Blog :: 02-2016

6 Steps to Year-Round Curb Appeal

We all want to come home to a house we’re proud to live in. But sometimes, especially when the wintery greys of Vermont are all around us, curb appeal takes a back seat. Never fear, we found this Realty Times article by Andrea Davis with easy steps for year-round curb appeal.

Exceptional curb appeal will add to the enjoyment and value of your property and home. Maintaining your curb appeal throughout each season may pose its challenges, but with these tips, you can ensure that your home and landscaping will look their very best throughout the year.

#1 Clean It Up

A thorough power wash is essential for maintaining the cleanliness of your home, driveway and walkways. Many homeowners prefer to do this in the spring, but you might consider an additional wash in the fall as well. By keeping your landscape free of debris like broken branches and dead trees, you can better maintain the appearance of your property.

#2 Planting for Seasonal Interest

It's helpful to plant with each season in mind to ensure that your landscape looks great year-round. Spring bulbs and flowering trees add visual interest to your landscape at the start of the growing season. A lush lawn and pots of colorful annuals can provide eye-catching appeal in the summer. Think about late summer perennials and deciduous trees or shrubs that boast spectacular fall colors. Evergreens are classic winter plants, but you might also wish to plant trees like birch or interesting shrubs to draw the eye.

#3 Vertical Interest

To avoid flat looking landscaping, be sure to include vertical interest. Arches, even when bare during the winter season, will add visual interest to your front yard. Hanging plants, vines, climbing plants, trellises and even a decorative light post will ensure that your yard has a visual balance year-round.

#4 Hardscaping

Plants aren't the only method of achieving excellent curb appeal. Consider replacing a worn-out front walkway with elegant cobblestone or brick pavers. Replace mulch with stone or encircle trees and shrubs to achieve a more formal look for your property. Boulders can be strategically placed to draw the eye and provide further visual interest for your setting.

#5 Tackle Problem Areas

If you have a slope that's difficult to mow or a sunken section of landscaping that always seems to flood, consider a solution. A low-maintenance, terraced garden is ideal for sloping sections of land that are difficult to mow. On the other hand, there are no-mow grasses that can replace a traditional lawn. Installing adequate drainage for low-lying areas of your landscape can help reduce the flooding that occurs during stormy seasons.

#6 House Appeal

You can increase the year-round curb appeal of your home by maintaining its outward appearance. A pleasing door, elegant fixtures, contemporary railings, eye-catching shutters and stylized window boxes will go a long way to boost your curb appeal. For an additional wow factor, consider expanding your porch or replacing worn siding to improve the appearance of your home.

Conclusion

Great curb appeal begins with assessing your current setting. When you do install new features, it's important to consider how they will appear during each season.

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Things to Consider when Purchasing Land in Vermont

The following is an outline of some of the factors that prospective buyers should consider before purchasing a lot on which to build their new home. This outline has been prepared as a reference for those interested in building in Vermont. The information in this outline should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal, environmental, economic and other professional advice before making your decision to buy land.

Lot and lot improvements are a major portion of the costs involved in building a new home.

Many financing institutions consider and limit the ratio of lot and lot improvements to the total construction cost of your home.

Choosing and purchasing the land, on which you are going to build your new home, is as important as choosing the home.

  1. Budget
  2. Location
  3. Permitting
  4. Septic
  5. Soils
  6. Power
  7. Water
  8. Driveway
  9. Impact Fees
  10. Other

 

1) BUDGET

Time and energy can be saved, as well as avoiding disappointments if you determine your total construction budget before searching for land.

  • The most prudent first step in constructing a new home is determining what you will, or are able to spend for each major portion of the total construction package.
  • The major cost components are the lot, the lot improvements, and the home.
  • By doing this you know how much is planned in your budget for the purchase of land and land improvements, allowing you to aim your search at lots that meet your budget requirements.

2) LOCATION

You can speed your search by determining:

  • The distance from a particular focal point that you are willing to locate
  • Particular towns in which you desire to build
  • Towns in which you do not wish to build
  • The size of the lot you desire.

In addition, consider if you want your lot:

  • wooded
  • open
  • on a dirt road, or paved road
  • in a village, or would you prefer a more rural setting.

The more you define what you would like in a lot provides you, and anyone searching for a lot for you a quick reference in determining if you are going to follow up on a lot lead.

Remember, rarely do people find a lot with all of the attributes they have outlined. Compromise is almost always a necessity in making your final choice.

Get a Google Earth shot of the parcel and you can actually have a "bird's-eye view."

Get a topography map of the parcel. It will tell you how the elevation changes and where a good building site might sit.

An experienced real estate agent will also have a tax map, which can demonstrate topography, a bird's-eye view, and soils information.

3) PERMITTING

This is a very important consideration before purchasing a lot.

The realtor, legal counsel or the landowner should be able to provide you with what permitting is required before you can build on the land.

However, this does not replace the need for you or your representative to investigate the need for any local and state permitting. In addition, you should determine if there are any deeded restrictions, the right of ways or environmental concerns relative to the parcel of land that you are considering.

For instance, a 10-acre lot might have 3 acres of wet lands. This would mean that there are state restrictions relative to what you can and can not do in and near the wet lands.

For additional wetland permitting information please check out the Vermont Land Owners Guide to Wetlands

Always consult with legal counsel relative to permitting and other restrictions, before purchasing any land.

Most lots on the market are permitted to the point where only building and curb cut permits are required before construction can begin.

