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5 Edible Landscaping Ideas for Your Yard

A grass lawn, trees and flowers all look wonderful in a yard—if they’re properly maintained.

All that work leads to an enjoyable view, but not much else. But instead of getting little in return for their yard work, homeowners can take advantage of their land and plant vegetables and fruits that can feed them for years to come.

Here are five types of edible landscaping to consider planting in your yard:

A bed of herbs can be as small or large as you want. Rosemary, thyme and oregano are easy to grow in a small garden bed that’s simple to build yourself, or you can plant them in pots on a patio or straight in the ground. Basil, an herb used often in Italian dishes, can grow almost anywhere.

Lettuce, radishes, carrots, cabbage, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, arugula and other salad greens can be planted in a small garden in a yard.

Leafy vegetables prefer nitrogen-rich soil, so add a lot of compost or manure before sowing seeds. Most will require regular watering and four to six hours of sun per day. If you live in a region where the temperature regularly exceeds 75 degrees Fahrenheit, grow salad greens in a shaded area so that they don’t form seeds.

Fruit and nut trees provide shade and food. Apple, peach and pear trees are common types to grow in a home’s yard.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the best low-maintenance fruit trees are plum, peach, pear and cherry. They don’t require aggressive watering and only require minimal fertilizer applications.

Nut trees that can be grown in a variety of locations include almond, chestnut, hazelnut, pecan, pine nut and walnut.

Vining Plants
By putting up a few decorative trellises in your yard, you can create a sitting area or entryway that’s full of edible vegetables or fruits called vining plants.

While scarlet runner beans can grow in the ground, they also look fantastic on a trellis with their red flowers climbing around it. Other kinds of vine-type beans can also be grown. Peas, squash and grapes are also excellent vining plants that can add flavor and beauty to a yard.

Edible Flowers
For the best of both worlds, plant edible flowers that are beautiful and can be turned into a salad that looks like a piece of art. Some edible flowers also work well in drinks and desserts.

Types of edible flowers include calendula, zucchini blossoms, hibiscus, lavender, nasturtiums, pansies and roses.

Don’t use flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. After picking edible flowers, wash them gently in a bowl of cold water and let them dry on a paper towel. Use them immediately, or store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container lined with a damp paper towel for up to a week.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

COVID-19 Update From Century 21 American Homes

There is no higher priority to our entire Century 21 American Homes Family than the safety of our employees, agents, clients and their families.

We are following the CDC on the steps we can take to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In additional to federal and local government guidelines and recommendations we have also taken the following measures:

  • Rescheduling certain events including our Heart of American Homes annual community fundraiser
  • Suspending in person sales meetings, training, and company gatherings for 30 days in all offices. As an alternative virtual options will be used for meetings and trainings.
  • Encouraging employees to exercise caution and take all appropriate health and safety measures, in coordination with their managers
  • Suspending Open Houses until further notice. The risk to our agents, homeowners and buyers is just too great at this time. As an alternative, we are will make technology available to host virtual open houses where possible.

Our Markets remain very active and the home buying and home selling process will look different but can still happen during the coronavirus crisis.

Century 21 American Homes is prepared to assist buyers and sellers overcome obstacles they may face to close on these properties during the current national emergency.

For a Safer Home: How to Clean Your Dryer Vents

You may think you have all the bases covered when it comes to fire safety at home, but have you considered your clothes dryer?

Clothes dryers are responsible for nearly 15,000 house fires each year, and according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading cause of dryer fires is a build-up of lint in the system. While you may be vigilant about cleaning your dryer’s lint trap, it’s also critical to take care of your dryer’s vent system as well. Here’s how to do it in 10 steps, courtesy of Erie Insurance:

1. Buy a dryer cleaning kit. You can typically purchase a dryer cleaning kit from a home improvement store for under $50. The price will go up depending on the quality of the kit’s materials and the length of the cleaning rods. If you have the proper attachments, a household vacuum may work, too.

2. Unplug the dryer. When working on any appliance, be sure to unplug it first for maximum safety. Either unplug your dryer or shut it off via the electrical panel before starting the cleaning process.

3. Pull the dryer away from the wall. You will need plenty of room to access the dryer vent, so pull the dryer as far away from the wall as the hose will allow. 

4. Detach the dryer vent hose. Remove any clamps or screws attaching the hose to the wall or dryer. This could be difficult depending on the length of the hose and where it leads.

5. Clean the moisture sensors. Wipe down the sensors inside your dryer with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. Do this each time you clean the dryer vent or when cycles become inefficient.

