Blog :: 2016

Live In It Awhile

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Recently, I sold clients a property which is a “dream” location but a “wide awake” house. They initially planned a gut renovation/addition immediately, but wisely decided to hold off and live in it awhile.

There is nothing like time spent in a house to clarify priorities. In fact, people often say they would have regretted making the changes initially desired. The big and costly addition one thinks absolutely necessary might be avoided by clarifying spatial relationships with the moving of a partition or two.

Simply cleaning the carpet, and perhaps an overall professional cleaning, can make a place habitable while the new owner ponders her/his needs and wants. Taking the time to get referrals for and interviewing architects, designers, and general contractors is time very well spent. Then there is the planning process itself including drawings and specifications needed before construction can even begin, possibly permits to pull, and long lead time materials to order, all before demolition can begin.

One hopes to spend many happy years in a new home. Why shortchange the construction process by a few months only to regret the time saving later? Live in it awhile.

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    Rising Mortgage Rates - What Should You Do?

    Well, we knew it couldn’t last forever. Over the past few years, we have enjoyed long-term interest rates between 3% and 4%, combined with relatively low post-recession housing prices. This has created a great opportunity for homebuyers to enter the housing market. 

    But it seems like the writing is on the wall. This week mortgage rates rose above 4% due to the uncertainty caused by Donald Trump’s unexpected victory and the expectation that the Fed will finally raise the Fed rate after so many false alarms.

    If you have been on the fence about buying a home, it’s time to JUMP OFF THE FENCE.

    Give us a call at Best & Cavallaro (860.435.2888) and we would be happy to help you find your home or real estate investment.

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      Airbnb and Your Credit

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      The Wall Street Journal published an article on banks denying credit to homeowners who rent rooms or apartments from their primary residence. If you advertise a room or portion of your primary residence and have or want a credit line on your house, it might be worth your while to have a chat with your banker.

      It doesn’t really make sense. If a homeowner gains additional income by renting a portion of their property, that homeowner should present a lower risk profile to the bank. Many homeowners who rent may eventually apply for refinancing, a home equity loan, or a mortgage. These days, the mortgage banks are questioning whether the rental income changes the category of the home from a primary residence to an investment property or a commercial business. On this basis many are being turned down on their loan requests.

      If you haven’t yet decided whether to rent out, you may want to check with your banker first.

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        Shop Locally!

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        Each of our local towns offers special holiday shopping events around the holidays. Here are just a few local opportunities.

        Salisbury: Noble Horizons Hosts Festival of Trees November 19 - December 3, 2016

        The Festival of Trees celebrates its 20th anniversary! The display of trees, wreaths, and centerpieces is created by individuals, merchants, and organizations in the tri-state area. The holiday decorations are offered for purchase in a silent auction. The event concludes with a Gala 20th Anniversary Party on Saturday, December 3. Proceeds are used for special purchases and extra activities for residents.

         Kent Holiday Champagne Stroll, November 25 & 26, 2016, 4-7pm

        The town of Kent’s 30 shops are serving 30 champagnes and bubblies, and offering 30 different promotions and sales. Kent has distinctive shops operated by the owners themselves. You can find everything from stylish clothing, teas, and coffees, jewelry to cowboy boots. Many of the shops are featuring special sales and promotional events.

        Salisbury Artisan’s Fair December 2–4, 2016

        Local artisans marketing and demonstrating their crafts at the White Hart Inn in Salisbury, in a festive atmosphere with local musicians. The Friday special reception from 3–7 pm is $10 with proceeds to benefit The Corner Food Pantry. Fri: 3-7; Sat: 10-4; Sun: 10-4

        Take advantage – shop locally this holiday season. For more information about upcoming events in the tri-state area, visit Best & Cavallaro's Best Bets.

        Happy Thanksgiving!

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          Tear Down?

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          Beautiful building sites in Litchfield County Connecticut towns, such as Salisbury and Sharon, have become more difficult to find. The feasibility of tearing down an existing house and rebuilding is sometimes considered. 

