Everyone dreams of living in a model home – a beautiful modern room with the perfect vase of flowers sitting decoratively on a glass side table. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work this way. Our homes tend to look more “lived in” with a pile of shoes by the front door, school books on the kitchen table, and cat hair on the sofa.
If you have your home listed for sale, then you also know the stress of looking around your home after a phone call requesting a showing with a few minutes’ notice. You want your home to show well so the buyers can see the beauty of the home you love, but with such short notice, how can you convert the lived-in look to a show-ready property?
Fortunately, there are a few tricks for helping you keep your home show-ready at any time.
- Plan in Advance – Before you even list your house, consider the adjustment you’ll need to make in your lifestyle. Move non-essential items to a storage unit, to not only create visual appeal but make it easier to clean quickly.
- Containers – A simple way to quickly eliminate toys, clothes, shoes, sports equipment, and other items is storage bins. Keep some handy to throw excess items into before a buyer shows up, and move them to the garage or basement, or even the back of a vehicle.
- Establish a Routine – Get everyone in the family involved in establishing a daily routine. The less clutter that accumulates, the easier it is to move out of sight quickly. All family members should have morning and evening duties to keep the home tidy. If things are kept up on a daily basis, it will make the clutter and mess less overwhelming.Unfortunately, your life doesn’t stop just because you’ve listed your home for sale. Keep it show-ready by preparing in advance, so those last-minute buyers can see your home’s charm and not the day’s clutter.
For this, or any other real estate questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am ready to help you list your house – so we can focus on finding your dream home. Contact me today!
Some mortgage terms can be confusing, none more so than the similarities and differences between prequalification and preapproval. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they mean very different things to lenders, real estate professionals and home sellers.
Prequalifying is a rough-idea process that tells you how much money you’ll likely be able to borrow to buy a home. You can prequalify yourself on any banking or real estate-related website simply by putting your salary, type of loan you want, down payment amount and a ballpark home price into a mortgage calculator. You can talk with a lender, who will also give you a ballpark amount without a credit check.
When you apply for a mortgage loan, you’ll share your income records, the source and amount of your down payment, and your social security number so the lender can pull your credit. This is the key difference between prequalification and preapproval – when the lender is able to review your application and verify your credit standing to make a lending decision.
The lender will get back to you within three days or less with a preapproval letter stating the maximum amount of money you’re approved to borrow.
Preapproval gives you the real numbers so you know exactly how much you can spend on a home. It lends you credibility with real estate professionals and with sellers who will take you seriously as a buyer.
Prequalification becomes preapproval once you have a purchase contract on a home. Then, the preapproval is real.
For this, or any other real estate questions, you can contact me any time! I am here to help you find your dream home!
I’ve been in the real estate business for quite some time, and often clients hesitate to ask me questions about getting their home ready to sell because they may think the questions seem frivolous or silly. Well, there truly are no silly questions in real estate! Every home is unique, and every situation has its own set of intricacies. If you’ve never had a house for sale before, or if a problem arises that you may have never anticipated, that’s all part of the process. I’ve compiled some questions over the years that homeowners have asked me and thought I would pass the information on to you.
Curbside appeal. What do I need to do?
I’ve written about first impressions before, but did you know that people looking for new homes notice things about your entryway that you may assume they won’t notice? You’ve spent a lot of time getting the interior of your home ready, but what about the entryway? The threshold of your entryway, from the steps to the welcome mat, will be critiqued by new home seekers. Is it dusty and needs to be swept? Is your welcome mat old and tattered? Make sure your mailbox is standing tall and without chipped paint. Pay attention to everything from your front door windows being clean to the walkway being inviting. “Curb appeal” may begin at the curb, but buyers will notice so much more as they approach your front door.
Not sure? Yes, you DO need to do the windows!
