Palos Verdes Blog

Palos Verdes blog is about Palos Verdes real estate market trend, valuable news about how to buy, sell, or lease homes, condos, town-homes, apartments, multi-family homes, and land, including short sales, and foreclosure information.

April 19, 2021

National Market Update


After severe winter weather slammed home construction in February, builders charged back in March, pushing Housing Starts up 19.4%, to a 1.739 million annual rate, the highest level since 2006. 

Plus, new Building Permits hit a 1.766 million yearly rate in March, so the uptrend should continue. Analysts say it's likely we'll hit 1.5 million new units in 2021, the level we need to meet population growth and replace teardowns. 

The National Association of Home Builders sentiment index clicked up in April despite record high lumber prices. Plus, more apartment renters should become home buyers with rents up strongly in the first quarter.   


RECOVERY RALLY... This week's economic data and corporate earnings showed way-better-than-expected pandemic recovery, sending the Dow and the S&P 500 to new all-time highs, with bonds and commodities rallying as well.

Joining home building's blow-out surprise, March Retail Sales posted a huge 9.8% gain, evidence the consumer has jumped back into the economy with both feet. Core CPI inflation was muted, at 1.6% year-over-year.

Q1 corporate earnings season kicked off with 13 big banks comfortably surpassing estimates. Analysts forecast S&P 500 companies' earnings will increase almost 25% in Q1, their best growth rate in three years.

The week ended with the Dow UP 1.2%, to 34,201; the S&P 500 UP 1.4%, to 4,185; and the Nasdaq UP 1.1%, to 14,052.

The rally in bonds saw the overall market end higher, the UMBS 3.0% UP .21, to $104.73. With bond prices up, the national average 30-year fixed mortgage rate moved down for the second straight week in Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.

DID YOU KNOW?... Black Knight’s Originations Market Monitor reports that in March purchase mortgage originations outpaced refinances for the first time since December 2019. 


EXISTING HOME SALES SLIP, NEW HOMES SOAR… Tight inventories keep driving down Existing Home Sales, expected off for March, though still above 6 million units per year. But builder activity should boost March New Home Sales close to a million. Initial Unemployment Claims will likely remain elevated.

NOTE: Weaker economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and higher loan rates.

April 17, 2021

The source of home price movement: buyer purchasing power

Buyer purchasing power is a major influence on home prices. Home price increases cannot exceed what homebuyers are able to pay. Therefore, absent significant outlying market factors, when buyer purchasing power falls, home prices are likely to follow. When purchasing power rises, the seller’s outlook for a rise in pricing is good.

The buyer purchasing power index (BPPI) increased throughout 2019-2020 in reaction to falling mortgage interest rates. The Federal Reserve’s (the Fed’s) actions to guide the economy through the ongoing recession pushed interest rates to historic lows in 2020. California home prices rose in step with the rapid increase to purchasing power, despite significant job losses and volatile home sales volume.

While the Fed intends to keep their benchmark interest rate near zero through at least 2023, mortgage rates have recently begun to increase as bond market investors show more interest in riskier, non-government opportunities. Since home prices lack the support of a sustained jobs recovery or rising sales volume, expect 2021’s higher interest rates to result in a decrease to home prices. Prices will also be negatively impacted by the expiration of the foreclosure moratorium, presently scheduled for mid-2021. Once home values begin to decline, expect prices to bottom around 2023, to rise alongside the next jobs recovery.


April 16, 2021

California home sales volume lays low

34,900 new and resale home transactions closed escrow in California during February 2021. In this single month, the number of homes sold was 23% higher than a year earlier. February’s relatively high sales numbers continue the rapid pace of sales experienced since mid-2020, uncharacteristic of a recession. 

Despite the unique challenges presented by the ongoing recession and pandemic, many homebuyers merely delayed purchases in 2020, rather than cancelled them altogether. Encouraged by record-low interest rates and stimulus boosts, sales picked up by year’s end, and 2020’s annual home sales volume ended up roughly level with the prior year, still strong at the start of 2021.

