Yard work can save you money

HOUSTON - Your yard can save and even make you money. As we hit the warmer temps and sunny skies, it may be time to get out and work on that yard. A well-landscaped yard can add seven to 14 percent to the value of your home.

But it is not all about the money added to your bottom line when you sell, a pretty yard has other financial benefits.

"What many consumers overlook is that landscaping can add protection and shade to your house, which will improve your energy efficiency," said Angie Hicks, the creator of the service industry review service called Angie's List.

It can mean more money in your pocket.

Hicks told Local 2 it doesn't have to be a major investment to get a return.

"You don't have to do a big project to enhance the value of your home. If you're been neglecting your yard, which a lot of us have, you can do a basic yard cleanup; plant some nice flowers and that will improve your value," Hicks said.

Lawn care guy, Rick Davis, said a little work on your shrubs is a great place to start.

"They would be well served to aggressively prune them back and see what they have, because if it cleans out the canopy, or the space around the bushes, people can see that they don't need to do anything else," Davis said.

And if you do need a little professional help, Hicks said a landscaper doesn't have to cost a fortune.

"A good landscaper can help you work up a plan that can be done in phases; to be broken out over three years so that it never over-extends your budget," Hicks said.

Both experts say homeowners should talk to the landscaper. A good one will have advice on what you can do on your own and what you should leave to the professionals.

After last year's drought, the thought of dropping a bundle on plants may make you nervous, but Davis said it doesn't have to -- try something like roses.

"They are not quite drought resistant, but they handle dry weather fairly good and they give you some color. In fact, you can get them in a variety of colors. You have the look of maintaining and doing watering without actually having to do it," Davis said.

A quick addition with a big payoff is mulch. Davis said it prevents weeds, conserves moisture and helps maintain soil temperature.

Another tip to think about -- where you plant can help not just how your yard works but your energy efficiency. Planting trees on the east and west sides can reduce air-conditioning costs as much as 25 percent.

Link: www.angieslist.com

Common landscaping issues:

· Plants and shrubs that are too big/overgrown for the space they are in.

· Plants not taken care of/poor planting choices.

· Improperly applied mulch.

· Drainage issues.

Start with a yard cleanup: Remove overgrown plants, shrubs, and weeds. Tidy up garden/flower beds. Don't crowd your beds. Give them time to grow. Keep your front walkway clear and uncluttered.

Take care of your lawn: A neatly mowed, edged and debris-free lawn increases your curb appeal. Keep grass at least 2 to 3 inches tall. This height helps keep the moisture in the grass and the weeds out.

Add mulch: Mulch prevents weed growth, conserves moisture, and helps maintain an even-soil temperature. But it should be applied properly at the recommended thickness to be beneficial.

Pick the perfect plants: Don't shop for plants solely based on their appearance. Instead, select greenery that is hardy, adaptable to your area and will thrive in your soil conditions. Install drought tolerant plants so you don't have to water as much.

Plant a tree: Trees are a great investment. On average, they'll add 3 percent to 7 percent on the value of your home. Plus, planting trees on the east and west sides of your home can reduce air conditioning costs as much as 25 percent. However, trees need to be maintained. Have them inspected annually and serviced as needed.


· List your priorities: Determine whether you have a problem that needs correcting (overgrown shrubs) or if you want to make an addition to your existing landscape (fire pit). Once you have an idea, map out your property, indicating what you want. Identify long and short term goals.

· Assess your skill level: Just because you like working in the yard on an occasional Saturday doesn't mean you'll want to put an entire flower bed into place. Hire a professional if you don't think you'll stick with the project through the season, or if it's a complicated project that will require tools and equipment you don't have.

· Be realistic about your budget: You may not be able to afford it all this month or even this season. Keep it simple with some pretty plants. Many landscapers may also help you devise a multi-year plan if your budget for this year doesn't pay for all you want.

· Check referrals and reviews. It is always advisable to check references or reviews before hiring a contractor for a job. Make sure the prospective landscaper has completed a project with a similar design to the one you envision.

· Get permission. For many homeowners, including those living in housing communities, it may be necessary to receive permission prior to starting a new project. Many homeowner associations have strict guidelines on what residents can do to change their property. If those rules are violated, homeowners might find themselves embroiled in a lengthy dispute. To avoid potential conflicts, make sure your project is approved by the association board beforehand.

· Be mindful of permits. Landscapers should be able to present various permits, depending upon the scope of the project. Steer clear of penalties and fines by checking with the local buildings department before starting a project, such as the construction of a patio with a fire pit. Large landscaping projects usually require a permit.

· Factor in maintenance: Putting in that water element might look great on paper, but keep in mind it will have maintenance attached to it as well.

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