2022 Home & Garden

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SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2022 |



Sunday, May 15, 2022 SECTION C


BUY NEW OR IMPROVE? The age-old housing question is more difficult than ever MARY PIEPER

For the Globe Gazette


eciding whether to sell your current home and buy a new one or stay put and make improvements is always a difficult one, but the current housing market in North Iowa makes it particularly challenging. Jenna Sheriff, president of the Greater Mason City Board of REALTORS® & Mason City MLS, said some sellers are hesitant to list their homes because there aren’t a lot of options to downsize or upsize to in the area. “Sellers are concerned about selling their home and not having anywhere to move to, which is why we are seeing more listings come on the market with the verbiage ‘subject to seller finding home of choice’ in order to allow the seller time to find their next home,” she said. Bill Cody, vice president of real estate lending at NSB Bank in Mason City, said the limited housing inventory in North Iowa means if you are looking to buy, “when something goes up for sale, you have to jump on it right away or you are going to lose the opportunity.” After a long period of low mortgage rates, those rates have been increasing over the past few weeks, according to Cody. He said this makes things even more difficult for buyers. “We got way too comfortable with those lower rates,” Cody said. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by half a point on May 4. It was the largest increase in 22 years. “That doesn’t necessarily mean real estate rates are going to go up that high that fast, but you should see a steady increase over the next couple of months,” Cody said. This means buyers have to be realistic about having to pay more than the list price to purchase a home, according to Cody. On the other hand, those who want to sell their home and buy a new one might get more money for their current home than they expected, he said. While interest rates were still low, some North Iowans considered refinancing to pay for home im-

provements, according to Cody. However, he said they had trouble finding construction materials due to supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. And when materials did become available, they were very expensive. Now that rates are increasing, it’s going to cost more to refinance, according to Cody. And it may be difficult to find a contractor because they are busy repairing buildings in North Iowa and southern Minnesota recently damaged by high winds and tornados. For those looking to build a new house rather than buy an existing one, the high cost of materials and the difficulty of finding an available contractor “makes things pretty tough,” Cody said. So, how do you know if you should sell your home and buy a new one or improve what you have so it’s a better fit for you? “Every situation is different,” Sheriff said. The decision should be made on a case-by-case basis depending on the following factors, according to Sheriff:  What is the current homeowners’ financial situation? How much do they still owe on their home?  Do they have money to help with a down payment and closing costs or is it contingent on the sale of their current home?  How long would they likely stay in their next home?

 What are the costs involved with the home improvement project? Those costs are likely higher now, too. Realtors encourage sellers to get an estimate of the desired home improvement to consider before putting their home on the market.  Would they have a place to stay or rent in the interim if their home sells quickly and they haven’t found their new home yet? There are costs associated with that as well.  Would they look at new construction or buying an existing home?  If they are willing to consider new construction, what is the time frame of building completion to coincide with listing their current property? Some signs that it it’s time to buy a new home are if the owners need private home office space, a larger yard, more living space, or more bedrooms, according to Sheriff. “If you plan to stay in your home longer, you will see more return on your investment with major updates and renovations,” she said. The kind of improvements homeowners should do depends on their financial situation, according to Sheriff. She also said material costs need to be taken into consideration. “It will be challenging to keep costs down with the cost of materials very high,” Sheriff said. “However, flooring and painting are a couple of low-cost, effective updates to make rather than a full kitchen or bathroom remodel.” For those who decided to buy a new home, having your mortgage pre-approval letter in hand from a bank will help you stay competitive in the current market with multiple offer situations being the new norm, according to Sheriff. She also said it’s important to have funds saved up for a good down payment and/or interest. “We as Realtors are here to guide our clients,” Sheriff said. “Ultimately, we recommend the homeowner gather some data and consider their financial situation to decide if selling or making improvements are a better option for them.”

What to plant when privacy is a priority METRO CREATIVE GRAPHICS

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A backyard oasis can feel like an even more welcoming retreat when the area is private. Homeowners and their families often find that a backyard is most relaxing when they cannot hear or see their neighbors, and creating such an environment can be as simple as planting some privacy trees. Fencing is an option when homeowners are looking to make their backyards more private. But HomeAdvisor reports that the average cost to install a privacy fence is just under $3,000, and those costs can be considerably higher depending on where homeowners live and how big a fence they need. Privacy trees can be considerably less expensive, and homeowners can spread out those costs by planting over time, an option that’s not possible when installing fencing. When planting privacy trees, homeowners can consider these

