6 Common Pricing Myths When Selling a Home

When you put your home on the market, the one aspect that usually comes to mind is profit. Without a doubt, every seller's main goal is to sell their home for the best possible price. However, in an effort to get the best deal possible, many sellers fall prey to myths about home pricing that don’t reflect the current real estate market.

Setting an asking price for your home will never be a walk in the park. But coming up with an accurate number can give you the biggest advantage. It can mean the difference between quickly getting an offer and risking your home to sit on the market for months, losing the interest of many potential buyers.

So if you want to get the most out of your home sale, disregard these most common myths about pricing a home and start your journey with some realistic expectations!

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Many sellers think that getting a quick offer is an indication that they priced their house too low. They are contemplating whether they should have asked for more money or feeling that their realtor “gave their home away” because it was sold too quickly.

But here's the reality: getting an offer (or offers!) in the first few days most likely means your home was priced accurately and competitively, which attracted multiple buyers. Your home has the right price on the right market that’s why you received multiple offers even in a short amount of time.

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After receiving an offer from the first showing, sellers may be hesitant to accept it, wondering if other potential buyers would be keen to cough up more money for their beloved home. This is another common assumption among many sellers: if they're willing to wait long enough, a better offer will come. The thoughts of potential bidding wars could prompt them to be in a “no rush mode” when it comes to selling their home.

However, that’s not how real estate works most of the time. The longer your home stays on the market, the worse the offers could get. Or maybe you’d get none at all. This is because homes sell for the most money when they are on the market for less than 30 days. According to the NAR 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, recently sold homes were on the market for a median of three weeks. When a home has taken so long to sell, buyers will start to wonder what is wrong with it. They may assume that it was priced too high, or that there are issues with the property itself.

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Be wary of using any home value estimate tools you find online. The numbers they give can be inaccurate since they have not assessed your home physically, and haven't taken into consideration any of its special features and the prices of the surrounding properties. Many home estimates go above or under the home’s real market value. Keep in mind to always trust your realtor over your home’s estimates.

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Every seller's goal is to get top dollar for their home. However, overpricing your home thinking that you could accept a lower offer, later on, will never be a good strategy. The worst is it could just leave you empty-handed, especially when buyers start to wonder what’s wrong with your property. Trying to price it too high, thinking that it will create a lot of negotiating room will get you nowhere. Instead, buyers and their agents will steer clear from your property and will choose a listing that has a reasonable price.

Your realtor knows that negotiation is very important in real estate, so trust their experience in this matter. They will price your home appropriately from the beginning but will make sure there’s enough wiggle room so you can still get what you want out of the sale.

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You may have remodeled your kitchen, added a master bedroom, or replaced your garage door. But don't think that the money you spent making these renovations will be recouped once you sell. Don’t set your expectations too high just because the potential new owners will be enjoying all the hard work you put into your property. Keep in mind that while some changes might see some return on investment, you won’t recoup the whole amount. Likewise, there are renovations that can give you profit, and there are those that can even hurt your home sale.

To get an idea of which upgrades yield the biggest return on investment, check out the 2018 ‘Cost Versus Value’ report by Remodeling Magazine. For instance, you can expect to get back only 56% of the costs of an upscale bathroom remodel. Meanwhile, the projects with the biggest return include a garage door and entry door replacement.

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Real estate agents are being paid a percentage of the selling price of the home. However, this commission will still be divided up between his or her broker and the buyer's agent, leaving the agent with less money in his or her pocket. Even with weeks or months of showings and marketing expenses, no agent would want to lose a potential sale just for the sake of a few hundred dollars. Trust your realtor because they’re the one who knows the market well, and the price given to your home was based on extensive market research.

Selling Your Home in the Off Season

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Spring and summer are traditionally seen as the best times to sell your house. Research has actually shown that homes sold during the first half of May tend to sell faster and sell for a higher average price than house sales at any other time of the year. Once you get into fall and winter, buyer competition doesn’t seem as fierce and average prices start to drop. This doesn’t mean you can’t sell during the off season, of course; it just means that you need to maximize the value of your home to get the most out of your property.