          During the 1970-1980s, when land was available and relatively inexpensive, many unfortunate houses were hastily built, often sitting on nice parcels in good locations. When these homes come on the market, the buyer usually thinks of a renovation. However, the constraints imposed by an awkward layout and poor original construction sometimes make this a dubious option. 

          If one considers the same property as a premium building site because of improvements already in place, there can be some advantages: an existing foundation (if in good condition), driveway/road to the house, operating well, septic system, electric service, mature trees and landscaping. All of these improvements add considerable value to a piece of raw land. 

          If the parcel in question also has attractive qualities that are difficult to quantify, such as the perfect location or a stunning view, then the property may be worth the additional time and cost of demolition and building anew.

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            Thanksgiving - Helping Our Neighbors

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            Thanksgiving is a special time for families to come together. However, for some members in our community, a Thanksgiving dinner just isn’t possible. Our local food banks are in need of non-perishable food items and grocery store gift cards to help provide the makings of a holiday meal.

            Below is a list of suggested items: canned vegetables, bags of brown rice, stuffing mix, flour, cornmeal, biscuit mix; gravy, and cans of fruit (not in heavy syrup). If you are donating food from your own pantry, please remember to check expiration dates. (Expired food cannot be distributed.)

            Salisbury Bank and Trust has a basket for donations in their branch offices. Local churches in Salisbury, Lakeville, Canaan, Sharon, and Kent also have drives to collect food. Check with your local church or town hall for further information.

            You can also stop by the Best & Cavallaro office in Salisbury, CT (we are located at 5 Academy Street) and drop off your food donations during November and December.

            Your support this Thanksgiving season will help make that holiday meal possible for families in need.

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              Looking For Kitchen Ideas?

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              Time for a kitchen renovation? Are you looking for a few new ideas?

              Come to the 14th Annual Kitchen Tour on Saturday, November 5, 2016 from 10am–4pm (rain or shine) to benefit the musical theatre program at Housatonic Valley Regional High School.  

              This year’s tour of six kitchens in Sharon, Lakeville, and Kent, CT includes a thoughtful 1930s cottage update; the Grange kitchen of Hotchkiss School’s Fairfield Farm with its breathtaking views; a retro kitchen with a custom layout for baking (and where the homeowner will be onsite baking); a restored 1810 Colonial with the original butler’s pantry, and more. Ticket holders will enjoy gourmet nibbles, door prize chances, and cooking/baking demos.

              Tickets ($40 each) may be purchased online at HMTS.org or at the Salisbury, Sharon, and Kent pharmacies.

              Best & Cavallaro Real Estate has been a proud sponsor of the HMTS Kitchen Tour since its inception.

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                Learning and Service at Indian Mountain School

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                The stories my boys brought home about volunteering with the elderly had me in stitches. Their companion didn’t want to do the assigned project, but to tell stories. My sons ended up looking forward to the outrageous stories their older friend wanted to share.

                Volunteering part of the school day to partner with the elderly is just one of the many quiet ways the Indian Mountain School in Lakeville, CT weaves service into the curriculum. These lessons resonate, attaching compassion and personal connection to the idea of volunteering.

                The students walk to combat world hunger and gather food for local food pantries. Upper school students offer to mentor younger students. Students volunteer their spring break for a service trip to help various communities. It is a steady underlying theme that the students absorb during their time on campus. “Life through Service” is the school motto — a lesson well taught.

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                  Fall is Busy in Northwestern Connecticut!

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                  Our Northwest Corner is bustling this fall with all sorts of interesting activities. On October 22, the Sharon Historical Society will open an exhibit titled “A Chance for Land and Fresh Air: Jewish Immigrant Farmers, Hoteliers and Shopkeepers in Sharon and Amenia 1907-1950.”

