with the IRS. They allow taxpayers to calculate their tax liability and remit payments or request refunds. Tax returns must be filed every year for any individual that received income during the year. This can be through wages, interest, capital gains, dividends, or other such measures. In the United States, individuals use the Form 1040 to file their taxes.

Breaking down the tax return

  1. Report your income

The first page of the Form 1040 is used to calculate adjusted gross income (AGI). In the first section, you enter all information pertaining to sources of income, including:

  • Wages and salary
  • Interest
  • Tips
  • Taxable state and local refunds
  • Capital gains
  • Alimony
  • Business income
  • Unemployment income
  • IRA and pension distributions
  • Social Security benefits

There will be an additional box labeled “other income” where you can list any additional income you received that doesn’t come from one of the other categories. All income received must be reported unless it’s tax exempt. Sum up all these items to get your total income.

  1. Deduct from your AGI

You are able to claim specific deductions or adjustments to get your AGI. These adjustments include:

  • One-half of self-employment tax payments
  • IRA contributions
  • Payment of student loan interest
  • Health savings plan contributions
  • Alimony payments

Many deduction limitations are affected by your AGI.

  1. Deductions and exemptions

The second page of the Form 1040 allows you to reduce your AGI further through the standard deduction or itemizes deductions. Itemized deductions can include:

  • Mortgage interest
  • Unreimbursed business expenses
  • Excess medical expenses

If your total itemized deductions are less than the standard deduction for your filing status, your taxable income will be lower if you choose the standard deduction. After choosing the best deduction for you, you can reduce your taxable income even more by claiming an exemption for yourself and each of the dependents you claim. Your taxable income is the amount the is subject to income tax.

  1. Calculate tax and claim credits

Reference the tax tables in your instructions to find out the amount you owe.  Comparing your total tax withholding to your tax bill at the bottom of the form will tell you whether you need to make an additional payment or if you will receive a refund. If you are eligible for any tax credits, make sure you reduce the amount of tax owed before completing your return.