6. Clean the hose. Use a vacuum to suction lint from both ends of the hose. Then, use the brush from your cleaning kit to clear out any trapped lint. Keep a wire hanger nearby to snake out debris if necessary. Just be careful to not damage the hose in the process.

7. Reattach the hose. Put the hose back in its place and reattach any clamps or screws. Slide the dryer back against the wall.

8. Clean the exterior vent. Now that the hose is clear, head outside to take care of your home’s exterior vent. Remove the vent cover and clean any excess lint to make sure the vent pipe has no obstructions.

9. Run the dryer. Turn the power back on and run the machine empty for 20 minutes, using the air-dry setting. Check for air and lint blowing out of the exterior vent. Then, turn off the dryer and put the cover back on once the vent is clear.

10. Consider a pro. Don’t hesitate to call a professional if something doesn’t look right or you feel the job is more than you can handle. A pro can help uncover underlying problems and will know if it’s time for a new dryer altogether.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

7 ways to boost your home’s curb appeal

(BPT) – Whether you’re looking to sell your home soon or you just want to boost your investment, improving your home’s curb appeal is the best way to increase its value. Another upside of working on your property? The enjoyment and sense of pride after you complete each project.

Here are seven ways you can make your home look great that also increase your property’s value.

1. Conquer the yardwork

Regular lawn maintenance makes a huge difference in the overall appearance of your property. And the beauty of this approach – in addition to the beauty it will bring to your yard – is that it’s relatively inexpensive. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance backyard, consider integrating synthetic turf with pavers to create a stylish space that requires minimal upkeep.

Whether you tackle the yardwork yourself or you need to hire some help, a tidy and well-kept yard says a lot about a home – and homebuyers notice.

2. Improve your landscaping

For problem areas, you may want to consult a landscape professional. Increasing the variety of plant life can enhance your yard a great deal, while adding to your own enjoyment. Consider a raised garden, planter boxes or vertical gardens, if you live in an urban area or if your yard has a small footprint. However, before landscaping, a professional can also help you make the best choices for your particular yard and climate.

Planting trees strategically adds shade, making your yard more livable and cooling your home during the summer. Trees offer shelter from winter winds and improve drainage in wet areas. However, if you have a tree that is ill or too close to your home, removing it can protect your home and increase its value. Consulting a licensed arborist is wise if you have questions about trees on your property.

3. Consider hardscaping features

Creating interest – and usable outdoor spaces – with hardscaping can transform the appearance of your property dramatically.

“Hardscaping encompasses the nonliving elements of landscaping – like a paver patio, retaining wall or gazebo,” says Joe Raboine, director of residential hardscapes at Belgard. “Hardscaping also includes boulders, edging, pathways or walls. Hardscaping can be designed in your preferred style, from traditional to modern. You can also consider water features like waterfalls, fountains or ponds.”

Outdoor kitchens are increasingly popular for elevated outdoor entertaining, while less ambitious but highly sought-after projects include fireplaces or fire pits surrounded by seating.

Before breaking ground on a hardscape project, homeowners can get a feel for what their space will look like through Belgard’s design resources. Belgard Design Studio takes a simple sketch with some dimensions and photos and turns it, using design software, into 3D animations and virtual reality experiences to give you a sense of the finished product in your backyard.

4. Improve the exterior

A simple coat of paint can improve a home’s appearance quickly. For homes with siding, repaint wood trim, then clean siding and windows to give your house a refresh. Masonry veneers are a great way to update the look of your home to boost curb appeal. Making necessary repairs also gives the impression of a house that’s well cared for, which is what homebuyers want to see.

5. Replace doors

Doors endure lots of wear and tear, but also provide the first impression of your home. Replace worn outer and inner doors to enhance the security, energy efficiency and appearance of your house.

Garage doors also affect the impression your home makes from the curb, so if you can update them, do it. If not, at least give them a thorough cleaning.

6. Refresh your porch

If your home doesn’t have a front porch, consider adding one, as most new homes offer porches. If your porch needs some TLC, this can also impact its value greatly. New paint, safety railings, installing a swing or screening the porch in – anything that enhances the space and makes your home look more welcoming is a plus. Check porches in your neighborhood for ideas or head to Pinterest for more inspiration.

7. Enhance the lighting

Improving outdoor lighting helps make your home look well cared for and improves your security. Using LED lights and motion sensors is an energy-efficient strategy that will impress potential homebuyers while making your home safer. In addition, string lights and built-in lighting – including paver lights, column lights and other landscape lighting – also make your outdoor living spaces cozy and inviting for your family as well as prospective buyers.

