Getting Your Lawn Ready for Fall
This may be jumping the gun a little, but it usually takes me a month or so to I know, I’m obsessed with lawn care. Please bear with me.
Before 2021, I always believed here in Texas we didn’t have to worry quite so much about preparing our lawns for winter. Now I realize we need to fortify them as much almost as much as the northern states, because we’re just one massive freeze away from years of progress being destroyed.
1) Continue Usual Maintenance – Don’t stop mowing and weeding, and keep raking leaves up through the fall. It will allow the waning sunlight to reach the grass, and there will be less leaf to turn brown during the winter. And for God’s sake, don’t stop watering, even in the winter.
2) Ready the Pre-Emergent Herbicide – The early fall (now) is the perfect time to apply an herbicide to stop the spread of weeds and dandelions. Recent EPA regulations have outlawed weed killers that kill man stubborn weeds in North Texas (don’t get me started on why…). A preemergent herbicide will sterilize the weeds so they won’t grow back in the spring… provided we have a nice, cold winter.
3) Additional Fertilizing – When mid-late October approaches, it’ll be a good time to apply additional high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer to your lawn. It’s about to experience what could be an extended period of dormancy, but you need to make sure the roots are strong and run deep. I use Scott’s Bonus-S at the advice of my local Home Depot guru, but I can’t say that’s the best.
4) Know What’s Best for Your Lawn – Without going into details, there are pre-emergents and fertilizers that work great for bermuda grass, but kill St. Augustine on contact, and conversely. Also be mindful of the forecast. Some treatments do not work properly above certain temperatures, and if there is a heavy rain in the forecast it’s pointless to sprinkle anything on your lawn.
Vague Specifics – August 2022
We’re not really sure what’s going on right now with the market, prices and the recession. There are people smarter than me (God knows there are plenty…) who can more accurately predict the next 12-24 months, but the best I can tell you is a grand “price correction” is not on the horizon. It’s possible, however, that buyers who closed this year may be in for a dose of historical context.
Back in ye olden days (ie all of recorded history up to 2020), Dallas had a comparatively sleepy market. The rule of thumb was you could expect to make a nice profit off the sale of your home if you lived in it for 3-5 years, all other variables equal. Those days may be here again for a time, and they need to remain for several years for home affordability to re-balance. The average person should be able to afford the average house (a rating of 100). We’re now standing around 76.
76 isn’t catastrophic – Los Angeles and San Francisco are 16 and 17, respectively – but it’s still not optimal.
So where are prices going? We saw a roughly 20% increase in sales prices from January-May. A $400,000 house in January was selling for $440,000, a $440,000 house in March was selling for $480,000 in May. Where we are now is likely somewhere in between. A-Tier houses (houses perfectly updated with universal appeal) will likely hold their value going forward due to continued low supply, but B and C-Tier homes will likely sell this fall somewhere in between where they would between March and May. I know this isn’t scientific, but it’s the best anecdotically I can do.
As always, call me if you have any questions or insights. I’m never too sure of myself to not listen.
Preparing for the Coming Winter
The summer of 2022 has been brutal, and according to the Farmer’s Almanac we’re in store for a particularly cold winter. We’ll have our standard 3 weeks of beautiful DFW fall weather, followed by rain, wind and cold. Before the oven becomes a freezer put yourself to work outside and prepare.
Paint, Stain & Reseal – This covers a lot of items. The Texas summer is murder on paint, wood, caulk and sealant, especially south-facing surfaces. The winter moisture will exploit 0this, so make sure the house, fence, and decks are painted/restained and the caulked and sealed surfaces and cracks are stripped and re-sealed. This could take days; always handle the sealing/caulking first!
Replace Old Windows – Window seals are the same as all the others. The heat causes them to expand, the cold contract and lose their seals. Broken seals are typically more unsightly than inefficient, but enough of them can mean higher bills.
Clean the Gutters – Can’t be overstated the damage standing water in your gutters can do to your house, and in extreme cases it can cause the gutters to collapse. A ladder and a blower can save you thousands.
Add Insulation – Every 10-15 years your insulation compacts to the point where it needs to be supplemented. There are instances where it just makes sense to drain all the existing insulation and just start over, especially if you have rodents or squirels in the attic.
Service Your Furnace – As important as servicing your air conditioner is to keeping you cold, servicing your furnace keeps you from dying. Gas leaks can kill.
Fireplace Maintenance – It’s hard to imagine a roaring fire while it’s 100 degrees outside, but before you know it you’ll be wanting one. Make sure the dampers function properly, repair damaged masonry or brickwork, and climb on the roof to in-spect your chimney cap if you have one. If you heard birds chirping up ther during the spring, there may be a flamable abaondoned nest in the chimney!
Architectural Corner – The American Craftsman
Inspired by the British Arts & Crafts movement and beginning in the later years of the 1800’s, American Craftsman represented a departure from the ornamentation of the Victorian Style and urban grit of the Industrial Revolution, embracing a return to countryside simplicity. It began in Southern California and spread from 1900-1929 throughout the United States, most common in California and the midwest.
Craftsman homes feature low-pitched, gabled roofs, with overhanging eaves and exposed rafters, signature front porches and tapered columns, large bay windows, and stone or stucco accents. They are almost always painted wood siding, typically with cedar shaker shingles.
Not only is the craftsman style still extremely popular with smaller-sized new construction today, thanks to their quality build they are a common target for renovators, although their small size often warrants signficant additions.