2020 ended with 439,200 home sales in California. This was 1,700 more home sales than took place in 2019, amounting to a meager increase of 0.4%. 2020’s overall flat performance follows a 1% decrease in 2019 and a 4% decrease in 2018. For greater perspective, 2020’s 439,200 homes sales volume was 42% below peak sales volume experienced in 2005. 

Today’s volatile home sales volume continues to narrow and destabilize the flow of agent fees. Fixed rate mortgage (FRM) rates have risen from the historic lows in 2021, removing support for buyer purchasing power and home prices. Further, the coming expiration of the foreclosure moratorium in mid-2021 will release the buildup of distressed sales, which will drag down prices. The housing market won’t begin a consistent recovery until well after the need for government intervention and the pandemic response have ended, a timeline which continues to shift. Then, California’s housing market will need to emerge from the underlying recession and recover the historic job losses of 2020, a recovery not likely to even begin until around 2023-2024. 


April 14, 2021

Are FHA-insured mortgages declining in popularity?

Are FHA-insured mortgages declining in popularity?

The dual crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 recession threatened a rise, if not surge, in Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgage popularity. Not to be outdone, conventional loan financing has actually seen an uptick among first-time buyers. But how much staying power does this trend wield?

Nothing gold can stay

According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, in January 2021 alone, 59% of first-time buyers obtained conventional financing for their homes. Throughout the year 2020, the number of first-time buyers who obtained conventional financing was 57%. This percentage increase is up from 52% in 2019. In contrast, FHA-insured financing fell from 29% in the year 2020 to 24% in January 2021.

Given the FHA’s Depression-era origins, one could be forgiven for assuming the ongoing 2020 recession would renew the popularity of FHA-insured mortgages. FHA-insured mortgages, which boasted a smaller down payment, were once considered the more appealing option for first-time buyers. So, what’s changed?

The insurance cost gamut

FHA-insured mortgages require an upfront mortgage insurance premium (UPMIP), to be paid at the time the loan is obtained, and a subsequent monthly mortgage insurance premium (MIP). Not only does the MIP add to the buyer’s monthly payment, they are also required to pay the MIP for the entire life of the loan — not to mention interest.

The only exception to paying the MIP throughout the life of the loan is when the buyers put 10% or more down. In that case, the MIP will be cancelled after 11 years — but this is a rare occurrence.

New competition

Mortgages that fall under Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac guidelines do not require an UPMIP nor continued payment of the MIP once the home’s equity reaches 80%.

While 3.5% down is the minimum for FHA borrowers, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in November 2020 became more competitive, only requiring 3% down. Shaving down these upfront costs has made conventional financing more attractive to first-time buyers.

Other considerations

 The costs and length of mortgage insurance is not the only thing to consider. The ultimate monkey wrench in this mortgage runaround is that most first-time buyers won’t keep their mortgage for the full 30-year term.

The National Association of Realtors published another report in March 2020 showing the typical home is owned for an average of 10 years before being sold. Freddie Mac reports that mortgage refinances typically occur an average of 3.2 years from loan origination. This average is of course dependent on — and moves with — interest rates. Refinances and loan trades rise as interest rates lower, and fall as interest rates rise.

Thus, the deciding factor on which mortgage is most appropriate for your client is time. This includes how long a homeowner intends to live in their home and how long they are willing to pay mortgage insurance.

Shopping and comparing multiple lenders is your client’s best plan of action. Preparing yourself by knowing the status of your credit report (and rectifying any errors should you find them), your proposed loan’s interest rate and annual percentage rate (APR) and taking diligent, comparative notes on each estimate will go a long way in securing the most favorable mortgage terms possible.

Editor’s note — Agents: download our Mortgage Shopping Worksheet (RPI Form 312) to help your clients quickly decide between their mortgage options.


April 12, 2021

National Market Update




Fannie Mae’s March Home Purchase Sentiment Index scored its biggest gain since June. Respondents who say it’s a good time to buy went from 48% to 53%, while those who feel it’s a good time to sell grew from 55% to 61%. reports sellers are already showing up. For the week ending March 27, new listings came in 6.3% ahead of a year ago. This is a welcome gain, though total inventory keeps declining under the strong buyer demand.

