Karyn Knox

REALTOR

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What Is a Home Warranty? Peace of Mind for Home Buyers and Sellers

3/12/2017

 

Lot of things you buy come with a warranty in case they break down, from cars to smartphones. But what about homes? It turns out you can get a home warranty, too.

So what the heck is a home warranty, anyway? In a nutshell, it’s a policy you pay for that covers the cost of repairing many of your home appliances if they break down.

“Home warranties provide financial protection for homeowners who might be faced with unexpected problems with their appliances,” explains Shawna Bell of Landmark Home Warranty.

Many people buy a home warranty right when they close on a home, since such protections can provide some much-needed peace of mind that you won’t get hit with unexpected expenses soon after moving in. Imagine what a bummer it would be, after all, to wake up one morning to a broken boiler or leaking, malfunctioning fridge in your brand-new home. A home warranty can lessen those worries, which for many is worth every penny.

What does a home warranty cover?

Don’t mistake a home warranty for homeowners which covers your home’s structure and belongings in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident. A home warranty, in comparison, will cover repairs and replacements on systems and appliances due to normal wear and tear—no calamities required.

A home warranty generally covers these items:

  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Washer and dryer
  • Kitchen appliances such as the oven, range, and garbage disposal

How much does a home warranty cost?

While home buyers are often required to get homeowners insurance along with their mortgage, home warranties are a fully optional purchase. Basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to $600 for more comprehensive plans, says Bell. A homeowner can add extras if needed, such as coverage for a swimming pool or an external well.

Although many companies offer home warranties to homeowners at any point, the best deals can often be snagged if purchased at the same time you buy the home.

“The warranty plans offered at the time of the real estate transaction typically offer the most comprehensive coverage and price points, so that’s why it’s the ideal time to lock it in,” Bell says. At the end of the first year, you usually have the option to renew your plan or bail.

Benefits for home buyers and sellers

A home warranty benefits home buyers by providing reassurance that they can move in without worrying about shelling out even more for surprise repairs.

A home warranty can also benefit home sellers (if they don’t have it already), since it can cover these elements during the listing period; some companies even offer free seller’s coverage during this time with the hopes that the buyer will decide to continue the coverage. Oftentimes, home sellers will offer to pay for the first year of a buyer’s home warranty to entice buyers to bite.

But not everyone thinks home warranties are worth the cost. Typically they aren’t necessary with new homes, since most of the appliances are already covered under manufacturers’ warranties. But in general, the older your home, the greater the odds are that something’s bound to break, and the wiser it is to get a home warranty. Best of all? Many companies don’t differentiate between newer and older homes in terms of cost, making a warranty an especially cost-effective option if you are purchasing an older home.

What to do if something breaks

If something covered under your home warranty breaks, you just call your provider and it will connect you with a qualified contractor in your area. One thing to remember is that a home warranty does not mean you’re off scot-free; typically you’ll have to pay for a service call or a certain amount of the bill up to your deductible first.

While not everyone will think a home warranty is worth it, it is a good idea for people who lean toward the “better safe than sorry” approach when buying a home.

 | Feb 10, 2017

What Is a Home Warranty? Peace of Mind for Home Buyers and Sellers

3/12/2017

Lots of things you buy come with a warranty in case they break down, from cars to smartphones. But what about homes? It turns out you can get a home warranty, too.

So what the heck is a home warranty, anyway? In a nutshell, it’s a policy you pay for that covers the cost of repairing many of your home appliances if they break down.

“Home warranties provide financial protection for homeowners who might be faced with unexpected problems with their appliances,” explains Shawna Bell of Landmark Home Warranty.

Many people buy a home warranty right when they close on a home, since such protections can provide some much-needed peace of mind that you won’t get hit with unexpected expenses soon after moving in. Imagine what a bummer it would be, after all, to wake up one morning to a broken boiler or leaking, malfunctioning fridge in your brand-new home. A home warranty can lessen those worries, which for many is worth every penny.

What does a home warranty cover?