Giving Your Air Conditioner a Helping Hand
2022 has been the spiciest summer in a decade, and with it comes talk of rollling blackouts and heat advisories. While the modern air conditioner is virtual a miracle (placing its inventor, Willis Carrier, just below the Archangel Michael in the pecking order of saints), in extreme temperatures they need all the help they can get. Here are a few tips to help give your air conditioner a little help:
1) KEEP YOUR SYSTEM MAINTAINED – Hands-down the most important thing you can do. Even if it’s working perfectly, have your technician come out every spring and fall. In the spring they will check your coolant levels, make sure your coils are clean, and give it a full physical.
2) MAINTAIN A CLEAN FILTER – Replace your filter every 1-2 months. Put it in your calendar, write it on the refrigerator or carve it on the back of your hand. A dirty filter not only decreases your efficiency, it heavily burdens the system and can spell an early demise. Also, agents like me use filters as a barometer for how a seller has generally kept a home.
3) CHECK FOR LEAKS – Windows, attic access, and exterior doors should be closed as tightly as possible. Also, in the spring and fall check your ductwork for leaks. Rats and squirels love eating through it.
4) SHADE AND KEEP YOUR CONDENSOR CLEAR – Keeping your condensor out of direct sunlight will help it’s efficiency, but make sure nothing is within 2 feet of the unit. Circulation and shade will make sure the unit is doing it’s job.
5) DON’T CRANK UP THE THERMOSTAT WHILE YOU’RE GONE – While keeping the temperature at 80 while you’re at work may seem like a good idea, in reality it takes more time and energy to cool your house down than it would to simply maintain a constant temperature.
6) ADD INSULATION – You can never have too much in your attic. Insulation is messy, but it’s relatively cheap to have blown into your attic.
7) KEEP DUCTS OPEN – Not only does it not improve efficiency, a closed duct puts stress on your system.
Vague Specifics – July 2022
After 2 years of inventory halfing year-over-year, the number of houses for sale is climbing rapidly and I couldn’t be happier. “But John, you stalwart yet sensitive archetype of masculinity,” I hear you ask, “isn’t this a sign prices are going to ‘adjust’?” Well, dedicated reader, I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but even if listing inventory were to double for the next 2 years we would still be in a market similar to 2019. Was that a great year for real estate? No, but it was certainly above average. Also, consider the fact we only have 2 months of inventory. That would multipy by 3 and we’d still only be at the border of a buyers and sellers market. See the graph below which reinforces my point. We’ve got a long way to go to even get close to 2019.
It’s quite possible interest rates will end up in the 7’s by year’s end. I wouldn’t necessarily call this permanent, although since 1971 the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is right at 8%, and once inflation is tamped down (we’re nowhere near that) they’re likely to settle, hopefully sub-5 but probably not. This is all just my speculation.
I’ve started using median numbers instead of averages on page 2 of the newsletter. After a heated discussion with one of the statisticians at Texas A&M (never argue statistics with a statistician) I’ve decided to make the change because averages tend to exagerate statistics. Also, the powers that be stopped breaking down DFW home sales into single-family, condos and townhomes so the information I’m able to supply is going to be somewhat dimished. Make all the A&M jokes you want in lieu of this information.
Pain at the Pump: Saving Gas Mileage
Minus those with electric cars, we’re all feeling the pain of record-high gas prices. A lot of factors got us here, and unfortunately it’s not going away anytime soon. Here are a few thoughts that may help alleviate the sting:
1) Don’t Drive Like an Angry Teenager – The most obvious first. Stepping hard on the gas burns 15-30% more gas than a easy push on the pedal and your car’s gas mileage drops precipitously once you pass 50 MPH. I’m not saying drive 50 on the highway, just take it easy when considering breaking the speed limit.
2) Mind Cruise Control – It’s convenient, but in certain conditions they’re terrible. Going up hills and hitting resume when you’re speed is a lot lower than the set speed are 2 I’ve noticed.
3) Keep Your Tires Inflated – In 2009 during the last gas crisis, then-President Obama made this point. According to the Department of Energy, each tire underinflated by 10 PSI degrades fuel economy by 3.3%. All tires underinflated by 10% reduces your fuel economy by a full 10%. On another note, it’s nice to see gas stations featuring air pumps with integrated pressure meters.
4) Replace Spark Plugs – Each cylinder in your engine has a spark plug. Faulty ones can decrease fuel economy by a whopping 30%. If your mileage suddenly drops, there’s a good chance you have a misfiring spark plug.
5) Rotate Your Tires – Instead of rolling smoothly, a unaligned tire actually creates drag on your car. Improper alignment can hinder your efficiency by a full 10%. If your steering wheel vibrates when you drive, they’re likely out of rotation.
6) Leave Extra Weight at Home – For every 100 lbs of passenger or equipment. you lose roughly 1% of your gas mileage. I mean, carpooling is still the way to go, just know being environmentally conscious is going to cost you!
7) Use the Upside App – FYI I have no business relationship with this company. Upside is an app that prices near gas stations and actually gives you cash back on purchases. I’ve only gotten $11.37 in the 5 or so times I’ve used it, but I’ve also found the cheapest local gas while in unfamiliar areas.
MLS Statistics May 2022
Architectural Corner: Spanish Colonial
From Florida to California and throughout the southwestern states, Spanish Colonial homes date all the way back to the 1600’s when Spanish settlers began building their homes in North America.
Characterized by red clay tile roof, thick, white stucco walls, relatively few, smaller windows, and exposed wood support beams, they were designed around hot climates and to maintain coolness inside. Courtyards are also common, long ago used for cooking. Decorations were usually somewhat minimalist. Earlier homes were not well-suited for cold, humidity, and could swell if exposed to too much water, causing the stucco to fall apart.
Spanish Colonials are very popular in newer construction homes now that the technology has allowed for better stucco and central heat, although many builders (like Clifford Hutsell in the early 1900s) abandoned stucco for brick.