Making the Best of Your Garden

What do you see when you think of your ideal garden? I picture a green, leafy English Cottage garden. There are perennial beds filled with flowers, well-tended vegetables in perfect, weed-free rows, roses and clematis climbing and rambling, and a shady pergola where I’m having afternoon tea. Then I look out at the Southwest reality around my home and remember that I don’t live in a thatched cottage in Sussex and I’d better set my expectations accordingly. That doesn’t mean my landscape is gravel, rocks and a couple of stunted conifers (although if that’s your minimalist style, go for it). It’s a matter of planting what grows where you live. Plants do their best in conditions that mimic their native habitats, and those habitats vary widely. It’s a matter of making the best of your garden wherever you are.

The Perfect Garden. If you’re a gardener, even if your entire garden consists of a container on a balcony, you know there’s no such thing as perfection. Nature has a way of keeping us humble. Two years ago today, I had fruit trees putting on an amazing show. Last year, I had nothing. This year, they are just starting to bloom. Enjoy the imperfect, go with the flow, and embrace the variety.

Go Zonal. There are two definitions of zones in gardening. One is the plant hardiness zone where you live; the other is the concept of planting in zones around your house. Trying to grow plants that are too far outside your hardiness zone is probably doomed to failure. You may have micro-climates around your property that are warmer or cooler, so you can experiment, but don’t be too disappointed if something fails to grow. When you just must have plants that aren’t best suited to your climate (I’m talking to you, Himalayan Blue Poppy), plant in zones. Put the plants that need the most attention closest to your home, or in one specific area. For example, if you live somewhere wet and cool, but you must have cactus, look for varieties that can stand cooler weather, put them in the sunniest place, and make sure the soil is fast draining and poor.

Find The Right Plants. One key to success is to buy the plants that will do well in your area. Although the big box stores may have great prices, what they are selling is not necessarily right for your region. A locally owned nursery is more likely to have plants grown in your part of the country, and you’ll often find knowledgeable people working there. A terrific resource is a local Master Gardeners group. The members are passionate volunteers who have completed special training and are committed to sharing their knowledge. However, if you can’t live without tulips in Florida, you’ll need to pre-cool the bulbs in your fridge (or buy them pre-chilled) and enjoy their brief show before replacing them with something tropical.

Herb Is The Word. Want to try something easy? Herbs are a great example of no-fuss plants. The harsher the environment, the more concentrated the flavor. Herbs are perfect for gardeners with little time because they thrive on neglect, within reason. They don’t need fertilizer. They are fine with minimal water. They do well when they’re crowded. Some of them (such as sage, chives, and rosemary), have attractive flowers, too. I have a sage that I’ve neglected for at least 10 years, and every year it leafs out and produces showy purple flowers. I give it a little extra water in the summer and prune out the dead branches when I think about it. It gives me intensely flavored leaves for roast chicken and salad dressings. It’s a good trade.

But I Want A Cottage Garden. You can have one. Use the elements of a cottage garden, add plants that work in your climate, and remember you’re not Gertrude Jekyll!

Jane Burns
jane.burns@fcloans.com
Content Manager, Marketing/Communications

Do Your Socks Spark Joy?

Unless you’ve had no contact with the outside world for the last 5 years, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo and her KonMari Method™ of organization. She has shaken up the world of home organization (asking questions like “Do your socks spark joy?”), creating an empire (well-organized, I’m sure) that includes books, a Netflix series, certified consultants, and advice on topics ranging from your email inbox to your ideal lifestyle. Marie Kondo is more than a person or a company, she’s an international phenomenon based on the simple but powerful idea that if you live in a tidy space with only those items that spark joy, you will transform your life for the better.

What’s The Difference? It doesn’t matter how you organize and de-clutter as long as you get rid of stuff you don’t need, right? Maybe not. Traditional organization strategies take a room-by-room or space-by-space (think hall table or kitchen counter) approach. Kondo’s method focuses on categories, starting with clothes, and moving through books, papers, and komono (miscellaneous items), before finally dealing with items of sentimental value. The theory is that you deal with each category throughout your home, and avoid the frustration of de-cluttering one area, only to have it fill up again. The second key part of her method is being mindful as you decide what to keep and what to let go. She uses the concept of sparking joy to describe the way you should feel about items you decide to keep. More on this later.