Freddie Mac’s chief economist believes the drop in rates “will continue to bolster purchase demand” and “creates yet another opportunity for those who have not refinanced to take a look at the possibility.”  






LET'S KEEP THE PARTY GOING... The fun continued on Wall Street. The Dow and the S&P 500 hit new highs and extended their weekly win streaks to three in a row, while the Nasdaq notched the biggest 5-day gain of them all.

A blow-out March jobs report, released Good Friday morning when markets were closed, set things in motion, nicely helped by a record-high ISM Non-Manufacturing Index for March. Both showed the recovery gaining momentum.

The Producer Price Index (PPI) showed hotter than expected wholesale inflation. But the Fed jumped in, claiming that was "transitory," implying they would keep rates near 0% through 2023. What fun that would be! 

The week ended with the Dow UP 2.0%, to 33,801; the S&P 500 UP 2.7%, to 4,129; and the Nasdaq UP 3.1%, to 13,900.

Bonds overall ended barely higher for the week, the UMBS 3.0% UP .46, at $104.52. After inching up for seven weeks, the national average 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell back in Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.

DID YOU KNOW?... Data firm CoreLogic expects 2021 will see incomes up, rates down, the number of households growing, and lots more new builds. They’re forecasting 2021 new home sales to hit their highest level since 2006. 





HOME BUILDING, RETAIL, INFLATION MOVE UP… Analysts expect spring weather to push up March Housing Starts and Building Permits. Retail Sales are forecast to reverse course from February's dip and post a strong gain in March. Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation, however, is also predicted to rise, but only by a bit, month-over-month.

NOTE: Weaker economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and higher loan rates.


April 9, 2021

Spousal Property Petition: What It Is And When To Use It

When a person dies, their belongings must pass onto the living. When no other arrangements are made, these belongings are usually distributed and passed among the next of kin according to the intestate laws in the decedent’s home state. This process is supervised by a probate court and can be lengthy, depending on the decedent’s estate.

However, it can be expedited in several ways. One of these ways is through a Spousal Property Petition. If the decedent left behind a surviving spouse, the property could be transferred to this spouse through a Spousal Property Petition without completing the lengthy process of probate.

What Is a Spousal Property Petition?

A Spousal Property Petition consists of a state-specific form that describes the property in question and why it should pass to the surviving spouse. If a written agreement or supporting will exists, it must be copied and attached to the filled-out form. A local clerk will file these documents and give you a hearing date. At the hearing, a judge will grant or deny the petition.

The process is quite simple, but it is essential not to miss the finer details. You must notify specific people before the hearing occurs and other documents to fill out (such as Form DE-226, California). When the property passes onto you, there are further considerations to heed, such as whether you inherit your spouse’s debts as well. These are best left answered by a legal or estate planning professional.

When Is a Spousal Property Petition Used?

A Spousal Property Petition may be used anytime a surviving spouse is a beneficiary to the decedent’s property, which is the case for most married couples. However, if there are other beneficiaries (such as children, siblings, parents, or friends), there may still be a need for a probate process. Without a will or some other estate planning form, the probate process will follow intestate succession rules.

Under California intestate succession rules, for example, all community property passes onto the surviving spouse. However, property held separately may be split between the spouse and other kin, such as relatives and children. There may be cases where a Spousal Property Petition will not be used, despite the presence of community property and a surviving partner.

For example, suppose there is a high likelihood of litigation because of inheritance disputes or problems with lenders/creditors. In that case, a complete probate process may be preferential, as it can provide an opportunity for these disputes to be settled immediately during probate.

If all community property is held in trust for the spouse and transferred that way (or if the spouse is made a direct beneficiary without the need for probate), there may be no need for a Spousal Property Petition. The property included in a marital property petition need not be purely community property, either if a written will or agreement states that the decedent also left the separate property to their surviving spouse.

Understanding the Probate Process

Probate begins once a surviving relative or acquaintance of the decedent files a petition for probate with a copy of the decedent’s will (if one exists) and their death certificate. The probate court oversees the process and will usually pick a qualified relative to act as executor or administrator of the decedent’s will.

