Friday, September 19, 2014

Plenty Of Different Activities In Columbus, Mississippi This Weekend

There is a reason to highlight weekend activities in the community. Anyone relocating to Columbus, Mississippi wants to know about the quality of life. They want to know if there are activities that fit their interests. Let’s see what is happening in Columbus this weekend. 

The Thai by Thai restaurant in the Littlewoods Shopping Center on Wilkens-Wise Road and US-45 has a Friday night special planned. Enjoy a 4-course meal along with 4 different beers.  The appetizer is a Crispy Rangoon made from crabmeat, cream cheese, carrot and celery wrapped in a wonton and deep-fried. Next comes the Som Tum salad made from shredded papaya, tomatoes, green beans and crushed peanuts with a spicy Thai lime dressing. Wait until you see the main course. It’s The Spicy Old Man. That is beef stir-fried with sweet chili paste, onions, basil and bamboo shoots. Save room for the Strawberry Daiquiri Cake with fresh strawberries and rum in a light, fluffy cake. Each course comes with a carefully selected Back Forty brew.

Friday night’s in the fall means high school football.  The Columbus High School Falcons (0-3) host the defending state champion Louisville Wildcats (2-2).  The New Hope High School Trojans (3-0) are looking to sweep the teams from Monroe County on their schedule. They host the Amory Panthers (2-2). The Caledonia Confederates (3-1) face a tough test when they visit the East Webster Wolverines (4-1) in Maben. West Lowndes (1-3) host French Camp Academy (1-3) in a battle of the Panthers.

Friday caps a very special occasion for the Heritage Academy Patriots (2-2). This is the school’s 50th anniversary and it’s homecoming. After a day of special events during school, the Hillcrest Cougars (1-3) from Jackson will try to spoil the party. Come at 5:30 p.m. to enjoy the hamburger supper.

The Columbus Christian Academy Rams (2-2) face a tough test as they host the Heidelberg Academy Rebels (4-0). The Victory Christian Academy Eagles (4-0) travel to Selma, Alabama for an 8-man football game versus the Meadowview Christian Trojans (2-1).

Looking for the freshest locally grown vegetables? There is only one place to shop. Visit the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market on the corner of Second Avenue North and 2nd Street. Farmers sell tomatoes, peppers, squash, radishes, eggs, honey, fresh cut flowers, blackberries, blueberries, peaches and watermelons around. Plus there are baked goods and arts and crafts vendors.

The Coffee House on 5th Street donates the coffee each Saturday morning for market shoppers. There is a juice bar with watermelon and apple juice, peach and carrot juice, kale, pineapple and cucumber juice or apple, carrot and ginger juice. The market opens at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday and is also open after work on Monday and before work on Thursday.

How about getting the blood pumping with a 5-K Run? This is not an ordinary 5-K run. It’s the second annual Zombie 5-K run on Columbus AFB at the Independence Avenue cemetery. Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. with the run starting an hour later. There are two events – one for the children and then there is the “extreme” event for adults. This is a public event, but pre-register for base access. United Way of Lowndes County still needs a few volunteers to help with this event.

The Columbus Disc Golf Association is hosting the Possum Town Open sponsored by The Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau.  Registration is at Lake Lowndes State Park in New Hope on Saturday starting at 8:00 a.m. Competition begins an hour later at both Lake Lowndes or Propst Park on Main Street in Columbus. The Southern Nationals Disc Golf Series website has more information and the rules.

Anyone want to help a neighbor in need?  Does the car need washing? If the answer to both questions is yes, then here is a great opportunity.

Mrs. Dorothy Hubbard is an elderly Columbus woman. She recently lost her home due to a fire. Local police officers and firefighters know her immediate needs. They are sponsoring a carwash at Advance Auto Parts at the corner of Alabama Street and McCrary Road in East Columbus. The car wash begins at 8:00 a.m. But don’t come too early. To help raise even more money for Mrs. Hubbard, buy a hamburger or hot dog, chips and beverage for lunch.