Getting Started. There are six basic rules to follow when you decide to tidy your home the KonMari way. 1. Commit yourself to tidying. 2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle. 3. Finish discarding first. 4. Tidy by category, not by location. 5. Follow the right order. 6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy. Once you’ve truly made the commitment, and have a vision of your tidy life, you can start on the mechanics of de-cluttering and organization.

Does It Spark Joy? This may be the one concept that has raised the most questions. As you decide what to keep and what to let go, you are supposed to touch or hold each item to see if it sparks joy. If it doesn’t, you thank it for its service and decide what happens to it (donate, trash, sell) when it leaves your home. I’ll confess now. I have not followed through on tidying my own home, but I do understand that some of my belongings speak to me, whiles others simply exist. I’m not sure I could ever get to the stage where everything in my home sparks joy. I like the toaster. It does what it’s supposed to do. I’m not going to get rid of it because it doesn’t make me happy. However, it does add value to my life by making toast, so maybe that’s enough joy.

I Can’t Even. You want to do it. You can see what your home would look like without half of the contents. You can envision the serenity of your new life. But you can’t face the actual work. There’s an answer for that. A certified KonMari consultant will bring the process to you. On the other hand, maybe you’re simply skeptical. You may want to dig deeper by reading the books and/or watching the series to see if you are inspired to try the approach. If it still doesn’t appeal but you want to cut the clutter and get organized, here are more options.

But Wait, There’s More. Once you’ve successfully followed the program, Kondo has suggestions for organizing what you’ve kept, including ways of folding your clothing, organizing bags, packing your suitcase, dealing with your junk drawer, and just about anything else you can think of. (I definitely need the tutorial on tidying my desk.) Are you ready to KonMari your home? Let me know how it goes with your socks.

Jane Burns
jane.burns@fcloans.com
Content Manager, Marketing/Communications

Hardscaping

 

What can you do to add value to your home, make it more attractive to buyers, and increase your enjoyment while you live there?  Hardscaping!  The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) teamed up to research and create the 2018 Remodeling Impact Report:  Outdoor Features.  In it, they explore the outdoor residential features that are most likely to add value to a home and those that are most attractive to buyers.  Put them together, and you can set your priorities for your spring (summer, fall) outdoor projects.

 

What’s Hardscaping?  Landscaping generally relates to the living things (plants, shrubs, trees, grass) and the terrain (berms, flowerbeds, changes in elevation) in your yard.  Hardscaping is a part of the landscape but refers to created features like fences, decks, lighting, and fire pits.  A hardscape could be a gravel path or an outdoor kitchen.  It might be as simple as a small wooden deck or as elaborate as a brick pizza oven near an Italian fountain with a lighted pergola and seating for 10.  Your limits are your imagination, the available space, the style of your property, and, as always, your budget.

 

Deck It!  Or patio it.  Decks and patios are two of the top hardscape projects, both for buyer appeal and value added to the property.  Who doesn’t want a dedicated outdoor space for grilling, sitting, eating, entertaining and just plain hanging out?  Add a shade structure to make those hot days more pleasant, and maybe a fire pit for cooler evenings.  S’mores optional.

 

Light Up The Night.  Dramatic or subtle, lighting will add a new dimension to your nightlife outdoors.  You can use it to safely guide guests on a path, or make trees and shrubs into works of art.  Consider solar powered lighting to save energy, and motion-sensor lights for both security and power savings.  Be considerate of your neighbors, and don’t forget to shield your lights to protect our dark skies.  Stars are the original (and best) night-lights.

 

Watering Made Easy.  An irrigation system makes it simple for you to water your lawn, vegetable beds, and containers.  You can opt for an extensive underground system or a DIY drip layout.  Timers will keep your watering on a regular schedule, but be sure to override them if you have plenty of rain.  If you live in an area where it freezes in winter, you will probably need to drain/disconnect the system to avoid broken pipes and leaky faucets.  If you’re considering an underground installation, it’s crucial to work with a reputable contractor who understands your climate and your landscape.