Don’t mistake a home warranty for homeowners which covers your home’s structure and belongings in the event of a fire, storm, flood, or other accident. A home warranty, in comparison, will cover repairs and replacements on systems and appliances due to normal wear and tear—no calamities required.

A home warranty generally covers these items:

  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Washer and dryer
  • Kitchen appliances such as the oven, range, and garbage disposal

How much does a home warranty cost?

While home buyers are often required to get homeowners insurance along with their mortgage, home warranties are a fully optional purchase. Basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to $600 for more comprehensive plans, says Bell. A homeowner can add extras if needed, such as coverage for a swimming pool or an external well.

Although many companies offer home warranties to homeowners at any point, the best deals can often be snagged if purchased at the same time you buy the home.

“The warranty plans offered at the time of the real estate transaction typically offer the most comprehensive coverage and price points, so that’s why it’s the ideal time to lock it in,” Bell says. At the end of the first year, you usually have the option to renew your plan or bail.

Benefits for home buyers and sellers

A home warranty benefits home buyers by providing reassurance that they can move in without worrying about shelling out even more for surprise repairs.

A home warranty can also benefit home sellers (if they don’t have it already), since it can cover these elements during the listing period; some companies even offer free seller’s coverage during this time with the hopes that the buyer will decide to continue the coverage. Oftentimes, home sellers will offer to pay for the first year of a buyer’s home warranty to entice buyers to bite.

But not everyone thinks home warranties are worth the cost. Typically they aren’t necessary with new homes, since most of the appliances are already covered under manufacturers’ warranties. But in general, the older your home, the greater the odds are that something’s bound to break, and the wiser it is to get a home warranty. Best of all? Many companies don’t differentiate between newer and older homes in terms of cost, making a warranty an especially cost-effective option if you are purchasing an older home.

What to do if something breaks

If something covered under your home warranty breaks, you just call your provider and it will connect you with a qualified contractor in your area. One thing to remember is that a home warranty does not mean you’re off scot-free; typically you’ll have to pay for a service call or a certain amount of the bill up to your deductible first.

While not everyone will think a home warranty is worth it, it is a good idea for people who lean toward the “better safe than sorry” approach when buying a home.

 | Feb 10, 2017

8 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle in March

3/2/2017

The month of March—when temps are beginning to rise but before those April showers—is the ideal time to get down and dirty with those maintenance projects, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a commercial and residential repair, maintenance, and improvement franchise.

March “home maintenance projects can extend the longevity and improve the quality of your home, inside and out,” he says.

So where do you start dusting off winter’s residue? We’ve got a handy checklist of home maintenance chores that will get your home ready to rock when the weather actually gets warm. And if you’re struggling to muster up the energy to tackle these chores, we’ve provided tips for how to do them faster and easier—or with the help of a pro. Because, hey, you’re busy.

1. Clean the gutters

Task: Remove leaves, pine needles, and other debris that have accumulated over the winter so your gutter system is ready to handle spring showers. Overflowing gutters and blocked downspouts can damage siding and foundations.

Shortcuts: Install gutter guards—screens, foam inserts, surface tension covers—which help to keep debris out of gutters. In general, screen types work the best, according to the folks at Consumer Reports.

Call in the pros: A gutter cleaner charges $100-$250 to clean 200 linear feet of gutter on a two-story, 2,500-square-foot house. Professional installation of gutter guards runs $7.50-$10 per linear foot.

2. Clean the AC condenser

Task: Remove dust and debris that have accumulated on the AC condenser (the big metal box outside your house) so that the AC works efficiently.

Shortcuts: Hook up a garden hose and spray the outside of the condenser. The water will melt away the gunk. Don’t use a brush, and be careful if pressure washing—you could damage or bend the fins.

Call in the pros: Having a pro service your AC system costs $100-$250 and includes cleaning the condenser and lubricating the fan motor.

3. Prep the yard

Task: Start bringing your yard back to life now, before temperatures warm up for real.

Shortcuts: Remove branches and stones, and use your lawn mower with a catch bag to make short work of dead leaves and twigs. Got roses? For full, beautiful blooms, most landscaping experts will tell you to prune your rose bushes just before the plant breaks dormancy and after the final frost—around mid-March for much of the country. If any buds are diseased, bag and toss them in the trash to avoid spreading fungus and infestations.