Three major universities with membership in the Southeastern Conference are within a 2-hour drive (or less) of Columbus. That means the best in college football is close by. Alabama hosts Florida in a mid-Saturday afternoon conference game. Mississippi State visits Baton Rouge for a night game with LSU in a key SEC-Western Division match-up.  The Ole Miss Rebels take the weekend off before starting a tough 7-game stretch that includes playing five SEC opponents.

This is the third weekend of the month. That means there is a country-western dance at the Community Center on Stadium Road in New Hope. Gene Robertson and the Echo’s perform at 7:00 p.m.

Dick’s Sporting Goods on the corner of US-45 North and Wilkens Wise Road opened earlier this week. The grand opening festivities end Sunday with a special guest. Come and meet Eric Moulds who played at Mississippi State in the mid-1990’s before becoming a first round draft pick for the Buffalo Bills in 1996. Moulds played for the Bills for ten years. He received three All-Pro honors. He also played in three Pro-Bowls. He finished his professional career with the Texans and Titans.

Moulds caught 117 passes for 2,022 yards (averaging 17.1 per catch) at State. He ranks fourth in yards and third in touchdowns on Mississippi State's career receiving list. He will be at Dick’s signing autographs starting at 12:30 p.m.

Anyone have a real estate need this weekend? Please make a private preview appointment least 24-hours in advance. Your REALTOR® knows how to do that.
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Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail – andyk@dorishardy.com.  He is also available for web video chat.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Money-Saving Tips on Fall Landscaping From a First-Time Home Owner

A creative solution to a compost bin, fixing a steep slope on the cheap, and the money-saving joy of an edible garden.

I became a first-time home owner in May, but I waited until late September to start doing some landscaping projects. Why? Long-time home owners I know told me that fall is a great season for yard work — the weather is nice, plants are cheap, and veggies are hardy.

They were right! Here are three landscaping projects I did in my yard this fall, and how I saved money on each one.

A salvaged compost binWhen I built my screened-in porch, I started with an existing deck, but the railings were old and warped. I replaced the railings, but put the old ones to good use as a compost bin.

Situated in a natural area in my backyard, my compost bin is 4-by-6 feet with two chambers. On one side, I pile raked leaves so they can become mulch. On the other side, I keep an old trash can with a tight lid that I use to deposit food scraps.

The old deck railings make up the sides of the compost bin, caged with some galvanized steel mesh. The top is made of corrugated sheet metal, also left over from the screened-in porch project, and the front of the bin is removable so I can get to the compost inside.

Because I used materials I already had, the only thing I had to buy was some more wire mesh, which cost about $50. The lumber and sheet metal would have cost about $60.

Money-saving tip: Always shop in your own scrap pile first, and get creative with your salvaged materials — you’ll be surprised how much money you can save.

Saving money on a steep slopeMy front yard is very steep and shady, so it’s perfect for a couple of retaining walls — I don’t want to mow a steep hill, and barely any grass will grow there anyway.

So I bought about $100 worth of concrete blocks, enlisted some help, and got to work. Unfortunately, the soil in my yard mostly consists of infamous Georgia clay, so once the trenches were dug and the two walls were stacked, we had to amend the you-know-what out of the soil. Mixing my clay soil with several bags of topsoil turned it into something plants would want to grow in.

The money-saving part of this project came with buying plants — they’re cheaper in fall because nurseries like to clean out their inventories. I bought all my plants on sale for between 20% and 50% off.

I bought vinca, a trailing ground cover, to spill over the front of the walls. Behind the vinca are creeping azaleas in one wall and nandina in the other wall; both should fill the spaces nicely when they mature. Tufts of Emerald Goddess Lilyturf line the front of each wall. The vinca, azaleas, and lilyturf cost me about $60, but the nandina came from a friend’s garden — it had spread too far for her space, so she was dividing the plants. She gave me the part she uprooted.

After a weekend of work, my front yard looks much better:

Money-saving tip: Once a garden is established, gardeners have to divide and cut back their plants, so don’t be afraid to ask if you can take advantage of their unwanted offshoots. Chances are they’d be happy to give them to you.