 

To Pool Or Not To Pool.  Adding a pool may be more trouble than it’s worth, and you are unlikely to recoup the cost when you sell.  However, there are some parts of the country, and some neighborhoods, where pools are an expected feature and your home’s resale value might be lower if you don’t have one.  Do your research so you understand all of the costs beyond the pool construction (such as maintenance, insurance, fencing, water) and talk to a trusted Realtor® to see how a pool fits with your area.  If you just have to have one, enjoy every cool dip and fun splash.  That will be reward enough.

 

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?  Poet Robert Frost thought not, but the neighbor in the famous poem “Mending Wall” was in favor of fences.  Your answer probably depends on what’s on either side of the fence.  You may need to keep kids and dogs safely separated.  You may want privacy for your hot tub, or prefer to shield your view of your neighbor’s backyard “art.”  Make sure you follow any neighborhood or municipal rules, and consider your neighbors’ views, too.  They might be happy to share some of the cost to achieve a good-looking fence on their side, too.  That could make very good neighbors, and a happy home for you.

 

Jane Burns

jane.burns@fcloans.com

Content Manager,

Marketing/Communications

February 2019 Housing Market Recap

The February 2019 Housing Market Recap shows existing home sales grew dramatically in February, marking the biggest month-over-month increase since December 2015. All regions except the Northeast saw an increase in sales, and prices continued to climb nationwide. The pace of sales was faster than it was in January, but slower than a year ago. Inventory increased both month-over-month and year-over-year, continuing a slow but positive trend for buyers.

February existing home sales rose 11.8 percent from January, although they were still 1.8 percent lower than February 2018, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) February Existing Home Sales Report, released March 22nd.

Inventory increased from January to February, as well as year-over-year. At the current sales pace, the supply of unsold inventory was 3.5 months, up from 3.4 months a year ago.

Home prices continued to increase year-over-year. The median price of existing homes sold in February was $249,500, an increase of 3.6 percent from February 2018 ($240,800). We’ve now reached 84 consecutive months of year-over-year increases.

Days on the market (DOM) were down from January, moving from 49 to 44. A year ago, homes typically stayed on the market for 37 days, so while the sales pace increased month-over-month, it was slower year-over-year.

According to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, “For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced-homes is still needed. More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains.”

Regions: Sales up everywhere but the Northeast. The Northeast was the only region where sales did not increase. Comparing February to January, sales shot up 16 percent in the West, 14.9 percent in the South, and 9.5 percent in the Midwest, while the Northeast was flat. The Midwest led year-over-year price increases at 5.4 percent, followed by the Northeast at 3.8 percent, the West at 3.0 percent, and the South at 2.5 percent. Midland, TX took the top spot again on the hottest metro areas list (measured by days on the market/listing views per property). The rest of the February Top 10 were Chico, CA, Colorado Springs, CO, Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade CA, Yuba City, CA, Rochester, NY, Columbus, OH, and Stockton-Lodi, CA. Rochester and Stockton-Lodi joined the Top 10 in February.

The spring buying season is here. Traditionally, warmer weather and a hotter housing market go hand-in-hand. If you’re planning to buy this year, get started now on your home loan. Fast markets mean fast sales, and the strongest offers include financing. In fact, most Realtors® will insist that you line up your financing first. Talk to The Crosby Team at First Choice Loan Services Inc. now to understand your loan options. Start your home buying journey today!

Look into Windows

When measuring how energy efficient your home is, it’s easy to consider appliances, insulation and even door frames. Too often, though, homeowners forget to look into windows. Windows are meant to be looked through but not overlooked. Here are ways to determine if it’s time to replace your windows.

Function.
This one is really simple. Does the window work well? Is there any existing damage from a severe storm? Are you able to easily open and close it? Does it lock securely? These are important features in case you need the quick ventilation or fast exit windows provide. If the window doesn’t function well in these ways, that’s a good indication it may be time for a replacement.

Renovation.
New windows might be needed just to have the aesthetic of the home be more consistent. Perhaps you purchased a historic home but the windows are a bit too modern-looking. Or, maybe you’re in the reverse situation and you bought a home that has been recently flipped and updated, but they left the older windows in place. Possibly you’re working on a “fixer upper,” and it’s a good opportunity to either create more privacy and wall space by making a window smaller or introducing more light in the room by installing a larger window.