Call in the pros: A lawn service charges $65-$90 for mowing and leaf removal on an average-size lot.

4. Clean the siding

Task: Get rid of dirt and grime that can cause mildew and shorten the life of your siding. As a bonus, the exterior of your home will look fresh and clean for spring.

Shortcuts: There’s no need for fancy cleaning solutions or power washers; a bucket of warm, soapy water and a long-handled brush are all you need. Rinse with water from a garden hose.

Call in the pros: Cleaning the siding on a two-story, 2,500-square-foot house runs $900-$1150.

5. Clean and repair outdoor decks

Task: Cleaning your deck of leaves and debris—especially between deck boards—prevents staining and reduces the chance of rot. Check for loose boards, and reset protruding nails to keep your deck safe.

Shortcuts: Use a flat-bladed screwdriver to pry gunk out from between boards. Use a deck cleaning product to revive faded and stained boards.

Call in the pros: A deck-cleaning company charges $80-$480 to clean a 16-by-20-foot deck.

6. Caulk around windows and doors

Task: Inspect the caulking and repair any that was battered during the winter. Check around your windows, doors, and corner trim to prevent water infiltration and avoid costly repairs.

Shortcuts: Feel like you’re always caulking? You can cut down on the frequency of this task if you buy high-quality siliconized acrylic latex caulk rated for exterior use. It has good adhesion and flexibility, cleans up easily with water, and is paintable, too.

Call in the pros: A professional caulking job on an average-size house costs $178-$410.

7. Inspect walkways and driveways

Task: Winter is tough on concrete and asphalt—freeze and thaw cycles can break apart stone and concrete. You’ll want to seal cracks with sealant made for the specific material of your driveway or walkway to prevent further damage.

Shortcuts: Stuff foam backer rods in large cracks to reduce the amount of sealant you’ll need.

Call in the pros: You can hire a handyman to repair cracks and holes for anywhere from $100-$250.

8. Inspect the roofing

Task: Take a close look at your roofing to check for loose and missing shingles, worn and rusted flashing, and cracked boots around vent pipes.

Shortcuts: Make it easy on yourself by checking your roof with a pair of binoculars while standing firmly—and safely—on the ground.

Call in the pros: A professional roofing contractor will inspect your roof for free, but will charge for repairs: $95-$127 to replace broken or missing asphalt shingles; $200-$500 to replace boots and flashing.

Written for Realtor.com by:  | Mar 1, 2017

6 Reasons You Should Never Buy or Sell a Home Without an Agent

2/25/2017

It’s a slow Sunday morning. You’ve just brewed your coffee and popped open your laptop to check out the latest home listings before you hit the road for a day of open houses.

You’re "DIY"ing this real estate thing, and you think you’re doing pretty well—after all, any info you might need is at your fingertips online, right? That and your own sterling judgment.

1. They have loads of expertise

Want to check the MLS for a 4B/2B with an EIK and a W/D? Real Estate has it's own language full of acronyms and semi-arcane jargon, and your Realtor is trained to speak that language fluently.

Plus, buying or selling a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. Realtors have the expertise to help you prepare a killer deal—while avoiding delays or costly mistakes that can seriously mess you up.

2. They have turbocharged searching power

The Internet is awesome. You can find almost anything—anything! And with online real estate listing sites such as yours truly, you can find up-to-date home listings on your own, any time you want. But guess what? Realtors have access to even more listings. Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A Realtor can help you find those hidden gems.

Plus, a good local Realtor is going to know the search area way better than you ever could. Have your eye on a particular neighborhood, but it’s just out of your price range? Your Realtor is equipped to know the ins and outs of every neighborhood, so she can direct you toward a home in your price range that you may have overlooked.

3. They have bullish negotiating chops

Any time you buy or sell a home, you’re going to encounter negotiations—and as today’s housing market heats up, those negotiations are more likely than ever to get a little heated.

You can expect lots of competition, cutthroat tactics, all-cash offers, and bidding wars. Don’t you want a savvy and professional negotiator on your side to seal the best deal for you?

