Shopping for a Home This Spring? Get a Credit Checkup

Spring may bring thoughts of your dream home – and what better time for a home search than now?

By the time summer comes you could be happily ensconced in your new home. Think outdoor living and a relaxed intro to a new neighborhood.

But before the dream turns into a full-fledged home search, there are several things to consider. One of the most important is your credit score and what that score may mean as far as your mortgage options.

To advance to the search phase, you’ll need to know what your credit score looks like now and where it ultimately needs to be for you to be in a position to purchase a home. So now is an ideal time to contact your mortgage professional to review your credit.

Indeed, you can pull your own credit, but what you need is a way to interpret what’s on the report and how it will impact you throughout the lending process. Many things that you may see as minor on your report may actually make a significant difference in accessing the programs and interest rates you want.

For example, if you carry a lot of credit card debt or if one card has a higher balance than most lenders feel is appropriate, that’s a negative. But if your mortgage advisor draws this to your attention, you’ll have time to pay off or reduce your balance before you start to search.

And the sooner you start, the sooner you can be in your dream home.

Try ‘Home Refreshing’ Rather Than Spring Cleaning

Too many people don’t have the time or energy to do a full spring cleaning. Thankfully, a quick and simple home refresh will go a long way toward making your home look new without breaking the bank or your back.

In a Houzz article, Laura Gaskill outlines several easy ways to refresh your home for spring. For example, freshen up your entry simply by sweeping and mopping the front porch and adding a new welcome mat.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a back entrance or mudroom, it’s time to clear out all the remnants of winter. Consider adding extra storage with baskets, racks, or closet organizers to keep your newly tidied mudroom or entrance clutter free. And while you’re decluttering, why not tackle clutter catchalls like junk drawers and countertops? You’ll be able to find things again, and your space will feel brand new.

Can’t remember when you last cleaned your light fixtures? You’re not alone; most of us miss this step during regular dusting.

By wiping down neglected lamps and sconces (and those ever-so-dusty light bulbs), you’ll lose the grime that’s accumulated over many months (years?). Your living space will suddenly feel so much brighter and lighter you may decide to tackle your mirrors and inside windows next.

It needn’t cost the earth (or take forever) to change up your décor. New paint is great, but you can achieve a similar result with less work by applying one of today’s trendy large-scale adhesive murals to a blank wall. The result: an instant accent space that’s easy to switch up when it’s time for a change. And don’t forget greenery-add plants and flowers to your living space for that instant spring feeling.

As you can see, spring cleaning no longer has to be intimidating. With these simple tweaks, your home will feel like spring before you know it.

Should You Sell Your Home Yourself?

Despite the prevalence of online tools that can facilitate DIY sales, fewer Americans are choosing to go the route of “for sale by owner” when it comes to selling their homes. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), for-sale-by-owner sales represented only 8 percent of 5.25 million real estate transactions in 2015. Why? An economy in recovery, a challenging real estate market, and strict laws and regulations could all have Americans looking for security and peace of mind when it comes to selling their homes.

The for-sale-by-owner approach does have perks. Private sellers can set their own price. They deal with the buyer directly. At the end, they keep the proceeds instead of paying a commission to a Realtor. However, those very same perks have significant drawbacks.

Setting your own price means missing out on the expertise that a real estate agent has when it comes to pricing a home to sell and encouraging multiple bids. You don’t have the know-how that comes with dozens of successful sales. It’s easier for buyers (and their agents) to undercut private sellers, and it’s difficult for sellers to remain neutral about their own property.

Private sellers also miss out on the strategies and industry knowledge provided by an experienced agent. A real estate agent knows how to market a home properly, how to work with other agents, and how to fulfill the obligations and respect the laws of the real estate industry. It’s very easy for private sellers to misstep, costing themselves time and money.

As a seller, you want every advantage available. That means having an agent by your side.

How to Set the Stage for Home Buyers

In a hot market, selling your home may be easy. Selling it for top dollar takes a little more work. To achieve this, staging is the way to go. This is the process of beautifying your home to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible.

Many people can’t visualize the possibilities within a room, so staging helps the buyers as they view your home. The goal of staging is to transform your home into an environment so inviting that buyers can imagine themselves living in your space.

Creating this buyer-ready environment takes talent, and it can be a critical step for a fast sale.

What does a stager do?

A good stager improves the interior and sharpens curb appeal as well. Today, most buyers see pictures online before choosing which homes to tour. Staging ensures that yours is seen in the best possible light. It makes your listing stand out from the competition.