Insulation.
According to Energy.gov, poorly insulated windows can increase your utility bills by about 10% to 25%. A layer of argon gas exists between panes to keep the window airtight. This gas tends to seep out after 14 years. To determine if this gas has leaked out and if another window might be needed, look for water condensation between the panes. If seen, it means the gas has escaped, water vapor has replaced it, and the window is no longer well-insulated.

Construction.
If your window frame is made of wood, it likely is not as energy efficient as one made of vinyl. Vinyl window frames are airtight and better insulated. Also, as a standard, windows should have at minimum two panes of glass; single-pane widows are not energy efficient.

Like home appliances, windows have energy ratings. When shopping for replacement windows, keep an eye on their energy-star rating to help you ensure you’re looking through clear, new windows and towards some cost savings on your utilities for being more energy efficient.

Joe Baio
jbaio@fcloans.com
Senior Vice President, Collateral Services

Love Your Home

If you love your home, will it love you back? Yes. By taking care of your home, you will ensure that it can shelter you and your family for years to come. As an important bonus, you will help preserve your property’s value for sale or refinance. When you follow a home maintenance schedule, you’ll break up the projects into manageable pieces that you can address over time. Finally, you’ll have the satisfaction of living in a well-maintained home and, with any luck, avoid major repairs you can prevent with routine maintenance.

Make a checklist. There are chores to take care of monthly, quarterly, and annually. Some are best tackled in the spring and some in the fall. A checklist will help you stay on top of these tasks. You don’t have to start from scratch. A quick internet search will give you more checklist options than you can imagine, with varying degrees of detail. To get started, look for resources from Better Homes & Gardens, Home Maintenance for Dummies (*we’re* not calling YOU a dummy), and Bob Vila. You can make your own custom list if you can’t find one that suits you and your home.

Start With The Obvious. If you haven’t been following a meticulous maintenance plan, there may be items to tackle ASAP. Those water spots on the ceiling could mean a roof leak, which will probably require a professional to diagnose and repair. If the grout in your shower wasn’t dark when it was new, but is an interesting shade of grey now, it’s time to remove the mildew. Is the wind whistling under the front door? Weather stripping is in your immediate future. Armed with your checklist of choice, make a thorough tour of your home, top to bottom and inside out, noting areas of concern.

Easy Projects. Don’t get overwhelmed. Start with a few basics and work up to a more comprehensive list. Projects you may be able to do yourself include fixing toilet leaks, replacing the supply and drain hoses on your washing machine and the exhaust vent pipe on your dryer, and changing the filters on your furnace and/or AC unit regularly. For short lists of basic projects (clean your dryer’s lint screen!), check our ideas from Money Crashers and Popular Mechanics.

DIY Or Hire Someone? Depending on the task and your skill level, you may be able to do a great deal of your own home maintenance. Before you start, know your limits. Climbing up a ladder to clean gutters on a single-story home is one thing. Going up to the third floor? Maybe not such a good idea. Unless you’re confident with your plumbing skills, you may save money by hiring a professional first. Those funny videos of water shooting up like a fountain from a broken tap aren’t so funny when it’s happening in your bathroom. If you want to improve your skills, YouTube is full of DIY videos, and your local big box home improvement store probably offers classes.

Don’t Forget To Budget. Owning a home can be fun, and it has many benefits, but it also brings financial responsibilities. You’ll pay property taxes, insurance, possibly HOA dues, and if you have a home loan you’ll make a monthly mortgage payment. You need to set aside funds for maintenance, repairs, and replacements, too. As you budget for a home, factor in the future costs of caring for your investment.

It may not seem romantic, but show your home some love. Although it can’t speak, your home will return your affection, and you don’t have to buy it chocolates!

Siobhan Singh
ssingh@fcloans.com
Senior Vice President | Project Management & Corporate Development

Home Décor Trends in 2019 – Part 1

We’re nearing the end of the first month of the new year, and the popular home décor trends in 2019 are already becoming clear. If you’re looking for an inside home improvement project while it’s chilly out, this series will provide a few ideas for different areas of your house that can keep your home current and up to date. Let’s start with the walls….

