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AVOID THESE LAWN CARE MISTAKES

It’s easy to take a few missteps when it comes to lawn care, especially if you’re a new homeowner and it’s your first time being solely responsible for your yard and landscaping. Here are a few tips that will help you avoid lawn-related frustrations.

Cutting the grass short. Lowering the height of your mower blades may give you a few extra days between each mowing, but it’s bad for your grass in the long run. Don’t go any shorter than 2.5 inches, or your grass could be starved for sunlight.

Watch where your dog urinates. Finally out of an apartment and ready to let the dog into the back yard when it’s time to go? You might regret it. Your pets’ urine can kill your plants and grass. Try to train your dog to go in one spot, preferably in stone or gravel.

Be careful with fertilizer. Fertilizing your lawn isn’t as simple as picking up any bag at a local store. Choosing the wrong fertilizer, using too much, or ignoring the instructions is a recipe for disaster. Do plenty of research or ask a professional if you need help choosing.

Give your plants room to breathe. The nutrients in soil are a finite resource, and your plants and shrubs also need their fair share of water and sunlight. If you plant your shrubs, trees, and flowers too close together, they’ll have to compete for those resources and may become malnourished. Pay attention to the planting recommendations for each plant to make sure that they have the proper space to thrive.

TIPS FOR SPEEDING UP YOUR HOME SALE

Selling your home is a huge undertaking to begin with, but if the process drags on for months and interest trickles in much slower than expected, it can be frustrating and stressful. To avoid this, there are a few steps you can take to prep your home and sell quickly.

Declutter. Survey your home and store any items that are not essential to the décor of the room. This can include personal photos and mementos, excessive throw blankets or pillows, children’s artwork, vases, lamps, knick-knacks, and more. The cleaner you keep counters, shelves, and mantles, the easier it is for potential buyers to picture themselves in your house.

Paint. A fresh coat of paint on the exterior or interior of your home can go a long way and is one update you can likely do yourself for fairly cheap. Repaint your home with a neutral color, like taupe, cream, or gray, that will allow potential buyers to easily envision adding their own touches to each room.

Availability. Buyers are drawn to sellers who are flexible with showings and can accommodate their schedule on short notice. The more open you are to showing times, the more buyers will see your home and the less likely they are to choose another home before seeing yours.

Photos. First impressions are key, and the first one your home makes is generally through photos online or on flyers and brochures. Investing in a professional real estate photographer can boost interest in your home. They have an eye for design and know how to highlight your home’s strengths and move the spotlight off any flaws.

TYPES OF MORTGAGES YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT

Before you purchase a home, it’s important to educate yourself of the various types of mortgages you can get so you can make the right decision when the time comes to choose yours.

Fixed Rate. The most popular on the market, a fixed-rate mortgage is ideal for homeowners who expect to stay in their home for many years. With a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, this loan makes it easier to plan your budget year over year.

Adjustable-Rate. This type of mortgage offers a lower interest rate and monthly payment at first, then slowly increases as time goes on. This type of loan can be beneficial for younger home buyers who expect to grow in their careers and make more money in the future.

Government-Insured. There are several types of government-backed mortgages including Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans, and more. These programs can help you finance a home if you meet each one’s qualifications.

Conforming. A conforming loan is one that falls within the maximum limits set by government agencies that back most U.S. mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With this type of mortgage, borrowing costs and required down payment are generally less, but interest rates can be a little higher.

Jumbo. This type of conventional loan applies if the home’s price exceeds federal loan limits. Your credit score generally must exceed 700 and you are required to make a larger down payment. However, it allows you to borrow more money to purchase a more expensive home.

IT’S TAX TIME: A GUIDE TO DIY

April 18 will be here before you know it, and if you haven’t made a decision on how you’ll prepare your taxes this year, here are a few tips that may push you toward a DIY approach.

Shop around for software
TurboTax (www.turbotax.com) is generally the most popular and trusted tax software option, but you’ll typically have to pay around $60.00 per year. It may me worth your time to shop around for some free options. Many tax prep software applications are free up to a certain income threshold, and your costs will also vary depending on the sources of your income. A person with a single W-2 form will usually pay less than a person with multiple W-2s, 1099s, investment income, and other income sources.

Take advantage of homeownership
If you’re reading this newsletter, there’s a good chance you’re a homeowner. Tax time is one of those events that show the benefits of homeownership, because you can get some major tax deductions. Mortgage interest, property taxes, and some home buying costs are among the deductions you may be eligible for. Your tax preparation software should guide you through these deductions.

DIY is great, but so is a tax professional
DIY tax preparation isn’t for everyone. Though tax software companies offer audit assistance for an extra fee, some people enjoy the peace of mind that comes with meeting a tax professional and being able to ask questions about your taxes in person.

A tax professional is particularly helpful if your taxes recently became more complicated, like if you started a business or completed several real estate transactions.