And it’s not just about how much money you end up spending or netting. A Realtor will help draw up a purchase agreement that allows enough time for inspections, contingencies, and anything else that’s crucial to your particular needs.

4. They’re connected to everyone

Realtors might not know everything, but they make it their mission to know just about everyone who can possibly help in the process of buying or selling a home. Mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, home stagers, interior designers—the list goes on—and they’re all in your Realtor’s network. Use them.

5. They adhere to a strict code of ethics

Not every real estate agent is a Realtor, who is a licensed real estate salesperson who belongs to the National Association of Realtors®, the largest trade group in the country.

What difference does it make? Realtors are held to a higher ethical standard than licensed agents and must adhere to a Code of Ethics.

6. They’re your sage parent/data analyst/therapist—all rolled into one

The thing about Realtors: They wear a lot of different hats. Sure, they’re salespeople, but they actually do a whole heck of a lot to earn their commission. They’re constantly driving around, checking out listings for you. They spend their own money on marketing your home (if you’re selling). They’re researching comps to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

And, of course, they’re working for you at nearly all hours of the day and night—whether you need more info on a home or just someone to talk to in order to feel at ease with the offer you just put in. This is the biggest financial (and possibly emotional) decision of your life, and guiding you through it isn’t a responsibility Realtors take lightly.

 

Written for Realtor.com: | Feb 4, 2016


The Misleading Math Behind the Rent vs. Buy Calculation

2/18/2017

There’s about $13.1 trillion stashed away in the United States, in plain sight. Where? In our homes!

Do we have your attention yet?

That’s the total value of the equity held by over 75 million U.S. homeowners, according to the latest estimates from the Federal Reserve Board. And that works out to almost $175,000 per owning household.

This is unmistakable evidence that home ownership is a critical building block of household wealth. Owning a home is a key reason why the median net worth of a homeowner is almost $200,000 while the median net worth of a renting household is just over $5,000.

Sure, part of that is because owners were able to pony up a chunk of money to put down on a house, and to qualify for a mortgage. But the act of paying for a mortgage actually helps produce more wealth, by freezing payment amounts and building equity through forced savings.

A 30-year amortized, fixed-rate mortgage is a beautiful thing. It provides an affordable path to buying a home while locking in today’s cost of that home for the life of the loan.

The traditional rent versus buy argument compares the total monthly costs of buying a home with a mortgage with the corresponding rent. So that comparison is relevant when it comes to representing  the housing choice trade-off in clear cost terms.

Two years ago, that head-to-head heavily favored buying, thanks to very low mortgage rates and lower prices. Back then, more than three-quarters of the counties in the country saw lower buying costs than renting costs.

With prices and rates higher now, less than half of the counties in the country see math that favors buying.

But those raw numbers hide the fact that unlike a rent check, a percentage of every monthly mortgage payment—after the lender is paid interest—goes toward the owner’s home equity. That means it’s really a forced savings plan.

Over time, less of the mortgage payments go toward interest and more go toward equity, so the savings power is enhanced further.

Here’s how that works out for a median-price home of $250,000 bought in January with 20% down with a monthly payment of $976.

Before their first payment, the proud new homeowners had $50,000 in equity thanks to their down payment. (Actually, 20% down isn’t always typical or necessary, but, hey, it keeps this illustration simple.)

In the first year, an average of 29% of the monthly payments builds equity. After 12 payments, the homeowners have just over $3,400 in added equity.

By year 14, 50% of the monthly $976 payment goes toward equity. Don’t forget that the monthly payment hasn’t changed, because the interest rate was fixed.

At the end of the 14th year, just shy of $64,000 has been added to the initial $50,000 in equity.

In the final year of the 30-year mortgage, while the monthly payment remains $976, 98% of the monthly payments builds equity until that magic day when the home is owned free and clear.

Think you can beat that with rents? Researchers at Harvard put it this way:

“While studies simulating the financial returns to owning and renting find that renting is often more likely to be beneficial, in practice renters rarely accumulate any wealth. In no small part this seems traceable to the difficulties households face in trying to save absent either a clear goal or an automatic savings mechanism.”

