Patricia Best

The Biggest Bang For Your Home Improvement Buck

There are plenty of national statistics showing which home improvements are likely to add the most to the value of your house.  A study in Remodeling Magazine indicates that the list would include, in this order: insulation, a new front door, new garage doors, new siding, and new windows.

However, in my opinion, this list varies greatly from region to region. Here in Litchfield, Dutchess, and Berkshire Counties, we have a large percentage of part-time residents, many of whom don’t have the time or interest in doing renovations after purchasing a home in the Tri-State area. For our market, newly-renovated top-quality kitchens and baths would be at the top of the list to bring the maximum sales price.   All of the other items mentioned above are also huge benefits to producing a sale, but if the kitchen and baths are dated or unattractive, you will probably be leaving money on the table.

If you are considering some major home improvements, whether to enjoy or with the thought of eventually selling, we at Best & Cavallaro would be happy to meet with you and offer some advice.


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    Buying With an Eye Towards Resale

    When you are purchasing a home for your personal use, you should obviously look for a home that you love and one that has a layout and location that works for you and your family.   

    However, always keep in mind that you might want to sell it at some point in the future. Maybe you love old homes with charm and quirky character, but does the market prefer a more modern open floor plan? Or maybe you love an edgy contemporary, but Colonials are what most people want in your town.  For example, we have noticed that barn style homes with high ceilings sell well in the Salisbury, CT area and surrounding towns

    Talk to your realtor about what is popular in your area.  Are you buying in a price range that is easy to re-sell? Building something that is too specific for your personal needs —say a huge house that only has two bedrooms—can make it difficult for future resale. Call us at Best & Cavallaro Real Estate if you would like to explore this topic more thoroughly.


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      Getting Ready for Winter

      As the beautiful fall season has apparently come to an end in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut and surrounds, it is the perfect time to prepare your house for winter. 

      Here are a few things you should have on your checklist:

      1) Order good, seasoned firewood.

      2) Have your gutters cleaned after the leaves have fallen.

      3) Have your chimney swept and inspected. It should be cleaned every one to three years depending on how many fires you have.

      4) Have your furnace serviced and filters changed.

      5) Rather than rake your leaves, use a mulching mower which is better for your lawn.

      6) Trim the branches of any large trees that might pose a danger to your home in a winter storm.

      Then sit back and enjoy the winter and snow!


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        Is a Smart Home a Smart Move?

        There are some wonderful devices available  to make our homes “smarter”—from adaptive thermo-stats, to smart home speakers that use artificial intelligence to provide services and information, to doors that you can unlock and lock from afar with your smart phone.   

        But what is the cost of this convenience? There are clearly privacy issues. Gadgets can be susceptible to hacking as proven when a British security researcher installed malware on an Amazon Echo turning it into a surveillance device.Sophisticated thieves have been known to hack smart home gadgets leaving no evidence of their break in.

        In Oregon, an Echo device “thought” it heard the “wake word” to record and send a message to a contact, leading to a disturbing mistake. In real estate, there are reports that some sellers have used their security systems to watch or listen to potential buyers visiting their home. So weigh the pluses and minuses before you go full on high tech!


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          McChesney Fund: Great Resource for Salisbury, CT Residents

          I’ve covered this topic before, but it is important enough that it bears repeating.  The McChesney Fund is administered through Salisbury Family Services and its mission is to help qualified Salisbury residents to purchase or renovate their primary home.     

          Funds are most often used to help with a down payment on a home but can also be used to replace a roof or some other necessary repair. There must be a demonstrated need and the funds must be otherwise unavailable. The fund’s purpose is to assist the community to maintain a balance of affordable homes in Salisbury.

          I am proud to serve on the Advisory Board of this amazing resource. If you think you might qualify, contact Salisbury Family Services at 860-435-5187 and talk to Patrice McGrath, Director of Social Services.


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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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              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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                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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                  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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                      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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