If an executor/administrator were named in the will, the decedent’s choice would often be favored. There are many tasks on the docket for an executor of an estate. These include informing all relevant creditors, totaling, evaluating the estate’s entirety, managing properties, keeping an inventory, taking care of final bills and debts, and distributing what is left among the surviving beneficiaries and inheritors.

Because certain time limits need to be respected during the process, such as the time given to potential creditors to respond to the news of the decedent’s passing with a claim on the estate, the probate process often lasts about a year or longer. It is rarely as short as nine months. Specific facts and complications within an estate can make the process much longer, such as having multiple large debts, assets held in other states or countries, or complicated assets.

It is worth noting that a Spousal Property Petition can also be used to transfer property into the surviving spouse’s estate if the surviving spouse is also now deceased. If, for example, an accident left a married couple severely wounded, and one died after the other, the representative of the surviving spouse’s estate can transfer the first spouse’s community property fully into the estate of the surviving spouse and then distribute it to a beneficiary as per the second spouse’s will.

Spousal Property Petition Notice of Hearing

Once the form for a Spousal Property Petition is filled out and sent to the clerk, the surviving spouse (or their representative) has up until the last 15 days before the hearing date to notify a few critical individuals through a Notice of Hearing either in person or by mail. These include:

      • All the other heirs of the decedent.
      • The administrator of the decedent’s estate (if probate has been started).
      • All persons interested in the estate have asked for Special Notice through Probate Code Section 1250.
      • In some cases, the Attorney General of California (if the decedents will include a charitable bequest or other considerations).

Other Probate Alternatives

A Spousal Property Petition is not the only way to bypass a lengthy probate process in California. Smaller estates under a specific total value can opt to be transferred to eligible beneficiaries through an expedited or small estate probate process, saving both considerable amounts of time and administrative fees.

The probatable estate size can be further reduced through direct designated beneficiaries (as is the case in transfer-upon-death clauses and Totten trusts) and living trusts, separate entities from the decedent’s probatable estate.

When considering these things, it is often a good idea to work with an estate planning professional. A comprehensive estate plan can save you time and simplify the process of distributing your assets after death and making other crucial arrangements for end-of-life care.



April 7, 2021

Beginner’s Guide to Gardening

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Spring is in the air, and it’s the perfect time to start an edible garden! But if you don’t have a green thumb, you may be wondering where to begin. Check out these beginner’s gardening tips.

  • Choose a sunny location; most edible plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight.

  • Equip yourself with the proper tools, including a sturdy pair of gloves.

  • Potted containers are a great way to go, especially if you are short on space.

  • Test your soil to determine what nutrients you may need to add.

  • Seeding trays will help get your seeds growing. You can also use eggshells or citrus rinds to start them off, then transfer the plants to the pot once they’ve sprouted.

  • Make sure there is a water source close to your garden. Early morning is the optimal time to water plants.

  • Start a gardening journal. Document what you plant each year, when you plant the seeds, and their harvest dates. This will help you with future crops.

It might take a while to get the hang of maintaining your garden. But if you give it time, your gardening skills are sure to grow!


April 5, 2021

National Market Update




Last week, the purchase mortgage application index rose a solid 5%. The Mortgage Bankers Association's chief forecaster noted: “The housing market is entering the busy spring buying season with strong demand.”

Freddie Mac’s chief economist added: “While purchase activity remains high, it has cooled off....However, the rise in mortgage rates over the next couple of months is likely to be more muted…and we expect a strong spring sales season.”

Construction spending rose 1.7% in January, up 2.1% including prior month revisions. Almost all construction categories increased, but best of all, the spending gains were led by single-family home building!





BUMPY ROAD BACK... As the economy improves and more stimulus looms (along with more inflation), bonds dipped, edging up interest rates. This hurt stocks too, until bargain hunters sent the Dow and the S&P 500 back up for the week.

Even though long-term rates are higher, they aren't high, only back to their level of a year ago. In addition, a third vaccine was approved, and manufacturing indexes out of the U.S., Europe, and Japan handily beat expectations. 

