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Prep your Property for Spring with this Action Plan

Feb 16 2015

 While the last of winter is a good time to do some general leaf cleanup if it already hasn’t been done, it’s also an opportunity to start a month-by-month plan to help the yard reach its optimum potential.

It’s important to observe conditions and stay in step with the natural seasonal progression of the region, Lee said. He cautions some green thumbs who may be tantalized into action with recent short-sleeve weather in Texas and other southern regions.

“You need to make sure that the last hard-freeze is over,” he said. “Right now in southern climates we’re seeing some spring-like temperatures. It’s a good time to get started on your landscape, but it’s even more important to do things at the right time.”

Lee says that for many parts of the country, the next three months provide the best opportunity for the landscape to reach its full potential as the growing season ramps up.

Here’s a month-by-month checklist to help your lawn reach its full potential for curb appeal:

February

February is a great time to finish general landscape cleanup and begin making plans for how the property should look during the growing season.

  1. Get a Plan. Assess the lawn, beds, trees and the general landscape and determine what needs to be cut back, removed, culled and reshaped. Plot a path and follow it.
  2. Apply pre-emergents. An effective pre-emergent will make the lawn more healthy and weed resistant. In most areas, a pre-emergent fertilizer with time-release action will provide the right amount of nutrients and weed preventatives at the right time.
  3. Prune and cull. It’s a great time to prune crape myrtles and ornamental trees, plus cull larger grasses.
  4. Plant spring color. At the end of the month in southern climates start planting colorful annuals in beds. Bright yellows, oranges and reds grab the most attention.

March

As temperatures warm, put your plan for cutbacks and pruning of flowering bushes into action.

  1. Cut back ground cover and monkey grass. Mow to two-inch height and remove all the brown and dead grass. Failing to cut these plants back will result in plants that don’t look healthy when they should be lush and green.
  2. Prune roses. Before it gets too hot, prune roses and other flowering bushes. Pruning in March will help these bushes reach their full potential at the height of spring.
  3. Reduce large shrubs that are overgrown. Make sure bigger shrubs are but back before they start to bud.
  4. Check the waterworks. Irrigation systems that have been drained should be filled and tested for leaks or problems. Also, check rain sensors.
  5. Fertilize the lawn. About three or four weeks before lawns typically start to green, apply a fertilizer with high nitrogen.

April

For the southern part of the country, April usually is the final chance to get the lawn in shape before the heat hits. “It’s the Last month you have before you start getting hammered by heat,” Lee said. “It’s then that you’re trying to get things accomplished before the plant goes into survival mode.”

  1. Plant shrubs, grasses and other new plant life. Do it early so that new plants have enough time to get established before summer arrives.
  2. Trim trees. Most trees will have leafed out by now and you should be able to tell which limbs may be overly weighted and in need of trimming or cutting.
  3. Apply pesticides. As temperatures warm, fire ants and aphids start to emerge and should be treated to avoid damage to new and existing growth.
  4. Mulch beds and other areas. About mid-month, mulching should be under way and even finished. However, make sure the rainy season is mostly finished to avoid washing out of fresh-mulched beds.

“Not all of these steps will be right for areas farther north,” Lee said. “That cycle will probably start in March and run through May, for example. Wherever the property is located, it’s important to take a progressive approach to the landscape so that everything has the greatest chance of flourishing.”

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If you’ve ever considered investing in a few rental properties in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA now might be a good time. Prices are still low in Philadelphia, but have been on the upswing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in a US metropolitan area grew 13.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the latest in a 17-month streak of year-over-year price increases. 

New landlords can choose from properties that are likely to appreciate and a large pool of potential renters.Licensed realtor Pat Mueller cites a few reasons for this trend: “Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are entering the rentals market for the first time in years. Mortgages are also harder to get now, so fewer people are qualifying for a new one.”The more skills you bring to the table to get into Houses for Rent in Philadelphia Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA and the more time you have to devote to your properties, the faster you can make a return on your investment. 

But investing in rentals can also be disastrous (or too stressful to be worthwhile) without expertise. Here are three professionals you may consult about your new rental properties, and what you can do to mitigate how much they cost you:Handyman:  You may need to hire a specialist for some work on your rental. If you need new outlets or new pipes, for example, hire an electrician, plumber or licensed contractor. Handymen usually tackle smaller, more manageable tasks, like:

  • Painting and paint removal
  • Drywall repair
  • Minor appliance repairs (fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, among others)
  • Installing tiling or flooring, moldings, windows, doors
  • Refinishing decks, cabinets and other wood items

When You Could Skip It: You could do any (or all) of these projects yourself if you have the time and interest in learning. Of course, this only works if you live relatively close to your rentals and are flexible enough to service them on short notice. And if you’re willing to respond to the occasional 5 AM basement flooding.

Average Savings: Any base rates or costs-per-hour vary from location to location in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA , but nationally, you can expect to spend an average of $60 to $85 per hour for repair costs. It general costs less to hire an individual handyman than a handyman employed by a company. Expect an additional charge if your job requires a trip to the store for materials.

Resident Property Manager As the owner of a handful of rental properties, you may be able to manage them yourself, but if you want help, a single resident manager would probably be more cost efficient than a property management company. Resident managers may:

  • Serve as a handyman
  • Advertise vacancies in your units
  • Show apartments to prospective tenants
  • Review rental applications
  • Collect rents

When You Could Skip It: Again, the closer you live to your properties and the more spare time you have, the less likely you are to need a manager. The obligations of being a boss will also cut into the time you save on maintenance.

Average Savings: The national median wage for residential managers is just over $25 per hour. Research the wages in your community and adjust according to how much responsibility your manager will take on. 

Real Estate Agent: Once you’ve gotten your financials in order and done your own research on the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, you might contact a realtor to show you potential properties. You can also arrange for a realtor in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA to show rentals once they’re ready to rent.

When You Could Skip It: It depends. Even if you’re a local, or have thoroughly researched the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, a realtor is a great resource for a first-time rental buyer. Realtors have access to data and statistics not necessarily available to the general public and first-time buyers may not know all the right questions to ask. Using a realtor to fill your Houses for Rent vacancies is less of a no-brainer, depending on your other time commitments or whether you plan to hire a resident manager who could do the same thing.

Average Savings: As a buyer of rental properties, as when buying your own home, sellers typically pay most, if not all, of the buyer’s realtor fees. In this case, Mueller points out there’s little reason not to work with a realtor. For help in filling your units in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA, the services of a realtor would set you back between 10-20% of the unit’s rent per month.  Mueller recommends interviewing with several brokers before making your final decision to invest into Houses for Rent .

The Bottom Line: As a new landlord, you can’t necessarily control the flexibility of your schedule or the amount (and cost) of unexpected repairs to your properties. Rentals are a long-term investment. However, to maximize profits from your Houses for Rent, new rentals, you can buy close to home and start small. It is best to begin with just one or two properties. This will allow you to maximize the time you spend on your properties’ needs, and minimize the amount you’ll have to pay anyone else.

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