Good eating from my fall gardenBack in September, I prepared my garden for fall veggies by pulling out all summer plants that were finished fruiting, turning and loosening the soil, removing all weeds, and adding compost. Then, I planted about $12 worth of vegetables that thrive in cooler temperatures — broccoli, spinach, and cabbage.

Money-saving tip: Plant hardy veggies that you like to eat frequently so you’ll save money on your grocery bill. My spinach should last through several hard frosts, and the broccoli and cabbage should live until temperatures drop below 20 degrees F. It never gets that cold here in Georgia, so I should enjoy these vegetables all winter long.

How have you saved money in your yard this fall?
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Courtney Craig wrote this copyrighted article that appeared on National Association of Realtors® web site and is used with permission. She is an Atlanta-based writer and editor. She believes no effort is too small when it comes to green living, which she tries to keep in mind while renovating her recently purchased first home. Follow Courtney on Google+.

Visit Houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.


Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail – andyk@dorishardy.com.  He is also available for web video chat.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Century 21 Sweeps Home Buyer/Seller Satisfaction Study

CENTURY 21 Real Estate announced the results of a recent study that validated customer satisfaction. Each year J.D. Power and Associates studies Home Buyer and Seller Satisfaction. Their 2014 study revealed that Century 21 customers rated the franchise the best in overall customer satisfaction. The study broke down real estate customers into one of four categories. Those four customer categories are – First-Time Home-Buyer, Repeat Home-Buyer, First-Time Home-Seller and Repeat Home-Seller. CENTURY 21® Real Estate swept all four awards for customer satisfaction.

“CENTURY 21 sales professionals understand that real estate is about developing relationships and building trust with their customers. Customer satisfaction is at the core of everything that they do each and every day,” said Rick Davidson, president and chief executive officer, Century 21 Real Estate LLC. “Our brand reputation is earned and measured with every customer interaction, and these J.D. Power results showcase the quality of our franchise broker network and their affiliated sales professionals.”

The study, now in its seventh year, measures customer satisfaction among first-time and repeat home buyers and sellers doing business with the nation’s largest real estate companies. The study measures satisfaction for different parts of the buyer transaction. These areas include the agent or salesperson, the real estate office, the closing process, and a variety of additional services. On the seller’s side of the transaction, the survey measured the same four factors plus a fifth factor, the marketing phase of the transaction.

“The feedback from thousands of home buyers and sellers in this study shows that the dedication and commitment of the C21® System to caring about the consumer, delivering excellent service and establishing trust as a differentiator in the market,” said Bev Thorne, chief marketing officer, Century 21 Real Estate LLC. “This study comes at the culmination of three years of hard work and dedication to a strategic roadmap that our brokers have embraced since 2011. By focusing on the quality of their affiliated sales professionals, they have raised the bar for customer service.”

The 2014 Home Buyer/Seller Satisfaction Study includes 5,810 evaluations from 4,868 customers who bought and/or sold a home between March 2013 and April 2014. The study was fielded between March 2014 and May 2014.

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power is a global marketing information services company providing performance improvement, social media and customer satisfaction insights and solutions. The company’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information, visit jdpower.com. J.D. Power is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies. 
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Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail – andyk@dorishardy.com.  He is also available for web video chat.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Checking A Credit Report – 101

It is a wise consumer that periodically reviews his or her credit report. It is unfortunate when a simple mistake can deny a person with good credit something they really want. However simply checking the score is not enough. Take a few minutes to read the entire report – from the very top to the very bottom. That is exactly what lenders do. Let’s see what a lender reviews.

Who Are You – Reviewing a credit report at the beginning means starting at very top. Carefully review every piece of identification information. This may sound trite but incorrect identification information could be the key to explaining those unexpected surprises on the credit score.

Check the spelling on the name, address (including city and state). It is an easy typographical error to think someone lives in Massachusetts (MA) or Maryland (MD) rather than Mississippi (MS). Those letters are next to each other on the keyboard. 