The final upside surprise came with the jobs report--379,000 new Nonfarm Payrolls in February, with January's number revised up, from 49,000 to 166,000 new jobs. Hourly earnings are also up--5.3% higher than a year ago. 

The week ended with the Dow UP 1.8%, to 3,496; the S&P 500 UP 0.8%, to 3,842; but the Nasdaq down 2.1%, to 12,920.

Bonds overall stayed under pressure, the UMBS 3.0% down .02, to $104.61. Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey had the national average 30-year fixed mortgage rate moving up, but still near historical lows. Remember, mortgage rates can be extremely volatile, so check with your mortgage professional for up-to-the-minute information.

DID YOU KNOW?... Attom Data reports 3.51 million mortgages were originated in Q4 of 2020, up 5.5% from Q3, and up a whopping 48% from the prior year--the highest number of mortgage originations in almost 14 years.





INFLATION UP, JOBLESS CLAIMS DOWN… February inflation is forecast up by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a little less so by the Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices. But Initial Jobless Claims are expected down for the week. 

NOTE: Weaker economic data tends to send bond prices up and interest rates down, while positive data points to lower bond prices and higher loan rates.


March 26, 2021

Delinquent homeowners have not taken advantage of forbearance programs

Delinquent homeowners have not taken advantage of forbearance programs

The impacts of the 2020 recession continue to ripple through the economy, with the brunt of job losses disproportionately hitting people of color. However, the share of homeowners taking advantage of federal forbearance programs moves aid in the opposite direction of where it’s needed most.

The federal foreclosure moratorium will keep delinquent homeowners out of the foreclosure process through June 30, 2021. Further, homeowners who are unable to make mortgage payments may enroll in a mortgage forbearance program. Homeowners in forbearance come to an agreement with their mortgage servicer, in which the servicer agrees to temporarily forgo an exercise of their rights to pursue foreclosure while the homeowner takes steps to bring the mortgage current.

Therefore, when the foreclosure moratorium expires, homeowners in forbearance will remain protected from foreclosure while they remain in good standing in their forbearance program.

Of the 2.7 million U.S. homeowners currently in forbearance programs as of the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020, 2.1 million are delinquent on their payments. The remaining 600,000 are making payments, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

However, 1.1 million homeowners are delinquent on their mortgages and not enrolled in a forbearance program. These homeowners may be headed for foreclosure immediately upon expiration of the foreclosure moratorium.

Unequal protection from foreclosure

A recent report by the Urban Institute demonstrated the unequal enrollment in forbearance programs during the ongoing recession. The share of mortgaged homeowners delinquent and unprotected by a current forbearance program was:

  • 0.9% in predominantly Asian neighborhoods;
  • 1.2% in predominantly White neighborhoods;
  • 1.6% in predominantly Latinx neighborhoods; and
  • 2.3% in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

These unprotected and delinquent homeowners will enter the foreclosure process upon expiration of the foreclosure moratorium. This may be completely avoided by simply enrolling in a forbearance program.

Why haven’t roughly 1.1 million delinquent individuals enrolled in a forbearance program yet?

Some may be so far behind on their payments they see no option to climb out of delinquency and believe it’s useless to apply and attempt to catch up on payments. However, mortgages covered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the majority of U.S. mortgages) may take advantage of their loss mitigation waterfall, which allows homeowners to push missed payments accumulated during forbearance through the life of the loan, avoiding a lump payment due at the end of forbearance that most homeowners would be unable to pay.

Or, they may simply be unaware of their option to apply for forbearance.

It’s not too late to let your clients know about forbearance programs, and it’s not too late for them to take advantage of their forbearance options and keep their home. Information for how your clients can apply for a forbearance program can be found at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The enrollment window for mortgage forbearance programs was recently extended through June 30, 2021 and an additional six months of forbearance is provided to homeowners enrolled in a forbearance program before June 30, 2021.


March 24, 2021

How to Plan Your Edible Garden

Whether you’re starting a new garden or returning to a well-established one, planning is essential for a successful and fun experience. To give your garden the best chance to thrive, take time to get organized at the beginning of your growing season.
Siting Your Garden

If you’re adding new raised beds or using planter boxes that can be moved, make sure that your vegetable garden is in the right place.