varieties that can do the job while also providing some aesthetic appeal.  Emerald arborvitae: The Arbor Day Foundation® notes that the emerald arborvitae is unique among arborvitaes because it maintains its green color even in the coldest months of the year. The emerald arborvitae can grow to between 10- and 15-feet-tall and spread as wide as four feet at maturity. The tree features a pyramid shape and is considered slow-growing at less than 12 inches of growth per year. The ADF reports that full sun and partial shade are best for this tree.  Carolina cherry laurel: Carolina cherry laurels are popular choices for privacy seekers. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes the trees can grow very tall and boast a pyramidal shape. The Carolina cherry laurel require sun and thrive in moist, well-drained soils. Parents with

young children should know that the leaves of this family of plant contain hydrocyanic acid and should never be eaten.  Boxwood: The ADF notes that boxwoods are renowned for their use in formal gardens. That can make them an ideal option for homeowners seeking a traditional garden aesthetic in their backyards. Boxwood trees can grow up to 20 feet tall, but they can vary greatly in height. Homeowners purchasing them as privacy trees should speak with their local gardening center to ensure they’re getting boxwoods that will provide ample privacy. Though they still have aesthetic appeal, smaller boxwoods may only reach a foot tall. Boxwoods vary considerably in terms of their growth rate, so homeowners should inquire about this as well before purchasing and planting any trees.  Privet: Privets are dense privacy hedges that grow very


quickly, with the ADF reporting they can grow up to three feet per year. Privets may reach 12 feet in height and spread as wide as six feet at maturity. Privets tolerate shearing well, which can make them ideal privacy options for those looking for a formal appearance. Privets require full sun for

uniform growth. Privets are considered invasive in many areas of North America, so homeowners should consult their local garden center prior to planting. The right privacy trees can be just what homeowners need to turn their backyards into relaxing respites.


| SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2022








f you’ve spent the pandemic looking around your home and deciding you need something different, you might be pondering a move up. To maximize what you get for your home, you might be pondering a few renovation projects. Here are the projects that net you the biggest return on your investment according to HGTV.


The average homeowner spends about $4,000 on landscaping, the American Nursery Landscape Association says, and HGTV says your average return is 100%. Add new sod to the front yard and pick native flowering plants for a pop of color

at the front of the house. Nix overgrown shrubbery and mix the heights of foliage for a dramatic effect.

Exterior improvements

New vinyl siding, paint and updating the front entry will run you a little more than $7,000 and you’ll get about 95% of it back. Use paint color cards to choose color combinations. Make sure you test for lead before painting or sanding if your home was built before 1978. It could have lead in the paint, which can be harmful to humans.

Attic bedroom conversion

Got room upstairs? HGTV says it will cost you around $40,000, but you’ll get

about 94% of it back. You need to make sure there’s plenty of insulation to lower your utility bills and that your existing HVAC can handle the load.

Major kitchen remodel

The kitchen is the heart of the home and it will run you about $45,000 for a major renovation that covers new cabinets, an island, countertops, sink, appliances and flooring. HGTV suggests removing overcounter cabinets and making countertops work for you by creating an eating bar. Stick with neutral colors to get the most bang for your buck.

Replacement windows

This job will cost you around $10,000

and you’ll get around 90% of that back. New windows can make your home more efficient and save on utility bills for either you or your home’s new owners. Side note: You may not recoup that much in hotter climates. In Las Vegas, for instance, you’ll only get around 60% of your investment back.

Living room updates

Giving your living room a facelift with new decor including light switches, outlet covers, floor registers and more will cost you about $2,000. You should expect to get about 60% of that back. If you’re following up this renovation with a sale, stage your home by moving excess furniture and clutter to storage.


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SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2022 |





taging your home might be nothing more than placing a new floral arrangement in the foyer, or baking a batch of fresh cookies. But that might make all the difference in a competitive real estate market. If you’re having trouble selling, or are just worried that it’s not set up to show off its best assets, consider making a few smart changes. Here’s how they can up your listing’s profile.


Staging your home might involve a huge makeover. More often, however, it comes down to the little things like creating pops of color or coordinating around a style. Create baskets of appropriate accessories for key rooms, including spices and jellies in the kitchen or spa oils and fragrances in the bath. Wrap your towels in attractive ribbons. Toss a small attractive blanket across a monochromatic piece of furniture. In the end, these tiny touches complete the look.

Making space

An inviting sense of comfort might be achieved with nothing more than scented candles, a few books or a well-placed new plant. But in other cases you may need to remove something rather than add to your home’s decor. Clear away kitchen gadgets or bathroom products to show off your countertop’s unique pattern. Store other bits of everyday clutter too, from towels drying on the shower door to the boots you kicked off yesterday. Everything will feel more spacious.


