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, 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.


        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


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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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                        To Rent Or To Buy...That Is The Question

                        Home ownership is one of the keystones of the “American Dream.” The earlier you get in the game the better off you will be in the long run.

                        When you rent, your rent can go up annually or at the landlord’s discretion, but your mortgage payment is fixed if you get a fixed rate loan. At today’s still historically low rates, time is of the essence to take advantage of these rates before they rise.

                        The best deals are often those that need some cosmetic updates and have been on the market for a long time due to the lack of the WOW factor - have some vision and it will pay off.    

                        Homes in Salisbury and Sharon, Connecticut, and the Tri-State area that have been renovated often sell for top dollar so drop by our office or call us at Best & Cavallaro Real Estate and let us help you find a good investment.


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                          The World of Tile

                          Selecting tile for any project, whether floor, kitchen or bathroom, can be a labyrinth of choices. The seemingly infinite variety of tile increases yearly with fashion and improved technology.

                          Currently there is a mainstream trend for porcelain tile that imitates other materials such as marble, limestone, and even wood. The recent American trend for patterned encaustic tile (composed of different colors of clay) follows a 100+ year old European tradition, adding a modernist twist with color and motif.

                          Beautiful handmade ceramic tiles with jewel-like glazes make the choices even harder.  Then of course there are stone tiles, in various sizes and formats.

                          Here's a link to an online review of tile products written by The Spruce.

                          If you have very definite tastes and decide quickly and easily, great. If not, consider engaging an architect or designer to help you navigate the sea of choices and who can refer you to reputable tile dealers and installers.


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                            Food Bank Donations

                            As the holidays approach, many food banks will see a temporary increase in donations. However, there are items besides food that you might not think about.

                            If you travel and are offered those small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and wrapped soap, bring any unused items home with you and donate them to your local food bank/pantry.

                            If your dentist sends you home with a new toothbrush (that you don’t really need) and a tube of toothpaste, they would also be appreciated. If you are looking to drop off items that are always needed, consider donating unopened packages of personal hygiene products.

                            The most commonly requested food items include pasta and pasta sauce, coffee (ground), sugar, flour, oil, soups, canned meat and tuna, and cereal.

                            In Lakeville, the Corner Food Pantry is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organization supported by donations that provides food to individuals and families in the Tri-State area. For information about making donations to the Corner Pantry, please visit their website:


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                              Airbnb in the Northwest Corner?

                              Some homeowners are now renting out their homes and rental properties short term through Airbnb, Home Away and VRBO, to name a few. This somewhat recent phenomenon in the NW Corner and surrounding areas has been ubiquitous in urban centers for years, offering more affordable and unique options to hotels. Considering our limited local hotel rooms, particularly during peak seasons, this option has been a popular and lucrative alternative.      

                              A recent search on the Airbnb website found over 300 choices of housing options in the TriCorner, including Southern Columbia, Southern Berkshire, Northern Dutchess, and Northern Litchfield Counties.

                              Some of the considerations in running such an operation include one’s ability to deal with inquiries, reservations, pets, preparation for, and cleaning up after guests. Some investors are actually buying homes to rent out on a short-term basis.  It would be wise to check with the local town Planning and Zoning Board to make sure that one is adhering to applicable ordinances.


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                                List Now Or Wait Until Spring?

                                There are certain properties that  should wait until they show at their best – like an unheated lakefront cottage on Twin Lakes – but for most homes, there are good reasons to list now:

                                Less Competition – With fewer comparable homes for sale in winter, your house is more likely to be shown.

                                Real Buyers, Not Tirekickers – Anyone who trudges through a snowstorm to see your home is a serious buyer  - not just out to enjoy a weekend in the country.

                                Mortgage Rates Are Still Low but people are worried that they will start to rise so buying now might be a good strategy.

                                Availability Of Professionals (attorneys, home inspectors and mortgage lenders) may result in a quicker, smoother transaction.

                                Houses in Northwest Connecticut sell year round so, even though there may be fewer shoppers, don’t miss out on the serious buyers who are looking in the winter. The best real estate agents are always up to the challenge. Contact us at Best & Cavallaro Real Estate if you’d like to discuss listing your home!


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                                  Best Choice for Resale: Tub or Shower?

                                  When friends and clients are renovating, they often come to me with this question:  If I don’t have room for a separate tub and walk-in shower, will just going for the large shower hurt my resale value? Most of the time, they say they rarely take a bath and would prefer the more luxurious shower.

                                  My advice is that you should have at least one nice bathtub in a house because there will always be those who favor a long soak or parents who need to bathe their young children in a tub.

                                  As long as you have covered that, I would feel free to choose a shower over a combination shower/tub. In a guest room, I definitely think it’s fine – and probably preferable – to go with a walk-in shower. 

                                  As always, feel free to contact us at Best & Cavallaro in Salisbury if you want to pick our brains!


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                                    Preparing for a Cozy Fire

                                    When it comes to fireplaces, most of the work is best left to professionals.  Chimney sweeps recommend a professional cleaning every 40-50 fires or after burning 4 cords of wood. Here are some simple steps homeowners can take:

                                        -Open the damper. Grab a flashlight and see whether anything is blocking the chimney.

                                        -Next, clean the firebox of any ashes, dirt, or debris that might have accumulated during months of nonuse.

                                        -During the cold season, make sure the ashes don’t build up to a depth of more than 2”. After the cold season, remove all of the ashes from the fireplace.

                                        -Exterior chimney maintenance is a job for professionals, but you can make sure that the chimney cap is in good condition and that it does not become clogged with leaves or other debris. Visually examine the mortar between the bricks to ensure it is in good condition, not cracked or flaking away. Check the flashing where the chimney meets the roof and make sure there is a watertight seal. Call a mason if you note problem areas.

                                    Now you’re prepared for a cozy fire on the cool nights to come.


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                                      Fall House Maintenance

                                      As the leaves turn many new colors here in the beautiful Northwest Corner of Connecticut, it’s a good time to get your house ready for winter.   

                                      Here’s a checklist to help get you started:

                                      • Chimneys – make sure your chimney is clean and equipped with an animal-proof chimney cap

                                      • Clean your gutters – clogged gutters can create ice dams; gutters also channel water away from the house to prevent water damage

                                      • Animal-proof your house – caulk small holes and cover with steel mesh to prevent rodents from seeking a cozy spot to winter

                                      • Trim trees and shrubs that are too close to the house

                                      • HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) should be serviced and cleaned annually and filters changed as recommended for your equipment.

                                      And now you can get ready to enjoy skiing, skating, and fireside dinners!


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                                        Red Squirrels in Your House?


                                        A menacing red squirrel loves our back deck. Sadly, this mini-menace noticed a favorite sweater being aired and proceeded, unnoticed, to destroy the sweater in anticipation of a cozy nest.  This smart little creature intuitively knows about the changing seasons.  Beware of red squirrels and other similar critters looking for a cozy residence in the walls of your home!  A Have-A-Heart trap should be on your shopping list or a call to the Sharon Audubon or other environmental organization for advice.

                                        On the subject of animals and other wildlife, the Audubon Society became heirs to two important Sharon properties more than fifty years ago. The Audubon presence has grown by leaps and bounds by enhancing environmental and educational opportunities. It is a place for children to become acquainted with birds and other animal life, for families to explore and observe nature on the hiking trails.  It’s a haven where professional skills are available to care for injured and orphaned animals until they can be released back into their own habitat. And, it’s a fun place!


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