Karen Lawley's Blog
If you're still in the construction phase of your new dream home, or if you'd like to improve your existing home with a small project that gives you back more than just a monetary return, consider adding space for a living wall. A living wall not only gives you something beautiful to look at, it's a bandage for the planet you live on, too.
What Is a Living Wall?
Simply defined, a living wall is a wall made entirely of plants or plant material. A workable solution for both indoor and outdoor spaces, living walls are sometimes called green walls or vertical gardens. Their purpose is to add beauty and oxygen to the atmosphere, while reducing volatile organic compounds and muffling noise.
If you live close to the freeway, outdoor features such as living walls and fountains can help hide the sound of cars passing by. Additionally, your living wall will reduce the fumes generated by vehicle exhaust. This feature is easy to install and requires little in the way of maintenance, but it provides a beautiful space for your eyes to rest. Green walls such as these are environmentally friendly, and when installed in a frequently used area, such as the living room, bathroom, or outdoor patio, bring serenity and peace to your space.
How Do You Install a Living Wall?
Green walls are easy DIY projects, or you can hire a local landscaper to help. Generally, they include a sturdy wooden framework to which you'll affix pockets or planters. The pockets are filled with a lightweight, well-draining soil and outfitted with an irrigation method. Lastly, you'll add plants that will grow and vine, overtaking their planters and hiding the structure. When installed correctly, you'll see only the plants themselves, with none of the framework or tubing visible.
If you're planting your own green wall, you may want to work from a pre-made kit that includes fabric pockets and tubing for irrigation. The pockets are often made of recycled plastic and usually feature a waterproof rubber backing to protect your walls from moisture. There are multiple types of kits available, ranging from easy to complex. Some may require the help of a plumber to add a strategically placed spigot for irrigation.
What Are the Requirements for a Living Wall?
You should keep several factors in mind when installing your green wall. These include:
Ensuring your wall is located under sufficient natural light
Using plants that are hardy in your climate
Keeping interior walls safe from moisture
Planting varieties that are non-toxic to children and pets
It's important to use the right materials and to have at least a basic knowledge of gardening when constructing your own green wall. Otherwise, consider hiring a professional to help you install this pretty and functional addition to your living space.
Which Plants Are Best for Living Walls?
If you're installing your vertical garden indoors, you'll need plants that flourish under minimal light. These include:
If you're planting an outdoor vertical garden, you must use plants that are hardy to your planting zone. Choose varieties that are leafy and ones that vine and drape attractively. Impatiens, nasturtiums or vinca are all solid options.
What Are the Benefits of Installing a Living Wall?
There are many benefits to adding a living wall to your new or existing home. It generates healthy oxygen and makes rooms smell fresh and clean. A vertical garden also adds interest, texture, and height to your room's design. It's a beautiful, natural element that brings the outdoors inside. And when used outdoors in a sunny climate, can be a refreshing source of shade.
If your space needs a boost, consider the many physical and mental health properties of installing a living wall. You'll love the way it looks and feels, and watching it thrive and flourish can feel therapeutic and satisfying.
When it comes to finding the ideal neighborhood for your next home, there's no "one size fits all" formula.
While some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of an urban environment, others prefer a quiet family-oriented neighborhood in the suburbs.
Whatever your preferences, convenience is near the top of just about everyone's priority list. Here's why:
Closeness to Work: Long, daily commutes are not only stressful, but they can cause you to miss family dinners, school events, and relaxing evenings at home. There's also the added cost of gasoline, highway tolls, and wear-and-tear on your vehicle. If you happen to be leasing a vehicle, then long commutes could result in additional mileage charges at the end of your lease. Although car leases vary, exceeding the mileage allotment set by the leasing company can sometimes run you as much as 25 cents a mile. That can potentially add up to a hefty surcharge!
