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Selling Your Home? Clean Your Windows!

The moment a prospective buyer pulls up to your home, they will notice the windows first—and first impressions matter.

My advice: focus on issues that give the “most bang for your buck.” And the experts agree that clean windows are one of those.

Here are the top 5 reasons:

    1) According to 2000 real estate agents surveyed, the number one improvement that generates the best return on investment (ROI) is window cleaning, and the ROI on window cleaning alone was determined by Money Magazine to be 768%.

    2) According to the National Association of Appraisers, a good first appearance of a home can add 5-10% to the value of the home.

    3) According to the National Association of Realtors, curb appeal sells 49% of all houses.

    4) More than 75% of people who first view property on the internet will drive by before contacting an agent.

    5) Large, clean windows  allow pure, bright light to flood the living areas in the home, creating a warm atmosphere.

 

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    My Homes Is "Inventory"??!

    I cringe when I see this term applied to residential real estate. It strips sentiment from a situation that is often emotional and personal.

    We use this to describe real estate market conditions; if you’re looking for a home and there aren’t many available in your price range, then “inventory” is low; prices tend to rise. If you’re selling your home, and so are many others in the area, then “inventory” is high; prices tend to fall. It’s simple economics, but it’s harsh to hear the word applied to your endeavor, no matter what side of the equation you’re on.

    It’s like comparing a home to a can of corn on the grocer’s shelf, but it’s wise to under-stand the local market and respond accordingly. Prices can only rise to a point; many will go elsewhere to find value.  They can only fall so far before the stream of buyers dries up.

    To speak with agents who understand and care, please call us at Best & Cavallaro!

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      Is Solar Energy Affordable Yet?

      The monthly electric bill is a big part of monthly expenses, particularly in the winter. There are several ways to reduce your electricity use, from not overcharging your devices overnight to changing your lightbulbs to energy efficient versions to using the energy efficient options on your washer/dryer, for example. But, the one change that makes the largest impact could be converting to solar panels.

      According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar panel installation has grown 59% in the last 10 years.

      Although the cost of solar panels has dropped in recent years, installation can cost up to $30,000. To help, there is a 30% federal residential renewable energy tax credit available (visit energy.gov for more information).  For families with limited or fixed incomes, there are programs for no-cost solar panel installation.   

      If installation prices continue to drop, solar energy may soon be an affordable option for all. Or perhaps a community-based solar project will be possible. Connecticut passed legislation in June, 2015 authorizing a shared renewable pilot program.

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        Rent With an Option to Purchase?

        We have been asked by clients about the possibility of renting with an option to purchase.  Sometimes, the potential buyers have an upcoming life event that will allow them to make a purchase in the next few years, but they have found their dream home and want to tie it down and live in it now.   

        There are many ways to structure such a transaction but the most common one works like this: The tenant/buyer enters into a contract at a set price and puts down a non-refundable deposit (amounts can vary widely) and a portion of the rent goes towards the purchase price should the tenant/buyer decide to purchase within the set timeframe.

        Should the tenant decide not to close within the specified time, they lose their deposit and the transaction is simply a lease. Should they decide to purchase at anytime during the lease term, they have been building up equity in the house and pay the balance due upon closing. This can be a creative way for both  buyer and seller to reach their goals.

        We have successfully completed transactions using this structure. Give us a call if you are looking for other creative financing ideas!

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          Swimming Pools: A Good Investment?

          Does a swimming pool increase your home’s selling price?

          The simple answer is that most buyers who want pools don’t want to add their full value to the purchase price. Other buyers may not like the pool you have built and many buyers don’t want the expense of maintaining a pool or the potential liability.

          Only add a pool area to your home to enjoy yourself, not to increase your home’s eventual resale value  it is very difficult to recoup the $40,000 to $75,000 cost of a Gunite pool.

          There are exceptions. Buyers for luxury properties often expect a pool and an attractive one can make your house more marketable to the high end market. If you rent your home over the summer potential tenants are often willing to pay double for a home with a pool. The incremental rent could recoup your cost over several years.

          And, if you are thinking of resale value, never add an indoor pool. These can actually be a deterrent to sale because of moisture and humidity, not to mention the chlorine smell.