It is even easier to transpose the numbers in a street address, especially when the house or box number has three or more digits. If long numbers lend themselves to administrative errors, then think about that all-important 9-digit number called the social security number.

Here is the most common problem associated with inaccurate identification information. It slows down the loan processing time. That is because the identification information on loan application versus on the name on the credit report does not match perfectly.

Take the time to review the identification information on each and every credit report. It may be the best investment of a minute or two ever possible.

Validate Credit Limits And Balances – Here is the meat and potatoes of the review. The importance of accuracy credit limits and balances is paramount. That is because lenders weigh the amount of available credit versus the amount of used credit.  Let’s provide an example.

Suppose a credit card has a $500 credit limit. The unpaid balance is $400. This borrower used 80 percent of the available credit. Lenders look unfavorably at this. It’s important to reduce this debt as quickly as possible.

The same person has another credit card. The credit limit on this card is $5,000. The unpaid balance is $1,000. Lenders look favorably on this because the credit card holder shows borrowing restraint. This is still true even though the $500 versus $400 example in the previous paragraph is true.

Why would someone have just a $500 credit limit? Perhaps it is a merchant specific card that enables a customer to make one of those famous, “(whatever the period)-days same as cash” purchases.

Who Is Looking At You – Whenever anyone requests a credit check, each of the three major credit reporting agencies enters that inquiry on the credit report. A routine check never does real damage to a credit report.

The condition to guard against is a credit check by an unauthorized agent. This could signal identity theft or at least a breach in privacy. There could be another unfavorable condition.

If there are repeated credit inquiries by different people that sell nearly the same product, such as a car or electronic appliance, a lender could rationalize that a person is going on a spending spree.

Be aware of who is requesting credit information and for what reason. Make calls or write to anyone requesting credit information without your knowledge or consent. If necessary, contact the credit card company and discuss a temporary deactivation of the credit account or changing the account number.

Delinquent Information – There are times when it becomes financially impossible to repay a debt on time. When this happens be certain that the credit report contains accurate information, even it is unfavorable to the borrower.

Be prepared to explain and fully document the reasons for late payment. One or two late payments probably will not derail any mortgage or loan. Lenders look for patterns. It is common for some lenders to forgive debt, especially if the borrower is honest and forthcoming about the reason for the delinquency. In this day and age, lenders want written proof.

What’s In The Public Record – There are some events recorded for the public to see. A common example is a marriage license. It’s constructive notice to the world of a legally performed marriage. There are other events recorded also. These include divorce, child support, liens, foreclosures, bankruptcy, or other judicial findings that award or penalize someone financially.

Hopefully this section of the credit report is blank. If there is information, be certain that it is about you and not someone else.
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Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail – andyk@dorishardy.com.  He is also available for web video chat.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Does Automated Value Model Provide An Accurate Estimate

As technology increase, there is a trend by many homeowners to rely on Internet portals to determine an automated value model of their home. Let’s discuss this software and factors that consumers need to consider when requesting valuation information. 

Accuracy – Here are a few truly accurate statements. There is no such thing as 100 percent accuracy in determining the fair market value. A report that is 95 percent accurate is more reliable than one that is 90 percent accurate. And a report that is 90 percent is more accurate than one that contains 85 percent accurate information. There are times when establishing the accuracy level takes an expert. Remember those three statements.

There are many factors that affect accuracy. One factor is market activity. A fast moving and rapidly changing market may not have complete information. If there were 20 recent comparable transactions but the Internet site used only 10 recent comparable transactions – that report may be omitting critical information from half of the transactions for an accurate valuation. Is that how a property owner wants to determine the value of his largest capital asset? It’s a half truth. Unfortunately the property owner does not realize it.

The same condition can happen in a very slow market. It is possible that some Internet sites rely on out-of-date information. Again, a novice may not be in a position to realize this.  Even if someone using the automated value model software for their home is extremely truthful, they cannot have the assurance that the software has that same level of diligence in the comparable properties. A study by Standard & Poor’s warned of both of these conditions.