Improving your home’s market value and making it a pleasure to come home to every night is achievable, one project at a time. Prioritize what your home needs most and you’ll start seeing the impact of your efforts right away.

For more ideas to enhance your outdoor living space, visit Belgard.com/CurbAppeal

Categories: BPT

3 Renovations That Can Help You Sell Your Home Faster

If you’ve decided to place your home on the market, you likely want it to sell as quickly as possible. Partially, this is for your own convenience. More importantly, though, the longer that a house sits on the market, the lower its final price tends to be. Therefore, before you list your home, you need to be sure it’s ready to attract as much attention as possible.

One great way to do this is by making strategic renovations to various areas around your home. You want to be sure you’re making the most of your remodeling budget to ensure it results in the biggest payoff. To help you come out ahead, here are three renovations that can help you sell your home faster:


A dated kitchen is one of the biggest turnoffs for potential homebuyers. A kitchen that’s been renovated using quality materials often draws people in and causes them to overlook other potential flaws. Therefore, a kitchen renovation can be a great investment to make before you sell your home.

Quality finishes in the kitchen are crucial, as many buyers at all price points are looking for granite countertops (or something similar) and tile backsplashes. The cabinets should also be of decent quality and a neutral color that appeals to a wide range of people.


Since a roof is rarely seen except when you’re coming and going, it might not seem like the best place to spend your renovation dollars; however, if you can state on your home’s listing that the roof was recently replaced, you may gain more interest, potentially helping you to sell your home more quickly.

Be sure that the roofers you choose do a good job of sealing the roof cap and any protrusions, as you certainly don’t want the next homeowners to be left with a leaky roof. Also, make sure that the color of the shingles matches the character of the home so buyers aren’t turned off the moment they approach your house.


Moving back inside, a bathroom renovation is a great way to maximize the effectiveness of your remodeling budget. After all, no one wants to feel like they’re living in someone else’s grime.

A bathroom is one area where you can have a little fun with the renovation, adding unique features such as a tile tub surround or a designer light fixture that’ll help your home stand out from others in your area. Again, quality installation is important here, as you don’t want to put the future homeowners at risk of a major water leak.

Renovations can go a long way toward helping your home sell more quickly. Remember, it’s important that you are disciplined in how you spend money on remodeling to be absolutely sure that you don’t end up spending more than you get out of your home when you sell it.

By Brooke Chaplan
This was originally published on RISMedia’s Housecall.

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Fixer-Upper

A fixer-upper might have a lot more problems than you think. The last thing you want to do is purchase a home that ends up costing you more to fix than you calculated for. So before you spend a lot of your time and money on a fixer-upper, you need to know the questions to ask first.

Without asking the right questions, you could be buying a lemon—what was a moderately expensive project in your mind could quickly turn into a money pit! Here are five of the most critical questions you need to ask before putting up your earnest money deposit and purchasing a fixer-upper:

1. Is the Investment Worth It?
Deciding on whether to purchase a fixer-upper is a big deal. You need to make sure that it’s an investment you’re willing to commit to. If you have a contractor, they’ll make you aware of the state of the home, and also give you a rough estimate of the total costs of fixing the house.

However, if you don’t have a contractor, you need to ask the homeowner as many questions as you can. Ask them about the condition of the roof, foundation, plumbing, windows, etc.

Even when you have a trusted contractor, it’s essential to have a professional home inspector look over the property. A home inspector is trained to find problems that a contractor might otherwise overlook, discovering what is often referred to as “inspection deal breakers.”

By doing a thorough examination of the condition of the home, you can decide whether you want to purchase it or not.

2. Do You Have the Time to Invest?
This is a project that’s going to take up a ton of your time. Whether you have any help or not, at the end of the day, it’s going to be your home. That means you’ll be in charge of that home day in and day out.

If anything goes wrong and there’s an accident that occurs in the home, you’ll be the only one responsible for dealing with that situation. So if you’re serious about buying fixer-uppers, you need to learn how to manage your time. Additionally, if you’re not looking to hire a contractor, you will need more time to spare.

3. Do You Have the Money to Invest?
You need to be 100-percent sure that you have the money, or be willing to obtain the necessary funds to purchase the home and have it fixed. Like most fixer-uppers, you can never perfectly calculate the final costs, so be ready to pay a little more if things don’t go as planned. One of the most significant mistakes is not realizing there’s a difference between a fixer-upper and a rehab home. When you don’t understand this distinction, your budget can get shot very quickly.

