Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Yard

The beginning of spring is an ideal time to get a head start on your yardwork. A little work now will spruce up the outside of your home, start your “spring cleaning” routine and make your summer yard chores easier.

Rake, Remove, Repeat

spring-garden-snowdrops-rakeFirst, rake the entire yard. Remove all sticks, leaves, and dead vegetation. Remove debris from all flower beds, shrubs and trees and loosen the soil around each. Trim dead limbs from trees, shrubs and evergreens.

“It’s also a good idea to trowel in the old mulch from last fall and refresh with a couple of inches of new mulch in the spring,” says Lori Richardson of Horrocks Garden Center in Ionia.

Plant Trees and Shrubs

“Most plants are in full dormancy now, and now is the time for many garden chores,” continues Richardson “Now is a great time to apply a slow release fertilizer, such as Milorganite or Osmocote, to your trees and shrubs. This will allow your shrubs to have the nutrients they need before growth starts to occur.”

Richardson says spring is a great time to prune many trees and summer flowering shrubs. You will want to wait to prune tree pruningall spring flowering shrubs until after they have bloomed, preferably within one month of the bloom.  It’s also an excellent time to prune your roses and other perennials. Start by removing dead, diseased, dying, and crossing branches first. Then, prune to form a well branched specimen with optimum light penetration. Other perennials that will benefit from pruning now include butterfly bush, most spirea, ornamental grasses and liriope.

If you plan to add more ornamental borders or shade trees to your yard, now is the best time to plant them due to the variety available in the spring.  But, you can plant trees, shrubs and perennials at any time of the year. When planting container grown trees and shrubs prevent large air pockets, which will hinder root growth, by loosening the soil around the roots.  When planting balled and burlaped trees do not remove the basket or burlap, plant the entire ball, making sure that where the trunk meets the root ball is at ground level.balled tree

“Planting the balled and burlaped tree to far below or too high above ground level threatens the tree and it’s long term health,” says Richardson.

After you’ve planted the trees or shrubs, water them well to seal them in the ground.

If you have fruit trees, apply the first dormant oil spray before the leaves appear. The application will eradicate insect bores that may have taken up winter residence.

Feed with Fertilizer

Once all raking, soil preparation and pruning chores are done, choose a well-balanced fertilizer program for your yard. If you haven’t already done so, now is still a good time to test your lawns and gardens for the soil pH.  If you’re not sure which is the best for your yard, ask your local nursery they can identify a good program for your soil type. A 10-10-10 fertilizer, which has nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, is a good all-around mixture for most lawns.  Apply all fertilizers evenly to avoid a striped pattern in the grass. Follow watering directions for the fertilizer carefully, or you may damage your lawn.

Know what local ‘pests’ are in your neighborhood

While you may think that all you must plan for is sun and water for your landscaping, think again – pests such as wildlife, insects, and stray animals can wreak havoc on your landscaping. Plan if you will need fencing, wire mesh, or possibly planting natural plantings can deter and ward off many local pests.

Many of us have problems with those pesky ground moles.  The real reason they burrow through your yard is for the grubs.  These grubs are Japanese beetles that live in the ground until they fly out in the summer to eat your landscaping and the go back to ground to lay more eggs.  Now is the time to apply a grub control to eliminate the beetles

shutterstock_191231993_landscaping_webGet inspired

For some, inspiration comes from looking at neighboring yards, or traveling to other areas of your town to look at landscaping. While others seek inspiration from home and garden publications and satellite television do-it-yourself programs.  A trip through a garden center like Horrocks Garden Center may be all the inspiration you need to get motivated.  The staff will know what will grow well in your area.


Jan Lehman, Standale Interiors

The West Michigan home building/remodeling industry is experiencing one of the most competitive and tight housing markets ever, resulting in many home owners deciding to remodel rather than move.  The remodeling business is booming with endless options for upgrading.

Not too long ago, pricier renovations were thought to give you a better ROI when selling your home.  Well, as the saying goes, “The times, they are a-changin’.”  Today the demand for lower, more affordable homes is where the market is.  The labor shortage, along with higher prices for building products due to natural disasters, has caused remodeling prices to increase significantly.  So now the formula to get the most bang for your buck is, “The simpler the project, the better return on your investment.”  Now the upgrade vs. an addition makes more sense.

With all that said, the one caveat is house pride—what is the value TO YOU living in a house that YOU designed in a way that makes YOU happy?  Doesn’t it make sense for YOU to enjoy a home improvement even if only for a year?

Back to the question of SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?  Here are a few rules of thumb to consider whether you are renovating for yourself or for resale.