Another recommendation I give homeowners that are trying to sell their home is to not neglect the patio doors and windows. This may seem like an obvious tip, but when people are walking through your home and open the blinds or curtains to get a view of the backyard, you really want the frames to be dust free and the window’s glass crystal clear. Patio doors and the door tracks should also be cleaned and any obstructions cleared away, especially times during the year that may be considered “unseasonal” for using outdoor spaces. Wondering if hiring a window cleaner is worth the additional expense? Most definitely, especially if you don’t have time to do it yourself. Having your windows professionally cleaned at a price range anywhere from $6 to $8 a window, which includes the inside, outside and the screens, is well worth the return on that investment. And also make sure your outdoor spaces are tidied up, too.
Should I think about a heating and cooling system check-up?
When trying to sell a home, don’t forget about one of the biggest expenses associated with home ownership…and that’s your home’s energy costs. Heating and cooling your home can be quite expensive, and well-informed people looking to buy may inquire about the last time your HVAC system has been serviced. If your home is newer, it’s easier to present them with any installation and warranty information. For older homes, it’s a good idea to have a certified HVAC company come to your home and give a check-up of your system. Whether you simply need to change your filters or have a bigger maintenance issue to resolve, it helps to know what you are dealing with before you put your home on the market.
What do I do about our pets, pet toys and kid toys?
Homes can get messy, and pets and kids can often be the culprits! Think about walking into a home that you know has pets. Are you preoccupied with the smell you’re noticing or the toys you’re seeing, scattered around the home? When getting your home ready to sell, it’s best to keep the smells as neutral as possible, and always pick up remnants of toys, whether from Fido or your 5 – year old. Think about investing in a toy box for your kid’s room, if you don’t already have one, because it’s an easy way to collect toys and keep them organized. If an interested buyer wants to see your house within the hour, think about ways to keep the stress level contained. Ideally, load up the car with kids and pets before a house showing with snacks, games, and videos ready to keep your family occupied while out of the house!
This is only a sampling of questions sellers and buyers ask me. Throughout the year, I’ll share those questions and some tips as they arise. Attention-to-detail can make the difference between a sale or a snub. Let me help you get your house ready for an open house that is sure to impress! Contact me with any questions that you have about any of your real estate needs. My number is (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
If you know the near future involves putting your house on the market, it’s never too early to begin the planning process. Even if you’d rather wait until the spring months to sell, there is more involved in the sale of your home than simply putting a “For Sale” sign in the yard. Here are some practical tips to consider during this exciting time to get your home ready.
First and foremost, finding a reputable real estate agent should be top of the list! Selling your home solely on your own can be a daunting task and a real estate agent can help navigate the sale of your home, no matter how hot or cool the market may be in your neighborhood. There is a reason knowledgeable homeowners often rely on the talents of a real estate agent, saving you time and money in the long run.
It’s important to find a real estate agent that has experience in the area where you are selling, one that you connect with and feel comfortable sharing your expectations with, too. Do some research when looking for a real estate agent and also seek recommendations from others that have recently sold their home. It’s also important to interview the agent to make sure he/she is a good fit for your needs and your personality.
Curb appeal is one important aspect of selling your home. Buyers do often judge a book by its cover! If interested buyers are driving around looking at neighborhoods and come across your home with unkept landscaping and broken shingles, it’s likely they will mark your “Open House” off of their list. Make sure your front yard is tidy and cracked paint is repaired, adding finishing touches like flowers and a new welcome mat can also make a difference. Old, ugly mailbox? Fix that too.
Declutter and depersonalize. Always on the list of things to do when you’re getting your home ready to sell, cutting down on the clutter, the trinkets and the family heirloom items makes a big difference in your home’s appeal. Staging your home with the motto in mind that “less is more” is something that can begin during the months leading up to the sale of your home. Donate unused items and keep in mind during the process that nothing is off-limits when trying to sell your home. Buyers will peek into your closets and look under your sinks to find out what space is available. If they notice too much stuff, it takes away from the beauty of your home.
Some personal photos are fine to keep up on the walls, but too many family photos and oversized artwork may be distracting and overwhelming to the general public. When you are trying to sell your home and start to think of it as a blank canvas for the new homeowner to enjoy and add their personal touches to, it will help you determine what should go and what could stay as part of your overall décor.
