Mary Taylor

Curb Appeal Matters

In selling your home, an attractive exterior – the house entry exterior, yard, driveway and walkway – matter. As agents, we have all had potential buyers who wouldn’t venture from the car because they found a property so lacking in curb appeal. Make the most of your home and property:

• Clean up the front and back yards. Remove toys, rake leaves and do away with any dead shrubs and trees. Change a rusty mailbox or broken garden ornament.

• Touch up the exterior. A fresh coat of paint or a power wash make an enormous difference in how a potential buyer views your home.

• Fix fencing. A shabby fence gives the impression that the house has been neglected.

• Landscape the front yard. Make sure leaves are raked, the grass is mowed, and gardens weeded. When the weather improves, plant flowers; adding a container garden to the front stoop or steps is a great way to greet potential owners.  A well-kept and pretty garden can be a real selling feature.

• Replace burnt-out bulbs. Check outside lights to make sure that they work. And, while you’re replacing the bulbs, clean the lighting fixtures as well.

• Wash the windows. Clean windows make for an inviting home (don’t forget windows in the garage or shed).

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    Winter Roof Tips

    The key to preventing ice dams is simply to keep your attic and roof cold.  While frozen, they’re no more trouble than the icicles that hang down. But during the warmer parts of a winter day, water melting off the roof pools behind the ice then seeps back up under the shingles.

    To keep your roof cold, follow these steps:

    1. Close up attic bypasses. In the average home, about 1/3 of heat loss is through the ceiling into the attic, mostly from air leaks caused by unblocked walls, gaps in drywall, and cracks around light fixtures, pipes, and chimneys. A professional will pull back insulation and plug the leaks using foam, caulk and other methods.

    2. Measure your attic insulation level. Check the depth of your attic insulation. Building codes require about 12-14”. Add more if you have less than 8”. Blown-in cellulose and fiberglass are best because they fill more tightly leaving fewer gaps. It’s usually worth hiring a professional for this job.

    By stopping air leakage to mitigate ice dams, you’ll save energy and reduce both your heating and your air conditioning bills.

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      Winter Prep Tips for Your Roof

      The key to preventing ice dams is simply to keep your attic and roof cold.  While frozen, they’re no more trouble than the icicles that hang down. But during the warmer parts of a winter day, water melting off the roof pools behind the ice then seeps back up under the shingles.

      To keep your roof cold, follow these steps:

      1. Close up attic bypasses. In the average home, about one-third of heat loss is through the ceiling into the attic, mostly from air leaks caused by unblocked walls, gaps in drywall, and cracks around light fixtures, pipes, and chimneys. A professional will pull back insulation and plug the leaks using foam, caulk, and other methods.

      2. Measure your attic insulation level. Check the depth of your attic insulation. Building codes require about 12-14”. Add more if you have less than 8”. Blown-in cellulose and fiberglass are best because they fill more tightly leaving fewer gaps. It’s usually worth hiring a professional for this job.

      By stopping air leakage to mitigate ice dams, you’ll save energy and reduce both your heating and your air conditioning bills.

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        35th Annual Northwest CT Crop Hunger Walk

        The 35th Annual Northwest Connecticut CROP Hunger Walk is this Sunday, Sept. 30. Registration and check-in begin at 1 pm in the Housatonic Valley Regional High School parking lot (246 Warren Turnpike, Falls Village, CT). At 1:30 pm, walkers will begin their 10k trip along the beautiful Housatonic River. Have a dog? Dogs on leashes are welcome!

        The NW CT team page can be found online . On that page, you can create your own team or join an existing one, register as an individual walker, sponsor a walker, or make a 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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          Air Conditioning an Older Home

          Many old homes don’t have a convenient space to install ductwork for the traditional central air-conditioning systems found in newer homes.

          Today there are air-conditioning systems that don’t need the bulky ductwork. Mini-split systems use individual cooling units placed room by room requiring only a thin refrigerant and power line connecting them to an outdoor air-conditioning compressor and fan. They offer an economical compromise: You can install cooling units in just 1 or 2 rooms, creating an oasis to retreat to during the dog days of summer. But make sure your installer chooses a compressor that will allow you to expand at a later date.

          Another alternative is high-velocity systems which use 2” tubing to deliver chilled air that can be snaked through existing walls and ceilings in an old home to deliver cool air where needed. The registers are unobtrusive discs placed around the perimeter of the ceiling, or high on the walls.

          A properly sized air-conditioning system is the most important factor for a comfortable home. A professional installer is crucial to comfort; ask to see the sizing calculations for your house.

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            Killer Vines

            There are numerous species of vines which grow on trees and slowly strangle them. Vines on older trees compete with tree roots and rob them of moisture and nutrients. If the vines aren’t removed, there is a good chance the tree will fall.

            The goal is to kill vines without damaging the tree. To do this, sever the vines around the base of the affected tree. Do not try to pull the vines from the trunk or limbs of the tree—you risk severely damaging or even removing the bark. The vines will wither and die once cut. Tip: Use gloves and protective clothing in order to avoid skin reactions from the vines.

            Once the vines have been cut, pull the roots up. This is easiest to do when soil is moist from watering or rainfall. Clear out a ring of about two feet around the tree. Mulch this area about two inches thick, keeping it three inches from the tree trunk.

            If you need help getting vines removed, your local tree professional will be able to assist you in preserving your tree, and eliminating future growth.

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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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                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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                  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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                    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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                      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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                        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: thecornerfoodpantry.org.

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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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