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            Five Mistakes When Re-Doing a Bathroom

            Nothing is worse than a medicine cabinet that is so packed that things fall out each time you open the door or lighting that doesn’t allow you to check makeup. If you’re planning on a bathroom redo, here are some things to avoid:

            Neglecting Storage - Explore recessed wall cabinets and shower shelves. When purchasing a vanity, make sure there is plenty of storage for hair dryers and toiletries, and plenty of counter space.

            Overlooking Lighting - People often forget they need multiple lighting sources and install wall sconces on each side of a vanity. Try to incorporate both decorative and task lighting.

            Choosing Slippery Tiles - Using cool decorative tiles that are not made for getting wet is a mistake; they are easy to slip on and can lead to injuries. Make sure your tiles are designed for bathroom floors.

            Not Planning Electrical Components - Planning outlets needs to be done very early in the process.

            Not Using an Appropriate Fan - We have all walked into a bathroom where the ventilation fan sounds like a plane taking off. For a few dollars more, purchase a quiet alternative.

            A well-organized bathroom can be truly life changing.

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              Spring Chores - Ugh!

              Last month, we set our clocks ahead and everyone changed the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, right?  Good - your life can depend on this.

              Some other tasks that can save your life or save you a lot of money in repair costs should be done yearly at a minimum; here are a few tasks that are best done in the spring and fall:

              GFCI outlets. Usually found in baths, kitchens, garages, basements, and outdoors. They have a “test” and a “reset” button. Test first, then reset – if your outlet won’t reset, call an electrician.

              Dryer vents. Open the vent outside and look for lint; clean out what you can.

              Hot water heater. Drain the hot water heater and test the pressure relief value (and the one on your boiler if you have one).

              Furnace. Change your furnace filters if you have forced air heat.

              It’s also a good time to clean refrigerator coils and their drip pans, re-seal all your grout, and clean the gutters and downspouts.

              And please call a professional should you need one.

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                Roof Options

                A solid roof is worth its weight in shingles when selling a home.  One of the first questions buyers ask about their potential purchase is the age of the roof.  So if you are considering selling soon, you may want to consider upgrading your roof if it is at the end of its natural life.

                A shingle roof may last 20+ years, depending on whether it was kept clear of debris. Cedar was once the go to standard in roof tile but the older cedar tree stock is depleted and the available younger wood does not last as long. It is not worth the price. There are multiple terrific ‘fake’ cedar and other synthetic roof tiles on the market.  Google it and you’ll find a ton of options. Metal roofs in general are longer lasting than standard roofing tiles, around 50 years.  An added benefit is they are fire resistant and recyclable.

                There is a combination of tar and gravel that is long lasting, but it is a very heavy option that would require weight bearing studies of your home.

                Clay, concrete and slate tiles, which are the most expensive option, may last up to 100 years.

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                  Deductibility of Home Equity Loans

                  Last year the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of  2017” was passed and one provision prohibited the deduction of interest on Home Equity loans (also known as HELOCs).

                  However, the IRS has just issued a clarification of this policy. You can still deduct the interest on a Home Equity Loan only if it is used to substantially improve your home and as long as your loans do not exceed the cost of your home. This is an important clarification and enables homeowners to improve their homes for their personal enjoyment or to get a home ready to be put on the market.

                  Our local banks, including Salisbury Bank, National Iron, and Litchfield Bancorp are still offering attractive rates for HELOCs and this can be a great tool for homeowners - as long as you’re not using the funds to pay tuition or other personal expenses. The team at Best & Cavallaro Real Estate is always happy to meet with homeowners and discuss the advisability of home improvements.

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                    Healthy House

                    Contaminated water, high radon levels, lead paint, and faulty electrical outlets can threaten your family’s health and safety now and may complicate the eventual sale of your home. The time to take action is now, before a home inspection may delay the sale of your house and possibly reduce its selling price.

                    The buyers’ inspectors will test your well water for bacterial, mineral, and chemical pollutants. Remediation of these problems may involve installing a water filter and an ultraviolet sterilizer and retesting.

                    It is estimated that 39% of homes in Dutchess County, have over the recommended maximum radon level of 4.0pCi/L. When you decide to sell your house, the buyer’s inspector will test the level of radon.

                    Any building constructed before 1978 may have lead paint issues. If a purchaser has a concern, they have an opportunity to conduct a special risk assessment for lead.

                    Electrical wiring in older homes can be potentially dangerous. If you are buying, thinking of selling, or are worried about all those power cords, ask your electrician to evaluate your system and make any required changes.