Get outdoors


Hiring a pro

Many forget that If you don’t have the outdoors are a a knack for dekey part of selling cor, consider hiryour home. After ing someone. A Highlight your home’s strengths, all, it’s the first home-staging downplay its weaknesses and appeal professional will thing a prospective to the greatest possible pool of buyer sees. Roll up arrive with knowlprospective buyers with these those sleeves and edge of both the home-staging tips from the real estate market clear away any dirty, experts at HGTV at in your area, and the disused or rusty items, bit.ly/35sRw01. including lawn-care latest style trends. They can help turn any ordinary equipment, grills and lawn chairs. A larger yard makeover listing into something extraormight be too costly or time consumdinary, showing off your home’s best ing if you’re trying to quickly sell, so fo- attributes — and de-emphasizing the cus on the areas around the doors, porches rest. Home stagers can be a wise investand balcony. Add a birdhouse or hanging ment before you take photographs for planter, completing the look with wind your real estate ad, and even more so if chimes or fresh-cut floral arrangements the home has been for sale longer than from your garden. expected.

Highlight your home’s strengths

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ardening has been growing in popularity. With how relatively simple and rewarding it is to start a home garden, it’s easy to see why. Raised garden beds, in particular, can be started without taking up much time or money. Raised beds can work almost anywhere, even in studio apartments. With a little bit of determination and patience, anyone can start a raised garden.

What do you need for a raised garden? To start a raised bed, you only need a container and soil. You can make raised gardens out of almost anything. If you’re on a budget while making your raised bed, look around you for things you already have. For example, wood pallets can be turned into raised beds. When choosing materials, avoid anything soaked in chemicals — such materials are usually marked. Common offenders include railroad ties and treated bricks. When in doubt, ask before you buy. You can also buy premade raised beds that only require assembly and soil. If you don’t want to commit to a raised bed, you can start a container garden. Container gardens are a good option for apartments since they’re adaptable and easy to move.

Filling your raised garden bed

Soil is important. If you buy low-quality soil, your garden won’t produce as much as it can. The best places to look for soil are your local nursery or other sources in your area. Some landfills have programs that can provide rich, healthy soil or compost. If you’re on a budget, rather than buying poor soil on the cheap, but good soil in


If you’re on a budget, buying soil in bulk can save you money in the long run. bulk. While it costs more up front, it saves you money down the line.

How to fill a raised garden bed

Filling a bed with soil can be expensive. If you have a small, raised bed, it’s worth it to fill it with compost or soil. Luckily, if you have a large, raised bed, you don’t need to fill it all with soil. Old wood works well as a base layer for raised beds. Since wood is an organic material, it will eventually break down into the soil. Cardboard or other sturdy organic matter also works well to block out weeds. Wood is the most classic option, based on the hugelkultur method. Wood takes some time to break down, so in the meantime, plant shallow-rooted plant varieties. After you have a base layer, you can fill the next part with softer organic matter. This includes lawn clippings, food scraps and leaves. Almost anything the plants can break down will work. Finally, fill the bed with your topsoil. There is no hard and fast rule about how much of the bed should be soil, so trust your judgment.

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Choosing plants

Once you have your raised bed made and filled, it’s on to the fun part: planting. When choosing vegetables, first consider your personal preferences. After your preferences, consider the plants’ needs. Light can be a particular problem if you’re low on space.

Best vegetables for beginners

Tomatoes work well for beginners because of their versatility and ease. Green onions or scallions are hardy, making them good for beginners. Scallions can even be regrown from scraps, so they’re handy if you’re on a budget. Arugula is fast-growing and hardy, making it perfect for beginners.

Best plants for limited space

Tall varieties of peppers are space-saving, since short plants like herbs can be planted around them. Peas, like peppers, grow vertically. Likewise, peas and pea shoots grow quickly and easily. Radishes are an easy option for growing in small spaces. They’ll grow under

trellis plants, as long as they get enough light. Companion and succession planting are also helpful if you’re limited on space.