There’s Always a Buyer

Even though it’s the off season, there will always be someone out there who’s looking to buy a home. There are traditionally fewer home sales during the fall and winter, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. It’s easy to assume that you’ll have to take what you can get if you find someone who’s interested, but that’s definitely not the case. While there’s a good chance that you’re a motivated seller if you’re selling during the off season, keep in mind that many home buyers are motivated as well. It’s true that you might not get as much out of your home as you would near the start of summer, but don’t think that you’re necessarily going to have to settle either.

Aggressive Pricing Strategies

With that said, you’re more likely to sell quickly if you’re more aggressive with your pricing strategy than you would be during the summer. Don’t price your home for less than its worth – but cut a little closer to its actual value than you might otherwise. Determine the actual value of the home and what you need to get from the sale, then add a little more to the total to give yourself some wiggle room for negotiations. This lets you present the home as a great deal and still yield a bit to the buyer, convincing them that they really are getting a great deal on the property and need to make the purchase before somebody else comes along.

Appearance Matters

It’s always important to have your house looking its best when you’re trying to make a sale, but it’s especially important during the off season. This can be a chore, especially if you have trees dropping leaves all over the yard, but it’s worth it. If at all possible, your home should be the one that stands out from the neighborhood because it has fresher paint, a neater lawn, cleaner windows and any other adjustments you can make to improve its overall look. The more you can wow potential buyers, the more likely they are to actually buy.

Cut Out the Clutter

If you’re in the process of packing while trying to sell your home, take any boxes and anything that’s ready to go and get it out of the house and into a storage unit or elsewhere. The same goes for most of the clutter that we build up in our daily lives. When a potential buyer comes to look at the house you should ideally have everything pared down to some basic furniture, standard amenities and perhaps a few picture frames or other personal items that are tastefully presented around the house. You want buyers to see the house for its beauty and be able to picture their lives there, not to see how the house looks overflowing with your life.

Be Prepared

If you really want to get a potential buyer’s attention, show them that you’re prepared to answer any questions they might have about the house. Get a pre-inspection so you’ll know about any issues that you might not have noticed, making necessary repairs or disclosures as needed. Gather up documentation about the heating and cooling system, any maintenance that’s been performed and even details like the energy ratings on the windows. If you really want to go the extra mile, track down photos of the house from different seasons or pictures of any flowers or trees in bloom so that potential buyers will have an idea of what they can look forward to.

The Dirt on Septic Tank Ownership

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Septic tanks are common in rural areas, though depending on where you live, you might have a septic system, even close to town. So long as things are going smoothly, it’s often difficult to tell that there is even a septic system in place. If your septic tank starts having problems, though, it may not take long for it to become very obvious that something is wrong.

Whether you’re new to septic tank ownership or are wondering what sort of maintenance your existing tank requires, here’s a rundown of what you need to know about owning a septic tank.

How Septic Systems Work

Wastewater from your home flows into the septic tank, which is a large tank typically made of concrete, steel or other materials such as plastic or fiberglass. Once there, any waste solids in the water settle out and are broken down by bacteria. As particles settle out, the water itself is able to flow out of the septic tank where it is distributed through a series of gravel-filled trenches known as leach fields where the water is absorbed into the ground. Any remaining waste materials are then broken down by microorganisms in the soil.

Some systems also separate greywater (water that comes from waste-free sources such as laundry, bathroom sinks and showers) from the “black” water that contains waste. While this water is not directly recycled as drinking water, it can be filtered and used as part of an irrigation system for non-food plants and lawns. This not only makes more efficient use of your household water but also reduces stress on the septic system as a whole.

Basic Septic System Maintenance

Ideally, a septic system shouldn’t require too much maintenance to keep it functioning properly. With that said, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your system doesn’t develop problems. Key points of septic system maintenance include:

  • Avoid flushing inorganic materials that cannot be broken down by bacteria

  • Conserve household water use to avoid flooding the tank and causing a backup

  • Don’t flush cooking fats, coffee grounds or other hard-to-break-down materials

  • Use septic-safe cleaning materials and avoid using an excess amount of any cleaners

  • Do not pour saltwater, antibiotic medications or other materials that could kill helpful bacteria into your wastewater

In addition, it’s recommended that you have your septic tank checked every 1 to 3 years and have solids pumped out of the tank every 3 to 5 years to maintain optimal function. This may need to occur more often if you live in a cold climate, as bacteria may not break down waste as quickly when experiencing severe cold or prolonged winters.

