In the US there are over 12,000 homes are selling every day , and nearly 9,000 buyers are receiving mortgages every day. Last month the Wall Street Journal reported, “Homes sales data provided fresh support for the view that the strong start to the spring home buying season, marks the beginning of a recovery, not a temporary blip due to unusually warm weather.” The spring market is typically the strongest market, and we have seen a lack of inventory. The decrease in supply has been driven by two factors: foreclosure property not yet released to the market and an increase in demand as rates remain low and consumer confidence rises.
Saving water in your garden translates to saving money on your water bill. Here’s how to practice garden water conservation and still have a gorgeous yard.
1. Choose native plants
Native plants have had eons to adjust to the area’s normal rainfall, soil, and climate. Once established, they require little or no watering. Start your research on native plants at your local cooperative extension or botanical garden.
Websites such as eNature.com or H2ouse can help you find the best species for your location. Portland-based PlantNative has a handy database of nurseries nationwide that specialize in native plants.
2. DON’T SUPERSIZE PLANTS
The bigger the plant, the more water it might require. So don’t plant shrubs genetically programmed to grow bigger than you need.
Before you buy, research at the library or online how tall and wide mature shrubs will grow. A Leyland Cypress, for instance, could grow to 20 feet in a few years, overkill if you only need a 5-foot hedge.
Also, don’t overcrowd plants: Follow label planting instructions. Fewer plants require less water. And flora that looks sparse at first will fill the area in a few seasons.
3. PILE ON THE MULCH
Mulching around plants is a great way to reduce water loss. Mulch also cuts down on water-stealing weeds.
Natural mulches include compost, bark chips, and pine needles. Save money by spreading your grass clippings and ground-up leaves on flower and vegetable gardens. These organic mulches gradually break down and add nutrients to the soil.
Inorganic material, such as landscaping paper, rocks, and pebbles, are a more permanent option, although they can heat up too much in some climates.
4. MAKE PATHS POROUS
Garden paths made of porous material allow rainwater to seep into the ground and nourish plant roots, not run off into the street.
Use gravel, pebbles, non-mortared concrete pavers, or spaced bricks. Beware, however, that weeds will grow between paving materials. To keep down weeds, line the walk with landscaping paper (or even newspaper) before you pile on the porous material.
5. LOSE THE LAWN
A green lawn is a suburban ideal that drinks more than 20,000 gallons of water each year.
You can keep those cool blades under your feet and save water by planting drought-resistant varieties. Bermuda and buffalo grass, for instance, require 20% less water than fescue or bluegrass, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Keep grass long to shade roots and retard evaporation. Mow less often; and when you do, raise the height of your mower blade to 3 inches.
6. PUT THIRSTY PLANTS TOGETHER
To save water, group plants into watering zones. Place the thirstiest plants near the house where they can drink roof runoff. Farther out, make a “transition zone” for plants that need supplemental drip irrigation.
Farther still is a “natural zone” for native plants that can survive on rainfall alone.
7. PLANT AND WATER WHEN IT’S COOL
New plants and transplants need far less water if you put them in the ground in early fall or early spring when it’s cooler. By summer, they’ll have established a deep, healthy root system that needs less watering.
Water in the cool of the morning, when you’ll lose less water to evaporation than in the heat of the day. Resist watering at dusk; wet foliage during the night encourages fungus and mildew growth.
8. DO DONUTS
Trees and shrubs need extra water during their first couple of years to help roots take hold. An efficient way to keep roots moist is to mound several inches of soil into a donut-shaped berm. Make the berm the width of the tree–including branches.
Use a hose or bucket to fill the donut dam to the top. Water will absorb slowly instead of running off.
Another option: Attach a $25 to $30 drip irrigator bag to the tree. It looks like a plastic flotation tube and releases water slowly over several hours.
9. FOLLOW THE SUN
Before you plant, get to know how–and how long–the sun bathes your garden. Determine patterns of shade and sun.
Use dry-soil plants in sunny areas, and use plants that require more water in shady areas where evaporation is slower.