Want to sell your home? Invest in some paint. The cold, winter months are a good time to paint the home’s interior. Accent walls are nice, but you may want to consider painting your walls and halls in a more neutral color since most buyers will appreciate a color scheme that they can spend less time updating. A fresh coat of paint, fixing any scuffs and scratches on the walls, will be very beneficial when trying to sell. How many times have you watched HGTV “House Hunters” and heard potential buyers complain about a room’s color? Although painting walls is one of the easier things to fix for home-buyers when they otherwise love a house when browsing, a paint job is just another way to freshen up a home and give it a neutral “look and feel” that will hopefully entice more shoppers.
Other ways to prepare your home for sale include thoroughly cleaning the house and garage, fixing anything that may have been broken for a while (like a cabinet pull or toilet paper holder), and taking care of any funky smells that you’ve noticed coming from the basement. We tend to overlook certain things in our homes that need fixing because we get busy and tell ourselves, “we’ll fix that next weekend”. Before putting your house on the market, make sure you create a thorough check list of items that need to be fixed and tackle that list. Give yourself enough time to fix what’s broken and freshen up what’s stale.
Now is the perfect time to begin the process of organizing the home for prospective buyers. A little planning will ensure that your home will be ready for the market, whether you want to sell it next month or six months from now! Unsure about what your next steps should be to get your home ready to sell? Contact me and I’d be happy to answer questions or assist you in any of your real estate needs. My number is (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com. Happy New Year!
There are still home seekers that will look for that perfect new home over the holidays, with the intent of moving into their new space in the New Year. Even though it’s not the most popular time to buy or sell real estate because of everyone’s hectic schedules and cold temperatures, house hunting will still be happening. An HGTV article cites that staging your home for the holidays should be stylish and neutral, giving a vibe of the season without going overboard.
So, what do you do so your home is styled in a festive manner without making it look like a scene from “Christmas Vacation”? The following real estate tips will help, offering ideas for decorating your home and keeping your buyers in the right spirit!
Start with a clean slate. Staging your home, no matter the season, should not be overdone. And before you even unpack that first holiday decoration, make sure to clear out and clean the clutter! Take a look at your house “pre-décor”, and make sure it’s already staged, which means the extra tchotchkes and collections have been put away. If you add your ceramic Christmas tree collection to the mix without cleaning, it will surely look cluttered.
People tend to use all additional spaces in the home when they decorate for holidays, and when staging your home, this isn’t a great idea. You still want the rooms in your home to look as spacious as possible, which means limiting the holiday décor. If you think you may miss your 20 Santa figurines, keep in mind that with a little staging strategy, you’ll be celebrating your nextholiday in a new home…and you can decorate in any way you like!
Holiday flair should be cozy and coordinating. Items like a crystal bowl with pinecones or an evergreen wreath can really spruce up your house. It’s best to also match your existing décor with your holiday style. If you have a dining room painted in a soothing sky blue, stay in harmony with it by opting for white snowflakes or silver-toned ornaments and table coverings. Adding red and green to the mix would clash and not complement. The traditional red and green color scheme works well as accent tones if your room has more earthy colors like forest greens, oranges and golds.
Also, tone down gaudy light displays while your home is on the market. It’s best to use simple string lighting to play up your home’s structure or draw attention to the gorgeous fir tree in your front yard.
Highlight the positive. As stated earlier, too many holiday items scattered throughout the home will distract, but if you add the right accessories in the right spots, it will accent your home’s best features. Think about placement of mistletoe in the arched doorway or displaying your menorah on the ledge of your living room’s bay window. When decorating, just make sure to not block a beautiful view or place cheap-looking window decals that may distract the home buyer from your lovely backyard’s vista. Own a custom fireplace? It may be best to not place 6 personalized stockings over it, taking away from its architectural details.
Neutrality is key. When trying to sell your house, it’s best to leave the life-sized Nativity scene in storage this year as well as multiple blow-ups in the front yard like snow globes with a Santa. Because you want to attract any type of home buyer, it’s best to keep low key décor that isn’t overly religious. You also want to make sure the front yard is safe and not scattered with extension cords to activate the Christmas inflatables. An example of neutral décor may include nutcrackers, reindeer and snowmen.