Septic Tank Inspections

Whether you suspect a problem with your septic system or just want to stay on top of septic tank maintenance, periodic inspections will help you avoid major problems down the road. The most basic inspections are simple visual inspections, where water is run through the sinks and the toilets are flushed to check for backups or other obvious problems. These are often performed by home inspectors but provide only a very limited amount of information about the condition of the system itself.

If you have a septic company do the inspection, you’ll likely get a much more in-depth job. These inspections check for signs of septic tank problems such as visual damage to the tank or depressions around the tank area that could indicate sagging in the tank walls. They will also check for odd odors, signs of leaks, the condition of liquids and sludge within the tank and even backflow once a portion of the tank is pumped. You should receive a report on the condition of the tank after one of these inspections, and most likely will have the results explained to you as well.

Life Expectancy

Provided that it is well maintained, a septic system can theoretically last for decades. More realistically, though, you can expect a septic tank (and the system it’s a part of) to last for between 15 to 25 years. The actual lifespan of any given septic tank depends on the material it’s made of, how well it was installed, the types of waste that are dumped into it and how often it is pumped or maintained. The more care you put into maintaining your septic system, the longer it’s likely to last.

Of course, once a septic tank starts reaching the end of its life it is important that you deal with it before hazardous conditions can form. If a tank is leaking or sagging, it needs to be collapsed or crushed and filled in around. In some cases, a new tank can actually be installed beside or on top of the old one after it has been properly taken care of.

Do You Need Help with Your Tank?

Regardless of whether you need a septic tank installed, inspected, pumped or replaced, our HomeKeepr network can help you find the best pros for the job.

Can I Sell My Home Using a Gift of Equity?

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Real estate can be a tricky business. You put your home on the market, people make offers and there’s a lot of back-and-forth to make sure that everyone gets what they believe is the best deal. There are a lot of gray areas that make things more confusing, too. What if you’re selling your home to one of your own children or another relative and don’t want them to have to pay a bunch of fees and down payments? Maybe you don’t even want to profit off the sale at all… you just want them to be able to cover the remainder of the mortgage. Depending on the situation, using a gift of equity may be a better option to help make the sale happen.

What Is a Gift of Equity?

As you make payments against your mortgage, the amount that’s owed against your home decreases while the value of the property remains the same. The higher the value is, in comparison to what’s still owed against it, the more equity the home is said to have. You’ve likely heard about equity-based loans or other ways to use equity as a form of security, and they all come down to the concept that your home is worth more than what’s actually owed to pay off the remainder of its mortgage.

If you’re selling your home to a member of your family, in many cases you can use this equity to their advantage. A “gift of equity” is the practice of using the property’s own equity as a down payment for someone wanting to buy the property. This not only saves your family member money but may also qualify them for a better loan or lower mortgage payments if they’re borrowing to pay the remaining difference.

Selling Your Home

Before you can sell your house using a gift of equity, you have to determine the actual value of the property. This has to be a fair market appraisal, and if there’s a lender involved, then they may wish to choose the appraiser. You will also need to document any details relevant to the gift of equity, such as establishing a relationship, providing proof of residency (as well as any rental terms, if they apply) if the buyer already lives on the property and any additional details that are relevant to proving that both of you have a qualifying relationship and that you wish to make the gift of equity.

There are also issues such as closing costs and escrow fees that may have to be taken into account. In most cases, though, these can be covered by seller concessions (where you agree to absorb the costs by taking less of the sale price for yourself) as you are allowed concessions of up to 6 percent of the sale value in most cases. You will also need to draft a gift letter for use by both the lender and the IRS, which as you might guess, means you also have to pay taxes on the value of the gift.

Is It Actually Allowed?

In most cases, there is nothing preventing you from selling your home using a gift of equity so long as the buyer is a spouse, child. dependent or other individual with an established blood or legal relation to the seller. This includes both blood relatives and those who are adopted or placed under legal guardianship of the seller. Fiancés and domestic partners can typically qualify as well, so long as it’s allowed by the jurisdiction in which you live. Friends, non-related roommates and other unrelated buyers do not qualify.