                  The Taconic Learning Center is offering some really varied and interesting programs scheduled at Noble Horizons or Geer with local experts at the helm. This year is the 20th anniversary of a cooperative effort to update and preserve the iron making Beckley Blast Furnace on Lower Road in East Canaan. It has become an educational venue for comprehending what life was like here in the 1800s through the early 1900s, in contrast to today. Now a popular historic tourist destination on the Blackberry River, it’s a model for what can be accomplished by knowledgeable community volunteers.

                  For more information about upcoming events in our area, visit Best & Cavallaro's Best Bets.

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                    The Heart of a Town

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                    A library is the heart of a town, and that is certainly true of the beautiful Hotchkiss Library of Sharon. It is a gem of a library and a vibrant gathering place for the community, offering art shows, Sunday afternoon speakers, and programs for both children and adults. 

                    A major fundraiser for its support will be held on Saturday, October 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Sharon Country Club. Open to the public, it is the 9th Annual Gala Auction, a wonderful event with open bar, delicious hors d’ouevres and music provided by the Ram Miles Trio.

                    Try your hand at the live or silent auction! You could be the fortunate winning bidder of a week in Mexico in the charming town of San Miguel–Allende. Or a tour of ABC News and dinner with chief investigative reporter, Brian Ross.  Or a tour of Carolyne Roehm’s exquisite garden at Wethersfield.

                     Visit the library’s website at hotchkisslibrary.org, call to make a reservation (860-364-5041), or just come and pay $75 at the door. A lot of fun and a very worthy cause!

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                      It's Fall Festival 2016!

                      Salisbury, CT will once again hold its annual Fall Festival on Columbus Day Weekend, October 7, 8 & 9. Run by the local churches, this event is a picture perfect celebration of Fall, including fun shopping at the Sidewalk Sales, great “street food” (where I will have my annual grilled hot dog – or maybe even two), hayrides for the kids, face painting, crafts, and the annual Scarecrow Contest. Enjoy the Salisbury Band on the Scoville Library lawn from noon – 1:30. 

                      As we have for the past 8 years, Best & Cavallaro Real Estate will be sponsoring the Joint Chiefs to bring their beautiful harmonies and guitars to entertain the crowds from 1:30 to 3 pm on Saturday in front of our office at 5 Academy Street in Salisbury.    

                      Wrap up the weekend on Sunday at the pancake breakfast at the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance garage, browse the pottery and other gems made by our local artisans, and end the day at the Brew Ski Fest, located near the Ski Jumps and sponsored by SWSA (Salisbury Winter Sports Association).  

                      See you at spin class on Monday!!

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                        What Sold This Summer?

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                        There were 11 sales in Salisbury between June 1 and September 1. The highest was a lakefront home that was sold by Best & Cavallaro for $2,325,000; four sold between $350,000-$875,000; five from $150,000-$295,000. One of the village’s townhouses sold for $110,000.

                        13 homes sold in Lakeville this summer, including an estate for $3,200,000. Five other high end properties sold for $750,000-$1,405,000; three sales between $420,000-$470,000;  three sold for $190,000-$255,000; and a cottage sold for $165,000.

                        16 homes sold in Sharon - the highest for $3,100,000 and the two lowest for $38,000 and $40,000; two higher end homes at $805,000 and $1,300,000; four between $425,000-$545,000; three sold from $305,000-$351,000; four sold for between $155,000-$297,500.

                        6 houses sold in the Cornwall area - $875,000 was the highest, $106,050 the lowest, with four between $175,000-$455,000.  

                        5 properties sold in Canaan between $55,000-$150,000.  3 sold in Falls Village between $140,000-$480,000.

                        19 properties sold in Kent, with the highest at $1,035,000, lowest at $110,000;  5 sold from $110,000-$190,000; 9 from $223,200 -$387,500;  3 from $510,000- $535,000.