10. CREATE THE ILLUSION OF WATER
A good way to conserve water in the garden is to capture rain water from your roof in a rain barrel. During a moderate rainfall, a 25-by-40-foot roof can shed 600 gallons per hour.
All you’ll need is a capture system (roof gutters and downspouts), a storage system (large-capacity barrels) and delivery system (garden hose).
Also, use rainwater to fill water features, which calm your nerves and attract birds and butterflies. Use a recirculating pump to keep the water flowing; replace evaporation with your rain barrel supply.
Does “natural” mean organic? Should you buy anything labeled “non-toxic”? Here are the truth and eco-facts about many of the green terms you find on product labels.
What’s really green? Soon you’ll have a little more confidence about green product marketing claims, such as “biodegradable” and “recyclable”: The Federal Trade Commission, which sets standards for the use of environmental claims in its Green Guides, is getting tougher on green terms.
Proposed revisions to the Green Guides will make it harder for companies to make unsubstantiated green claims about their products.
So when is all this happening? An FTC official we spoke to says the revisions may be final this summer. Until then — and even after then, since the guides don’t have the force of regulation — put on your skeptic’s hat when you shop and be prepared to research labels before you buy.
1. “Organic”: a green term that really means something
Organic is the one term in our list that’s federally regulated — by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to be specific. Product makers making this claim must prove their stuff is “produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation, or bioengineering.” Period.
FTC is cracking down on these terms
2. “Recyclable.” After the new guidelines are adopted, a manufacturer can use this term without a caveat only if a substantial majority of communities nationwide have facilities that can actually recycle its product. Before you buy, do your homework to see what you’re able to recycle locally. Also, take a closer look when a product claims to be “recycled” (a term that’s not covered in the Green Guides).
What you really want to look for is “post-consumer recycled” content. These products have been diverted from the landfill, so you’re truly helping reduce the waste stream when you buy them.
3. “Biodegradable.” When you see this term, you think, “Great, I don’t need to worry about throwing this away; it’ll break down naturally.” But many products labeled biodegradable need ideal composting conditions to break down — and some won’t degrade even then.
The FTC’s new guidelines require that products or packaging labeled “degradable” break down within a year in normal disposal conditions.
Heads-up: That means the term likely won’t apply to anything you’d throw in the trash, because items simply don’t degrade in landfills. It’s far better to reduce waste in the first place than to expect it to disappear.
4. “Compostable.” In the future, products with this claim shouldn’t take any longer to break down than the rest of your compost pile.
5. “Non-toxic.” The FTC’s new guidelines say that non-toxic claims should mean the product isn’t harmful to humans and safe for the environment. But research the product online if the label is vague. And definitely don’t assume kids or pets can ingest it safely.
The fuzziest green term of all
6. “Natural” is unregulated by the government. It’s not interchangeable with organic or healthy, although manufacturers want you to think if it’s natural, it has to be good for you, right? Not so much. Take ammonia. It’s a naturally occurring compound, but it’s also a toxic pollutant. Without context, the word natural doesn’t mean much.
A label to help you decide
When you’re just not sure about a product’s claims, look for certification by a reputable third party — like Scientific Certification Systems.
Its green-and-blue SCS label provides some reassurance that a product lives up to its claims. SCS sets tough standards for the terms biodegradable and recycled content, according to BuildingGreen, an independent company that educates building professionals on green certifications. And the label has been around a long time.
Some SCS guidelines:
- SCS only certifies liquid products as biodegradable — cleaners, detergents, and soaps that break down completely in natural conditions in 28 days.
- Recycled products include a wide array of building products — windows, doors, insulation, carpets, tiles, and more — so seek them out.
Chicago’s real estate inventory is low, with less than 6 months worth of inventory. Well maintained homes that show perfectly and are priced at the market are selling in weeks. A lot of homes (discounted and not discounted) have sold this year. This is reflected by the increase in sales volume across Chicago’s north side, and prices are showing signs of stabilizing. These are positive signs of improvement, but we are not totally out of the woods yet. At the end of June, 111 leading financial analysts are predicting a further drop of .4% before the end of the year, and it’s expected that Chicago and Illinois will have another wave of distressed/discounted property come into inventory – especially after the election.