Living Coral

For the past 20 years, the Color of the Year from Pantone plays a strong role in multiple industries from packing to fashion to home decorating/design. For 2019, Pantone’s Color of the Year is Living Coral. Siting that it symbolizes “our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits,” Pantone believes “Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.” With all that in one color, you may see it several places throughout 2019 in addition to where it fits into your home.

Mustard

It’s not just for hot dogs anymore! A few years ago, a brighter, sunshine yellow (paired with shades of grey) was a common color. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the color of mustard could easily be spotted in home and office décor as well as fashion. Through time, it faded as a trend and resigned to just being a condiment. Now, everything old is new again. As an accent color or the chosen color of a large furniture piece, mustard is making a comeback this year. Not to go it alone, it’s often paired with jewel tones such as teal or emerald green.Pop of the color of Mustard

The Dark Side
While the Pantone Color of the Year and the above-mentioned mustard are both on the brighter side, balance is key. Many believe homeowners will also give in to their dark side in 2019. Both professional and novice home decorators are using navy, forest green and even black on cabinets (we’ll get to the kitchen shortly) as well as entire walls. The darker hues can offer a much-needed relaxing and comforting atmosphere to a room.

Wallpaper

If painting isn’t your thing, perhaps wallpaper offers a better solution. There can be an underlying fear of wallpaper. It gives the impression of a huge commitment – because of the time it takes to install and difficulty you encounter if you decide you don’t like it. Still, it can offer shapes and designs that help your room foster the perfect ambience. Also, if you have a rental property (or haven’t quite made the move from renting to buying), removable wallpaper opens a new world to you. What once was impossible for temporary living situations is not a reality. This can also be a good idea for children’s rooms whose tastes and interests may change as they grow older. The new “easier” options make it a popular choice.

No Walls At All
For several years now, open concept homes have been very popular. With the kitchen opening up into the living room and then into the dining room, it’s helped create a sense of togetherness. Sometimes, there’s been too much togetherness. A growing option is to create some division without actual walls. Glass or steel room dividers provide designated spaces without complete separation. These options still allow the airiness of an open concept and the light to flow throughout while providing privacy and blocking some noise.

In part two, we’ll take you to the bathroom…

Chad Peterson
chad.peterson@fcloans.com
Senior Vice President, Communications

December 2018 Housing Market Recap

After 2 months of steady gains, existing home sales dropped in December. Sales fell in all four regions, but prices continued to climb, as they have for almost 7 years. The pace of sales was slower than it was in November, and slower than a year ago. Inventory was down from the previous month, but it remained higher than the previous December. The December 2018 Housing Market Recap contains mixed news, but the increase in inventory is a bright spot for buyers.

December existing home sales fell 6.4 percent from November, and were 10.3 percent lower than December 2017, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) December Existing Home Sales Report, released January 22nd.

Inventory decreased from November to December, but increased year-over-year. At the current sales pace, the supply of unsold inventory was 3.7 months, up from 3.2 months a year ago.

Home prices continued to increase year-over-year. The median price of existing homes sold in December was $253,600, an increase of 2.9 percent from December 2017 ($246,500). We’ve now reached 82 consecutive months of year-over-year increases.

Days on the market (DOM) were up from November, moving from 42 to 46. A year ago, homes typically stayed on the market for 40 days, so the sales pace is slower year-over-year.

According to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, “Several consecutive months of rising inventory is a positive development for consumers and could lead to slower home price appreciation,” says Yun. “But there is still a lack of adequate inventory on the lower-priced points and too many in upper-priced points.”

Regions: Sales down across the country. Year-over-year and month-over-month, sales fell. Comparing December to November, sales fell 11.2 percent in the Midwest, 6.8 percent in the Northeast, 5.4 percent in the South, and 1.9 percent in the West. The Northeast led year-over-year price increases at 8.2 percent, followed by the South at 2.5 percent and the West at 0.2 percent, while the Midwest was unchanged. Chico, CA took the top spot on the hottest metro areas list (measured by days on the market/listing views per property). The rest of the December Top 10 were Midland, TX, Odessa, TX, Columbus, OH, Fort Wayne, IN, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade CA, Colorado Springs, CO, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH, and Stockton-Lodi, CA.