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                          34th Annual Northwest Connecticut CROP Hunger Walk

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                          On Sunday, Sept. 25, the 34th Annual Northwest CT CROP Hunger Walk will be held to raise funds to address hunger locally and globally. Registration and check-in begin at 1 pm in the parking lot of Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, CT. At 1:30 pm, walkers, strollers, and joggers can choose routes ranging from .25 to 10 miles—or any distance in between. Refreshment stops will be available along the route.

                          CROP Hunger Walks are interfaith hunger education and fundraising events. To join the walk, register online at CROP Hunger Walk. 

                          Up to 25% of funds raised from the NW CT Walk is allocated to hunger-fighting programs in our community via the Northwest Connecticut Food Bank which provides food vouchers and gift certificates to area grocery stores for those in need.

                          In the past 20 years, the Northwest Connecticut CROP Walk has raised over $473,000. Of that total almost $120,000 has stayed in the local area to alleviate hunger in the local area.

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                            Fall Explorations in the Northwest Corner

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                            As summer wanes here in the Northwest Corner, there are exciting opportunities to explore.

                            Witness the Heritage Walks 2016, sponsored by The Upper Housatonic National Heritage Area on three weekends: September 17 & 18,  24 & 25 and October 1 & 2. Industrial and archeological sites, geological and horticultural resources, historic locations, architecture, scenic views, even easy walks along the Appalachian Trail are planned, all led by experts in their fields. Pre-registration is recommended as space may be limited.  

                            In Salisbury, a local historian will be in Amesville to talk about Cannon At 20 Paces! The Rise and Fall of the Ames Iron Works on two different weekends. In Falls Village, learn about The American Chestnuts Lost and Found, and History and Ecology on Canaan Mountain, both in Great Mountain Forest.  The new Hall of Connecticut Geology at the Connecticut Mining and Mineral Museum tells the geological story of how Connecticut came to be. Not to be overlooked are some fabulous walks in Berkshire County. Stop by Best & Cavallaro for brochures with more information.

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                              Broom Clean

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                              It is customary for most real estate contracts to specify the home to be left “broom clean” by the sellers. There is often confusion about what this means.  

                              Broom clean DOES NOT mean that the house has been professionally cleaned, or even cleaned by the seller. It means that the premises have been emptied of all contents except items previously agreed upon and specified in the contract. No visible debris should be left on the floors or other surfaces. The seller should also not assume that left over cans of paint or tools are wanted by the buyer. Ask before leaving them.  

                              While every buyer would like to move into a sparkling clean home, this is not the legal responsibility of the seller. The buyer should assume that the house will need a thorough cleaning before occupancy. Having said that, it is a wonderful gesture for the seller to have the house cleaned, and much appreciated by any buyer.

                              Locally, we have some wonderful cleaning services that are reliable and thorough. If you are busy and/or not inclined toward cleaning, you may want to engage a regular cleaning service anyway. Ask your agent for a referral.

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                                Expanding Your Home

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                                Enlarging your home can lead to a spectacular result…or not. Here are five steps to consider if you are contemplating an addition:

                                1. Many of us begin by calling our real estate agent and friends for contractor referrals when we should be asking for referrals to architects. An architect can suggest renovations that will meld your current space with the addition to give your home the curb appeal you’ll want for resale. Your architect can provide names of local contractors. 
                                2. Make certain that whomever you choose is insured and gets proper permits from your local building inspector.
                                3. When planning your budget for the addition,  work closely with your contractor to develop an all in budget. Many budgets end up growing by 30 to 50% or more.
                                4. Before starting the process, it’s nice to let neighbors know that you will be renovating so they’ll be prepared for the noise and traffic.
                                5. Know your renovation will change your town assessment and your property taxes will likely increase. And contact your insurance carrier because coverage will need to be reassessed.

                                Understanding the expansion process can make the planning more manageable.

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                                  Fabulous Farmers' Markets

                                  Summer is more than half over and if you have not yet visited one of our local farmer’s markets, there’s still time!  Millerton and Amenia in NY, and Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, and Winsted, in CT each offer a weekly summer farmer’s market with products ranging from locally-grown fruits and vegetables to organic meat and poultry to vegan Indian food to fresh baked goods and crafts.