Outside Factors – Most computer models do a great job with house containing certain features. These include the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, structural age, car parking, and lot size. Those are the no-brainers elements. Using just those factors probably results in inaccurate information to base a major decision. Here is why.

What is the condition of the house versus the comparable housing? What upgrades did the owner make? What is the quality of workmanship of those upgrades? Is the seller providing input on the quality? It is very normal to be overly generous on his house and overly critical on comparable houses.

There are other factors that also influence the fair market value. Let’s consider just one factor that seems to be black and white but is really gray. Assume the house is on a 1-acre lot. That may afford a lot of privacy. Also realize that part of the lot may be on a very steep slope. That 1-acre lot may have only 75-feet by 75-feet of livable area before it slopes. That can lead to an unfair comparison. And also consider that the slope may be a liability when cutting the grass or in the fall if the driveway has wet fallen leaves.

Does the neighborhood have sidewalks and street lights that typically increase value? How does a computer know that? Neighborhood safety is a personal decision issue. A 911-call could have nothing to do with neighborhood safety. Multiple 911-calls for domestic violence in a neighborhood could negate the positive influence of timely upgrades.

School quality is very important to potential home buyers. The location of stores, restaurants, churches and recreation venues is of utmost importance. How does a computer out in cyberspace know this information?

Seller Motivation – It is true that every wants top dollar. However top dollar may actually mean not the number with the largest dollar sign in front of it. Why would a seller even consider taking less money for his house and still consider it top dollar? The answer is motivation.

Suppose the owner must relocate to a distant city. Very few people can afford to own more than one house.  Pricing a house for maximum profitability might oppose other goals.

Here is another example. A property owner relocates to a distant city. The house sits vacant. The longer a house sits vacant the more stigmatized it gets on the market. Unfortunately the “all knowing Internet automated value model in cyberspace has no way of gauging seller motivation and providing a logical and acceptable explanation to the owner. That dollar sign often transfixes a property owner.

Experience – As stated earlier there is no way to determine with 100 percent accuracy the fair market value of a specific piece of real estate. The best way is to ask a REALTOR® with experience in the local market to provide a comparative market analysis (CMA). The CMA looks at both supply (current listings) and demand (recent sales). The CMA differentiates properties by condition. The CMA reveals normal seller concessions, marketing time and other decision-making information.

There is another advantage also. The REALTOR® preparing the CMA has no emotional attachment to the house, unlike the owner. The REALTOR® has probably visited each of the properties on the CMA. That’s his job. How many houses did the automated value model computer actually visit?
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Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and  Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail – andyk@dorishardy.com.  He is also available for web video chat.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tribute Weekend In Columbus, Mississippi

Each Friday we take a look at weekend activities in Columbus, Mississippi. This is one of those weekends with plenty of different activities that cater to a very range of interests. Anyone relocating here can easily see by this weekend’s offerings that the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau slogan is true – “Columbus has it all!”

This is the week of the Tennessee Williams Tribute. Columbus is the birthplace of the famous playwright more than a century ago. Each fall the city celebrates one of her favorite sons. The Tennessee Williams Center on the corner of Main and Third Streets has the full schedule of activities.

The main event is the performance of the play that made Williams famous – “The Glass Menagerie.” Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday in the Rent Auditorium on the Mississippi University for Women campus. The auditorium is on the corner of College and 11th Streets.

Someone will ride to the play on Friday night in a horse-drawn carriage. That someone is the winner of the annual Stella Shouting Contest in front of Holly Hocks on corner of College and 5th Streets downtown.

The Stella Shouting Contest is a playful homage to the characters Stella and Stanley Kowalski from another Williams play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Contestants mimic Stanley’s iconic yell of “Stella” up to the balcony, for prizes and bragging rights. Registration is at 5:30 p.m. and remains open for a maximum of 25 competitors. The contest starts half an hour later. Emotion, originality and volume are the keys to victory.

