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21
Jul-2014

From Rick’s Desk: Want to Sell Your Home or Are You Trying?

A question I get asked a lot is, “We want to sell our house. What can we do to improve its ‘curb appeal’ and reduce the time on the market?” The people asking the question are considering selling or already have their house on the market and are having a difficult time closing the deal.

The obvious answer is just common sense. How does the property look? Are your shrubs, trees, and bushes in need of pruning and trimming? How do the mulch beds look? Is there a clear distinction between bed and lawn? Is the mulch old or does it just need to be turned? Are the beds and tree rings compromised by unsightly weeds? Are the property lines clearly defined or are samplings, weeds, and tall grass encroaching your lawn? Is the lawn itself consistently maintained? The simple answer is that pruning, weeding, edging and mulch can add instant curb appeal and make a good first impression.

If this is not an issue, perhaps a few upgrades and improvements may be a necessary investments to increase your property’s value and subsequently its curb appeal. But what to do?

A new report by the American Society of Landscape Architects may be just the ticket to help you decide which outdoor features are the best bets. According to the 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, the most popular upgrades include:

• Outdoor lighting rated “Very Popular” with 98.3% of architects. In addition, there are many low-cost options available such as solar and LED lights.

• Terraces, patios and decks (97.7%) effectively add another room to a home that can be enjoyed for a large portion of the year. Included in this is outdoor heating solutions.

According to the landscape architects surveyed, low-maintenance landscaping when done right can add 28% to the value of your home and cut its time on the market by 10-15%.

On the other hand, landscape projects that are less popular and less likely to add value to your home include geothermal-heated pools (27.2%), outdoor cooling systems (37.2%), shower/baths (46.8%) and gazebos (48.5%).

Whether you are looking to sell now, invest, or simply stay, here’s something to consider if you have a deck or patio and spend a lot of time there.

Extend the Outdoor Living Season

Although we are a couple of months away from the end of the season, here are some ideas on how to make the most of your deck or patio into the fall and the cool nights of late summer.

There are many ways to make an outdoor living area comfortable long after the sun sets or the leaves turn with outdoor lighting, a patio heater, and a glowing fire-pit or portable fireplace.

Let’s take them one at a time…

Light the Deck or Patio

As the days grow shorter and the sun sets sooner, deck and patio lighting helps you to avoid the limited hours you may want to use your deck or patio. Adding low-voltage or solar outdoor lighting fixtures lets you relax well after dark.

With both lighting types, you can light deck railings and stairs, define the patio perimeter, illuminate the edges of paths and walkways, and draw attention to plantings, shrubs, or trees. There are also fixtures available to light up dining tables, grill surfaces, and even underwater in swimming pools or water features

Low-voltage fixtures clip onto a safe, 12-volt cable connected to a transformer, which plugs into a GFCI-protected 120-volt electrical outlet. A timer or light-sensitive control automatically turns lights on and off.

Solar outdoor lighting fixtures don’t need cables and transformers. They simply turn themselves on automatically after dark. Each stand-alone fixture stakes into the ground or secures to a deck or exterior surface. You’ll save energy, as a sunlight-charged battery powers the bulb.

The downside to solar fixtures is a dimmer glow than low-voltage fixtures, and fewer lighting hours – many solar fixtures run out of stored energy after 4-5 hours on the job. Cloudy days also reduce power.

Get “Glowing” with a Fire-pit or Portable Fireplace

Bring a cozy glow and a stylish focal point to your outdoor living area with a fire-pit or portable fireplace. Irresistible for gathering, warming up, and roasting marshmallows, fire-pits and portable fireplaces come in a variety of materials, sizes, and styles. You’ll also find options for fueling your fire with wood, propane, gas, or gel cans.

Just to be sure check local fire codes first to find out if your community allows the use of a fire-pit or portable fireplace on the patio or lawn. And never use a fire feature on a wood deck!!

A fire-pit is an open bowl, dish, or pan that varies in size from 24 inches across to about 40 inches. A fire-pit may come on a stand or nestle into a tiled tabletop. Select a model with screening to contain flyaway sparks. Additionally, fire-pits may be constructed from pavers and incorporated into a new or existing patio design.

A portable fireplace features a chimney to vent smoke up and away from people. Some portable fireplaces offer 360-degree views of the fire.

Warm up with a Patio Heater

Boost the warmth of your outdoor living area by as much as 15-25 degrees in the fall or spring with the addition of a portable patio heater. You’ll find three basic models:
Freestanding units resemble large floor lamps. Set them anywhere on your patio that will accommodates their 7-8 foot height. Some models include wheels for mobility. Expect to pay from $150 to $1,500, depending on heat output and fuel source.

A tabletop patio heater rests on a table, bench, or garden wall. These compact units typically produce less heat than tall, freestanding models. Prices range from $100 to $450.
Ceiling- or wall-mount patio heaters free up floor and table space, and typically emit heat via a halogen lamp. Prices vary from $175 to $1,500.

Make your selection based on how much outdoor living area you want to heat and whether you want a model powered by electricity or natural gas (each requiring a connection) or with a propane tank, which allows mobility.

As a rule of thumb, a 47,000 BTU propane-powered, floor-standing patio heater ($200) will heat an 18-foot diameter space. A 20-pound propane tank (about $36, plus $13 for fuel) offers about 10 hours of heating time.

Electric patio heaters use a quartz tube or halogen lamp that emits radiant heat. An infrared wall-mount electric patio heater ($450) equipped with a 1500-watt bulb heats a 9-foot area around the heater and uses about 14.4 kilowatts for a 10 hour period. At 8 cents per kilowatt for electricity, you spend about $1.15 to operate the unit for 10 hours.

Of course, I would be a miss if I didn’t tell you that since 1980, Greco Landscaping has the experience, the know-how, and the solutions to help you enjoy your outdoor living area in style and comfort long after the sun sets.

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