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                      March 15-17: THE KING AND I!

                      The King And I marks the 15th annual musical for the Housatonic Musical Theatre Society at Housatonic Valley Regional High School.

                      With 90% of the funding for the musical provided through ticket sales, sponsorships, and fundraising events, this year’s show features 40 students onstage, including 16 students from Region One elementary schools, all helping to bring The King And I to life for four performances only, March 15-17, 2018, accompanied by a live, 15-piece orchestra.

                      Winner of five Tony Awards, when it opened in 1952, and numerous additional awards with each revival, The King And I is a Rodgers & Hammerstein favorite, featuring songs that have become beloved classics: Getting To Know You, I Whistle A Happy Tune, Shall We Dance, and Hello, Young Lovers.

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

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

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                        Renovating Wisely

                        Spend your dollars wisely when renovating. Replacing a roof, electrical, or plumbing systems  may not add as much value as you’d hope because buyers expect your home’s infrastructure to be in good shape.

                        Focus on what is important to buyers, and do not over-improve. If houses in your neighborhood have gravel driveways, investing in expensive brick pavers may not be in your best interest.

                        However, dark and cramped rooms are unappealing, so adding light goes a long way in adding value. If you have small rooms blocking the flow of natural light, consider removing walls to open up space. Combining kitchen, dining, and living areas into a large space can makes a small house feel light and airy. Open rooms create an inviting atmosphere for entertaining and are also good for young families because they allow parents and children to interact while meals are being prepared.

                        Adding rooms is also a big value booster. Great rooms can add square footage, and vaulted ceilings will make it feel like there’s even more space.

                        Finally, if you have an unfinished attic, can it be converted to create usable extra space?

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                          Time To Assess...

                          Spring is right around the corner in the Berkshires and our Litchfield Hills; it’s the time to plan the steps ahead. Intending to make repairs? Did this winter cause any damage?

                          Good contractors and service providers are not idle, hoping for your call.  The time for action is here, they have a schedule, and “wait” is not an advisable modus operandi. Know the six “Ps” of homeownership: Proper Planning Positively Prevents Potential Problems.

                          Costs?

                          Every situation is different, and as qualified people assess your needs, the more info you will have. The point is to act; delaying repairs will usually cost more money over time.  If budget is the concern, it’s still important to be informed.

                          Yes, contractors get busy when the weather improves, but procrastination drains your wallet. Take a look - inside and out, top to bottom. Know your building(s) and know your property. And remember that maintenance is less costly than repair.

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                            Most Popular Home Features

                            In the overall plan to sell your home, whether it’s imminent or years away, some updates or improvements will increase the sale value of your home.

                            When planning these projects, it’s helpful to review some trending popular features. A 2013 National Realtors Association survey outlined what buyers are looking for when they purchase a house.  The report is a bit dated but we see that much of it still holds true. Nationwide, 78% of home buyers purchased a home with a garage and 57% purchased homes with fireplaces. No explanation needed for us Northeasterners on those points!  Updated kitchens were more important to buyers than specific types of countertops or appliances. Almost one half of buyers were looking for laundry rooms. 65% of home buyers were looking for air conditioning, a trend we’re seeing in our buyers as well.

                            Finally, good news in our land of lakes, the feature that had the highest dollar value was waterfront property.

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                              Salisbury's Jumpfest This Weekend

                              Where else can you find target ski jumping under the lights, human dog sled races, ice carving, and bonfires?

                              Salisbury, CT, will once again host the Eastern U.S. Ski Jump Championships and the phrase “Friday Night Lights”  will take on new meaning as Jumpfest weekend begins with a Target Ski Jump Competition at 7pm this Friday night, Feb. 9.

                              The 92nd Annual  Salisbury Ski Jumps will be held this weekend, February 9-11, 2018. A beloved Salisbury tradition for more than 90 years, Jumpfest is hosted by SWSA (Salisbury Winter Sports Association), an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that has fostered the sport of ski jumping among all ages and generations.

                              For more information and schedule details, please visit jumpfest.org.

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                                Winter Home Safety Tips

                                Here are some tips for keeping your house safe through these long winter months:

                                We have had fairly severe temperature swings this winter, so, during one of the thaws, check and trim tree branches near your house before another ice storm and heavy snowfall occur.

