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November Enjoy Magazine
(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. Compost – Fall 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.
For the third consecutive month, sales of newly built single-family homes edged up, “demonstrating steady growth in the housing market,” says Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. However, housing analysts caution that the sector remains fragile.
New-home sales inched up slightly by 0.2 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 467,000 units—the highest level since June 2008, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau. The median price of new homes in September was $259,000, a 4 percent drop year-over-year.
“We expect the housing market recovery to remain relatively gradual over the coming months,” Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York, told Reuters.
In September, the inventory of new homes rose to 207,000—a 5.3-month supply at the current sales pace. Most economists consider 6 months a healthy balance between supply and demand. The slow-growing inventory of new homes points to builders gaining confidence in the market, says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
Regionally, new-home sales rose the most in the Midwest, posting a 12.3 percent gain month-over-month, followed by a 2 percent rise in the South. Sales stayed flat in the Northeast and fell 8.9 percent in the West.
The government revised August’s reported new-home sales figures, reflecting the fact that sales actually posted a sharp decline last month, as opposed to what had been originally reported. August’s sales numbers were revised down to 466,000 units from the originally reported 504,000 units.
Source: National Association of Home Builders and “U.S. Home Sales at Six-Year High; Recovery Still Fragile,” Reuters
(BPT) – Homeowners have spent more on kitchen remodeling than any other home improvement category in the last 10 years, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies – and there’s good reason. An updated kitchen does more than boost the value of your home; whether you make just a few changes or completely renovate the entire space, a kitchen that feels new is always refreshing. From basic cooking to frequent entertaining, your dream kitchen should look good and function well.
Since the kitchen is ever-evolving, so are the products available. Skip the fads and include ideas that are aesthetically pleasing and withstand the test of time. Here are a few updates that will turn your current space into the one you’ve been dreaming about.
When remodeling a kitchen, homeowners often overlook the sink, but it’s one element that can make a valuable style statement. While shopping for a new sink and faucet, search for the highest quality materials, like stainless steel, that are just as beautiful as they are practical.
If you’re looking for a dramatic focal point – as well as a sink that can accommodate all your pots, baking sheets and glasses – try an apron-front design. This style has been modernized, accessorized and streamlined to suit the needs of today’s homeowners. Moen also offers a stainless steel version that gives this classic a contemporary twist.
With a great number of faucets on the market, there’s a design for everyone. The timeless feel of a traditional kitchen is still the most popular. If you want the perfect mix of fashion and function, try the new Brookshire kitchen faucet from Moen, which features decorative touches and classic styling with a pullout design for at-your-fingertips water delivery. It’s equipped with the Reflex system for pulldown and pullout faucets, which offers self-retraction of the spray wand, as well as an exceptional range of motion, generous reach and secure docking retraction.
Be smart with appliances
Unlike a rug or lamp, kitchen appliances are not simple to return, so be smart when upgrading these items. Before making a purchase, it’s best to work with a professional for guidance, and weigh all factors, such as who uses the kitchen, how many people are cooking at one time and how often your family cooks.
If you’re an aspiring chef, consider a gas range that allows you to control the flame with precision. If you’re a busy mom, electric versions allow you to heat food and boil water faster. It’s also important to consider finishes – if the rest of your fixtures are brushed nickel, you may want to opt for a stainless steel range, refrigerator and dishwasher for a coordinated look.
Remember, even if a feature sounds interesting, it doesn’t mean you need it. It’s best to purchase what suits your needs and lifestyle. By making smart choices, and not splurging on unnecessary features, you’ll have the budget to spend money where it matters most for you.
Add an island
Add beauty, function and value to the heart of the home with an island. Many homeowners choose to build an island within their kitchen as a place for family and friends to gather and socialize. A multi-level design with stools on one side can provide casual seating for guests, leaving the other side available for you to prepare food or serve appetizers.
If you like to cook and entertain, you may also want a design that includes a bar/prep sink and beverage faucet – this will aid in prep and provide fresh drinking water. The SIP beverage faucet from Moen offers a coordinating style for every decorating taste. Enjoy cold, filtered water on demand, and the high-arc rotating spout allows for extra convenience when filling pitchers, coffee makers and more. For more information on Moen products, visit www.moen.com or call 800-BUY-MOEN.
(BPT) – Selling or staying, it makes no difference – everyone wants a home that looks great from the curb. Curb appeal comes together when all the elements of a home’s facade are in good shape and working together. Driveways that are cracked or pitted with potholes, dingy front doors and other seemingly minor complaints like a shabby, scuffed mailbox, can all significantly detract from a home’s overall curb appeal.