Friday night’s in the fall mean one thing. It’s high school football.  The Columbus High School Falcons (0-2) host the West Point Green Wave (1-2).  The New Hope High School Trojans (2-0) travel north to visit their in-county rival, the Caledonia Confederates (3-0). The West Lowndes Panthers (1-2) travel to the central part of the state for a game with the Pelahatchie Chiefs (2-1).

In private school football, the Heritage Academy Patriots (2-1) have a tough road trip to the state capital. Awaiting them are the Jackson Academy Raiders (2-1). The Columbus Christian Academy Rams (2-1) host the New Site Royals (2-1) from Booneville. This is a public school versus private school game.  In 8-man football, the Victory Christian Academy Eagles (3-0) host the Tabernacle Torches (2-2) from Gardendale, Alabama.

Looking for the freshest locally grown vegetables? There is only one place to shop. Visit the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market on the corner of Second Avenue North and 2nd Street. Farmers sell tomatoes, peppers, squash, radishes, eggs, honey, fresh cut flowers, blackberries, blueberries, peaches and watermelons around. Plus there are baked goods and arts and crafts vendors.

The Coffee House on 5th Street donates the coffee each Saturday morning for market shoppers. There is a juice bar with watermelon and apple juice, peach and carrot juice, kale, pineapple and cucumber juice or apple, carrot and ginger juice. The market opens at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday and is also open after work on Monday and before work on Thursday.

Earlier we spoke about the Tennessee Williams Tribute. There is another TWT event Saturday morning. It’s the Streetcar Run. This 5K run starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Welcome Center. The course traces the route of bygone streetcar tracks in Columbus. Pre-register using the link above or show up to register beginning at 7:00 a.m.

There is a yoga workshop hosted by Bliss Yoga on 5th Street just south of College Street. While everyone is welcome, this workshop is ideally suited for beginners. Learn comfortable poses while understanding the background of yoga philosophy. The workshop begins at 9:00 a.m.

Friends of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library have a book sale on Saturday starting at 10:30 a.m. on the Library’s second floor. Stop by to purchase some of the best-selling fiction, novels, histories, biographies, cook books, children’s books, sports books, self-help books and audio books at an affordable price. What is an affordable price? Try anywhere from 25¢ to $2.00.  Proceeds from the sale help to purchase new books for the Library and also fund various Library activities. Some of those activities include the children’s summer reading program, the weekly Table Talk lunch and learn series or the exhibits in the Library.

While at the Library, enjoy the exhibit from the Billups Garth Archives Collection of Tennessee Williams Memorabilia, which is on display.

Three major universities with membership in the Southeastern Conference are within a 2-hour drive (or less) of Columbus. That means the best in college football is close by. Ole Miss makes their season debut at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium this year by hosting Louisiana-Lafayette in a mid-afternoon game.  At the same time, Mississippi State visits Mobile for a game with the University of South Alabama.  Alabama hosts University of Southern Mississippi in a late Saturday afternoon game.

Anyone have a real estate need this weekend? Please make a private preview appointment least 24-hours in advance. Your REALTOR® knows how to do that.
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Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail – andyk@dorishardy.com.  He is also available for web video chat.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to Design Your Landscaping to Protect Against Wildfires and Other Disasters

Great landscaping is more than the pretty face of your home — it can be the first line of defense between you and natural disaster.

Gorgeous and well-cared-for landscaping can boost your home’s value by up to 28%, punch up curb appeal, and reduce energy bills.

But landscaping also is Nature’s security system that helps protect your home from fire, wind, and flooding. The keys are:

Choosing the right plants
Locating plants where they can do the most good
Keeping plants healthy with proper maintenance

Defense Against FireIf you live where wildfires are a possibility, you should set up “fire defense zones” that make it easier for firefighters to put out blazes.

Zone 1: This is the area within 30 feet of your house that gives firefighters room to fight a blaze. Put hardscaping — flagstone, gravel, pavers — in the first 4 feet out from your house. Then, plant low growing and less dense foundation shrubs, like azaleas. Keep trees away from your house.

During a wildfire, if this 30-foot zone has burning shrubs and trees, firefighters may decide it’s not safe to stop, and just move on.