Books to read

If you think gardening may be a longterm hobby for you, there are some excellent books on raised gardens. “Raised Bed Gardening for Beginners“ is a good starting place. This book is particularly helpful if you know you want a raised bed but aren’t sure where to start. “Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet“ is perfect if you’re low on space but still want to grow a large amount. This book features some inventive ideas on how to use space. “Veg in One Bed“ is for you if you have a bed but want help developing a garden plan. This book discusses different growing combinations and why they work. Jackalyn Beck is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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Punch up your patio decor

Sunday, May 15, 2022 |





Tribune News Service‌


ust because your patio is in the backyard doesn’t mean everything out there has to be green, beige or rust-colored. We often fall back on these old standbys. But summer is all about color, so liven up your patio space with some bold hues. Experiment with these options:

that plastic 1 Color With today’s new spray paints meant

for plastics, you don’t have to settle for bland forest green or beige plastic lawn chairs. Use a template and create polka dots in hot pink on a beige chair or turn that forest green to bright lime.

school with attitude 2 Old Try an Adirondack chair in robin’s egg

blue like the Generations upright Adirondack or a rich red Adirondack chair to give your seating a jolt of personality.

up white 3 Play Nothing looks better on white out-

door furniture that a bright splash of color.

Toss out those blah blue cushions and add a bold new set in aqua or purple.

pattern 4 Bold Ditch those tired leaves-and-flowers

prints and solid color outdoor cushions for a bold, dynamic pattern. It will catch your eye — and the neighbors’ too.

decor 5 Dining Take an alfresco approach to your out-

door dining and mix and match bright colors and patterns with abandon. Try mixing melamine dishes to create your unique look.


Pot it pretty

Don’t be afraid to mix bold plant colors together. A pot of lime green coleus next to some bright red flowers will make a statement in the garden. Contrasting colors look terrific together. Mix blues with yellow and lime green, or pair orange flowers with a deep purple potato vine.


Who says a picnic table has to have a plain wood finish? Repaint yours in a bold shade of aqua, magenta, chartreuse or even red.


Pattern underfoot

Who says cool rugs are only for indoors? A bright striped serape-look outdoor rug down will instantly bring up the rest of the patio.

ideas 8 Bright See your patio in a new light with

inexpensive Chinese paper lanterns in vivid colors and patterns. Hang a variety of sizes, colors and shapes to add extra dimension.


power 9 Picnic Who says a picnic table has to have

a plain wood finish? Repaint yours in a bold shade of aqua, magenta, chartreuse or even red. Set with patterned dishes and and contrasting napkins for a riot of color. As an alternative, set the table in white. For more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her Web site, www.redlotusletter.com.

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| SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2022





Buying a home? Understand what mortgage choices are available to you



etting pre-approved for a mortgage is often one of the fi rst steps you take when deciding to purchase a home. There are a lot of financing options out there and it can get confusing quickly. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common types of mortgages out there and what you need to know about each one.

Conventional loans

Conventional loans are mortgages that are not insured or guaranteed by the federal government. These are usually fixed-rate mortgages and, because they have stricter requirements, are usually some of the

hardest to qualify for. Conventional loans typically require a bigger down payment, a higher credit score, lower debt-to-income ratios and could also require private mortgage insurance. The upside is that these loans are usually less expensive than the loans guaranteed by the government.

Federal Housing Administration loans

The Federal Housing Administration also provides several mortgage choices. Typically, these have lower down payment requirements and are easier to get than conventional loans. These are great choices for firsttime home buyers because they have lower up-front cost and less stringent credit requirements. Down payments on FHA loans can be as little as 3.5% of the home’s purchase price. That said, FHA loans require mortgage insurance to protect the lender should the borrower default, die or is otherwise unable to meet the obligations of the mortgage.

Veterans Affairs loans

FHA isn’t the only government agency that guarantees loans. The Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees some mortgages to allow veterans to obtain home loans with favorable terms, sometimes even without a down payment. Like FHA loans, these loans are easier to quality for than conventional loans for qualified buyers.

Floating-rate mortgages

Also called adjustable rate mortgages or interest-only mortgages, these loans are the most help to first-time home buyers or to buyers to expect their incomes to rise substantially. As a borrower, you usually get a lower introductory rate for the first few years of the loan. That means you can qualify for more money than if you tried to get another kind of loan. These loans can be risky if your income doesn’t grow as fast as your interest rate rises.

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Sunday, May 15, 2022 |




elling your home can feel overwhelming, whether you’ve done it many times before or find yourself moving for the first time. There is a complicated process of paperwork, to say nothing of packing up everything you own. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get ready:



A year of normalcy for real estate?

Get an agent

You’ll have to find the right Experts say 2022 may finally bring more person to market and showcase equilibrium to the industry. It may not your property, and that might be fully back to the pre-pandemic take a while depending on your normal, but it should be a little familiarity with the local busiless crazed. Check out ness community. They are critical Bankrate’s forecast at figures, in particular for first-time bit.ly/3LnhNNn. sellers, since they’ll bring a wealth of expertise in what’s selling right now, competitive pricing, all of the required signatures and disclosures, even local lenders and inspectors. They can also help you set a timeline for when you’ll move out. Talk to your neighbors and check out online reviews, if you’re unsure of who to hire.

