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 call 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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          Salisbury's Fall Festival 2017

          October 6, 7, and 8 will be the 62nd annual Salisbury Fall Festival. Located in and around Main Street in the village of Salisbury, the Fall Festival is a terrific 3-day event.  There is a blueberry pancake breakfast, scarecrow contest, and lots more to see and do. Best & Cavallaro will be sponsoring a concert by The Joint Chiefs at 1 pm on Saturday in our front yard.

          Local shops are open for business, including restaurants and inns. The Salisbury Association, dedicated to local history, will be offering exhibits of interest for the curious.

          In addition to weekend visitors from New York and Boston, residents of the surrounding Litchfield County communities (including  Sharon, Falls Village, Canaan, and Cornwall) come to participate as well as residents of nearby Dutchess, Columbia, and Berkshire Counties.

          Salisbury welcomes everyone to celebrate the start of fall and what promises to be exceptional fall foliage this year!


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            Private Mortgage Insurance

            Martha Mullins, Realtor, Litchfield County, CT

            If you took advantage of some great mortgage deals buying your home, you most likely also had to purchase Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

            Most lenders require PMI if the buyer pays less than 20% of the purchase price at closing.  The purchaser must carry this insurance until 20% of the sale price of the home has been reached.  This could take five to eight years, depending on the terms of the mortgage.

            Lenders are required to remove PMI when the property reaches 22%. So just keeping an eye on your payments and being proactive about notifying your lender can save you money.

            If you make significant improvements that alter the value of your property, you may reach the 20% value mark faster than scheduled. An assessment would be necessary, but the savings would justify that cost.


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              34th Annual Northwest CT CROP Hunger Walk

              Mary Taylor, Realtor, Litchfield County, CT

              Sunday, September 24th is the 34th Annual Northwest CT CROP Hunger Walk. Registration and check-in begin at 1:00 pm in the parking lot of Housatonic Valley Regional High School (246 Warren Turnpike, Falls Village, CT). At 1:30 pm, walkers will begin their journey.

              The Northwest Connecticut online team page can be found at On that page, you can create your own team or join an existing one, register as an individual walker, sponsor a walker, and make a credit card donation.

              CROP Hunger Walks support grassroots hunger-fighting efforts around the world. Up to 25% of the funds raised from the NW CT Walk is allocated to hunger-fighting programs in our own local community via the Northwest Connecticut Food Bank. The Food Bank provides food vouchers and gift certificates to area grocery stores for those in need.

              In the past 30 years, participants have raised more than $732,000 with about $200,000 allocated to our local area.


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                Celebrating Salisbury's Own

                Patricia Best, Realtor, Litchfield County, CT

                The biannual benefit that supports our wonderful Salisbury Family Services (SFS) is coming up on September 23, 2017.   

                This year, SFS will honor extraordinary photographer Anne Day with an exhibit of her photos and cocktail party at the Tremaine Gallery at the Salisbury School. A post-exhibit dinner will be held at a private home. Information about both events and tickets are available at the SFS website:    

                Salisbury Family Services is a not-for-profit, charitable organization that offers support for residents of Salisbury, Connecticut, who are struggling with financial or other difficulties, offering invaluable assistance at critical times.

                I am honored to chair this event this year. Please come out and support this great organization!


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                  Conservation Easements

                  Christine Bates, Realtor, Litchfield County, CT

                  When considering the purchase of a house with acreage, buyers should ask whether there is a conservation easement on the property itself and also on surrounding land. Conservation easements are permanent, recorded on the deed, and restrictions may prohibit certain uses. Every easement is very specific and is monitored by a local land trust.  If there is an existing easement, the buyer needs to understand the limitations on building and future use. Where can you build? Could you subdivide?

                  Having an easement on the land will not affect your ownership or necessarily decrease your property taxes, but may reduce future resale value. Being surrounded by other properties, which have been put into conservation, will protect your views and privacy.

                  Any property owner may consider placing a conservation easement on their land to prevent future development, and also to benefit from what can be substantial federal income tax deductions.  The process can be complicated and expensive. Be sure to consult first with your tax attorney.


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                    Savoring Summer

                    Patricia Best, Realtor, Litchfield County, CT

                    I know - Labor Day is the symbolic end of summer and the start of the school year, but there is plenty of summer left!  Summer doesn’t end until September 21st and I personally plan to savor every moment of it.

                    It’s actually the best time for tennis, golf, and all of the outdoor sports here in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut. Take a hike up Mount Riga or a bicycle ride along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Visit one of our many farmers’ markets or visit a farm, pick your own apples, and enjoy all of the bountiful harvest crops.

                    By the way, September and October are two of our most active real estate months so please give us a call if you’d like to see some listings!

                    And as Joan Osofsky of Hammertown says “Love where you live!”


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                      Life Without Air Conditioning

                      Litchfield County Realtor Martha Mullins

                      “Does the house have air conditioning?” A dreaded question and of-ten from a buyer or renter in a constantly controlled climate environment. I try to explain how lovely it can be with cool breezes coming off a lake or from the woods.

                      When that fails, I plow ahead and outline some tips to cool off without AC. First, keep the sun out of the house during the day. Pull your shades. Put up outdoor awnings over windows and doors. Keep the windows open overnight – open them in the early eve and shut them the next morning when it starts to heat up.

                      Fans are great – just make sure they’re pushing the air in the right direction. Ceiling fans need to push air down.  Window fans should pull cool air into the home. A long-term fix is a full house fan which involves installing roof venting.

                      Another permanent fix is plantings. Plant deciduous trees on the side of your home where the sun is strongest. The leaves will provide shade in the winter and after dropping in the fall will allow the heat to return when you need it.