While there are a lot of reasons to look for a home that's relatively close to your job or business, quality of life issues are among the most important. As an example, if your daily commute is 45 minutes, each way, that adds up to an hour-and-a-half on the road. If you factor in occasional traffic jams, road repairs, and other inevitable delays, you're talking about more than eight hours a week just driving back and forth to work. It's equivalent to adding an additional work day to your week! Although it's not always feasible (especially in two-income households), there are major advantages to finding a house that's less than a half-hour commute to your job(s).
Proximity to Conveniences: Life will also be easier if you live close to a well-stocked supermarket. When you shop at a large, high-volume grocery store, prices are more economical and food tends to be fresher. Corner grocery stores and pharmacies are nice to have nearby when you just want to pick up a few quick essentials, but for selection, price, and freshness, supermarkets are usually your best bet!
Other desirable locations to keep in mind when house hunting include good-quality schools, reputable childcare centers, and proximity to family and friends. Depending on your lifestyle, you might want to be close to airports, major highways, recreational facilities, and entertainment. It can also be an advantage to choose a home near medical and dental offices, a veterinary clinic, and a preferred church, synagogue, or mosque.
When launching a search for your family's next home, the key to success is to stay focused, create detailed priority lists, and work with a seasoned real estate agent. Whether you decide to live in a rural area, suburbia, or downtown, a real estate agent has the knowledge, training, and negotiating skills to help you get a good deal and match your lifestyle goals with your budget and timeframe.
Owning a vacation home is a popular goal among homeowners. Whether the intent is to rent it out for additional income or to use it as your own private getaway, there are financial aspects of owning a vacation home that are important to consider. Vacation home purchases are expensive up front and can also incur large amounts in capital gains tax if you ever choose to sell the property. However, it is possible to defer taxes and save money by using a 1031 exchange in some cases.
1031 Exchange Basics
A 1031 exchange is a special transaction that allows you to sell one investment property in “exchange” for another. This works by using part or all of the proceeds from the sale in obtaining the new investment property. This is a way for investors and sellers to save money on their taxes by deferring capital gains tax on any profits from the sale. The process is already complex, but for vacation homes there are additional rules that apply.
Safe Harbor Rules
In order to be eligible for a 1031 exchange, you will need to make sure your vacation property follows all the IRS “safe harbor” rules. We can break those requirements down as:
You can only exchange “like-kind” properties. This is a requirement for all 1031 exchanges, regardless of the property type. It simply means that the property gained in the exchange must also be for investment long term.
The property must be used for “productive use” in business or for investment. This means the property generates income.
You have to own a property at least 2 years before exchanging it, or own the “replacement” property for at least 2 years after acquiring it.
In each of those two years, you must rent the property at fair market value for at least 14 days. Your personal use of the property must also be less than 14 days (or less than 10% of the time it was rented out, whichever is greater).
All of this means you will need to keep organized and detailed tax records for everything within that 2-year period. Make sure you can provide tax returns proving the income generated from the property and also record any time you spent personally in renovations, improvements, etc. Time spent working on the property does not count as your own “personal use” so carefully note the reasons for your visits.
If Your Property Doesn’t Qualify
If you mostly use your vacation home for personal use, it will probably not be eligible for a 1031 exchange. However, you might still save on taxes in other ways if you’re buying or selling. It all comes down to how long you own the home compared to the time you actually live in it. If you live in the property (“personal use”) for at least 2 of the previous 5 years, you can still exclude a fairly significant amount from your capital gains tax when you sell. If you purchased a property through a 1031 and later turned it into a personal residence, you can defer the exclusion as long as you live there for at least 5 years.
Timing is everything in determining whether you can buy or sell a vacation home through a 1031 exchange. Pursuing this kind of transaction takes lots of planning, organization and help from qualified professionals. If you’re unsure about whether your property or a property you want to buy will be eligible for a 1031, consult an expert.
For those who want to acquire a stellar house at a budget-friendly price, it pays to work with a diligent real estate agent. In fact, some of the top reasons to hire a diligent real estate agent include:
1. A diligent real estate agent knows all about the housing market.
Are you still unsure about what differentiates a buyer's market from a seller's market? No worries, as a diligent real estate agent can teach you everything you need to know about the housing market.
