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The Power of Paint

I recently read Hammertown’s article about the impact of paint colors on a home’s appeal and couldn’t agree more. As a realtor, I can’t overstate how important it is to paint your house, inside and out, in colors that are popular with most buyers. 

Exterior choices are often inspired by the architecture of your home. Barn style homes seem to look best in dramatic reds, dark greens and, popular right now, black. Take a look at the converted barn that is part of Best & Cavallaro’s listing at 245 Belgo Road in Lakeville.   

However, the 1845 Greek Revival next door (at 251 Belgo Road) just called out to be white.  Currently, the most popular interior colors are shades of gray, beiges and soft blues. I will always thank my friend who, knowing I wanted turquoise kitchen cabinets when I built my last home, convinced me to use gray and get turquoise accessories – which she provided as a housewarming gift! Pops of color are easier to change than cabinets – and tastes and styles do change. I encouraged clients to paint their Sharon house, which was light blue with red shutters, a medium gray with black shutters and – guess what – it sold!

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    What Should I Pay for Rent?

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    Connecticut real estate agent Martha Mullins

    Figuring out how much rent to pay can be painful.  Making a mistake by assuming too high a monthly rent can significantly impact your lifestyle.  

    In general, the basic rule is to spend no more than 30% of your after tax take home pay. To figure that out, take your annual salary and deduct taxes. Divide that figure by twelve. Subtract your monthly necessary expenses, such as car payment, car taxes, health insurance, loans, groceries, etc. Multiply that number by .3 and you’ll know what you can afford to pay. This isn’t what you should pay, though.  

    If you like dining out, events, activities outside work and home, then spend less and direct the additional funds to your social life. If you prefer to stay home maybe spend up to that 30% mark. Remember to inquire about all expenses: utilities, lawn mowing, snow removal, association fees, etc. when asking about rent.  

    Enjoy what you pay for!

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      Bicycles Sharing the Road

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      Lori Belter, Western CT Realtor

      Before you head out for a bike ride in our beautiful Northwest Corner of CT, it’s important to know the rules of the road, designed to help keep cyclists safe. 

      If you are riding on the road, behave like a car. One reason there may be animosity between drivers and cyclists is that some cyclists take liberties with their bicycle, riding 2-3 wide, ignoring traffic lights, or switching between the road and crosswalks. Yes, cyclists have a right to the road, but most laws state they must follow the rules that apply to cars, including riding with the direction of traffic, stopping at stop signs and lights, and yielding to pedestrians. Be sure to stay as far to the right as safely possible, maintain as straight a line as possible, and avoid swerving around objects.  Be predictable so cars know what to expect.

      Wearing a helmet and being highly visible are most important - wear bright/reflective clothing and be sure you have front and back lights and reflectors, especially if you are riding at dusk or dark.

      A little caution will help you to stay safe while sharing the road.

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        Spring for Sound 2017!

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        William McGinn, Connecticut Realtor

        Spring For Sound is an all day, rain-or-shine music festival on June 10, 2017 in the village of Millerton, NY. All proceeds go towards the work of the North East Community Center, which provides healthy, caring, and responsive services to the residents of North East, Millerton, and its surrounds. 

        Performances are scheduled from 10 am to midnight (roughly) on multiple stages at partner venues throughout the village. One ticket gets you a wristband and admission to all stages. Spring for Sound is suitable for all ages and children 12 and under accompanied by an adult are admitted free.

        Tickets may be purchased in advance at a discount at springforsound.com or at the NECC office at 51 S. Center St. in Millerton,  52 Main, and The Black Rabbit in Lakeville, CT. 

        Tickets/wristbands will also be for sale on the day of the show at full price and may be purchased at the Perch at Gilded Moon or NXNE Stage ticket booths. 

        What a great way to start your summer, enjoy outstanding music, and support an important local resource!

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          What To Do This Weekend?

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          CT Realtor Mary Taylor

          It’s a weekend and we’ve promised the young and young at heart a day trip.  Where can we go, what can we do?  Here are a few places to explore:

          Visit the Berkshire Museum, which offers an array of exhibitions and activities. 

          Visit the Berkshire Scenic Rail Museum which is preserving the history of railroading.

          Visit the Trevor Zoo at Millbrook School, a one-of-a-kind, AZA-accredited zoo with over 160 exotic and indigenous animals.

          Enjoy trails, live animal exhibits, nature programs, and conservation-themed events  at the Audubon Society in Sharon. 

          On a Saturday afternoon, go for a farm tour at Arethusa Dairy Farm in Litchfield, CT.

          Experience a replicated Algonkian Village at the Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington, CT.

