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Curb Appeal on a Budget

by The Hat Team

When selling a home, curb appeal is one of the most important factors in attracting buyers.  Your yard and the front of your home are the first thing they will see, and while nobody should judge a book by its cover, many people do. The appearance of the outside of the home can determine if a potential buyer will even be willing to look at the inside.  So, attractive curb appeal is vital to getting your home sold.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get great curb appeal.  There are many small, inexpensive home improvements that can be done to create a look that will impress!

  • Give a fresh coat of paint to the front door, trim or shutters.

Nothing will brighten up your home’s façade like a bright, fresh coat of paint!Costing only about $30 a gallon you can get a lot of bang for your buck.Choose a bold hue that will stand out, while still complementing the overall color of your home.

28 Inviting Colors to Paint a Front Door

  • Add some creative new house numbers.

Installing some new house numbers will not only look good, it will also make it easy to find! Be creative and utilize materials that will match the finish of your exterior light fixtures.Make sure the numbers stand out!

  • Change exterior lighting.

If your light fixtures are looking shabby, it’s time to replace them. Consider the design of your home and look for fixtures that add both function and style. Save yourself some time by using fixtures that have the same mounting system as the ones you will be removing.

  • Replace your mailbox.

Whether your mailbox is by the road or attached to your house, it can either add to or take away from your curb appeal depending on how it looks. You can find a new mailbox for as little as $20.This quick project will go a long way toward improving the look of your home.Just make sure you are following city/county/HOA regulations when installing it.

  • Install flower boxes.

If you want to add some color to your home exterior, there is no better way to do it than with flowers!Try adding some inexpensive flower boxes to your front porch railings or under your windows.You can even DIY them in an afternoon! Choose flowers with colors that will complement your home.

15 Planter Boxes You'll Want to DIY Right Now

Are you ready to list your house for sale this spring? Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professional Realtors can answer any questions you may have about preparing your home to sell.  Give them a call today at 334-834-1500!

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March is here and chances are the winter doldrums are getting to you.  Now is a good time to start tackling some home maintenance tasks that will remind you that spring is right around the corner!

Clean Your Gutters

Once the last frost of winter has passed, it is important to have your gutters and downspouts cleaned and, if necessary, repaired.  Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause wood trim in the eaves to rot and that can leave and opening for all kinds of critters to invade your house.  If you’re not sure what to look for, you can have a Home Inspector come and look for you.

Another benefit to cleaning out your gutters and downspouts early in the season is that it can help to prevent damage from spring rains. If they are installed and cleaned properly, they will divert water away from the house and keep it from collecting around your foundation.

Prep Your Yard

Your lawn may be looking sad as the winter months have taken their toll, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.  Giving your lawn a little attention toward the end of winter will make for a lush, green lawn this spring and summer.

The first step is to aerate your soil.  When soil is compacted, it is too hard for water, air and roots to penetrate.  That makes it hard on grass.  You can rent a core aerator from a local equipment rental store. A half day’s rental generally costs about $40.  This machine, which resembles a large rotary tiller, uses steel tubes to take plugs of soil from the lawn and deposit them on the ground.  You can reduce compaction by aerating once a year and this will increase the vitality of your lawn.

The second step is to mow the old grass low.  If you have cool-season grass such as bluegrass, fescue, or perennial ryegrass, you can skip this part.  But if you have warm-season grass such as Bermuda, buffalo grass centipede, St. Augustine or Zoysia, you will want to mow that old, brown grass low at the end of winter to remove the accumulation of thatch, an accumulation of dead stems and leaves.  If you leave the thatch, it will prevent water and nutrients from reaching the roots and will encourage disease.  Cut Bermuda lawns to ½ inch and leave the clippings in place to decompose.  Mow other types to 1 inch.  If you use a regular mower, bag the clippings; then compost or discard them.  Mowing low allows more sun to reach and warm the soil which helps the grass to green up.

The final step is to stop weeds.  As the temperatures rise and reach 70 degrees, the seeds of lawn weeds begin to sprout.  Late winter is a good time to stop them by applying a pre-emergence lawn weed preventer.  When used properly, it creates a barrier atop the soil to keep weeds from sprouting.  Make sure not to aerate after using the weed preventer or you will break the barrier.  Do not use this type of product if you are planting new grass though, because it will keep grass seeds from coming up as well.

Once you have your lawn ready, then you can start thinking about selecting plants and flowers for your home garden!

Caulk Windows and Doors

Winter can be hard on your home.  Now is the time to inspect the caulking around your windows and doors and to repair any damage left behind by old man winter. Check around your windows, doors, and corner trim to prevent water infiltration and avoid costly repairs.

Using high-quality siliconized acrylic latex caulk that is rated for exterior use will cut down on the amount of caulking you will have to do.  It has good adhesion and flexibility, cleans up easily with water, and is paintable as well.  Make sure you know what you are doing and avoid common mistakes in caulking.

If you’re thinking about selling your home, spring home maintenance is a step toward making your house more alluring to potential buyers.  The professionals on Sandra Nickel's Hat Team can help you get your house on the market and sold today!  Contact them at 334-834-1500.