Inventory increases are positive for buyers. It’s slow going, and not spread evenly across price ranges, but the year-over-year increase in inventory is good news for buyers. Are you thinking of buying a home this year? Consider a broad search, including homes that might need renovation. A not-perfect home in a neighborhood you love may be the right home for you. The Crosby Team at First Choice Loan Services Inc. can explain your home loan options, including a purchase + renovation loan. Happy hunting!

Timothy M. Sheahan, Jr.
tsheahan@fcloans.com
Executive Vice President | Secondary Marketing

Up On The Roof

When thinking of features you love about your home, rarely does the roof come to mind. We often think about the updating the kitchen, adding a bathroom and redoing the floors, but what is up on the roof frequently is forgotten (until a leak or other trouble arises). However, investing in the roof for your home can not only enhance the look of your property but can also add longevity of your home.

Asphalt Shingles

With an organic or fiberglass base, Due to the easy installation, lower cost and passable life expectancy, asphalt shingles can be found on roughly 80% of all homes.

CONS:
•In areas where the weather can change drastically, these tend to crack.
•As they are made from weaker material than other options, asphalt shingles become more damaged more quickly than other option.
•While the life expectancy is decent, it tends to be shorter than that compared of others, lasting anywhere from 15 to 40 years.

PROS:
•Asphalt shingles tend to be the most affordable roofing option, running approximately $5 per square foot. This largely depends on the type of shingle material chosen and the regional labor cots.*
•If you’re an experienced “do-it-yourself” type of home owner, the installation process may be within your scope.
•You’ll find a good variety of colors, styles and sizes of this form of roofing.
•More recent versions of asphalt shingles meet Energy Star standards, helping you save on electric bills.

Slate Roof

Slate roofs are made from actual stone pulled from rock quarries.

CONS:
•Installation requires a professional and costs run a wide (and high) range of prices, beginning with estimates at $10 per square foot and going up to $75 per square foot.*
•Due to the specialization required for this roofing style, if repairs are ever needed, they can be costly.
•Like tile roofs, slate roofs can be quite heavy so your house must be able to hold the additional weight.

PROS:
•This tends to be the most durable type of roof.
•Slate roofs can last 100 years or more, so while the installation costs may be high, that might be the only penny you spend on your roof.

Standing-Seam Metal Roof

These roofs are made of large panels of steel, aluminum, copper or zinc. They are laid with seams overlapping; the raised ridges align vertically with the slope of the roof.

CONS:
•Installation is not a “do-it-yourself” process; professional services will need to be used.
•The look is specific and doesn’t necessarily fit the aesthetic of every style of home.
•When rain and/or hail storms hit, the roof can create more noise than other options.

PROS:
•Installation costs run lower than other options, depending on the material used. Steel or aluminum can run $10 per square foot. Zinc can be $13 per square foot. Copper can reach up to $18 per square foot.*
•The life of a standing-seam metal roof can typically last from 30 to 50 years. Depending on when you purchased the home and the roof was installed, this could outlast your time in the home.
•A standing-seam metal roof tends to serve houses in zones known for wildfires well.
•This type of roof is known to be durable and typically free of maintenance concerns.

Tile Roofs – Cement or Clay

Primarily a choice for homes in California, Florida and the southwest region, roofs made of clay or cement tiles are sturdy and strong. Installed in overlapping layers, the tiles are typically made of terracotta clay or ceramic tiles from fired clay.

CONS:
•Professional installation is required and can be pricier than other options; estimates are $10 per square foot for concrete tiles, $15 to $20 per square foot for terracotta tiles, $20 per square foot for Spanish clay tiles, and $20 to $30 per square foot for ceramic tiles.*
•Your house must be able to hold the additional weight; they tend to be heavier than other roofing selections.

PROS:
•Tile roof roofing tends to open up more color options.
•Repairs are made relatively easier than other roof styles by sealing or filling cracks or holes with plastic roofing cement or prying up the broken tile and replacing it.
•When well maintained, this roof style can last 100 years or more which will outlast most home owners.

Wood Shingles


Are you sitting down? Wood shingles are shingles made out of – wood (shocking, right?). Cedar, redwood or yellow pine are more commonly used.