The big thing to remember when it comes to selling your home using a gift of equity is that the rules for doing so will vary depending on where you live and the equity gifting program you use. There can actually be some pretty significant differences from one program to the next, so you definitely shouldn’t rush into selling with a gift of equity until you’ve done some research to see what the best way to do it in your state is. With that said, if you do your due diligence, this can be a good way to pass on property to a loved one, provided you avoid the potential pitfalls.

Ready to Sell?

Just because using a gift of equity to sell your home can be tricky doesn’t mean it has to be.

What Do You Know about Air Flow?

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Air filtration is an important part of your home’s ventilation system. Without an air filter in place, dust and other airborne particles would be distributed throughout your ductwork. This could aggravate allergies, build up on your vents to reduce airflow and possibly even create bigger problems over time.

This doesn’t mean that you can just grab any air filter and slap it in place, of course. Choosing the right air filter for your home is important if you want to get the most life out of your heating and cooling system. Stop for a moment and think about your HVAC system; do you really know what sort of air filter you need to keep things running in top condition? If you don’t, here’s what you need to know.

Where Is My Air Filter?

The first thing that you need to know about your air filter is exactly where in your house it’s located. This may seem kind of obvious, but some air filters are difficult to find. While the most common air filter location is behind a grate on one of the walls, some of these grates are in odd locations or are designed to somewhat blend in with the look of the surrounding wall. Filters may also be placed in the air handler unit (AHU) or rooftop unit (RTU). Buildings with split ventilation systems may even have multiple intakes that each have their own air filter. Depending on how your system is designed, it may take a bit of hunting to locate your filter.

Choosing an Air Filter

Once you’ve located your filter, it’s important that you choose the right one for your needs. Part of this involves finding the right size filter; different HVAC units are designed for different filters, and if you get one that doesn’t fit then you’re going to have trouble getting it (or keeping it) in place. Measure the dimensions of the area where the filter is mounted or look at the old filter and find the dimensions listed on it. Choosing an air filter is about more than just finding the right size, however; one other big consideration is the MERV rating (which stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.)

The MERV is a number that tells how good of a filter you’re buying. A low MERV of around 6 provides you with 35 to 50 percent efficiency at capturing large particles like dust, mold and pet dander. A MERV of 8 increases this to over 70 percent efficiency, capturing those particles as well as slightly smaller particles like pollen and dust mites. A MERV of 11 captures large particles with a greater than 85 percent efficiency, as well as medium particles like those found in auto exhaust with 65 to 80 percent efficiency. You can even go higher than that, with a MERV of 13 capturing large and medium particles with over 90 percent efficiency and small particles like smoke, bacteria and even odors with up to 75 percent efficiency.

There are other options available as well, such as HEPA filters (which you might hear referred to as high-efficiency particulate arrestance filters or high-efficiency particular air filters) that have an even higher standard of particle removal. HEPA filters must remove either 99.95 percent (in Europe) or 99.97 percent (in the United States) of all particles of size “small” or larger. Depending on the filter, this translates to a MERV value of around 17 to 20.

Air Filter Maintenance

There’s more to keeping your system running well than just installing a filter, of course. Most air filters should be changed monthly, though some may have different recommended use periods that should be listed on the packaging. Periodic cleaning of grates and vents may also be required to keep the filters clean and the system running efficiently. Failing to change your filters can reduce airflow and system efficiency, and over time, it can even reduce the life of your unit.

Need Some Help?

If you’re worried that you can’t find your filters or that you won’t be able to pick the filter that best meets your needs, we’ve got your back. Our HomeKeepr network can help you find the HVAC pro who’ll keep your system running in top shape and ensure that you have the filters that best meet your needs.

Crack or Canyon? When is it Time for Driveway Repair?

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Sometimes it’s easy to make a mountain out of a molehill. Other times, like when your driveway is starting to show some wear, you might instead try to make a crack out of a canyon. It’s not that you don’t want to make a driveway repair, but often it’s hard to know when the time is just right. So, how can a homeowner know for sure?