If you’re getting a loan, you need to make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for. A mortgage is a serious commitment of your trust and fiscal responsibility. If you have bad credit, a loan will probably be a bad idea for you. It’s advisable to get your financial house in order before committing to more debt.

Whenever getting a loan, make sure you do your due diligence by getting all your mortgage questions answered by the lender. You should be totally comfortable before moving forward with such a significant financial decision.

4. Is the Home in a Great Area?
One of the biggest mistakes both investors and traditional homebuyers make all the time is discounting the importance of location. Agents constantly talk about how critical the location is in the grand scheme of things. It’s vital for your home to be in an excellent area. The location of your home helps determine how much your home appreciates over time.

Even the type of road a house sits on affects the price. The difference in value from a home located on a busy street versus a quiet neighborhood can be night and day. Great schools and public transportation are just some of the things you need to look at when purchasing a fixer-upper home.

Make sure to get a feel for how appreciation has been over the last decade. Is it keeping up with other surrounding areas? Consult with your buyer’s agent to get their opinion of how the appreciation will be before moving forward.

Whenever you think about purchasing a home, do more than focusing on the house. It’ll be a good idea to drive around the neighborhood beforehand. Get a real feel for the surroundings.

5. What Are the Laws That Come With Dealing With a Fixer-Upper in Your State?
Many states have their own laws when it comes to the overall process of remodeling an older home. Your contractor will be aware of some laws that are permitted when it comes to your home, but they might not be mindful of every little thing.

There have been cases where people have gotten into trouble for doing something they weren’t supposed to, and that can cost you a lot of money. One of the most common issues with real estate sales at the moment is contractors not getting required building permits. Skipping out on required permits can put you in a very precarious position when it comes time to sell your home.

Not knowing the laws can also possibly land you in a place where you are spending additional money, and, if you’re really unlucky, removing the improvements from your property. You may be thinking that can’t happen. Well, you’re wrong—it can! Cities and towns can make you rip out non-permitted work.

If you’re buying a foreclosure, you need to be extra careful. Not only will you be purchasing “as-is,” but these kinds of properties routinely have issues where the previous owner skipped out on legal responsibilities.

Final Thoughts
If you’re looking to start buying fixer-uppers, you have to able to spend a ton of time doing your research first. Additionally, as a beginner, you can make many mistakes, and it happens to a lot of people at some point. Don’t let your fixer-upper become a rehab money pit! Ask yourself these five crucial questions before purchasing your first fixer-upper.

This was originally published on RISMedia’s Housecall.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

Prep Your Gutters for Winter Weather

While you may have taken care of a variety of tasks in order to button up your home for winter weather—from replacing weather stripping to closing-up the fireplace—chances are, you neglected your gutters.

The problem is, ignored, clogged or underperforming gutters have the potential to wreak havoc on your home during the coldest months of the year, according to The Brothers That Just Do Gutters, Ken and Ryan Parsons. Here, they share the top five ways to get your gutters ready for winter weather.

  1. Clean out debris. Remove leaves and other debris from gutters, as waste will clog your gutter system and create an environment ripe for ice dams. Ice dams can degrade your home’s roof, walls, foundation and ability to insulate.
  2. Install guards. Adding gutter guards will help prevent such buildup in the first place. Available in a variety of styles and finishes, make your selection based on your budget and climate.
  3. Use heat. Installing a deicing cable as a heating system for your gutters and roof is a viable option to prevent ice dams and even melt away ones that have begun to form.
  4. Repair holes. Find and repair any holes in your gutters immediately, as leaks will divert water from the appropriate downspouts and cause it to trickle down the side of your home. This can cause water damage like rot and mold, as well as weaken your home’s foundation. You can make a patch with the same material as your gutters and install it with roofing cement.
  5. Look for malformations. Check for sagging gutters and fix or replace them. Slumping gutters will cause a buildup of water and debris. Remove problem areas and replace damaged screws, brackets or entire sections as needed.

While it is possible to complete some or all of the above tasks on your own, you may save time and money by hiring a professional. This will also help provide the peace of mind that your gutters are in good shape and your home is protected.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

Here’s Why You Should Buy a Home During the Winter

With the holidays over, heading into the coldest months of the year, many people might assume that now is a terrible time to buy a home. However, now is the best time to score a deal on that dream house!