While some people actually replace all the furniture, smart staging may mean anything from stripping your home of personal photographs and knick-knacks to cleaning the rugs or polishing floors. You may need to deep-clean bathrooms or clear kitchen counters. The stager may suggest painting everything a warm and inviting – but always neutral – color.

How much does staging cost?

The cost of staging ranges from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars, depending on the reputation of the stager, the size of the property, and the quality and quantity of fixes required. The final results can be well worth the investment. If you live in a neighborhood where several homes are listed, staging may mean a quicker sale at a better price.

Can I stage my home myself?

Of course, you can try to stage your home yourself, but it’s hard to be objective about your own things. A fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference – which translates into dollars.

Should You Consider Investing in Real Estate?

Real estate is becoming an investment of choice, and many investors are either abandoning the more traditional vehicles such as stocks and bonds or using real estate to diversify their portfolios.

A recent RISMedia article pointed to a survey recently undertaken by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, which found that “(n)early all (96%) of U.S. investors surveyed who have invested in real estate believe their decision has helped them achieve some form of financial success.”

The interest in investing in real estate may be driven by our largest demographic-the millennials, who, according to the survey, show a greater interest in making a real estate investment than do boomers. Millennials in particular are more interested in personal real estate purchases (homes) than in buying commercial properties; the survey noted that “79% of investor respondents feel it is important to invest in a property that they could use for themselves or a family member at some point.”

There are various ways even a small investor can participate in real estate investments, such as a self-directed or real estate IRA. However, many fear they aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable about real estate investing. As the RISMedia article points out: “Unlike many other investments that can be made with the click of a button, real estate investments are often complex and require careful consideration.”

To ensure that your investment will be a good one, it’s important to consult with a financial professional who is familiar with real estate investing, as well as an investment-savvy real estate agent.

Location, Location … the Good, Bad and Ugly

We all know that living near a good school increases the value of your home. But who knew a neighboring cemetery can adversely affect your property value? Or that proximity to a hospital isn’t a good thing?

In fact, we now know – or should know – that nothing is more important when selling your home than your neighborhood. So if you’re buying, think ahead; purchase your dream home in the wrong location and you may be buying into a nightmare. Here are some location no-nos:

  • Realtor.com research has found that living near a cemetery will lower your property value by 12.3% and having a hospital nearby means when you sell you can expect an impact on your sale price of 3.2%. Also note: make sure you move near a “good” school; a “bad” school will reduce your home’s value by 22.2%.
  • An article in the Journal of Transport Economics and Policy indicates that having an airport nearby can discount the value of your home. The greater the noise level, the greater the negative impact.

Among the amenities to look for in your neighborhood-to-be:

  • Proximity to transit. According to a Transit-Oriented Development in America survey, 55% of Americans would pay more to live near good transit options. The study, conducted by consultant HNTB Corporation, found that 57% of respondents liked not having to depend on cars to “work, live, and play.”
  • A neighborhood on its way up-not down. In transitional neighborhoods, you get a lot of value for your home-buying buck. Your real estate agent is the best source of information and will also know if there are any planned roads or developments that may impact the neighborhood-positively or negatively.
  • Water, parks, and green spaces. A nearby waterfront can add up to 25% to the value of your home. A fabulous view is also a moneymaker when it comes time to sell.

Home Shopping? Look beyond the WOWs!

When shopping for a new home, it’s easy to fall in love. You can find yourself dazzled by the sprawling backyard, trendy kitchen, or sky-high ceilings, and want to make an offer right then and there.

But it’s important to take a step back and take the time to evaluate the perhaps less-exciting details. These often overlooked details may ultimately lead to significant, costly issues. Here’s what to look for and how to get beyond the WOWs:

  • Windows: Does every window open? For emergency reasons, every room needs a window that can be opened. Do they close and lock securely? Is the glass intact? Is there a tight thermal seal (which is important to regulate temperature)?
  • Flooring: Look for cracks, stains, holes, and warping. Ask if there’s another layer of flooring under carpet, tile, or laminate. Is the floor level? If not, it might be an indication of water, or worse, structural problems.
  • Basement: That beautifully finished basement could be hiding a plethora of problems, from leaks to mold to holes to critter infestations. Use a powerful flashlight to carefully examine corners and walls and look behind and under finishings.
  • Roof: Roof replacements are costly. Find out when the roof was last addressed, and whether it was a patch or a replacement. Look for signs of damage from the street.
  • Neighborhood: Look beyond the obvious into the details: Is local traffic a nightmare in rush hour? Is there reliable transit nearby? Is the home near green space, schools, and recreational facilities?
  • Parking: If the house doesn’t have a garage, will the driveway accommodate your vehicles? Is there good on-street visitors’ parking?