So, you want a better rent versus buy illustration? First, find a place to rent for no more than $976—the same as our mortgage payment example above. If you can rent for less, great. Will you be able to save that difference amounting to at least $3,400 in the first year? That would imply you can really pay only about $700 in rent to get the same savings effect.

If you can’t save $3,400 yourself by paying less in rent, ask the landlord if he’ll take a portion of your rent payments and set it aside for your rainy day fund.

Then ask the landlord if he’ll set your rent payment at today’s rate for the next 30 years. And before you close the deal, ask him to raise the rainy day share each year by 1% to 2% until year 30, when he’ll get only 2% of the rent payment.

Clearly, this would not be easy to do.

Even if the house only keeps pace with inflation over 30 years, which is a very conservative assumption, the forced savings inherent in a mortgage guarantees a homeowner is building wealth. A renter household has to be extremely diligent to amass the same savings that the good ol’ 30-year mortgage does automatically.

Written for Realtor.com by:  | Feb 17, 2017

How To Go Green: The Ultimate Homeowner's Guide to an Eco-Friendly Pad

2/9/2017

  

The benefits of green upgrades, no matter the size, are far-reaching for both your global footprint and your wallet.

Here’s the scoop from green industry experts on the latest ways to slash your energy bills—and to do so while clearing your earth-conscious conscience!

Make your home a passive house

Forget LEED certification—the newly coveted green home credential is the deceptively named passive house standard. Unlike LEED certification, which speaks to how green the construction process was, a passive house is rated by how energy-efficient it will be when people are actually living in it.

“A passive house minimizes heating and cooling needs because it is sealed air-tight, meaning temperature-controlled air doesn’t leak out,” explains Ewen Utting, a passive-house builder in San Francisco.

Although turning your home into a true passive house would mean a major renovation, you can reap some of those energy-saving benefits by replacing outside door thresholds, swapping old windows for new double- or even triple-pane ones, or covering the panes with a reflective coating that will beat heat in the summer.

One change you can make without spending a cent: “Remember to lock all of your windows when they’re closed,” says Eric Graham, a green home expert with Sunshare, a Colorado community solar company. “It creates a better seal between panes to keep air from coming in.”

Get smart (home tech, that is)

Leaving a light on here or there causes small but significant increases in the size of your carbon footprint and your energy bill, but new technology can stop those little expenditures.

“New smart home devices let you turn off lights, radios, or just about anything you plug into the wall from anywhere in the world using your smartphone,” says Oldroyd.

Check out Wemo home automation products from technology company Belkin, which include smartphone-controlled wall outlets, slow cookers, humidifiers, and more. Smart thermostats from companies like Nest or Honeywell learn your heating and cooling preferences and can be controlled from your smartphone or tablet.

Filling your home with smart products is easy and more convenient than ever now that home improvement stores like Home Depot have started stocking whole sections with smart home products.

Choose the right paint

Volatile organic compounds are chemicals found in many paints and building materials that easily vaporize and may pose health risks. Until recently it was gospel that the green-minded should choose low- or no-VOC paint, but those labels are too vague to mean much, says Jason Holstine, owner of Amicus Green Building Center in Kensington, MD.

“Because of the way the government defines VOCs, many concerning chemicals aren’t covered,” he says. “Instead, choose paints that are no-VOC and don’t contain solvents, ethylene glycol, acetone, or formaldehyde.” Some great brands include AFM Safecoat, Mythic, Colorhouse, ECOS, and Bioshield.

Go native with your landscaping

Today’s sustainable landscaping is less cookie-cutter and more tailored to your climate.

“The most eco-friendly backyard features plant and grass species that are native to the area where you live,” says Cassy Aoyagi of FORM LA Landscaping. “They thrive without chemical pesticides and fertilizers and need little water.” Rainfall during a normal year is usually enough.

According to Aoyagi, replacing a traditional lawn with native grasses will require 50% to 70% less water and save you approximately 60 hours per year in maintenance, for a savings of up to $3,500 in thirsty climates.