Trim the tree. If a Christmas tree is in your holiday décor plans, make sure the tree fits your space nicely and not overwhelm it. Have a small living room? Use a skinny tree to save space. When your house is on the market, it also may be best to use cohesive ornaments instead of the mismatched, homemade ones your children made in school. Although those ornaments are sentimental, homebuyers will not understand their significance. Instead, set the stage for a perfect holiday in your home with a tree that looks tailored and tasteful.
Have questions about purchasing a new home in the Metro-east or selling your existing one during the holiday season? Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
There are a number of different things you can do as a homeowner to winterize your home. Where we live, we can experience the mildest of winters one year and a bitterly cold mix of winter storms and below zero temperatures the next. It’s always a good idea to prepare for the worst, so here are some simple ways you can winterize your home in the next month to make sure your home is safe and sound.
Have a winter storm kit prepared. A home safety kit is a good idea, no matter the weather. The experts recommend having a container filled with food, bottled water, and other supplies that will last up to 72 hours in the event of an emergency. Some companies even offer pre-made kits! If a big ice storm hits and the roads become too treacherous to travel on, you’ll be glad you took some time to make a storm kit. It’s also beneficial to have one on hand just in case you lose power because of storms taking out power lines.
Trim trees in your landscaping. If you live in a wooded area and there are tree branches next to your home’s roof, windows, or electrical lines, it’s a good idea to trim them now. Keep in mind that ice and snow will weigh branches down even more, so there is definitely potential for damage to your home or landscaping.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detector check. Unfortunately, the winter months have an increase in home fires and cases of carbon monoxide poisoning because people are running their furnaces more often. Keep your loved ones safe and make sure your detectors have new batteries and if one isn’t working properly, change it out.
Fireplace chimney inspections. When was the last time you had your chimney cleaned or inspected? Visit www.csia.org for information on chimney safety and to find a certified chimney sweep. Cleaning your chimney each season is just one more safeguard against house-fires.
Install proper doors and windows. The better your windows and doors, the better your energy efficiency will be. Storm doors and windows also can be beneficial, and some tax credits are even available. If you can’t afford new windows, doublecheck your insulation around doors and windows and use blinds and shades to help keep the cool weather out.
Check your heating and cooling system. There are many qualified HVAC businesses in our area, and it’s important to have your furnace inspected annually by a dependable technician. It’s also a good idea to have your home’s ducts cleaned and inspected for any leaks and to regularly change your furnace’s filter throughout the winter months. A professional HVAC technician will be able to assess your existing system and help you determine what may need to be done before the cold weather hits.
Reverse ceiling fans for better circulation. Using your ceiling fans in the winter helps to keep your house warm. On typical ceiling fans, there are switches to reverse the flow. This pushes warm air downward and helps it to recirculate throughout the rooms in your home. When warmer weather is upon us, don’t forget to switch the direction again.
Keep your house colder. Set your thermostat a few degrees cooler and you’ll be pleased at the lower energy bill. Wearing a sweater or layers while at home is one of the easiest ways to save money during the winter months on your utility bill.
Other things you can do as a homeowner to prepare for the cooler weather is to bring outdoor patio furniture and accessories inside for storing, also bringing any plants and flowering trees inside before the first frost. Another good idea is to clean and winterize any outdoor equipment like lawn mowers and trimmers, inspecting any of the winter tools you have during the process.
Even though there are still plenty of nice days ahead, winter will be here before we know it. A little planning will ensure that your home will be ready for the colder weather and you’ll be more comfortable, too. Have questions about living in the Metro-east or need some tips about home ownership? Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
If you are considering putting your home on the market, your friends and family may want to offer tips and guidance about staging your home, what to list it for, and the best time to sell. Keep in mind there are a lot of factors to consider if you wan to sell your home this Fall season, and they can vary from zip code to zip code, street to cul-de-sac. There can be benefits and drawbacks with listing your home, no matter the season. Hopefully these tips will help during the home selling process if you are considering an autumn sale.
You may have once thought you’d live in your existing home forever! Things change, and a relocation may be necessary due to a new job or unexpected life event. I typically like recommending to my clients that first and foremost, consider what’s best for your family. Sometimes timing a move with a new school year makes sense so your kids are getting started with new classes and new teachers at the same time as the other children in the school district. Fall is typically the second-best time to sell your home, coming in second after spring.