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Autumn Home Maintenance

by The Hat Team

Autumn is a season of change.  Leaves change color and fall from the trees, days get shorter and temperatures get cooler.  Yes, it’s really coming—we promise!  It’s also a good time to take care of home maintenance projects to prepare your home for colder weather.  Follow these autumn home maintenance tips and your house will be nice and cozy this winter:

  • Clean gutters and downspouts. This should be done regularly to keep them clear of debris. You won’t have to do it as often if you install gutter guards.
  • Check the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks for any holes or rotting.  Fill holes using caulk or replace wood if necessary.
  • Give your roof a thorough inspection.  Look for shingles that are curling, buckling or cracking and replace them.  If there appears to be a great amount of damage or if your roof is just worn out from age, it’s time to replace the whole thing.  Hire a licensed professional if you’re not sure.  Make sure to also check for leaks around skylights, pipes and chimneys. 
  • Hire a service to inspect and clean your wood burning fireplace and chimney and to make any necessary repairs to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Cooler temperatures and lower humidity make autumn a good time to paint the exterior of your home.
  • Filters for your furnace and heating system should be cleaned and replaced.  Have a licensed heating contractor come out to inspect and service your gas heater or furnace.  Regular maintenance will keep it running proficiently and save you money on your heating bills.
  • Check doors and windows for leaks and drafts both inside and out.  Fill in cracks with caulking or install weather stripping.
  • Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and put fresh batteries in them.  These are potentially life-saving devices and it is vital to take good care of them.

Check these tasks off your list now and you will be able to enjoy a warm and comfy winter!

Don’t know reliable people to contact?  Just give us a call because we do!

Sprucing Up for Spring

by The Hat Team

It is that time of the year again, spring has sprung. As you begin thinking about spring cleaning, don’t forget to include the homes exterior in your plans. Whether you are selling your property or plan on calling it home for awhile, every house could use a boost in curb appeal. Curb appeal creates the first impression of your home. If selling your home, curb appeal reflects how well the property is cared for and intrigues buyers to take a look inside. Curb appeal is also a way to showcase your personality and create welcoming scenery for your guests. Spring is the perfect time to spruce up your home’s exterior. The following tips will help you attain enchanting curb appeal.

Start With A Checklist

The first step to enhancing curb appeal is to determine what needs improvement. Take a walk around the outside of your home pretending that you are a potential buyer and take note of things that could possibly impair your first impression. Be sure to consider all factors from possible missing shingles on the roof to rotten wood around windows or doors.


If your home does not receive routine yard maintenance, a through clean up can make all the difference. Start by removing debris, giving the grass a fresh cut, eliminating weeds, and trimming over grown bushes or trees. Keep in mind that bushes should never exceed the height of window sills or extrude growth beyond the threshold of sidewalks. Use a pressure washer to clean the exterior of the house, making sure to leave all windows sparkling. Replace any rotten wood and touch up chipped paint.

The Front Door

Establishing a welcoming entry can really improve the first impression of a visitor or potential buyer. Make sure the pathway and porch leading to the front door is well lit. Use decorative porch fixtures that compliment the color of the house and other hardware. Lining walkways with solar powered garden lights gives the yard a vivid glow after dark. Make the front door a focal point by repainting it a warm, inviting shade that contrasts from the siding and shutters. Use a classic shade of red or go bold and try yellow. 


Courtesy of Montgomery AL Real Estate Expert Sandra Nickel.   

Summer Care For The Gardens of Your Montgomery AL Home

by The Hat Team

It certainly appears that summer heat is here to stay.  While we humans have the ability to limit our time outside and escape to the relief of air conditioning and fans, the plants in the gardens of your Montgomery AL home are not so fortunate and must withstand high temperatures and frequent dry conditions.

gardenJust as we make an extra effort to watch over young children and the elderly during the summer months, so, too, we need to be aware of the needs of our plants.  The following tips should be useful in ensuring enduring greenery through the fall:

  • Dead heading:  Remove the spent flowers (called "deadheading") as they die, so the plant can put its energy into producing more flowers. This is particularly beneficial for geraniums, marigolds, roses, and most perennials.
  • Cutting back: When greenery such as petunias, impatiens, and trailing types of plants become long and spindly, cut them back by one-third to one-half and then fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer.
  • Weeding:  Although you most likely put down a thick layer of mulch when you first planted, those pesky weeds do have a way of cropping up.  Every few days check the gardens for weeds and pull them as needed. It is easier to pull weeds if the soil is moist.  If you must use a chemical weed control, check to see if it is selective or non-selective.
  • Watering:   Proper watering is critical to your plant's health, but frequent, shallow watering (rain, sprinklers, etc.) leads to shallow root systems and thus a low drought-tolerance.  Click here for a deep watering schedule and tips that will be most beneficial to the landscaping of your Montgomery AL home.
  • Fertilizing:  In addition to keeping the vegetation in the gardens of your Montgomery AL home healthy, fertilizing will also help keep your soil in good shape in case of drought or a stretch of extremely hot weather. Acid-loving species (camellias, gardenias, and azaleas) as well as those displaying yellow leaves will be especially appreciative of your diligence.

Remember, too, to take precautions to maximize your own well-being when engaged in any outside gardening projects.  Be vigilant about drinking plenty of water, taking frequent rests, and protecting your skin.  Be alert for signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration.  For specific tips on caring for yourself while gardening in the summer months, click here.

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Sandra Nickel and the Hat Team have distinguished themselves as leaders in the Montgomery AL real estate market. Sandra assists buyers looking for Montgomery real estate for sale and aggressively markets Montgomery AL homes for sale. Sandra is also an expert in helping families avoid foreclosure through short sales and is committed to helping families in financial hardship find options. For more information you can visit

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