Create a budget

Decide how much you’re asking for in order to sell your home, based on a variety of metrics including how much you paid, how much equity you have in the home, and what homes of similar age and size are selling for in your market. Consider creating a second price point for any additional items the seller may be interested in, including furniture and accessories. You can then more comfortably set a price range for your next home purchase. Keep in mind that there are often extra expenses along the way, including movers and inspections.

Contact a lender

If you’re buying another home, start by discussing your pending sale with your own bank. If you’d prefer to use another lender, ask your agent or trusted friends for recommendations. You’ll want to secure funding from a lender even before looking for your next house, because many homeowners require a pre-approval letter before entering into an agreement to sell. You’ll need a host of personal documents — including pay stubs, tax returns and all relevant paperwork regarding your debts — as well as a credit check. All of that, obviously, can take time to gather and complete.

Downsizing considerations GREEN SHOOT MEDIA

Once the kids are out of the house, you may start thinking about downsizing and cashing out some of the equity in your home. Going smaller doesn’t have be painful. Keep reading for tips on how to downsize and find the right place for your lifestyle.

Start the decluttering process

A general rule of thumb according to Rocket Mortgage is to start at least three months before you plan to move. Find a balance and work through your possessions room by room. There are several methods of decluttering you can use, but remember that there’s no right way to declutter. Use a way that works for you.

Measure out your new space

You need to know the square footage and shape of the rooms you’re going to move into in order to know what items of furniture you need to keep and what can go. If you don’t have measurements, just look at general decluttering and get rid of items you absolutely know you won’t need. Bear in mind that your current fur-

niture might not fit in your space. Don’t try to squeeze your giant furniture into a tiny space. Instead, make thoughtful choices about what you can take.

Questions to ask yourself

Understanding why you want to downsize and what lifestyle you want to live can help you when decluttering in preparation for downsizing. Some suggested questions from Rocket Mortgage include: What are your top reasons for wanting to downsize? What opportunities will downsizing create? What will you miss the most about your old home? Are there new hobbies or activities that you’d like to explore? What are you most excited about in downsizing? What are you most nervous about? What is the first thing you want to do when you’re settled into your new home? Set your goals before you start decluttering to help you more thoroughly understand what you should keep and what needs to go.

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Popular plants act as

INSECT REPELLANT H Chrysanthemums The Farmers’ Almanac® recommends using chrysanthemums, which repel a range of insects from bedbugs to fleas to ants, as border plants around a home. That’s because they contain the natural insecticide pyrethrin, which can serve as something of an insect-repelling boundary around a home.


omeowners choose plants for their properties based on a number of variables. Some may be into growing their own foods, while others desire their gardens to be an awe-inspiring mélange of bright colors and alluring scents. There’s no wrong reason to plant a fresh garden, but some plants offer extra benefits, such as repelling insects. Insects can be a nuisance and a threat to individuals’ overall health. According to the American Academy of Family Phy-

sicians, insect-borne diseases are viral and bacterial illnesses that develop from insect bites. Mosquitoes, sand flies and fleas are some examples of insects that can pass on disease. Fever, chills, headache, and muscle soreness are just a few of the more common symptoms linked to insect-borne diseases. The good news for avid gardeners is that certain plants can help repel insects and provide the additional benefits like fresh food and aesthetic appeal that so many people love.

Basil The aroma of fresh basil is enough to compel any gardener to make a place for it in their garden. But there’s more to fresh basil than its scent, as the Farmers Almanac notes it can be used to repel mosquitoes and moths.

Lemongrass Mint Mint is another plant that is instantly recognizable for its aroma. But mint lovers may not realize that it’s also great for keeping ants at bay. Mint also can be used to repel mosquitoes, but gardeners with no experience planting mint should plant it in pots. That’s because the Farmers Almanac notes mint is an especially aggressive spreader that can quickly take over a garden. Separating mint in pots can prevent it from bullying its way into other plants’ domains.

Lavender Fleas, flies, mosquitoes, and moths are not fans of this aromatic and colorful member of the mint family. Bees tend to be drawn to lavender, a durable plant that many garden centers recommend in areas prone to drought or hot summers without much precipitation.

Lemongrass is a tropical grass that’s so fragrant it’s often used in perfumes. Lemongrass contains citronella, which many people associate with repelling mosquitoes. A potted lemongrass plant can repel these unwanted guests, keeping them away from decks, porches and/or patios all summer long. Insects are unwanted guests around a home each spring, summer and fall. Certain plants can help repel insects and serve as an eco-friendly alternative to insecticides.

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