Even after you’ve checked the details, make your offer contingent on a home inspection. A reliable home inspector can dig deeper into the details. Isn’t your peace of mind worth it?

The Surprising Upsides to Holiday Home Shopping

With so much other shopping to do, should you add shopping for a new home to your list? It’s such a busy time of year. Maybe you should simply wait until spring. Or maybe not. Buying a home during the holidays offers several advantages over other times of the year.

Everyone else is at the mall. With other potential home buyers busy with holiday festivities, you’ll find you have less competition for your dream home. Plus, sellers have fewer buyers to choose from, meaning you might get a better deal.

Tax gifts from the treasurer. Buying a home at the end of the year may offer tax advantages, so it could be beneficial for you to close before January 1. There are additional factors at play here, such as potential conflicts with other deductions you hope to take, so if this is a key reason for buying now, be sure to talk to your tax professional first.

Holiday sales on interest rates. Often interest rates are lower during the holidays, thanks to a decline in demand during this time. Securing a loan now might save you a bundle in the long run.

Resolutions for a quick close. Finally, for buyers seeking a quick closing, this can be a prime time to shop. Typically, all parties involved in a year-end transaction are motivated to complete the sale before the start of 2017: sellers want to get resettled, and so do buyers, particularly if the kids will be switching schools and need adjustment time.

New Home, Old Home – What’s Best for You?

Prospective home buyers looking at areas where new neighborhoods are being developed have a decision to make that’s affected by price, availability, features, and style: Do I buy a new build or a resale property? Here are some thinking points when you’re considering which to buy:

New build

Purchasing a preconstruction house or condominium unit gives buyers a chance to personalize it to their needs and their style. The buyer can select layout, finishes, and fixtures. New homes also include the latest technology, which means lots of “smart” and “green” features.

The downsides? A new subdivision will likely still be a construction zone when owners move in, and there won’t be any mature trees or green space. Personality may be lacking, both outside and indoors; a resale home often has unique features that add warmth and style, whereas a new build may feel austere. And then there’s the waiting game. Particularly with new condos, buyers may have to wait for some time before the building is finally ready for occupation.

Resale home

A previously lived in home has two advantages that new builds find it hard to compete with: location and charm. The neighborhood is likely more developed; there will be mature greenery, a sense of community and culture, and an absence of the dirt, dust, and noise that accompany a new-build site. A resale home may also have unique features that make it feel special for the right buyer, such as an amazing backyard, a fireplace, crown moldings, or built-ins.

However, a resale home may also be dated and require costly repairs and renovations to make it suitable for a new owner. Because it wasn’t built with the latest materials and practices, it also may be less efficient.

New or old-both have their advantages. But make it all about you and your family, and your decision will be the right one.

Changes to FHA Rules Are Good News for Condo Buyers

One of the biggest changes in the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, passed earlier this year by the US Senate, concerned condominium financing. It’s good news, not just to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which had supported the changes for some time, but also to condominium owners and buyers.

Condominiums have always represented an affordable option for many buyers. But before the bill was passed, it was difficult for worthy borrowers to access the financing they need to purchase a condominium. Community and housing groups complained that FHA rules and requirements were both unfair and onerous – including the minimum owner-occupancy ratio of 50%, which made it impossible for buildings with lower ratios to qualify for FHA financing.

According to NAR, the bill will “make FHA’s recertification process substantially less burdensome, while lowering the FHA’s current owner-occupancy requirement from 50% to 35%.”

Also affected is the FHA policy around condo unit transfer fees. The bill requires the FHA to adopt the more flexible model used by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

It is hoped the changes in legislation will open up FHA financing opportunities to more prospective condo buyers across the country, and there’s every chance it will.

In response to the bill, Tom Salomone, current president of NAR, noted: “Tight inventory and rising home prices are a reality of today’s market, and mortgage credit is hard to come by. We should take every opportunity to clear the path for well-qualified borrowers to purchase a home when they’re ready, and this legislation does just that.”

Thoughts on Homeyness and the Home in 2016

A home is so much more than just a shelter, according to the most recent Life at Home report.

The 2016 report, which is published annually by the IKEA global home furnishings company, says a home is defined by what inhabitants experience through their senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch. Together, these five senses make a house feel, well, homey, and create happy memories.