          Visit a replica of a pioneer cabin at the Sloane-Stanley Museum & Kent Iron Furnace.

          And be sure to visit the Best Bets page or our website for more ideas and upcoming special events!

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            Memorial Day in Salisbury, CT

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            Salisbury real estate expert Lori Belter

            Are you looking forward to summer? Picnics at the lake, walking the Appalachian Trail, picking up fresh produce at a farmer’s market, enjoying backyard barbecues, riding bikes around Twin Lakes or on the Rail Trail, or maybe putting in the canoe on Lakeville Lake?   

            Traditionally, Memorial Day is the kick-off of the summer season. In Salisbury, we have a wonderful parade that honors the men and women who have served our country, followed by an ice cream social on the lawn of the White Hart Inn, hosted by the Salisbury Visiting Nurse Association. 

            Many towns in our region have similar celebrations on Memorial Day – traditions that help make our part of the world so special. Check out the listings in your local paper to find out how your community honors all those who have served and continue to serve our country.

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              Summer Farmers' Markets are Back!

              Salisbury CT farmers market

              This weekend, on Saturday, May 20, we are excited to welcome a new Salisbury farmer’s market around the corner from our office on the Scoville Library lawn on Main Street in Salisbury, CT!

              There are also Farmer’s Markets in Millerton, Amenia, and Hillsdale, NY; Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, and Winsted, CT - they all offer products ranging from locally-grown fruits and vegetables to organic meat and poultry to vegan food to fresh baked goods and crafts.

              Here are a few in our region:

              New York farmers markets

              Amenia - May-Oct, Fridays 3-7 pm, Town Hall parking lot, Rt. 22. ameniafarmersmarket.com

              Copake/Hillsdale - May 27-Oct. 28, Saturdays, 9 am - 1 pm,  9140 State Route 22, Hillsdale, NY.  copakehillsdalefarmersmarket.com

              Millerton - May-Oct, Saturdays, 9am-1pm, Millerton Methodist Church at Dutchess & Main. millertonfarmersmarket.org

              Connecticut farmers markets 

              Cornwall - May-Oct, Saturdays 9am-12:30pm, 413 Sharon Goshen Tpke./Rte 128, Wish House. cornwallfarmarket.org

              Kent - May-Oct, Fridays 3– 6pm, Saturdays 10–noon, Rt. 7, across from Fife ‘n Drum  FB: @KentCTFarmersMarket

              Norfolk - May-Oct, Saturdays 10am-1pm, 19 Maple Ave., live music.NorfolkFarmersMarket.org

              Salisbury - May-mid-Oct., Saturdays, 10am -1 pm, Scoville Library lawn

              Winsted - June-Oct, Fridays, 3-6 pm at East End Park. winstedfarmersmarket.org

              Stop by to enjoy the freshest food and to support your friends, neighbors, and local farmers!

               

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                Spring: A Time for Renewal

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                From my favorite window, I’m gazing out at the landscape, noting spring’s late arrival this year in our Northwest Corner.  

                Birds dart from tree to tree, grass is finally green, and a fine mist is making its presence felt with splatters on the windowpane. And yes, the roving threesome of deer have just come into view. A pretty pastoral scene.  

                Spring is a time of renewal for ourselves and our homes.  Winter always creates projects requiring our attention in the interior and exterior of our homes. Has paint peeled indoors or out, requiring touch-up? Fireplaces and woodstoves should be cleaned, and how about the chimneys?  

                A septic system needs to be pumped every two to three years and its condition checked. Remember to schedule the annual heating system tune-up.  Testing the fire alarms and other safety systems is a must. And lots to do outdoors.  Great exercise!

                 

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                  It's May - Time for Trade Secrets!

                  Patricia Best, Sharon CT real estate expert

                  Every May, an amazing event takes place at the beautiful LionRock Farm in Sharon, Ct.   Rising like the proverbial phoenix each year, an army of volunteers creates a magical village of tents for 60 vendors selling beautiful, rare, and unique plants, garden antiques, and decorative items. The setting is gorgeous and the shoppers are too, perfectly clad in Wellies and straw hats. You can even enjoy a delicious lunch under the tent.  

                  On Saturday, May 13, for the Rare Plant and Garden Antiques Sale, there are “early bird” tickets, regular admission, and even “late bloomer” tickets for those who can only get there for the last couple of hours. Best of all, Trade Secrets is the largest fundraiser for Women’s Support Services of Sharon, Ct., a critical nonprofit organization helping victims of domestic violence in the Tri-State area.  

                  Be sure to get your tickets at TradeSecretsCT.com! (Please note: If you have not yet purchased tickets for Sunday’s Garden Tour on May 14, this year’s Tour is already sold out!)