Zone 2: This area extends a total of 100 feet from your home, more if your property is sloped. In this zone, trees and shrubs should be thinned out and opened up by removing branches close to the ground. Zone 2 is a good place to install wide paths, which act as firebreaks.

Maintenance Against FireA manicured lawn and well-maintained yard deprive flames of fuel.

Keep grass short and irrigated.
Clean up leaves, branches, and dead plants, which burn quickly.
Prune dead tree branches.
Remove weeds, especially those taller than 6 inches.

Fire-Resistant PlantsNo landscaping is fireproof. But some plants, grasses, and mulches fan the flames, while others are slower to burn, giving you more time to save your home.

Avoid plants with stems that contain wax, terpenes, or oils, which are super flammable. Green fire fodder includes junipers, hollies, eucalyptus, and pines.

If you use bark mulch, which is highly flammable, keep it moist. Less flammable mulches are gravel, decorative rock, or bark-and-rock combinations.

Fire-resistant foundation plantings are azaleas, boxwoods, hydrangeas, and burning bushes (ironic, right?). Succulents, like sedum, have high water content and are less flammable.


Defense Against Wind StormsLandscaping windbreaks can help protect your home when Nature huffs and puffs and threatens to blow your house down.

Windbreaks are trees or shrubs planted in strategic places to reduce wind speed and buffer your home against gale-force gusts. Windbreaks also lower heating costs by reducing the cooling effects of wind on your house.

But to get your windbreak to work at peak performance you need to pick the right plants and plant them in the right place.

Windscreen PlantsThe perfect trees and shrubs for a windbreak have low crowns that can slow wind speeds close to the ground.  A mix of evergreens and deciduous trees (that lose foliage in winter) make the best windscreens.

Here are some good choices:

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica)
Arborvitae (Thuja)
Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia)


Windscreen PlacementThe best place to plant a windbreak is one or two tree heights away from your house, on the side where prevailing winds occur, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. The larger the tree, the farther you’ll plant it from the house — a safety measure in case it topples. Typically, the north and northwestern sides of a house are most likely to get winter’s chilly blasts.

Defense Against FloodingA well-landscaped yard slows the flow of water over the ground and helps prevent it from getting into the soils around your foundation, where it can damage foundation walls, or even leak into your basement.

A mix of native (they are true survivors) plants, trees, and shrubs sends roots into the ground, which form spaces in the soil. Water seeps into these spaces, rather than pooling on your yard or soaking the soils around your foundation, which can cause foundation problems.

Here are some great rain barriers:

Trees: Large trees (over 40 feet tall), the most valuable part of your landscaping, can protect your home against rain by:

Blocking running water with their trunks, giving it extra time to seep into the ground.

Maintaining shallow feeder roots beyond the tree’s drip line, which soak up rainwater.

Growing leaves that collect and intercept rainwater, which easily evaporates.

Removing up to 100 gallons of groundwater each day and sending it into the air through transpiration.

Grasses: Their mat-like roots are extensive and great for soaking up rain and preventing erosion. Chose indigenous ornamental and turf grasses that are well adapted to your location and have a greater chance of surviving bad weather.

Ground covers: Thirsty roots of these leafy spreaders, such as creeping Jenny (Convolvulus arvensis), drink rainwater and prevent erosion.

Shrubs: These plants pack a 1-2-3 punch; they slow wind, absorb rain, and create curb appeal.

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Lisa Kaplan Gordon wrote this copyrighted article that appeared on National Association of Realtors® web site and is used with permission. She is an avid gardener, a member of the Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association, and a builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL. Follow Lisa on Google+.

Visit Houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.


Andy Kalinowski is a REALTOR®, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative®, a Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® and a Military Relocation Professional with CENTURY 21 Doris Hardy and Associates, LLC in Columbus, Mississippi. He has a Mississippi Real Estate license. Andy is also a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Contact him by cell (or text) phone – 662.549.3421 or by e-mail – andyk@dorishardy.com.  He is also available for web video chat.