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                        CT Real Estate Agent William McGinn

                        Back for its second year as one of the most tantalizing evenings of the summer, GRILLSDALE proudly spotlights the bounty of Columbia County, Dutchess County, and the Berkshires—featuring some of the best grilled small plates from top restaurants, chefs, and purveyors from the area.

                        Set against the hills at Roeliff Jansen Park in Hillsdale, NY, on Saturday, August 26, from 6:30-11:30 pm, watch the sunset while sampling your way through an all-inclusive food and drink menu.

                        For live music, The Wayside Drifters from Ancram, K Sloan & The Melodics (from Detroit by way of NYC), and Sittin’ Plush from Ancramdale featuring chef Job Yacubian, all performing on the big Herrington’s truck-stage.

                        If last year is to be any indication, GRILLSDALE will sell out fast, so get your tickets now! For more information or to purchase tickets online, click here.


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                          Creative and Easier Shade

                          Martha Mullins, Salisbury CT Realtor

                          Beat back the sun and use your patio and deck all day by installing temporary shade.  Beyond planting trees and shrubs nearby or putting up an umbrella shade over your patio set, there are some fun ways to keep your outside space cooler by using creative shading.

                          A climbing trellis can blunt slanted sunshine that tends to heat under awnings in the mornings and late afternoons.  Clematis is one of my favorites, but morning glory and bougainvillea are popular choices as well. Potted trees are also helpful but take a bit of extra care than trees in the yard.  If you don’t have a green thumb or you don’t have the time to use your green thumb, sail shades might work. They are triangular or square sections of strong nylon that come in a variety of colors.  A temporary change of décor to brighten up your summer and cool you down.

                          Trellis, potted trees, or sail shades are sturdier and offer fun alternatives to the umbrella -- and you don’t have to keep putting it up and taking it down!


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                            An Abundance of Farm Stands!

                            Connecticut Realtor Mary Taylor

                            We here in the Tri-State Corner are spoiled with fresh farm products.  All of our local towns have farms with farm stands—far too many to mention in one blog, so I’ll focus on those close to our home base in Salisbury. Each farm stand offers a variety of food.

                            Whippoorwill Farm
                            Weatogue Farm

                            Pine Hill Farm  860-364-0416
                            Q Farms
                            Paley’s Farm Market

                            West Cornwall:
                            Hautboy Hill Farm
                            Ridgway Farm

                            Cornwall Bridge:
                            Stone Wall Dairy Farm

                            The Canaans – Falls Village:
                            Lone Silo Farm
                            Freund’s Farm Market
                            Ford Farm
                            Mountain View Farm

                            Enjoy the freshest possible food while you support our local farmers!


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                              Thinking of Buying a Fixer-Upper?

                              Salisbury CT Realtor Pat Best

                              As an HGTV addict, I understand how appealing it can be to dream about transforming a dated or dilapidated house like the Property Brothers seem to do so effortlessly--and usually in 4-6 weeks! (Remember, it’s TV.) I have been a partner in several projects in Sharon and Salisbury and, while it can make sense depending on the purchase price, location, and the extent of the renovations, it’s not for amateurs.

                              In the Tri-State area, we have many homes for sale with dated kitchens and baths, and those renovations usually make sense.  However, beware of larger projects entailing systems, roofs, drainage, etc. Those items will suck up your budget and leave little for the fun stuff like a new kitchen and baths. National average bath remodels run $100-$200/sq. ft. and kitchens range from $30,000-$80,000, depending on material and appliance choices. It will probably take longer and cost more than you thought, so make sure you have a contingency. Look for a house that has been well maintained but needs cosmetics.

                              A good real estate agent can help you find a good buy--it can be cheaper to buy the more expensive house.  Call or email us if you need help!


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                                Black Bears in Our Backyards

                                CT Real Estate Agent Mary Kirby

                                The black bear sighting reports in and around Sharon and Salisbury seem to increase each season. A startling event is finding a bear on your patio or while out for a walk.

                                For the uninitiated about bears on one’s property, it’s important to be vigilant, especially at night. Their presence in our neighborhoods can be frightening, yet fascinating, to observe. Bears are seen more frequently when they are in search of food. It behooves everyone to remove bird feeders, pet dishes, trash/garbage cans, and barbecue fragments from outdoor locations when bears are not hibernating.  It’s an open invitation to bears and other animal scavengers when garbage containers are placed at curbside in the evening awaiting pick-up in the morning! Lessons to be learned are awareness of bears in the outdoors and even on the highways.

                                The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection  (DEEP) has issued an information sheet called “Be Bear Aware: Black Bear Do’s and Don’ts” which can be found on their website and on local town hall bulletin boards.


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                                  What's That Smell?

                                  Connecticut Realtor William McGinn

                                  The kiss of death for any real estate showing is the customer refrain “What’s that smell?” Whether it is mildew, fireplace, cat litter, or septic system, those odors have to be identified and eradicated.

                                  A thorough cleaning of the house is always in order. Cleaning the cat litter box, cleaning the fireplaces, and emptying garbage pails are all part of routine maintenance which must be done continually while a house is on the market.

                                  Some smells, like dampness, can be improved with products such as “Fresh Wave.”

                                  A septic odor is not necessarily a sign that the septic system is not working.  Often when a house is not occupied for a period of time, or even if a shower is not used for a period of time, the water in the sink traps evaporates, and the septic gases can back up into the house.  Running the water in all tubs, showers, and sinks will block that smell.

                                  When you are looking at how your house appears to prospective buyers, make sure to use your nose as well as your eyes!


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                                    The Power of Paint

                                    Pat Best, Salisbury CT Realtor

                                    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 house in Sharon CT, 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?

                                      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

                                        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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