  • IF IT’S BROKE, FIX IT!   Unless you are selling your home as a “fixer-upper,” most buyers don’t want a lot of maintenance upon moving in.  Who wants to live in a home with lots of stuff that doesn’t work?
  • FIRST IMPRESSIONS CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.  Make sure everything is clean–windows, siding, doors, etc.   The landscape should be neat and make sure the exterior lighting is in working order as that can be attractive as a security feature.vanity
  • BEAUTIFUL BATHROOMS.  It’s easy to give your bathroom a simple makeover.  New paint, faucets, shower-heads, towel bars, shower curtains, and accessories are the most common for do-it-yourselfers.  If you have some plumbing skills, a new vanity can make a big impact.  If you are planning a complete overhaul such as flooring, cabinetry, mirrors and lighting, you may want to enlist the help of a designer.  Standale Interiors will provide design help when you are planning such a project.
  • THE ALL-IMPORTANT KITCHEN!   Think about how your kitchen is working for you.  Do you just need a simple refresh or do you need a complete redo?  If you want faucetto give it a facelift, think about new paint, faucet, accessories and especially new cabinet hardware and switch plates. If you want a complete redo, your best bet is to enlist the help of the experts so that they can create the kitchen you want.  There are unlimited options for countertops, cabinets and flooring that can be combined to fit your lifestyle and budget.  For example, tile is trending for kitchens.  However, if your budget can’t handle that, there are other options that look like tile that can fool even the experts
  • WANT AN ENTRY THAT SAYS WOW?  Power washing the porch and siding, replacing crumbling cement (steps or porch), maybe some new outdoor furniture and certainly landscaping will go a long way in welcoming your visitors.  If your entry door is in good condition, a fresh coat of paint or stain is in order and then get creative with your house numbers!  If your entry door isn’t very energy efficient, let the experts install a paintable fiberglass door which resists denting and scratching and is house numberseasy to maintain.  This is a great place to add a pop of unexpected color that will have your guests saying, “Wow!”
  • SPRING IS A GREAT TIME TO DECLUTTER.  Clutter stifles our creativity and who wants to see your mess.  Out with the old and bring in some fun, new accessories.
  • WONDERFUL WINDOWS are probably best left to the professionals.  Vinyl windows will probably be your most reasonably priced option.  Vinyl windows resist rotting, don’t require repainting, won’t pit or flake and require little maintenance.  You’ll enjoy an immediate pay off in terms of increased comfort, lower utility bills and increased curb appeal, while potentially adding significant resale value to your home.
  • IT’S TIME TO LOOK DOWN.  If you’re not changing the foot-print of your space, new flooring has a huge impact.  Most people like to sink their toes into soft carpet when getting out of bed so a remnant could be an easy update.  If the flooring is water-stained, consider investing in the newest water-proof vinyl flooring.  We’ve even been using LVP on accent walls!

Figure out what renovations YOU can do and what renovations to leave to the professionals.  Electrical or plumbing are two areas best left to the professionals while, with the right tools and talent, painting even one wall should be something you can do yourself.

You may also want to do some decorating just for you!  Here are some ideas that can give you some pride and joy while impressing potential buyers as well.

  • Builder woman with roll wallpaper. Isolated.Decorate rooms that often aren’t!  Wouldn’t it be easier doing laundry in a bright and organized space?  Put up a pretty valance, get some colored canvas bags and paint a soothing spa-green. Or organize the garage or basement using brightly colored storage bins.
  • Wallpaper is making a comeback.  Use it as an accent wall in the foyer or half bath, behind the bed or even on sliding doors to create moving artwork.

  • Don’t over-remodel for your area.  If you’ve been in your neighborhood for a while, you’ve probably been in your neighbor’s home so you know what finishes and fixtures and updates others have done.  Try to do something, however, that will set your home apart from the Jones.  If you have a kitchen island already, maybe spring for a new quartz countertop or new backsplash.


Gain a Competitive Edge with a Pre-Approval

Mortgage pre-approval: what it is and why you need it


house on money

You’re early on in the home buying, new construction or renovation process.  You’ve just started looking and the excitement is building.  Your thoughts wander to how your bedroom set will look in the new master suite, or how much you’ll enjoy that fire pit on summer evenings. But you’d be getting well ahead of yourself.

Before you decide on a realtor, and before you contact any seller, even before you tour a single home, your first concern should be financing. You’ll need to find out just where your true home buying budget lies. How much home can you afford? Is your credit solid? How much of a down payment can you swing?

These are questions a good loan officer can help you answer. You need to get pre-approved.