Wear and Tear on a Driveway is Normal

It’s not unusual to see a few small cracks or pits in the surface of your driveway as it ages. Asphalt, especially, pits, cracks, heaves, alligators and buckles. Cement, on the other hand, mostly just cracks. Other types, like specialty driveways made from bricks or pavers are best to always be assessed by a professional, so it might not be a bad idea to have one out yearly.

For the rest, you can probably tell when it’s getting close to time to dress the drive up again.

But it’s not just a cosmetic improvement, repairing your driveway stabilizes the pavement or slab itself in many cases. Asphalt is much more plastic than cement, so unless the cracks are small in your cement drive, expect a big job.

Asphalt can often be restored from a sad shape, so long as most of the surface is intact and it’s not badly buckled.

When to Patch and Repair Asphalt Driveways

Choose a warm day when it’s going to be dry for a bit. Also, make sure you can move your vehicle elsewhere, either to the street or to a neighbor’s driveway for the next two days so the new sealant can dry. You should evaluate it yearly, but anticipate only really needing repairs every three to five if you’re dedicated to preventing water damage to the surface with proper use of gutters and other precipitation diverters.

Between resealing, patches and repairs, scrub the surface regularly with mild dish soap and warm water to help keep your driveway at its best. It should look slick and black and maybe even a little bit shiny. When it starts to look more dried out, keep an eye out for other changes or plan to reseal it in the very near future. A nice black driveway always looks its best, anyway.

Repairing and Patching Cement Driveways

Cement driveways are a bit of a different story. Some cracks can be sealed by a homeowner with simple tools, others cannot. It’s not always clear how extensive the damage is when you’re experiencing extensive cracking or have areas that are no longer flush with the rest of the surface, so this is definitely a job for an experienced handyman or driveway expert.

There are several interesting new technologies that are being used to lift cement pads back into place with materials like polyurethane foam. It’s really something to see! Although not available everywhere, the technology can salvage some driveways that would otherwise have to be busted out, hauled off and repoured, a process that can be a real headache.

You can clean your cement driveway with a power washer if you know how to use one very delicately so that you don’t remove the thin surface coat. Otherwise a driveway brush, mild detergent and a hose will do the trick for regular cleanings.

When in Doubt, Call a Pro

There are a lot of parts of your property that leave lots of room for error. Your driveway isn’t one of them. If you have any doubts about your ability to evaluate, repair, replace or even handle the materials required to do so, call in a pro. But where do you find one?

Just check out our HomeKeepr community! We know the best companies in town for your driveway type and can recommend them to you with a click of a button. Our HomeKeepr community always has your back, often from your back pocket!

What is a Homeowner's Association?

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For everyone out there looking at homes right now, there are three little letters that could make or break your purchase decision. They are “H,” “O” and “A.” Three of the most frightening letters of the alphabet, imposed over the largest purchase you’ll ever make — it’s a recipe for high anxiety.

But not every Homeowners Association is the nightmare that many home buyers imagine. As long as you do your homework and know exactly what you’re getting into, your HOA may be the best decision you ever made.

Homeowners Associations, Maintenance and Uniformity

HOAs are often part of life for condo, townhouse and some single family homeowners. They’re not all good and they’re not all bad. Their purpose in this modern world is to maintain a sort of uniformity and authority that can not only help neighbors deal with disputes, but help the neighborhood as a whole keep a nice, shiny reputation.

When it comes to attached homes, like condos and townhouses, the HOAs also maintain the exteriors of buildings, including roofing, and common areas, like lawns. Single family HOAs often provide amenities like pools and common buildings that can be used for parties. The more the HOA does, the more the fees will be. And sometimes there will be fees even if they don’t do much.

Homeowners Associations Versus Neighborhood Associations

Another point to clarify is that there is a difference between a neighborhood association and a homeowners association. Neighborhood associations are voluntary, generally have very low fees for membership and do not run with the land. That means that you can buy a house where the former owner was part of the neighborhood association, but decline to be a member yourself.

On the other hand, if you buy a home that’s part of a homeowners association, the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) run with the land itself. So, you buy the land (usually with a house on it) and at closing sign that you agree to the HOA’s rules. You can only change those by being an active part of the association itself and going through the process it takes to allow RV parking in the front yard or whatever it is that you really want to do.

Is an HOA For You?