As the cooler, fall weather approaches, there are still people looking for that new home. Fall can be an ideal time to shop, buy, and get moved in before all of the upcoming holidays that the season brings. It’s important to clean up that yard and enhance your home’s curb appeal during the fall months. Trim bushes and cut back vines, move the summer toys and gadgets out of the yard, and begin to give your home that cozy, autumn aesthetic.
What homebuyers see first is important. Mums are lovely additions to the front porch. Or, choose marigolds in your landscape planters. Place the flowered pots by the entrance and along the walkway, accenting your home’s backdrop with pumpkins and squash. Hang a fall wreath on the front door and tidy up your home’s exterior with window washing and a new welcome mat!
There are other benefits to selling your home in the fall months. During the spring, the market is saturated with homes for sale in a variety of neighborhoods. If your home doesn’t have any distinguishing features that sets you ahead of the pack, competition can be fierce. On the other hand, what if your house does have unique features and you decide to sell during a time of year that’s slightly less busy? There’s a very good chance your house will be noticed, possibly even commanding a higher price in the fall.
Other tips include cleaning that wood-burning fireplace from any debris. Why not even place a fall arrangement within it? Autumn is a perfect time to stage your home with scents of homemade cookies baking, pumpkin, and hot apple cider. Many recommend simmering cinnamon sticks on the stove-top so the smell sifts through the air. There are many ways, from candles to essential oils, to create a memorable experience for the potential homebuyer.
Lack of competition is a benefit that should be seriously considered if you are in the market to sell your home. With fewer homes for sale, there’s opportunity to sell your home more quickly, especially if a buyer needs to move immediately. Also, families without school-aged children have more flexibility when considering a move date. In our school district, we have the advantage of being a desirable place to live for homebuyers, no matter what time of year it may be.
As a Realtor®, I can assist you when selling your home because I know the local market inside and out. I can help decide which home features will lead you to a higher sale price, negotiating with the right buyer so you can sell your home in the least amount of time. Fall is a great time to sell! Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
The home search is over! You have finally found the perfect home in the ideal location, negotiated the price, had your offer accepted, and are ready to make the big move. After the walk-through, appraisal, and some constructive “back-and-forth” with the agents, family members, and friends, the next step is finally here: it’s closing time! The closing is an exciting milestone in the overall home purchasing process and it’s the final piece of the puzzle when buying and financing a home.
Taken directly from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website, the closing, or sometimes referred to as a “settlement”, is when “you and the other parties in a mortgage loan transaction sign the necessary documents” so that the new, beloved home is finally your own! The closing documents make you responsible for the mortgage loan, so it’s important that you know what you are signing during the closing process.
One particular document, the closing disclosure, is a form that includes all final terms of the loan, closing costs, details of who pays and who receives any of the payments in the transaction. This document is a form that has replaced the previous HUD document (Department of Housing and Urban Development). Another document, the initial escrow statement (also called the initial escrow disclosure), lists what is going in the escrow account each month so taxes and insurance is paid on the homebuyer’s behalf. This document also shows the estimated balance in the escrow monthly as payments are made and how their account adjusts.
Contractual documents include the promissory note, which outlines clearly what you are agreeing to. It will include what you owe, interest rate of the mortgage loan, the dates when payments are to be made, total amount, length of time to repay, and more. Another form, a mortgage or security instrument, explains responsibilities as well as rights as a borrower. There are additional state and local government documents that are typically used to collect information about you, the new homeowner. Lender documents will also need to be signed at this time, too. When you receive the closing disclosure, you can ask your lender to provide a full set of all the documents listed here. This way, you can review them in advance and before the closing.
The closing process usually includes your real estate agent or Realtor®, the title company representative, also known as the closer, and potentially the lender. Your lender may or may not attend the closing. State regulations are different, so the closing meeting may include everyone at the conference room table while signatures are happening or it could take several days if signatures are being compiled separately. In some cases, a closing may even be via the internet or mail.