Here are a few reasons why it may be in your best interest to buy a house this winter:

Motivated Sellers
The colder months tend to see less activity as far as listings and sales go. This may seem like a disadvantage; however, if you’re able to find a house that meets your needs, chances are you’ll also have found a motivated seller. The majority of homes are listed in the spring/summer, so if you’ve stumbled upon a listing that’s been on the market for a while, the seller will likely be ready to negotiate.

If the home is newly listed, the seller may be eager to sign a contract before the new year. Tax implications or forced relocation are a few reasons sellers will be willing to accept lower offers. 

Less Competition
We’ve all heard the story of the dreaded bidding war. It seems today’s market is seeing this happen more than ever. Not only can it drive the price of the home above asking; you also run the risk of emotional overspending or losing the property altogether. 

With the majority of buyers taking a break from house-hunting, now is an optimal time to start your search. With the likelihood of competing offers dropping significantly, buyers can regain some control during negotiations.  

Lower Interest Rates
This is not a guarantee, however. Loan and mortgages interest rates fluctuate throughout the year, and historically hit lows during the holiday season. With less people looking to buy and borrow right now, interest rates tend to dip, which is a bonus for borrowers.

It may appear to be an insignificant rate difference; however, over the term of your mortgage, you’ll be in for some serious savings! So while you’re out and about this winter, make a trip to your bank for a mortgage pre-approval!

Professional Availability
With fewer homes on the market, real estate agents tend to find themselves with more overall availability. If you’re ready to buy a home, you’ll benefit, as your REALTOR® will have more time to dedicate to your search and negotiation once your dream home is found. 

Not only does the real estate market slow down during the winter, so do related professions. Mortgage brokers, home inspectors and legal professionals all may have some extra time on their hands, meaning your deal may be able to close quicker. 

Buying a new home during the winter can seem like a daunting task; however, if you’re able to close on a deal in January or February, chances are you’ll be enjoying the benefits for years to come! Lower purchase price and better interest rates are just a couple of the reasons why buying that dream house right now may be worth it!

This was originally published on RISMedia’s Housecall.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

5 Home Materials That Look Better with Age

If we’re being honest, some home materials can simply stand the test of time better than others. This is especially true if your house is exposed to a harsh climate or undergoes the everyday wear and tear that comes with kids and pets running around. While some materials are at their best when they’re shiny and new, others can develop a beautiful patina that adds character. Here are a few such materials that will continue to look better with age.

copper bathroom

Copper can be used for a variety of applications around the home, from gutters and cladding to sinks, bathtubs and light fixtures. Wherever you choose to use it, eventually copper will oxidize and its shiny dark orange appearance will develop a distinguished look with shades of blue and green. This will happen noticeably faster when used outside and there’s no greater example of this than the Statue of Liberty.

The warm earth tones of terracotta often contribute to a timeless aesthetic, whether it’s used for tile floors or pottery in your garden. One of the reasons this material has been around for so long is that it fares well in the elements and, in fact, the texture gets even richer. When you decide to splurge on beautiful handmade terracotta for your home, you can rest assured that it will endure.

Reclaimed Wood
One of the best parts about using reclaimed wood in your home is that its flaws are actually part of the appeal. The scuffs and scratches that developed over time tell the story of its past life and eventually turn into an inimitable patina. Rather than having to worry about keeping your floors flawless, it can be nice to embrace the imperfections with a rustic look. This is especially true if you have dogs, which can take a toll on hardwood floors.

Natural Stone
If you have natural stone floors, like travertine or sandstone, you can certainly expect this surface to change over time. As the stone takes on a weathered look, the texture will become smoother and develop a soft luster that many people find desirable.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

First Time Buyers: What NOT to Do

If this is going to be the year you break out into your own place, you likely want to be sure your path is as clear as possible. First and foremost, buying one’s first home is one of the most exciting – and challenging – life experiences. 

To come out ahead, don’t make any of the common mistakes that could put your home-buying experience in peril. The U.S. Farm Bureau (fbfs.com) advises first-timers against doing any of the following leading up to or during your closing:

Don’t Open New Lines of Credit. Taking on new debt, no matter how small, could throw off your debt-to-income ratio — a magic number in mortgage lending — and disqualify you.

Don’t Miss Bill Payments. In the stress of preparing to buy a house, it’s easy to miss a payment, but it could have serious consequences that will make you ineligible for a loan from certain lenders for at least a year, the bureau says.

Don’t Change Jobs. During the mortgage loan process, change — even good change — could set you back. Avoid a change in job status that will cause a lender to question your financial stability.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2020. All rights reserved.

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