This is the time of year when many homeowners refurbish their landscaping, making their homes more salable and generally more attractive.
"Good landscaping could potentially boost a home's value anywhere from 6 percent up to 28 percent," according to a Clemson University study of homes as quoted in a report by the National Association of Realtors.
"So that means a bad landscape design could potentially dent a home's value by that much. And that isn't chump change; it equates to potentially thousands in lost money just from poor curb appeal."
The report also points out some pitfalls in planning improvements in your home landscaping.
"Don't overdo it with the mulch volcanoes that pile high over the trunk of a tree. Mulch needs to be applied loosely. "Mulch mounds may look like the norm, but it's a harmful practice," says Michael Rittenhouse Rigby, an arborist.
"Some home owners don't think through their plantings before they start planting. The result? An overgrowth of plants that quickly become unruly. In general, tall plants should go in the back; small plants in front. Also, avoid planting too many large plants.
"They may have a tough time taking root. Small foliage, on the other hand, tends to have a better chance at survival."
Your landscaping plans should consider possible future plans for expansion of key rooms in the home, the report noted.
"If you end up expanding your home or garage, per se, make sure you maintain a sizable distance from any large trees in the yard or take special precautions to protect the tree's roots. It can take awhile to see the damage of roots from large trees, but eventually it will show itself. Trees can be costly to remove or cause damage to your home if they fall. Hire a tree specialist prior to any construction projects in your yard.
"Just like mulch, you can quickly overdo it here. Landscaping with gravel can save water but it reflects heat and can potentially damage even the hardiest of plants, landscapers note. What's more, gravel may get mixed into the underlying soil and then make it more difficult for plants to absorb rainwater. Use gravel cautiously."
Q: Is it true that renting a home can be risky?
A: One scam that's been surfacing at points throughout the country relates to renting a home without actually meeting the owner. This usually involves a vacant home and an owner who lives out of the area.
The property is promoted as a potential rental not by its owner but by a con artist posing as its owner. When a deal is finalized and the initial rent and security deposit is paid, the fake owner and money disappear.
To avoid this trap, check the legal records at the local county recorder's office, or have your attorney do this. If you discover a possible scam, contact police or District Attorney's office.
Q: Are mortgage rates finally rising?
A: No. In fact, they have dropped to the lowest point this year. Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey, showing mortgage rates declining slightly from the previous week to reach a new low for the year.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.58 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending April 14, 2016, down from last week when they averaged 3.59 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.67 percent.
Q: Considering the new low rates, when will mortgage application rise?
A: Applications jumped by 10 percent it was announced by the Mortgage Bankers Association on April 13. This reflects a significant rise in applications during the past week.
"Helped by a persistently strong job market and low rates, applications for both conventional and government home purchase loans increased last week. Applications to refinance also increased as the 30 year contract rate decreased to its lowest level since January 2015," said Mike Fratantoni, MBA's Chief Economist in a news release.
"The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 54.9 percent of total applications from 54.5 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 5 percent of total applications."
To find out more about Jim Woodard and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Jim Woodard's email: [email protected]