Regardless how the actual closing process happens, it’s important to understand that the paperwork has lasting financial implications. Before signing, make sure the documents have been reviewed and are understood. Don’t sign the documents if you’re unsure of making the payments or if there are errors. Ask questions if you don’t understand something involving the terms of the loan. Also keep in mind that over time, your payments may change. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, payments may increase over time so make sure you know when it will change and by how much. Even fixed-rate mortgages may change because of variations to taxes or insurance.
Being prepared at closing will help alleviate any stress and let you focus instead on this momentous event. Being a new homeowner is definitely a reason to celebrate! If you’re interested in a new home or want to learn more about selling your existing home, I’d love to help. I’ve assisted many families and individuals in the Metro-east area and beyond find their dream home. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
Most of us at some point in our lives have relocated. Whether it was moving to a new house with our family as a child or packing up and heading across state for college, we all can appreciate how much effort goes into the prepping, planning and packing. Wonderful, new beginnings await us when we move! Here are some handy tips to relieve some of the stress of moving, helping you enjoy the process (and this exciting time) instead.
Know you’re moving? Organize all of the paperwork. It’s important to keep all paperwork in the same spot so you don’t spend time looking for it when a question about the move surfaces. Did you hire movers? Have their information on hand. Is your new house a rental? Make sure you have contact information in case something goes awry upon arrival and you can’t access your new apartment or home. By keeping all moving documents in one spot, you’ll not only avoid the stress of not being able to find something in a jiffy but also enjoy a more efficient move from start to finish.
To Do Lists are Key! As with any big event, keeping a list of “to-do’s” is crucial. You wouldn’t plan your daughter’s engagement party with no planning, invitees, or reservations, would you? With a move, it’s also important to keep track of the steps involved throughout the process. In many cases, it’s simply a good idea to keep a running list of things you may need to remember at a later time. This list can hold important numbers, due dates and more. It’s just one more way to stay organized during a very busy – but exciting – time.
Take photos. You may be feeling sentimental as the move approaches, but this tip has a different motive in mind. Photos come in handy for many reasons. By taking pictures of your knick- knacks before and during the move, your life will be easier once you make it to the new place and you’re trying to unpack and decorate. Know what else? Taking photos of electronic wires and connectors will help you when you’re trying to hook up the TV at the new home just in time to watch the big game! Also, if items get damaged in the move, you’ll be able to let the movers know their condition prior to the move…with the proof of a photo.
Don’t pack items you won’t be needing anymore. I’ve written about decluttering when trying to sell your home, but it’s important to also not spend the time and the effort to pack items you won’t be using in your new home. Moving is the perfect time to declutter! If you are no longer using that cabinet and it’s been in your basement’s storage room, try to donate or sell it. You can also ask yourself, “where will I need this item in the new place”? If you don’t have an answer to that question, it’s likely time to part ways with it.
The internet is filled with practical (and sometimes off-the-wall!) packing tips to prepare you for your next big move. A little preparation and forethought will go a long way, starting off life’s next phase in the right way. Are you interested in that new home or wanting to learn more about selling your existing home? I’d love to help! I’ve assisted many families and individuals in the Metro-east area and beyond find their dream home. Contact me for all of your real estate needs at (618) 978-2384 or email me at Sandie@SandieLaMantia.com.
In the second part of the series, It’s Time to Start Thinking About Beautifying Your Yard, Tony Range, horticulture supervisor for the award-winning and beautiful St. Louis Zoo, shared some best practices with me. Tony and I visited recently to discuss tips for homeowners wanting to add beauty and interest to their outdoor spaces at home. Our meeting was fun and informative as we chatted about proper planting techniques, native plants, and how to create stunning landscapes based on any given surroundings.
The St. Louis Zoo is a well-known and beloved attraction in our area, but did you know that it also houses its very own greenhouse? Thousands of plants are grown at the greenhouse and are displayed throughout the park May through October. Next time you visit the zoo, make sure to pay attention to the brightly colored plants and flowers scattered along the zoo’s pathways and inside the buildings, creating a lovely atmosphere for visitors and for the animals calling the zoo “home”. Enjoy the Q & A below from our recent visit!