                                While it can make economic sense to turn down the thermostat when you leave, make sure you leave enough heat running to keep pipes from freezing. Most experts suggest leaving the temperature set at a minimum of 55-58 degrees. Leave a faucet on an exterior wall dripping slightly and open cabinet doors under a sink to help keep those particular pipes from freezing.

                                When leaving your home, make sure all space heaters are turned off and candles are blown out.Make sure exterior doors are fastened properly – a strong wind can inadvertently lower your home’s temperature to freezing and cause your furnace to go into overdrive.

                                Finally, keep your driveway plowed for any emergency vehicles that may have to find you.

                                Most importantly, let’s all think spring!

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                                  Tempted to Winterize?

                                  With the recent cold spell in our Tri-State area, the cost to heat our homes increases and some second-home owners are tempted to “shut down and turn off.” Understandable, but potentially dangerous. We all know the risks of frozen pipes, but there are other factors as well.

                                  Even with all precautions taken, most homes are not built to withstand frigid temperatures. When our walls, floors, and ceilings freeze, we’ve created conditions that can lead to harm as they thaw.  Frozen surfaces condense as temperatures rise, leading to mold and mildew. Insulation increases this problem. Material expansion/contraction opens cracks, gaps, and flaws that aren’t only unsightly but offer refuge to pests. Paint and caulk distort, boards warp, and many of our smart appliances suffer; furniture can be impacted, too.

                                  Protect your investment.  While away, 55° is safe; lower than 50° is inefficient. Wi-Fi compatible thermostats let you control your home from afar; most alert you to problems.

                                  Home concerns? Need a change? Give us a call!

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                                    Choosing the Right Countertops

                                    The choices for kitchen and bath-room countertops are extensive. Granite, which has been around for 30+ years is extremely durable and impervious to heat and cold.  However, granite--like any natural stone--requires a sealer and periodic reapplication.

                                    Other natural stones, such as marble and soapstone, have a luxurious look, but are quite porous and require routine maintenance also. Manufactured quartz stone, which used to be limited in selection, is now offered in many different colors and designs.  Quartz can be visually indistinguishable from natural stone, have the same durability and require no maintenance.  Concrete, although still not a mainstream choice, is great for a more rugged or industrial look.  It can be tinted and polished, or left a natural color.  It also needs to be sealed.   

                                    My current favorite is wood tops featuring marine finishes. Made of mahogany, walnut, and other hardwoods, these countertops do not have the durability of stone, but they make up for that shortcoming with a friendly, warm touch. Don’t forget about good old plastic laminate either!

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                                      Thinking of Buying a House?

                                      If buying  a house is something you plan to do this year, now is the perfect time to set some resolutions that will help you reach your house hunting or goal.

                                      Find a good realtor.  Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent should be first on your list. Realtors can help you set your goals in motion — making for a very smooth transaction.

                                      Save money. Figure out what price house is affordable for you and what price your mortgage lender will approve. Then save based on your current disposable income and how soon you want to buy that house.

                                      Check your credit score — and work to raise that score if necessary. Your score will affect whether you’re approved for a loan and determine your interest rate. Good mortgage rates are generally offered to those with scores 720 and above.

                                      Gather your files. When you make an offer, you’re going to need a lot of information: tax returns, income statements, bank statements, credit card information, etc.

                                      Get pre-approved. You will know just how much you can spend.  While pre-approval is no guarantee of future financing, it tells the seller that you’re most likely qualified.

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                                        Closing Walk Through

                                        Closing day can be exciting - and stressful - for homebuyers. The listing agent representing the seller, the buyer’s agent, and the buyer should run down a check list. The utilities (electric, oil, propane) should be swapped to the buyer for the day of the closing.  The buyer’s agent or attorney will request a list of service providers for the buyer to contact prior to closing day.

                                        At the property, turn on the heat/air conditioning, the washer and dryer, and the dishwasher. Check the lights, turn on the taps, and flush the toilets. Test the garage doors, if appropriate. Make sure that  items that were supposed to remain are there and those that were agreed to be removed are gone. Compare the condition of the home to the inspection report to make sure all agreed upon repairs are complete.

                                        The home should be broom swept clean and the lawn/yard should be maintained. Bring your contract and inspection report to refer to. Take notes and photos of anything amiss to share with your attorney prior to signing the final closing documents.

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