It’s really hard to know if you’re going to get along in an HOA-controlled neighborhood without taking a long hard look at those CC&Rs. They vary widely, just like the people who live in different neighborhoods. Even if you find a home that you absolutely love, don’t sign a thing until you’ve seen the CC&Rs and gone over them with your real estate agent. You will be living under those rules for a while, make sure you can accept that.

While it would be fun to have a pool you don’t have to clean, sometimes you have to be realistic and say, “These rules just aren’t for me or my lifestyle.”

But, sometimes those rules are really practical and make a lot of sense. For example, some might state that your grass has to be kept under six inches high. Great rule, this practice reduces animal and insect problems by removing cover.

Others might say you can’t have a clothesline or a fence, which might be a total deal-breaker for you. There is often an appeal process, but if that clothesline is a big enough issue, don’t risk it. There are plenty of houses in the sea.

Don’t Forget, HOA Fees Are Included in Your DTI

Last, but not least, remember that HOA fees will be included in your debt to income calculation. So, if you are just barely able to afford that lovely home, the monthly fees may make your lender give you the red light. This is an important item to check when you’re investigating the other terms of the HOA.

You can expect them to run anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars a month. Definitely something you want to be sure about before committing. Would you rather have that much more in home, or in amenities?

Already in Love With the Idea of a Home In an HOA?

If you and your real estate agent have taken the time to investigate the HOA and the CC&Rs and you’re still good to go, write that contract! Make that home yours and know that the rules will help to maintain home standards, even if they can be a bit draconian at times.

5 Ways to Make Gardening Easier

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If the idea of getting up early on Saturday morning to commune with your landscape is an idea that you cherish, but don’t dare pursue because of the high level of maintenance required, you may be surprised to find out that a perfect garden doesn’t always require backbreaking labor or gallons of water to keep it alive. In fact, there are lots of ways to make gardening easier and increase the time you have to spend glancing at your pert little petunias.

Gardening Doesn’t Have to Be Hard to Be Rewarding

Keeping a garden used to be a massive labor of love, with a huge emphasis on the labor part. But people have been keeping some kind of plant life semi-domesticated since the dawn of human evolution. And, since the dawn of evolution, we’ve been trying to make the process easier and more productive. Whether you’re growing fountain grass or exotic herbs, there’s something on this list that’ll improve your gardening experience:

Sprinklers. The old standby for greener lawns everywhere, sprinklers can be used in other situations, too. For example, if it’s a nice sunny day and the risk of water standing on leaves is small, use one to water your vegetable garden plot. You can also help young trees and shrubs get a good start by sprinkling them gently every warm, dry day.

Drip irrigation. Sprinklers are great for big areas, but what do you do when you just want to water a few specific plants? Drip irrigation is the answer you seek. You can use these systems with basic timers or upgrade to a much more sophisticated system that will let you slowly drip water at the base of plants that don’t like water on their leaves or otherwise need individual care.

Native plants. There’s no such thing as a plant that needs zero attention, but native plants come pretty close. Instead of having to fret over special care for plants that are delicate in your area, choose the ones that have spent generations evolving there. For prairie dwellers, native grasses are a great start; those in the desert can do some pretty incredible things with barrel cactus and dramatic succulents. Visit your local nursery or ask your landscaper what plants are native to your area.

Containers. From pots on the patio railing to gutters loaded down with strawberries, containers make gardening so much easier. You can start with the perfect soil mix, ensuring that drainage isn’t a problem, then add a little fertilizer and your favorite plants. Now you just have to water and watch those babies grow.

Vertical gardens. Plants in and on the ground tend to end up in a mess — especially if those plants are vines! Vertical gardening isn’t limited to these twining climbers, you can also hang levels of containers, allowing you lots of extra space for growing things. Like with any containers, you are totally in control of the environment, but vertical gardening minimizes bending and kneeling. Win-win.

Want to Know The Easiest Way to Garden?

Hire a landscaper from those recommended to you by your real estate agent in the HomeKeeper community! You can also be connected to home pros that install sprinklers, groom your lawn, or even help you divert greywater to landscaping. The sky’s the limit in your garden once you get to know the clever folks recommended by agents and pros alike in the HomeKeepr community.