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                    Antique Houses & Historical Societies

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                    William McGinn real estate advice

                    If you are a new owner of an antique house, you will most definitely want to join one or more of our local historical societies.  

                    Sharon Historical Society, Salisbury Association, and Northeast Historical Society are but a few of the local ones.  Litchfield Historical Society, Dutchess County Historical Society and Columbia County Historical Society are active groups at the county level.  

                    The restoration and preservation process naturally requires research into local vernacular architecture.  These historical societies offer a wealth of resources in their libraries and archives.  

                    I have personally found the staff of each of these organizations to be most helpful and friendly.  For those of you who are really enthusiastic, please consider joining Historic New England. This organization offers a number of resources for its members, including help with research of an historic property.

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                      Considering a Fixer-Upper?

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                      Mary Taylor - Real Estate insights

                      The fixer upper has been sitting on the market for over a year. Price reductions seem to make the house very attractive. How do buyers determine whether cosmetic fixes or a rehab are in order and within their budget? 

                      A thorough building inspection is necessary.  Once you have firm knowledge of any issues with the home, do homework on costs to fix. Often expenses associated with inspection issues can be negotiated with the seller. Get a professional!  Have a general contractor do a comprehensive analysis of the inspection report and include a list of what you would want changed and updated - then generate a budget. 

                      Making a Cost-Effective Home Improvement Plan

                      Rehab vs. cosmetic updates -- painting and floor refinishing are easy and inexpensive. Replacing a furnace, shoring up a bad floor, or moving walls is not. Things like running new plumbing, updating from fuses to breakers in the electric box, or changing a bedroom to a first-floor laundry is not. Think about the task at hand and commitment required.

                      Bringing a home back to life can be a rewarding experience.

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                        Smarter Homes

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                        Martha Mullins real estate insights

                        Every year the tech market produces the next device for a “smart home.”  Last year the smart “home hub” was all the rage.  A voice-generated command station, the home hub supplies web-generated answers to any questions from the weather to current interest rates to the time in Bora Bora. It can process online orders.  

                        The greater use of these hubs happens when you link it to your home applications. The hub can set timers for your roast, play music, serve as an alarm clock; manage your home security, recordings on TV, the thermostat, and turn lights on and off. 

                        All these tasks and more are possible by linking your home hub with online services you already use. The software that drives these devices is currently being installed on tablets.  So, if you’d prefer not to add another device into your home, you may want to wait for one of these services to become available via an app for your device.  Amazon’s Alexa is currently available on its Fire tablets. 

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                          Getting the House Ready to Rent

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                          Preparing a house to be rented (whether furnished or unfurnished)  requires planning, time, and some hard work. Having recently worked with clients who are both landlords and tenants, here are a few suggestions to make renting a property go more smoothly:

                          1.  Ask a realistic rent which reflects current market rates.

                          2.  Do a professional cleaning.

                          3.  Prepare a list of operating expenses to give to the prospective tenant: heating oil, electric, cable, snow plowing, mowing, cleaning.  They always ask.

                          4.  Prepare a list of contact numbers for caretaker, plowing, mowing, propane, plumber, electrician, cleaning person and other services that might be needed on short notice.

                          5.  Remove irreplaceable items.

                          6.  Buy an inexpensive set of new cutlery, dishes, and pots, if the rental is furnished.

                          7.  Provide new sheets and towels, if possible.

                          8.  Empty all closets and cabinets of personal effects.

                          9.  Clean the basement and outbuildings so that they are usable for tenant storage.

                          10.  List the property with a local realtor. 

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                            LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

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                            Mary Kirby

                            I’ve been thinking about the expansive meaning of “Location, location, location” in terms of real estate purchases. Is it the setting that garners our immediate interest? Is the location of a particular property what I want or need?  Is there enough privacy, does it have curb appeal?  Are there views, and is it close enough to the amenities needed? All of the above are important considerations that relate to setting. Now think about “location” in terms of other important elements like schools, hospitals, and cultural opportunities. The Northwest Corner of Connecticut offers a wealth of possibilities for all ages. 

                            One unique advantage of our area is the dedicated system of volunteer EMTs, the well-trained emergency medical technicians in each of our towns.They deserve our financial and moral support, especially when a new ambulance is needed, as well as funding for ongoing expenses including training. EMTs give generously of their time, day or night, answering calls and participating in many hours of training. This indeed relates to LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

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                              Spruce Up For Spring!

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                              Martha Mullins

                              The cool and wet of early spring is the perfect time to tend to the less exciting home repair chores.  While you’re waiting for the spring bulbs to pop and trees to blossom, take the time to evaluate any winter damage. Did you notice a draft in the house over the winter?  Check your windows for repair or replacement. Add storms, weather strip or caulk. Change the filters on your furnace.  