Now that it’s spring, it’s the perfect time to beautify your home’s outdoor landscaping. What tips would you give homeowners about the use of plants to enhance their home’s appeal?
Many of us are running out to purchase annuals, hanging baskets and more for our homes now that the weather is warming. I think what most people don’t realize is that once the plant leaves the greenhouse and goes to a nursery, they can quickly become nutrition deficient. In the greenhouse, plants are treated with nutrients to keep them healthy. Once they transition to a store and then to a home, within a couple weeks of constant watering and no nutrients, their soil is leached. Plants are hungry and need more than just tap water to flourish and survive.
Nutrient-rich plant food like Miracle-Gro™, added at least once each week to your plants, will help them grow. Today, there are even slow release fertilizers on the market with Terra-Sorb (a water absorbing gel) which offers a slow-release fertilizer for your plants and flowers. Terra-Sorb doesn’t dry out as quickly and is another way to ensure that your beautiful hanging baskets and potted plants continue to impress neighbors and friends throughout the season.
Also keep in mind, dirt is what you sweep up off of your floors whereas soil is a living, breathing entity full of microbial activity, teaming with life. Without a good, healthy soil we would have nothing to sustain our daily lives.
Are there any plants you would recommend based on our planting zone in the Midwest and which ones prefer sun or shade?
There are many plants that I love and recommend! Dragon Wing Begonias tolerate heat and the sun quite well, Silver Falls Dichondra like sun or shade and are easy to maintain, and the Dazzler Merlot Mix Impatients are shade tolerant, lovely and landscape friendly. Just keep in mind that annuals, like petunias, are tropical by nature and are typically heavy feeders, requiring fertilizers to flourish.
A tip I also like to offer is that around July 4th, it’s best to cut back those petunias you may have purchased on Mother’s Day about a quarter or half of the way. This will flush the new growth out, and you’ll love the results. Simply “pinch” to the leaf nodes. Also, when purchasing 6 packs of the plants from your local nursery, steer clear of the ones that are “tangled up”, long and misshapen. Pulling and unwinding their delicate foliage and roots is very damaging, so it’s best to find the packs that are short and tidy.
As a Realtor®, I see a lot of homes with neglected landscaping. Any suggestions that you can make to convince them that curb appeal is important?
I recommend choosing plants and plant materials scaled to the home. Not all landscaping needs to be elaborate. When planting, if the homeowner follows some basic rules, the landscaping undertaking can be fun and can really enhance their home’s curb appeal.
For instance, planting perennials in groups of 5’s and 7’s offer a bigger visual impact. When planting in groups, you’ll be happier with the overall look. Shrubs, Knockout® roses and more work best in groups of three. Even planting a Juniper, for example, should be spaced out and if you plant one in your landscaping, think about planting another one in a different section. The rule of thumb is to never plant just “one” of anything.
I like to think of plants for landscaping as notes on a musical scale, stagger the plants and always place them in groups for an impactful and beautiful display!
What are some other tips you’d like to share with our readers?
Play off the landscape with the use of limestone boulders and other types of hardscape. If you’re lucky enough to find a boulder with moss naturally draped on it, it will be a beautiful and unique addition to your curb appeal. I recommend the use of hardscapes in the winter months, trees with interesting branching habits, evergreens, birdfeeders and ornamental grasses. The Taylor Juniper is a tree that I love, with a striking appearance, growing to about three feet wide and up to twenty feet tall. Also, Blue Spruce “Fat Albert” lends a colorful blue tone to the winter landscape.
The importance of feeding and grooming your landscape plants and flowers can’t be stressed enough. Adding fertilizer is a key component to a lovely yard with curb appeal. Treating your plant’s root system with care also plays a key role in their health. At the zoo, when construction and maintenance is happening amongst the landscaping, I always let the crews know how important it is to go around the plants and trees. Disrupting the roots is much like cutting off an arm or a leg for us – they need their roots intact because it provides important nutrient and water uptake along with structural stability.
Tony Range is a horticulture supervisor at the St. Louis Zoo and also a contributing author for STLZOO Magazine. I appreciated the time he took out of his busy schedule to offer planting and landscaping tips for homeowners.
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