In Southern California, where FORM LA is based, Aoyagi recommends grama grass and California fescue. In various parts of the country, covering your lawn area with clover or low-growing herbs such as chamomile, thyme, and mint is a beautiful and eco-friendly option.

Consider solar panels

Whether or not solar panels make fiscal and environmental sense for your house depends on your climate, the layout of your roof, and whether your state offers rebates. For an instant estimate to see if solar panels are right for your house, enter your address into Google’s Project Sunroof. In a matter of seconds you can see how many hours of usable sunlight your home gets per year, the square feet available for solar panels, and the amount of money you could save based on that information.

For a more detailed breakdown of costs and benefits, contact a solar expert like Sungevity, a company that creates custom solar energy systems for homes all around the country.

Get an energy audit

Greening your home isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and a certified energy auditor can suggest upgrades that will lower your energy costs.

“Often, the rebates you’ll receive from your utility company or on your taxes will offset the costs of the audit,” says Oldroyd. Homeadvisor.com reports the average cost to hire a home energy auditor is $373.

The Residential Energy Services Network has an easy-to-search directory of certified energy auditors in each state. Look for an auditor certified to give your home a Home Energy Rating System index rating, which is a score of your home’s energy efficiency. Lowering your home’s HERS index score will likely raise the resale value of your home if you sell in the future.

Written for Realtor.com by:  | Feb 7, 2017

Home-Buying Benefits for Veterans & Military Buyers

1/31/2017

VA Article pic

Veterans, service members, and their families believe in home ownership. In fact, the home ownership rate among veterans far outpaces that of civilians.

But the financial toll of military service can make it tough for some veterans to get a financial foothold, let alone land a home loan.

The good news is those who serve have access to a host of home-buying benefits and protections, from what’s arguably the most powerful home loan on the market to financial safeguards and more.

Let’s take a closer look.

VA loan program

Since the VA loan program’s inception in 1944, the Department of Veterans Affairs has backed more than 21 million loans for veterans, active-duty military members, and their spouses. This program has made buying a home more accessible to those who most deserve the American dream they helped build and protect.

VA loans feature many benefits that help make home buying possible, including the following:

  • No down payment requirement
  • No mortgage insurance
  • Lower average interest rates
  • Limits on closing costs
  • More lenient credit requirements

 

VA home loans have boomed in recent years, attracting many veterans and military members who may not qualify for conventional loans, which have stricter credit requirements.

Still, many eligible buyers are unaware of the benefits of VA home loans and the protections they offer. Some buyers also make the mistake of assuming a government-backed loan comes with endless red tape and miss an opportunity to benefit.

Typically, veterans and active-duty service members are eligible for a VA home loan if they served in the following capacity:

  • 90 consecutive days on active duty during wartime
  • 181 consecutive days on active duty during peacetime
  • 6 or more years in the National Guard or Reserves

 

Some spouses of military members who died in the line of duty or of a service-related disability may also be eligible for a VA loan.

Occupancy & power of attorney 

VA loans are focused on getting buyers into homes they’ll live in full time. But the program makes exceptions for some veterans and active-duty service members.

For example, a spouse or children may be able to fulfill the occupancy requirement on behalf of a VA buyer. Also, a VA buyer who is deployed or otherwise unable to manage the loan process can typically assign a power of attorney to a spouse or family member to manage the loan process and sign documents.

There are two types of power of power of attorney: general and specific. The type needed depends in part on what loan-related documents the VA buyer can sign.

The occupancy and power of attorney options mean an eligible VA buyer’s spouse and children could buy a home during a deployment or unaccompanied assignment, helping alleviate the emotional toll of multiple moves on military families.

Basic allowance for housing

Many active-duty military members who receive a monthly housing allowance are surprised to learn that they can use this money to qualify for a home loan. Lenders can count Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as effective income. That can help service members make the leap from renting to owning, especially in higher-cost areas.

BAH is based on several factors, including the location of your duty station, your pay grade, and your family size. The housing allowance can change on an annual basis. To calculate your BAH, refer to the BAH calculator on the Defense Department’s website.