CONS:
•If you live in an area with a high fire risk (or just don’t want to increase that worry), wood shingles might not be your best choice.
•The look of your home may not be the best match for this style.
•Since this is not a “do-it-yourself” project, professional services will be needed.
•The lifespan for a wood shingle roof runs 25 to 30 years on average. If you plan to be in your home that long (or purchase the home well into the age of the wood shingle roof), a replacement may be in your future.

PROS:
•Wood shingles offer a more environmentally friendly option.
•This style is energy-efficient.
•While a bit higher than some options, wood shingles still run lower than others. Running between $6.50 to $11 per square foot, the initial installation costs could seem reasonable.*
•The character wood shingles provide could be the perfect icing on top.

While new roofing can be a costly endeavor, it can be a noticeable investment in your home, both visually and financially. If you would like help investigating this and other renovation projects on your home, contact The Crosby Team at First Choice Loan Services today!

*Prices are provided strictly as estimates. For more accurate and current pricing, please contact your trusted local roofing provider.

Keep Unwanted Visitors Out of Your Home

When you read the title of this blog, did your mind go to certain relatives? Or bugs and beasties? You’re on your own with the relatives (pretend you’re not home), but here are some suggestions for crawling, scurrying, slithering, buzzing intruders and ways to keep unwanted visitors out of your home. If this also describes your unwanted relatives, you have my sympathy, but you’re still on your own.

No Welcome Mat. The first thing to do is eliminate anything that attracts pests, or makes it easy for them to enter your home. Trim trees and shrubs away from your home so there’s no highway for rodents. If you have a woodpile, keep it away from your home. Check for easy access points, such as holes in the roof, gaps in the siding or stucco, and open dryer vents. Ants and rodents love sugar and crumbs, so keep your kitchen clean and store food in sturdy containers. Make sure your trash is in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and keep it in the garage if you can. Trash left outside will invite attention from rodents, dogs, coyotes – yes, even in urban areas – and even curious crows.

Exclusionary Tactics. Now that you’ve identified potential trouble spots, it’s time to get to work. Seal cracks and gaps, and install door sweeps. Make sure your window and door screens are hole-free and fit properly. Stuffing cracks and crevices with steel wool or copper mesh works well to keep rodents at bay, but depending on the size of the gap or hole, you may need more extensive measures. These might include new roof shingles, a properly installed dryer or kitchen fan vent, or wood cut to the right dimensions and secured with sturdy nails and caulk. One more tip. If a squirrel should happen to fall down your chimney while you’re on vacation, you will think that sooty-footed vandals have trashed your home. (Little known fact: A hungry, thirsty squirrel will eat ground coffee and drink balsamic vinegar.) Close the flue, make sure the spark arrestor is in good shape, and don’t ask me how I know this.

Removal. It’s going to happen. Mice will get into your house, especially if someone leaves a door open when you go on vacation (but that’s another story). Ants will appear as if by magic. Giant horrifying malevolent centipedes will stalk you at night. (Really. I know they are out to get me.) Snakes will sneak in – I don’t know why. Squirrels will fall down the chimney. What to do? I confess I used to go for the nuclear option every time. Now I take a more measured approach. Living in a rural area of the Southwest, I’ve learned that kitchen tongs work for both centipede and (non-venomous) snake removal. (I also speak to them sternly about staying outside.) I don’t use glue traps for mice, but a snap trap is fast and effective. Ants sometimes leave as mysteriously as they arrive, but there are times when I use a pesticide. I keep something pet-friendly on hand and use as little as possible.

Pest Inspection. If you are buying a home, consider a pest inspection. This is particularly important if you live in termite country, and it’s a requirement for VA loans. A pest inspection may cover more than creepy crawlies, and extend to dry rot and black mold. Be sure to ask the inspector what’s included. As with any service, make sure the inspector has any required state/local licenses or certificates, look for online reviews, and check the Better Business Bureau. Your Realtor® will probably have recommendations, and if you’re getting a VA loan, there will be a list of approved inspectors. In addition, when you are thinking of selling, an inspection will alert you to anything you need to remedy before you list your home.

A final caution. Be vigilant. If you notice that pieces of your garden hose are missing, bits of shiny objects are lying in your yard, and strange piles of sticks, debris, and leaves have appeared, seek professional help. Trust me. Packrats are not your friends.

Jane Burns
jane.burns@fcloans.com
Content Manager, Marketing/Communications