Pay attention to sunlight. What direction does your garden face? In the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing yards and balconies get the most light, while north-facing gardens will almost always be shaded by comparison. West-facing gardens will get intense afternoon light, which can in some cases be hard on tender greens like lettuce. Gardens with mostly eastern exposure will get soft morning light, which may not necessarily be bright enough to grow sun lovers like tomatoes. Take a look, too, for buildings, trees and other structures that could block light by creating shadows.

If you live in a sunny climate, getting enough light may not be a big deal. In fact, some afternoon shade can be a big advantage in places with hot summers. If you’re in a rainier environment, such as the Pacific Northwest, getting adequate light can be a challenge. You may want to locate your vegetable garden in the sunniest spot, even if that’s your front yard.
Choose the right crops for the right place. If you can’t move your garden, work with what you have and choose your crops accordingly. Most salad greens, like spinach and lettuce, will grow happily in partial shade but can really suffer under hot sun. Good soil can help compensate for a less than perfectly located garden.

Use slopes to your advantage. Slope can also affect how you site your garden. Is your space mostly flat or does it have a variety of heights? In dry climates, take advantage of slope by planting in a low-lying area, which can better retain water. In a wet or shaded environment, planting on a south-facing slope, or in a raised area, can help increase drainage and sun exposure. Keep in mind that raised beds should always be level.

Find a landscape designer on Houzz to help plan your edible garden
Determining Your Goals and Capacity

Just because you have an entire backyard at your disposal doesn’t mean you should plant your whole yard right away. Gardening can be a lot of work, and you don’t want to get discouraged and abandon the whole project. If you’re new to gardening, hold back and start small. If things go well, you can always expand next year.

Take your lifestyle into consideration. If you like to travel, have a busy schedule without much free time or are planning home renovations in the next year, consider adding a smaller, less permanent container garden. An irrigation system with timers is a worthwhile investment if you don’t think you’ll be able to water your garden regularly.

Determine a goal for your garden and use it as a guiding principle. Your goal may be to have lots of fresh herbs available right outside your kitchen window, to provide a full plate of produce for your family or to teach your children where food comes from. Each of these goals will result in a different garden plan.

Find outdoor pots and planters in the Houzz Shop
Getting Practical

Ask yourself what items need to be built, purchased or designed for your space and make the appropriate arrangements to get the work done.

If you’re starting a new garden or redesigning an existing one, your to-do list will likely involve adding raised beds or obtaining containerstesting your existing soil for contaminants such as heavy metals and ordering a delivery of high-quality topsoil or potting mix.

Even if you’ve been growing in the same space year after year, take a moment to determine what maintenance is needed at this time. There’s a good chance that you’ll need to add compost (either homemade or purchased from a reputable supplier) to refresh tired soil and repair damaged structures.

Ask yourself what you can add that will take your garden to the next level. Trellises, row covers, cold framesgreenhouses and irrigation systems can make a huge difference when it comes to how much food you can grow.
Choosing What to Plant

Once you have a sense of your goals and capacity, it’s time to choose your plants. Need help deciding? Here are eight surefire vegetables and herbs that work well for nearly any garden, even if you’re a beginner. A landscape designer who specializes in edible gardens will also be able to help you choose your plants.

Deciding where your plants are going, and when they’ll be planted, is where the true artistry and challenge of gardening comes in. Keep your plan simple. Allocate a space for each of your crops, taking into consideration that some plants, like salad greens, need very little room, while others, like pumpkins, can get enormous. If you’re growing in raised beds, consider dividing each bed into tidy sections using string and nails, a method known as square-foot gardening. This technique is especially helpful with salad greens, which do best when planted in small amounts every week or two.

Keep in mind that it’s best to avoid planting the same crop (or a close relative) in the same place year after year. Rotating crops helps prevent soil-borne plant diseases and nutrient deficiencies.

It’s all too easy to get excited about a garden early in the year, only to abandon it weeks later when the work becomes overwhelming. By doing some advance planning, you’ll give your garden the best opportunity to thrive.

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