The pre-approval process evaluates your finances, resources and credit worthiness in advance of making an offer on a home. A letter of pre-approval marks you as a qualified buyer who’s poised to make a financial commitment.  It shows sellers that you’re serious about buying and demonstrates the lender’s high level of confidence in your financial strength.

Many people don’t bother with getting pre-approved until they’ve found the home they want. But in a rising real estate market in which homes often sell very quickly, a seller may not be willing to wait for you to nail down financing. Time is often critical, and you may miss out of the home you just fell in love with. Pre-approval can give you a competitive advantage over others considering the same home.

Pre-approval is different than pre-qualification. Pre-qualification can tell you roughly how much home you can afford, but is says nothing about your credit-worthiness. The pre-approval process actually checks your credit and verifies documentation ahead of the offer stage.

What you’ll need to get pre-approved:

Proof of income

Be prepared to provide W-2 tax statements for at least the past two years as well as recent pay stub statements showing year-to-date totals. You’ll also need to document income from any other sources if you will be using that income as a basis for your loan.

Proof of assets

You’ll need to demonstrate possession of sufficient funds to cover your down payment, closing costs and other expenses, as well as adequate cash reserves.

Solid credit

Generally speaking, the better your credit, the lower the interest rate you’ll be able to secure. Most lenders save their best rates for borrowers with a credit score of over 740. Anything below that will likely result in a higher rate, or a requirement to buy additional discount points to lower the rate. Mortgage financing can still be had by low credit score buyers, but it usually requires a larger down payment or other concessions.

Verified employment

Pay stubs and W-2 forms will need to be directly verified by your employer. Lenders want to see a consistent track record that demonstrates stable employment over time.


You’ll need to provide a copy of your driver’s license (or state ID), social security number and sign an agreement allowing your lender to access your credit report. Individual lending institutions may also have additional documentation requirements.

Going forward

Do your homework.  Talk to your family, friends and coworkers to learn from their experiences in deciding on a lender. Even on its best days, mortgage processing is a complex matter. Communication is key. It’s not all about low rates, which can be manipulated to hide other costs and charges. It’s also about finding a level of trust and comfort with those you’ll be dealing with.

If you’re ready to start home shopping, get pre-approved first.  Happy hunting!

Andrew Clarkson. Lake Michigan Credit Union, VP Regional Mortgage Production


Easy Ways to Use Pantone’s Color of the Year

It’s official…the 2018 Pantone color of the year is Ultra Violet

Every year, Pantone releases their defining color of the year, and it usually emulates what’s currently going on in the world of design and beyond.  It will soon be popping up everywhere and on everything.  If you are looking to change things up and bring some purple into your life.  Here are a few ways to bring it into your home without breaking the bank.

1. Paint a Stripe (Not a Whole Wall)

An accent wall is a commitment. And while painting is one of the less expensive updates you can make (one that may even help you sell your home for more down the line), purple is a highly saturated color to be painting an entire wall that you might want to cover up someday.

Instead think about painting a simple strip on one of your walls

2. Throw Some Throws Around

pillowSnag a couple of inexpensive purple throw blankets and drape them over the back of the couch or the end of your bed. If you’re more of a pillow person, find yourself a cozy purple pillow.

3. Purple-fy Your Kitchen

glassesPurple might be a bold choice when it comes to walls and linens, but it’s a natural (and pretty common) addition to any kitchen. Spice up your kitchen with a new set of purple dish towels.  If you’re down to your last glass because somebody can’t wash dishes without breaking them consider restocking with an inexpensive set of purple drinking glasses.

4. Brighten Up the Bathroom

towelsIf you’re looking for a simple update that packs a punch, a shower curtain ranks high on the list. It’s the same effect as an accent wall with a pretty minimal commitment, and whether you go for all the purple or take a more conservative approach, the bathroom is the perfect place to ease into the trend.

If you need even more purple towels and bath mats are an easy addition.

5.  The Walls Have it.

printThe walls are an easy way to introduce this color that is often associated with mindfulness practices, offering us an opportunity to seek refuge from an over-stimulated world.  Embrace the perfect print and create a princely gallery.

 6. Don’t Forget the Animals

Pet beds and dishes often wear out quickly, and your beloved, fur-covered friend might be due for an update anyway. A purple food and water dish will have your cat feeling like the king we know he is, while a colorful, cozy bed will show your dog she’s loved (and pretty trendy, if she cares about appearances).

You don’t have to go crazy to embrace this royal color, but there’s no harm in treating yourself to a little decor update in the name of a trend.