A diligent real estate agent will dedicate the necessary time and resources to help you become an informed home shopper. That way, you can enter the real estate market with the support and insights that you need to succeed.
Also, a diligent real estate agent is ready to respond to any homebuying concerns and questions. This housing market professional can serve as an expert homebuying resource who can help you achieve the best possible results during the property buying journey.
2. A diligent real estate agent can help you establish realistic homebuying expectations.
Although it may seem simple to look at houses and find one that can serve you well for years to come, the property buying process may prove to be much more complex than you initially thought. However, a diligent real estate agent can help you map out your homebuying journey so you can avoid potential hurdles along the way.
For example, a diligent real estate agent may encourage you to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Because, with a mortgage in hand, you can begin your home search with a clear understanding of how much money you can spend on a house.
A diligent real estate agent may ask you to differentiate between "must-haves" and "wants" for your dream residence. And with a homebuying checklist in hand, you can narrow your home search and accelerate your quest for the perfect residence.
3. A diligent real estate agent can help you handle homebuying negotiations.
Let's face it – homebuying negotiations can be tricky, particularly if you're forced to work with a stubborn home seller. But with a diligent real estate agent at your side, you can get the assistance you need to purchase your dream house at your ideal price.
A diligent real estate agent can negotiate with a home seller on your behalf and keep you up to date at each stage of a negotiation. Then, as homebuying negotiations progress, a diligent real estate agent will be able to offer tips and guidance to help you make informed decisions.
In addition, a diligent real estate agent can help you minimize stress throughout homebuying negotiations. If these negotiations become too stressful, a diligent real estate agent will do everything possible to help you stay calm, cool and collected as well.
If you're planning to buy a home in the near future, hiring a diligent real estate agent is a must. This housing market professional will do what it takes to ensure you can purchase a wonderful residence that matches or exceeds your expectations.
You are required to get homeowners insurance when you purchase a home. You probably are so excited about buying a home that you neglect to learn the ins and outs of your policy. Unfortunately, there are many things that insurance won’t cover, yet many homeowners think that they are covered under their home insurance policy. Below, you’ll find some things that are often not covered by your home insurance, even though you might think they are.
While your home insurance will cover damage from water in your home (different than flood insurance), the policy probably won’t cover what it takes to fix broken pipes. Your best bet in this area is prevention. You should be sure that your pipes are insulated properly and that there is adequate airflow around the pipes in your cabinets.
If an earthquake hits, you’re out of luck when it comes to your homeowners insurance policy. You typically need a separate policy to get earthquake coverage. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you’ll need to inquire about specific policies to protect your home from this type of natural disaster.
You’ll also need a separate policy in the event of a flood. Homeowner’s policies do not cover damage or losses caused by flooding. You can get optional coverage and this is highly recommended, especially if you live near a body of water or in an area that’s prone to flooding.
A Sewer Backup
If a sewer backs up, you’ll face some serious damage in your home. Unfortunately, your homeowners policy will not cover this type of damage. The repairs can be hefty. If you wish, you can always add this type of coverage to your policy.
Only Portions Of Disasters May Be Covered
If a hurricane hits, any damage that has been caused by the wind will be covered by your home insurance policy. If you face flooding, however, and do not have a flood insurance policy, you’ll be out of luck. Without extra coverage, some natural disasters can be a special disaster for you and your wallet.
Keep Up The Maintenance On Your Home
It’s important to understand what is and isn’t covered by your home insurance policy. When you know how to prepare for different situations, it will make caring for and maintaining your home and your financial future a lot easier. If you prepare accordingly for natural disasters as directed, and perform proper maintenance on your home, your insurance policy should act in the best interest for you. If you happen to live in an area where you are prone to natural disasters, make sure you get the appropriate additional coverage that you’ll need to protect you.