After surveying thousands of people around the world, the Life at Home report found that a whopping 63% of respondents said they cook to feel at home, while 59% attributed their home’s comfortable vibe to music. Interestingly, when the sensation is not a pleasant one – too bright or too noisy – that homey feeling is challenged. And, thanks to a society that prizes outdoor kitchens and living rooms, some 42% of individuals say they now feel more comfortable outside their homes.

The home is now a place of relationships and connections, both personal and virtual; the report found that 48% of respondents described their home as the “place where they have their most important relationships.” However, 23% noted that having Wi-Fi is more important in their homes than having a gathering space to bring family together. It makes a strange sort of sense: Loved ones can move away, but, realistically, they’re as close as the nearest Internet connection. A wired home is a happy home.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report found that people highly value their “tchotchkes”: 53% suggested the objects in their homes hold memories and/or reflect who they are, while 43% said they assigned importance to objects that facilitate meaningful activities – for example, the kitchen island is where the kids do their homework, creating daily memories.

The report concluded that, no matter who we are or where we live, our feelings of home are all remarkably similar (if clichéd): we love our homes because “home is where the heart is.”

A Home Buyer’s Guide to Making It in a Competitive Market

In hot real estate markets, buying a property may feel like a nearly impossible feat. Skyrocketing prices, low inventory, and bidding wars can make a prospective buyer feel dejected.

But becoming a homeowner in hot cities can happen, if you employ the right techniques. A recent article in RISMedia outlines tactics for buyers to use when shopping for a home. For example:

Don’t be naive. Understand the market realities. Instead of obsessing over prices, value, and comparables in the area you’re considering, focus directly on what it will take to get the home you want.

Work with someone you trust. It may pay to find an agent who is sufficiently skilled to develop a rapport with sellers and their listing agents. Or you may need a superior number-cruncher to get you the best deal. But whatever the agent’s strengths, ensure he or she is a person you feel comfortable working with; the journey to finding a home can be long and arduous. You’ll need a friend.

Be realistic. Be very realistic. If you’ve only seen one home in your desired market that fits your budget, then that market probably isn’t in your price range. Accept that and either pick another area or be prepared to boost your budget.

Finally, try to relax. Expect that all will not necessarily run smoothly, particularly in a highly competitive market. Don’t get worn down by the process. You can become a homeowner if you relax and go with the flow!

Decorating For Today: If it Works for You…it Works

From the shag carpets of the 70s to the neons of the 80s, each era brings its own styles and designs. But today’s trend is actually a non-trend: It’s a celebration of the beauty (and functionality) inherent in personal taste: if it works for you; it works.

Decorating today is about expressing your personality in your home. If you like those shag carpets from the 70s, get one. If Pantone’s pastel colors of the year leave you cold, warm up with lemon yellow or tangerine orange.

While coming to terms with your own decorating personality is liberating, it can also be scary. Here are some ideas; make them yours:

Remember “flower power?” – If you love flowers, you’ll find floral prints on pillows, rugs, drapes and furniture. You can be subtle – add a floral cushion or two – or create an all-out garden in your space.

Oversized art – Fill a focus wall with a big painting or print that you love to look at. Large, bold pieces look great and don’t have to cost the earth. Some people are opting for stick-on photo art murals instead of wallpaper to give your room that very personal feel.

Make it shine – Today’s metal accents are subtle (think brushed brass, copper or soft rose-gold) – but if it’s glitzy you want, there are still lots of shiny things around.

Go bohemian…in a modern way – The modern boho trend encourages you to break all the rules. Combine vintage finds, antiques, personal accessories and modern furniture to create a style that shouts – ME!

Fall Remodeling? Don’t Start Without Reading This

As temperatures cool down, and we prepare for a season of shorter, darker days, it’s time to think about the inside of your home – how to make it as glorious on gloomy days as it was during the brilliant sunshine of summer. Oh good: Projects!

But wait. Don’t let the excitement of improving your home get in the way of proper planning. Rushing your project list can lead to unnecessary spending and less-than-thrilling final results. Here’s what you need to consider before picking up a hammer or swiping a credit card:

  • Decide on your budget and schedule. You’ll need to know exactly how much money you have available for your remodeling projects and how much time you want to dedicate to it. You absolutely need to have these figures decided before starting anything!
  • Make a list of what needs to be done and what would be nice to have done. It may turn out that your budget and schedule can only accommodate half your needs, or maybe you’ll find you have the time and money to cover your needs and at least one “want.” Look at your list, prioritize and decide which projects to tackle now.
  • Don’t let Pinterest get the better of you; just like a celebrity hairstyle, what looks good in a photo might not work for your space (or your head.) Be realistic about what can be achieved in your home, based on its current “bones” and your budget.
  • For financial reasons, it can be tempting to try to Do It Yourself. But unless you’re extra handy, turn to the experts to make your project dreams come true. An experienced, reputable contractor will find any flaws in your plans, make suggestions and produce a final product that not only looks good, but is secure, safe and strong.