Permitting requirements are of crucial importance. They can be expensive in both time and money.

Effective July 1, 2014, the Vermont Legislature passed the Shoreland Protection Act (Chapter 49A of Title 10, §1441 et seq), which regulates shoreland development within 250 feet of a lake's mean water level for all lakes greater than 10 acres in size. The intent of the Act is to prevent degradation of water quality in lakes, preserve habitat and natural stability of shorelines, and maintain the economic benefits of lakes and their shorelands. The Act seeks to balance good shoreland management and shoreland development.   Also for additional information please access the Vermont Shoreland Protection Handbook.

4) SEPTIC

If you consider purchasing a lot that does not have access to a municipal sewer system, you should be certain that the lot can support an on-site system, the type of that system and the cost associated with its construction.

Most lots will have had soil testing done to determine if a septic system can be built. In addition to the type of system required, you should determine if a septic plan design has been prepared by a Vermont licensed engineer. If not, the cost associated with having an engineer design a system will become part of the lot improvement cost.

Even though there are other considerations that will effect the construction cost of a septic system, the major difference in cost is related the type of system.

The system requiring the least cost is a conventional system.

If the soils do not support a conventional system, a mound system  or pre-treatment system is usually required. A mound system will cost as much as four times what a conventional system will cost.

In most instances, the septic system is part of the permitting. If required, be certain that a permit and design exists for the septic system.

5) SOILS

In addition to septic consideration, the nature of the soils can impact the cost of construction.

For instance, the existence of ledge that requires blasting can add thousands of dollars to the construction cost.

We suggest discussing this issue with your contractor before purchasing a particular lot.

6) POWER

The cost of extending electric power to the location of your new home is a major consideration that can be a substantial cost.

You should discuss this with the provider of electrical service to the area and with you contractor, to determine what the installation of electric power to your home will cost. Will it be over head or under ground electrical.  Off grid or solar.

7) WATER

If the lot you are considering does not have access to a public water system, you should check with your contractor or a well company to determine

  • what is the average depth of wells in the area
  • and what is the expected cost of a total water system, including pump and installation.

Regardless of the depth wells are averaging in the area, it is not a guarantee that a well on the lot you are considering will be the same depth.

8) DRIVEWAY

The distance that a driveway needs to be constructed will affect the cost of lot improvement.

Obviously, the longer the driveway the more the construction cost, as well as the cost of plowing, sanding and upkeep.

9) IMPACT FEES

Some cities and towns impose an impact fee on any new construction within the city, or town limits.

There may be one fee or a fee for the impact on each municipal service.

In some instances, these fees total several thousand dollars, which in turn increases the cost of a new home by the same amount.

You should always check with the town, or city clerk to determine if there are impact fees associated with the construction of a new home in the area you are considering building.

10) OTHER

Other factors will have an effect on the lot improvement costs, including:

  • Topography
  • How much area must be cleared of trees and stumps
  • Water drainage and Storm Water Run Off

Contact us at New England Landmark Realty and we would be happy to help you begin your land search or start your Waterbury or Stowe, VT land search here.

 

Show Your Home Some Love This Month

We all love (or at some point loved… hopefully) our homes, but how often have we shown it? It is the roof that keeps the snow out after all! So this month we urge you to give back. Why? Because no matter if you’re selling, just moved in, renting, or in your happily ever after home, if you show your house some love, it will surely return the favor.

And to help you do that, here are a few simple ways Bob Vila (from This Old House, bobvila.com, and a few other shows) suggests you show your love:

  1. Arrange Flowers: There’s a reason we associate flowers with love and happiness, especially this time of year when the outside world is cold and gray. The next time you’re running errands, why not grab an assortment, or a dozen stems of your favorite flower? Apart from the beauty of the blooms, your house will reward your generosity with a wonderfully fresh scent. 
  2. Replace the Shower Curtain: It’s cosmetic, sure, but while you’re saving up for a full remodel, replacing the shower curtain is an easy, quick, and inexpensive shortcut on the way to a rejuvenated bath.
  3. Countertop TLC: While normal cleaning will make your countertops look good, a bit of extra care will make them look great. Whether laminate, granite, marble or stainless steel, there are great ways to maintain the countertop material in your kitchen. 
  4. Restore Cabinets: If your stained or painted wood cabinets have seen better days, give them a facelift. Your level of investment in the required tools and materials will be small, and the immediate payoff to the look of your kitchen is likely to be huge.
  5. Hang Art: Artwork can transform any room in an instant. Choose a piece that appeals to your taste and complements your existing room decor.
  6. Upgrade Your Furnace Filter: It’s easy to keep buying replaceable fiberglass furnace filters, but if you really want to treat your HVAC system well, consider stepping up to a model that improves air quality and energy efficiency.
  7. Organize a Closet: While it may take some serious effort, putting your closets in order will not only make you feel better, but will also make your life easier. Take measurements and use appropriate storage hooks, containers, and shelves to corral your closet items.
  8. Clean Your Carpets: Really clean them. Either hire a professional or rent one of those heavy-duty cleaning machines over a long weekend. Sure, the carpet may look clean enough, but a thorough conditioning not only removes dirt, but also redistributes the pile, making the carpet appear new again.
  9. Paint a Room: Just one! Whether you’re changing the color or not, a fresh coat of paint is almost never a bad idea. And for as little as $25 a can, painting is one of the easiest home improvement projects you can tackle.

Check out the original article and links additional help with these tips here.