Election years can be tough on growth because of the uncertainty of which party and who will next be in office, but the following year is better. On a national level, we can expect modest increases as part of this recovery which indicates that things are starting to turn the corner. By the end of 2013, we can expect a gain of 1.3 which when you take away the .4 drop leaves a 1% gain. To put this into the context of the question whether to sell or hold, let’s take a look at some numbers. If your home’s present value is $300,000, you’d have an increase of $3,000 by the end of 2013. If your home’s value is $500,000, then it would be about $505,000 by the end of 2013.
Whether you stay put or decide to rent out our home, there are other factors to consider: your home will 1 year older – may require decorating and updating, taxes may go up (no longer eligible for homeowner exemption), routine and/or emergency maintenance and how many other people are waiting to do sell – will you have more competition? If you become a landlord, consider that the tenants will likely not keep your home as nicely as you did and your home will not show as well as it did when you lived there – especially if it’s vacant. If you bought near the bubble and haven’t paid down much of the principal on the loan, the other important factor to weigh is whether you will be better able to absorb the loss that will come with selling. Will you be able to save more than you stand to gain by waiting?
Spring’s robust housing market looks to be continuing its streak into summer.
Spring’s strong housing market doesn’t seem to be an aberration of our tepid winter. The pending-home sales index shows demand is strong. In this week’s Friday Five, we take a closer look at those numbers, a prediction for the next hot real estate markets, and more.
Wall Street Journal: Housing’s Boost: Time to Stop Blaming Weather?
For months, economists have mused over whether the surprisingly strong start to the spring housing market has come from an unseasonably warm winter that simply led buyers back into the market earlier than usual. But Wednesday’s report on pending-home sales shows that housing demand hasn’t eased heading into the traditional peak buying season, despite an early start to the spring, the economic storm clouds in Europe, and a slower rate of job growth at home.
Business Insider: Small Cities Will Be the Best Housing Markets for Next 20 Years
During the housing bust, two hypotheses made the rounds. The first one stated that the American attachment to home ownership is over. The second one was home owners will eschew suburbs in favor of the convenience and vitality of urban living. I don’t believe either of these to be true. People are practical and know that buying, when factoring in today’s historically low mortgage rates, is currently more affordable than it has been in several decades, and that buying is currently a much better deal than renting in many metros across the country. And my best guess is that the biggest winners in the housing market two decades from now are going to be small- to mid-sized cities.
Herald-Tribune: Household Formation and Jobs are Keys to Housing Market
In the early 2000s, which was a “normal” time in the American housing market, more than 1.3 million households were formed each year. But in the past five years, only about 590,000 households have been formed annually as the Great Recession has lingered and the real estate market collapsed. “There’s been a sharp increase in the number of young adults living with Mom and Dad. That isn’t a sustainable lifestyle for either the mom or the kid,” said David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders. “Something has to change, but we need jobs and the number of jobs has been slow to increase.”
Time: Can the Economy Get Healthy Without a Housing Recovery?
This spring has been filled with disappointing economic news, but one bright spot has been the possible bottoming out of the housing market. The conventional wisdom is that a stable housing market is important not only because housing as an industry takes up a large part of the nation’s yearly output but also because the home is most Americans’ largest source of wealth. Rising home prices, or even the absence of falling home prices, would go a long way to motivate the American consumer to feel more confident.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: More Documentation Needed for Loan Approval Today
Strict rules now used by lenders to qualify home buyers for mortgages are a direct result of the relaxed requirements during the housing boom in the mid-2000s that led to the Great Recession and millions of foreclosures. Now it’s more difficult to loan get approval than in the past. A new federal agency — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — is attempting to add clarity to the process and help potential home buyers understand and evaluate the costs and information needed to obtain a mortgage.