Is the Concept of Neighborliness a Thing of the Past?

Do you trust your neighbors? Results of a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center indicate that our level of neighborly trust is pretty depressing. Nearly half (48 percent) of the Pew survey respondents reported that they either don’t trust any of their neighbors or trust only a few.

Sadly, these results may have a link to safety concerns. As Suzanne De Vita posts on RISMedia’s Housecall, fewer than 20 percent of people interviewed for the Pew survey said they didn’t feel “at all” safe from crime walking in their neighborhoods at night but actually trusted the people next door. And, perhaps not surprisingly, those in rural areas were more apt to feel safer and trust their neighbors than urban dwellers.

Although most adults believe it’s important for neighbors to look out for each other, today’s neighborhoods are not as tightly knit as they were in the 1940s and ’50s, when neighbors knew one another well. In a related Pew survey, 54 percent of respondents said that they do not hold regular social gatherings with their neighbors. Indeed, today, people are more apt to recognize their neighbors’ cars and pets than the neighboring adults or their kids.

According to social scientists, the way we react and behave toward each other is less civil when trust is low, which is a vicious circle, as this only exacerbates the trust deficit. The problem is fixable, though; neighbors can rebuild community and strengthen civic life (perhaps by harnessing technology to widen their circle of acquaintances) and become more civically involved.

These Hacks Cut Noise in Open Concept Spaces

There’s no question that open concept living is still the way to go for designers and their decorista clients. And why not? It can make a space feel large and airy, provide the room-to-room flow that supports today’s relaxed lifestyles, plus it’s so in now that alternatives look dated.

But with the open concept lifestyle comes a problem: no walls means no sound barriers, which can raise noise issues for families with competing priorities. Fortunately, there are hacks to deal with all that racket:

Pad it, literally

If your open living area is a hardscape, without soft materials to absorb sound, fabric can help. Thick, high-quality floor coverings are a great first step. You don’t have to install wall-to-wall carpeting (although that would work wonders); instead, consider adding an area rug to anchor your living room furniture.

If well chosen for their sound-absorbing properties, fabric window coverings also make sense. Eschew sheers or other similar-weight fabrics, as they haven’t the chops to do the job.

Allow for options

Create ways to divide your space at will, including popular reclaimed wood sliding doors; pocket doors that disappear when not in use, and even movable sound-absorbing panels like those dividing office cubicles. There are also elegant screens on the market today that demarcate and reduce sound while keeping that open feeling.

Switch up your flooring

Hardwood, stone, and tile floors may look lovely, but they’re part of the problem, not the solution. Cork is a wonderful option, and it comes in all sorts of styles and colors these days. And like wood, cork is soft and comfortable to walk on. While concrete may also absorb sound (and look great), don’t install it in locations where you’ll be standing for any period of time, like the kitchen. Your legs and feet will notice.

With these and other hacks, decoristas can have it all.

5 Ways to Boost Your Home’s OQ for Less

When getting a home ready to sell, most homeowners focus on interior upgrades and fixes. But what’s on the outside counts, too.

Lawns, walkways, patios, gardens, doors, and windows all play a role in the livability of a home – and its salability as well.

Thinking of selling soon? Here are five ways to boost your home’s Outside Quotient (OQ), courtesy of a Williams Ski & Patio infographic:

For an investment that could range from $300 to $1,000, you can undo the damage wrought by weather, weeds, and all those other nasties that invade your lawn (not to mention the dog and your kids).

Re-sod and give your outdoors a whole new look. Isn’t that worth the investment?

You could consider a less expensive alternative to make your outside sparkle: power wash your deck and wash your outdoor furniture for an investment of between $50 and $100, and some elbow grease.

Don’t forget the front entrance to your home; boost your curb appeal and add some color and design with planters featuring seasonal greenery.

During summer you can pop in some color inexpensively by adding a pot of annuals or two from your local garden center.

July is hot just about everywhere, so don’t forget to water your additions regularly. Cost: $20 to $200 depending on the size and type of planters.