Here is a handful of projects – many of them quick fixes – that can greatly enhance a home’s appearance.
* Repair or resurface your driveway.
For many homes, the driveway is one of the largest visual elements of the home’s overall curb appeal, ranking right up there with siding, the roof and the lawn. If winter was rough on your driveway, it’s time to think of making repairs. Concrete can crack and crumble, and asphalt develops potholes. Both can be repaired quickly and easily.
For any driveway repair, make sure the area to be repaired has been cleaned of debris and loose materials. Cleaning with a hose or pressuring washing can improve the entire surface. For asphalt driveways, Sakrete U.S. Cold Patch is a ready-to-use recycled asphalt product that permanently patches potholes, cracks and other defects without the oily mess or bad smell of a conventional blacktop patch. Simply pour the product into the pothole and tamp it down. It is not oily or sticky, so you can even use your car to do the job – just drive tires over the patch to compress it.
Concrete driveways can develop different types of cracks: very small and shallow resembling a dry river bed; cracks between 1/8 and 1/4 inch wide; and cracks wider and deeper than 1/4 inch. Your choice of repair method will depend on how you want the finished product to look and how much time you have to make the repair.
Portland cement-based Sakete Top n Bond can be used to repair all three types of cracks, and will provide a finished look that most closely resembles the existing concrete driveway. For tiny cracks, simple coat the entire area with a thin layer of the patching material. Top n Bond easily fills cracks wider an deeper than 1/4 inch. You can also use it to repair areas where one slab of the driveway has sunk lower than the slab next to it. If appearance is less important, an even easier option for repairing cracks 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide is to use a tube product, like Sakrete Concrete & Mortar Repair, and apply it with a caulk gun.
Repairing damaged asphalt or concrete driveways not only improves its appearance, it can help extend its life, too.
* Put the shine on your mailbox
It sits at the end of your driveway and often plays a key role in helping guests find your house. But do you give your mailbox the attention – and the credit – it’s due? Little things can mean a lot when it comes to creating curb appeal. While a mailbox that looks good might not get much attention, one that’s ugly or shabby is sure to draw the kind of attention you don’t want.
If you live in a community that restricts what type of mailbox you can have, simply give your rusted, stained mailbox and the post it sits on a fresh coat of paint in its original color. If your community has no standards for mailboxes, you can swap out an ordinary looking box with something that compliments your exterior design. Does your home have a brick facade? Consider a mailbox set in or on a brick pillar. If your house features fieldstone accents, consider carrying that over to the mailbox with a small, stone-trimmed planting bed at its base.
* Lavish your front door with some TLC
The door is the point where your exterior design meets your interior décor. It’s also an element that significantly impacts how visitors view your home. Give yours a fresh coat of paint or stain, and don’t forget the trim around the door.
Next, consider lighting. Is the area around the door well lit? Good lighting is key not only for safety at night but also to enhance the appeal of the area. Consider sconces beside the door or an attractive overhead fixture if your door has an awning, porch or overhang. Ground lights can accent the effect, either illuminating the pathway that leads to the door or lighting up the door itself.
Finally, take a look at the door hardware. Is the handle or knob looking rusted and shabby? Replacing worn or dated door hardware is an easy, cost-effective way to improve the overall look of your entryway.
Anyone hoping to sell their home during warmer months can greatly enhance curb appeal by investing in these seemingly minor design elements. If you plan to stay in your house, boosting the curb appeal will make you feel even better about coming home every day to a fresh, appealing house.
The regulator of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is reportedly working on a deal with the financing entities that will loosen up lending standards and make mortgages more affordable for those with less-than-perfect credit. The move is expected to expand home buyers’ access to financing, as tight credit the last few years has kept many sidelined.
The new rules reportedly will include a lower minimum down payment requirement (from 5 percent to 3 percent), in order for lenders to qualify to sell a loan to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That would bring down payment in sync with the Federal Housing Administration, which insures loans made to lower-income borrowers and first-time buyers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee about 59 percent of all mortgages written.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie and Freddie, reportedly will include more safety measures to help lenders protect themselves from making bad loans. Lenders have faced numerous high-dollar settlements after issuing loans that later defaulted. The new agreement would give greater confidence to lenders so they won’t be penalized years after a loan is made, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The potential agreement “would allow credit to flow more freely to lower- and middle-income households,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told The Wall Street Journal. “That’s vital to getting the housing recovery moving forward.”
