When budgeting your time and money for home maintenance, don’t forget to think outside the box – to your yard and property. The exterior is as important as the interior, not just for aesthetics, but also because some aspects of exterior maintenance can affect the integrity and operation of your home, and because improvements can add real value.
The National Association of REALTORS®’ 2016 Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features reveals some interesting facts about exterior improvements, estimated costs, the happiness they generate, and what you are likely to recover if you do sell. For example, realtors ranked a standard lawn care program as the project that most appeals to buyers, and estimated that lawn care would recover 303% of the cost estimated by landscape professionals. Upgrades like a new patio, deck and new softscape all rendered roughly 100% in cost recovery and a very high “Joy Score.” Generally speaking, the results indicate that maintaining and beautifying your property can make you happy now, and add value if you should decide to put your home on the market.
In addition to enhancing the aesthetics, there are some things you can do to ensure the environment doesn’t have a negative impact on your home. The extreme weather we have seen lately underscores the need to keep an eye on trees on or near your property; soaking rains or thaws and strong sustained winds can bring down heavy limbs or entire trees. Trees growing too close to the home can block natural light and drop leaves, resin and other detritus that can shorten the life of your roof and clog your gutters. Trimming trees and scheduling routine inspections by tree specialists to identify disease or signs of stress fractures can minimize your risk, maximize sunlight, and ensure trees don’t damage your property or your neighbor’s.
Shrubs and hedges can become overgrown as well, covering windows, air conditioning units, walkways, and siding. Roots and climbing vines can separate siding, gutters and leaders from the home’s structure; they can cover an A/C unit and cause it to overheat and burn out; they can find the smallest cracks in concrete, retaining walls and around windows and, as they put down roots and grow, can cause damage by breaking down the structure and allowing water and insects in. Clearing and trimming these back and weeding out the undesirables will not only extend the life of the plants you want, but will prevent damage that is expensive to repair once it starts.
If you see water pooling in areas around your foundation, you will want to re-grade the area and create positive drainage before the water finds its way into the house. Using soil, build up a grade and pack it down to repel the water away and down from your foundation. Adding plants to the area can help dispatch the water.
Patios, drives and walkways add function and fun to your outdoor space, but they also need to be maintained. Powerwash away any dirt and dinginess, and replace any missing and broken pavers before a family member or guest trips and is injured; where concrete has begun to show cracks, repair quickly before water or ice gets in and makes matters worse.
Many homeowners enjoy the hands-on approach to the care and maintenance of their home and yard; some even find gardening and landscaping to be good outdoor therapy. Not everyone has the time or the inclination, though, and those homeowners need another solution. There are many good landscapers and maintenance companies in your area; ask neighbors and friends to make referrals and get estimates. Be very clear about the work that needs to be done, and the frequency with which you want the service to be provided. Whether you prefer to DIY or hire help, be sure to budget for the outdoors and stay on top of the work that needs doing. It may be very easy to close the door and forget what’s going on in your yard, especially when you are so busy, but the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is pretty accurate – having a plan for regular maintenance now is the best way to avoid expensive repairs later.