While you’re at it, check the driveway. Cracks and holes can deter future buyers and are just plain ugly. For $50 to $200, a new topcoat of driveway sealer will do the trick…unless it’s REALLY bad.

For front or back yards, fill in holes in the vegetation with mature plants.

It’s a bit more expensive, depending on the kinds and number of plants you need, but it will give your outdoors the look of a much more pricey landscape job for much less. And that OQ? Awesome!

Should You Invest in a Vacation Home This Fall?

Many people dream of owning a vacation home, but wonder if it’s a good investment. According to the real estate gurus, it may well be.

According to many experts, fall is a great time to consider buying a vacation home, as prices are often lower in the off-season. And, while you may envision a summer hideaway or a perfect winter retreat for you and your family, you also could consider raising additional income by offering it as a three- or even four-season rental.

In a recent online article, the InvestorJunkie wrote: “We don’t normally think of vacation properties as investments, but at certain times and under certain circumstances, they can be one of the best investments you can make.”

RISMedia recently reported that, according to an annual survey of residential homebuyers by the National Association of Realtors: “Vacation home sales cooled off in 2015 but remained at the second-highest amount in nearly a decade.” In addition, the median price of vacation homes increased in 2015.

As with any investment, there are risks; as InvestorJunkie notes, “Vacation property is luxury real estate, not the basic roof-over-your-head type. It’s more discretionary than it is necessary, and that means the market for it can dry up much more quickly. When it does, prices can crash even when the general housing market is stable.”

Nevertheless, CNBC contributor Shelly Schwartz says if you can afford it, do it. The title of her article is “The Time to Invest in a Second Home Is Now.”

Gardening Can Be a Bed of Roses: Try These Tips

Dreaming of a bed of roses or rows of tasty tomato plants is easy; the reality may feel like a nightmare, particularly to first-timers.

If you’re planning on seeing whether your thumb is green this summer, note that gardeners are just as varied as gardens, and even those who grew up surrounded by high-rise buildings can nurture something from a plot of earth.

You don’t even need your own backyard; thanks to locavores, the local food movement is spawning community gardens galore.

Before you take that first step, read gardening blogs and books. Talk to gardeners. Learn from them. Then check out these DIY tips:

Know your space. Gardens can occupy most of a backyard or a square-foot box. Consider where you’ll plant. Walk around your yard at different times of day so you can see what areas get the most shade, and when.

Make sure you have the necessary materials. Have water buckets and/or a hose that’s long enough. Invest in good tools and the space to store them.

A word about water. Many areas in North America are suffering from serious drought conditions, while others have the opposite problem: too much water. Both issues shape the way individuals on this continent garden today.

Know your soil. Different plants grow better in different soil types. It’s important to know the pH level of your soil. You can purchase a home test, or you can submit soil samples to a lab and have experts look at it.

Know your strengths. Gardening takes time. For some, weeding, watering, pruning, and keeping your plants safe from insects and animals is part of the joy of gardening. If all that seems like drudge work, you may have to accept that gardening isn’t for you.

Know your plan. Successful gardeners plan ahead. During June, for example, you need to plant fast-growing summer annuals and heat-tolerant vegetables that can endure hot summers.

Fridge Kaput? Chill Out with a Home Warranty

Dealing with a conked-out refrigerator, a malfunctioning dishwasher, a nonworking air-conditioning system, or a flooded bathroom can be a royal pain.

Appliance insurance helps homeowners deal with the hassle and manage the cost of unexpected home repairs. An appliance warranty, also known as a home warranty, is a type of service contract that covers repair or replacement of certain home appliances and systems when they fail due to normal wear and tear.

A basic plan that covers essential home systems and appliances typically costs from $350 to $500 per year. In addition, homeowners pay a flat service fee (in the range of $60 to $75) for each service call.

One obvious benefit of an appliance warranty is peace of mind. If a covered appliance or system breaks down, the homeowner can rest easy knowing the problem will be taken care of with a single call or email to the warranty company. Another important benefit is that major issues such as system breakdowns, for which a repair or replacement can cost thousands of dollars, won’t break the budget.

Preexisting conditions, like poorly maintained systems or broken fixtures, are not covered under a home warranty, so it’s important to schedule regular maintenance for all systems and appliances and document when and how they were serviced.

A home warranty is a great incentive for home buyers, and it has become increasingly common for sellers to include a home warranty as part of the sale of the home to encourage confidence and attract buyers. www.Consumeraffairs.com  recently published a list of home warranty companies. Check: Compare Reviews for Home Warranty Companies