                              Have your chimneys cleaned. Clean out air conditioner filters and HVAC systems. Review your insulation to see if more might be needed.  Take a look to make sure your roof didn’t sustain storm damage. Check out your gutters and downspouts to ensure they’re attached properly and are guiding rainwater away from the foundation. 

                              When the snow melts, prep your lawn for spring work by ordering mulch for your garden beds and pruning your trees. 

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                                March 16-18, 2017: The Drowsy Chaperone at Housatonic Valley Regional High School

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                                Lori Belter

                                The Housatonic Musical Theatre Society at Housatonic Valley Regional High School is proud to present its 14th annual musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. With 90% of the funding for the musical provided through ticket sales, sponsorships, and fundraising events, this year’s show features 30 students onstage, three in the orchestra, and six working backstage, all helping to bring The Drowsy Chaperone to life for four performances, March 16-18, 2017, accompanied by a live, 11-piece orchestra.

                                Winner of five Tony Awards, The Drowsy Chaperone is a loving send-up of the Jazz Age musical. When a diehard theatre fan plays his favorite cast album, the characters come to life in his living room in this hilarious musical farce, featuring one show-stopping song and dance number after another.

                                Tickets ($15 for adults, $10 for seniors/students/children) may be purchased online at HMTS.org or at the Salisbury, Sharon, and Kent pharmacies.

                                Best & Cavallaro has been a proud sponsor of the Housatonic Musical Theatre Society since its inception fourteen years ago.

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                                  The Dishwasher Broke

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                                  Martha Mullins

                                  There is nothing really more inconvenient than an appliance going kaput in the middle or your daily routine. Hot water heater in the middle of a shower.  The oven after you’ve put in a pork roast. The dishwasher at any given point in the day.  

                                  It might make life a little less frustrating to take a look at your appliances and assess replacing them before they break. Take a look at the average lifespan of each appliance to see if they’re near the end of their useful life and plan a swap out for the older units, one every 6 months, for example. Air conditioners are an easy start. Current energy ratings will show you the relative electricity savings on your unit. The large hot water heater in your basement recycles hot water around coils, constantly using energy. An on-demand, propane hot water heater could save its cost in heating oil over two years. 

                                  Cleaning filters on your dishwasher could save you some time, but you may want to check with your local shop to see if it should be replaced.

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                                    Meet George Jetson!

                                    Patricia Best

                                    When I was a kid, I watched the Jetsons and wondered if the real world would ever resemble their high-tech fantasy world.   

                                    While we haven’t mastered the flying cars quite yet, we are close to having a driverless car and we now have some AMAZING gadgets that make our houses safer and more energy efficient. The Nest thermostat can be controlled from your mobile phone and also learns your habits after you use it for a few weeks.              

                                    The Chamberlain garage door opener can open and close your door from anywhere using your phone. The Vivinte doorbell camera lets you see and speak to anyone at your front door from anywhere. Samsung makes a refrigerator that takes pictures of the contents and sends them to your phone so you will know what you need at the grocery store.

                                    Now if only Rosie the Robot would clean my house!

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                                      We Should Have Bought Last Summer

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                                      Martha Mullins

                                      Not everything falls into place at the right time. If you’re searching for a home, you may have watched with dismay as mortgage rates rose recently. Disappointing as that is, there is an option to “buy down” your mortgage that will lower your monthly payments. An additional up-front fee paid at the time you execute your mortgage will lower your mortgage interest rate.  

                                      The fee is a point system.  Each “point” represents 1% of your mortgage. For a $300,000 mortgage, the point is $3,000. How to know if that math works for you?  Take the difference between the two interest rates, let’s say 4.25% vs. 4.00% with one point paid.  The savings for one year is $750. You just paid $3,000, one point, to lower the rate.  It would take only four years before you’ve recouped that point value and begin to save. 

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                                        Jumpfest in Salisbury

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                                        Elvia Gegnoux

                                        It is almost time to head down to the ski jumps and watch future Olympians race down the jump and soar into the air.  

                                        The 91st Annual Salisbury Ski Jumps will be held the weekend of February 10-12, 2017, opening with a Target jump under the lights on Friday night, followed by a Human Dog Sled Race. 

                                        So come on out, dress warmly and enjoy a winter tradition in Salisbury. 

                                        There will be other events happening in town, including an ice-carving demonstration with professional carvers on the White Hart Green and the Snow Ball Dance at the Lakeville Hose Company Annex. 

                                        Don’t forget to bring your cowbell to cheer the jumpers on! For more information and a full schedule check out  jumpfest.org.

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