 

Written for Realtor.com by Veterans United 

The Secret to Growing Herbs Indoors to Jazz Up Your Meals and More

1/31/2017

Herb Garden

Growing herbs indoors—wouldn’t you love to be one of those people who can do that? Imagine reaching over the sink to the sweet plants growing in front of a window, snipping off a few leaves to toss into a sauce or salad.

Fancy, right? Well, you don’t have to be a botanist to pull it off. Growing herbs indoors can be simple enough once you learn the basics. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

The best herbs to grow indoors

Get the process moving by thinking about which herbs you use most often. Maybe you use thyme in your soups, or you love tossing mint into your salads.

“You don’t have to limit yourself to just herbs that are good for cooking,” Susan Brandt, president of personalized gardening service Blooming Secrets, reminds us. “How about chamomile, which can be used in teas, or lavender for a soothing bath?”

Also think of the volume of herbs you use and how much space you have to grow. For example, I tend to use a few mint leaves here and there, mostly for cocktails and garnishes, so it makes sense for me to grow that indoors on a slim windowsill.

Most gardening experts recommend the following herbs for growing indoors:

  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Lemon balm
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

I know what you’re thinking: Where’s the basil?

“This may actually be one of the toughest herbs to grow indoors,” Brandt cautions. “It requires up to 10 hours of sunlight a day, and temperatures need to be consistently in the 70s both day and night for it to grow properly.”

I also find basil likes to grow big and wants a lot of space, which makes it better suited to outdoor gardens. But a smaller variety could work indoors under UV light.

How to pot herbs indoors

The plastic pot your herb plant comes in isn’t meant to be its permanent home. So as soon as you can, replant your herbs in a container at least 6 inches in diameter at the top with a hole in the bottom and dish underneath. Use organic potting soil designed for indoor plants, not dirt from the outdoors.

A row of different herbs in the same long pot looks adorable, but it’s a classic beginner fail; you’ll have more success if you plant each different herb in its own container.

“Each herb may have its own needs, which conflict with another herb that you are trying to grow,” says Brandt. “For example, mint and parsley prefer a moist soil, while rosemary, thyme, and sage do not.”

Be especially careful with mint—this aggressive grower will take over whatever container it’s planted in.

How much light do herbs need?

Most herbs need at least six hours of sunlight a day. Southwestern light is ideal, but if that’s not where your window is oriented, don’t let that stop you. Many herbs will grow fine in eastern or western light, though they may grow a little more slowly. That said, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme need six to eight hours of strong light daily.

Another lighting tip: “Be sure to turn the plants frequently to keep growth even on all sides of the plant,” Brandt says.

Have little direct sunlight? Try a low-light plant like mint, chervil, or chives. You can also use LED grow lights. Start small with a single-bulb light with an adjustable neck (which you can find for as little as $15). Keep the light about 10 to 12 inches away from your plant, and remember to turn off the light after around six hours a day (plants need rest to grow, too).

How much water do herbs need?

Here’s the determining factor: Water as often as you need to in order to keep the soil moist but not damp. Be careful not to over water; one sign of this is yellowing leaves, says Danielle Horton, founder of Urban Produce, a 16-acre indoor vertical farm in Irvine, CA.

You’ll also want to feed your herbs so they can feed you. Check the label and make sure your plant food isn’t for flowers; you want to encourage leaf growth, not blooms. Aerate the soil a bit with a fork before sprinkling some on. Follow the directions on the package and don’t overdo it. Just like with water, too much food can work against plants. Most herbs do well being fed once a month.

How to harvest herbs without killing them

You can start “harvesting” your herbs once they’ve grown to about 6 to 8 inches. And you’ll want to do that fairly often, because cutting off leaves and stems actually encourages growth. You can cut off as much as a third of your plant without causing harm.

Watch out for bolting: This is when your plant starts looking like all stem, with fewer leaves. This could mean that you need to clip your herbs more often even if you’re not using them every time. Likewise, if you see blooms forming, snip those off. Your plant will start pouring all its energy into making blossoms and seeds, but you want that energy to go into growing the leaves instead.

 

Written for Realtor.com by  | Jan 27, 2017

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