During the financial crisis, the financing giants faced steep losses as home loans defaulted. The spike was blamed on poor underwriting by lenders in ensuring that borrowers could afford their mortgages. In response, the companies, which were seized by the government in 2008, have had banks tighten their credit standards, which some critics say has gone too far and prevented many home buyers from qualifying for a home loan.
The Urban Institute has estimated that 1.2 million more mortgages would have been issued in 2012 alone if lending standards that were commonly used in 2001 were still in place.
“Understandably, after the [financial] crisis the pendulum of mortgage credit standards swung to a far extreme” Paul Leonard, California director of the Center for Responsible Lending, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s now working its way back to a more moderate position.”
The FHFA is expected to formally announce the plans later this week.
Source: “Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Reach Deal to Ease Mortgage Lending,” Los Angeles Times and “Mortgage Giants Set to Loosen Lending,” The Wall Street Journal
Put the powder sugar in a bowl and make a little hole in center on top and put all the ingredients in it. Microwave for 1 minute then take out and stir. Then microwave another minute, take out and stir. Repeat until smooth then, pour on a buttered surface or wax paper lined dish. Chill for 1 hour. Cut and Eat!
A new sign that the foreclosure crisis may largely be in the rearview mirror, new filings in the third quarter of this year were down 16 percent from a year ago — bringing overall foreclosure activity down to its level before the housing crisis, according to RealtyTrac’s Foreclosure Market Report. What’s more, default notices, scheduled auctions, and bank repossessions in September dropped 9 percent from the previous month and were down 19 percent from a year ago. That’s the lowest level since July 2006.
“September foreclosure activity was back to pre-housing-bubble levels nationwide, in large part thanks to a continued slide in bank repossessions,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “However, a recent rise in scheduled foreclosure auctions in many markets across the country shows lenders are continuing to clean house of lingering delinquent loans. This rise in scheduled auctions foreshadows a corresponding rise in bank repossessions and auction sales to third-party buyers in the coming months.”
While foreclosure filings fell last month, they were up slightly by 0.42 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter. It’s a small percentage, but it does mark the first quarterly increase since the third quarter of 2011, according to RealtyTrac. The uptick was largely attributed to a 2 percent increase in default notices and a 7 percent quarterly increase in scheduled foreclosure auctions.
That proves the foreclosure crisis isn’t over in every market quite yet. Default notices in the third quarter rose from a year ago in 10 states, including Indiana (up 59%); Oklahoma (49%); Massachusetts (38%); New Jersey (19%); Iowa (12%); and New York (2%).
Lenders are taking longer to process foreclosures, too. The foreclosure process took an average of 615 days in the third quarter, up 13 percent from a year ago. That’s the longest average time to complete a foreclosure since RealtyTrac began tracking such data in 2007. The states with the longest foreclosure wait times are New Jersey (1,064 days); Florida (951 days); Hawaii (937 days); New York (902 days); and Illinois (889 days).
The five states with the highest foreclosure rates in the third quarter were:
Luxury bathrooms are undergoing a makeover in recent years, according to a new survey about trends in new construction by the Home Innovation Research Labs, which surveyed about 1,400 home builders earlier this year.
“Since the recession, there has been a lot of trade-offs,” says Ed Hudson, director of HIRL’s market-research division, a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders.
What’s out? Whirlpool bathtubs and stand-alone bidets, down 9.4 percent and 34.9 percent, respectively, since 2008.
What’s in? His-and-hers shower stalls and chrome lavatory sink faucets, up 12.9 percent and 25 percent, respectively. A standard bathtub has also increased in popularity by 9.5 percent since 2008.
In some cases, buyers are toning down guest bathrooms and placing more emphasis on the master suite, says Scott Hobbs, president of Hobbs Inc., a custom home builder in New Canaan, Conn. But they’re making the bathroom less showy and more contemporary since the recession, adds Leo Birov, founder of Heritage Luxury Builders in Northfield, Ill.
“Everything looks more transitional now,” Birov told The Wall Street Journal. Popular features he sees include heated floors, steam showers, and computerized controls.
In general, new homes today are less ornate than they were in the housing boom, says April Saxe, a real estate professional with Houlihan Lawrence, which sells multimillion-dollar homes in New York. “The [whirlpool] tub has certainly been on the way out,” she told The Wall Street Journal. Instead, buyers are looking to use the space for a soaking tub or a shower stall.
Source: “Homeowners Jettison Whirlpool Tubs,” The Wall Street Journal