                                  Amenia - May-Oct, Fridays 3-7 pm, Town Hall parking lot, Rt. 22. ameniafarmersmarket.com

                                  Millerton - May-Oct, Saturdays, 9am-1pm, Millerton Methodist Church at Dutchess & Main. millertonfarmersmarket.org

                                  Cornwall - May-Oct, Saturdays 9am-12:30pm, 413 Sharon Goshen Tpke./Rte 128, Wish House. cornwallfarmarket.org

                                  Kent - May-Oct, Fridays 3-6pm, Saturdays 10–noon, Rt. 7, across from the Fife ‘n Drum.  FB: @KentCTFarmersMarket

                                  Norfolk - May-Oct, Saturdays 10am-1pm, 19 Maple Ave., live music. NorfolkFarmersMarket.org

                                  Winsted - June-Oct, Fridays, 3-6 pm at East End Park. winstedfarmersmarket.org

                                  Stop by to enjoy the freshest food while supporting your friends, neighbors, and local farmers!

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                                    Something New at The White Hart Inn!

                                    Kudos to the creative new owners of the White Hart Inn. It’s been almost two years since I sold this Salisbury, CT landmark to the current innkeepers and they have been experimenting with various menu changes, great speaker programs, and remodeling ever since.    

                                    I think they have hit a real home run with their brilliant new café/general store, Provisions, with a separate entrance on the Undermountain Road side of the Inn, which opened this past week. I was treated to a delicious preview last week, including a yummy Asian noodle salad with chicken and cucumbers and a quinoa salad with the perfect amount of spicy kick. I still miss good bagels and lox from my NYC days but Provisions will fill that gap which you can enjoy while you work on your laptop or read the New York Times. They also offer a variety of old-fashioned games, penny candy, and unique gifts along with gourmet healthy take out options.     

                                    Welcome, PROVISIONS

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                                      Using Drones to Sell Real Estate

                                      The use of drones to capture incredible still photos and videos of properties for sale has been a game changer in the real estate industry.  

                                      However, until recently, FAA regulations made it difficult to make use of this technology.  Recently, the FAA loosened their regulations with respect to drones weighing under 55 pounds. A drone pilot must be a least 16 years old and pass an aeronautical test at an FAA testing center. 

                                      The pilot must retain visual contact with the drone at all times. There are also new regulations under study with respect to “micro drones” under 5 pounds.   

                                      Best & Cavallaro has started to make use of this amazing technology, especially when selling properties on large land parcels or where it’s hard to capture the setting through ordinary photographs. It’s quite a sight to virtually fly over Twin Lakes -- check out this land listing on Twin Lakes in Salisbury, Ct. to get a “bird’s eye view.”

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                                        Chef and Farmer Brunch

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                                        On Sunday, July 31, from 11 am - 2 pm, The Hotchkiss School’s Fairfield Farm on Route 41 in Lakeville, CT will host this year’s annual Chef and Farmer Brunch, benefiting the Northeast Community Center (NECC) in Millerton, NY.

                                        This year, the event will have a special twist, featuring a Challenge Cookoff, complete with celebrity judges. Participants include: Adamah, 52 Main, Berkshire Distillery, Black Rabbit, Chaseholm Farm Creamery, Falls Village Inn, Full Circus Farm, Hathaway Young Catering, Irving Farm, Isabel’s Kitchen, Liz Macaire, McEnroe Organic Farm, Milker’s Basket, Millbrook Winery, Morgan’s Restaurant, Olde Forge Farms, Peony Vodka, Rock Steady Farm, Silo Ridge, Stissing House, Summer Lunch Box Program, The Farmer’s Wife, The White Hart, and When Pigs Fly.

                                        This event is always lots of fun, and a great place to meet old friends, make new ones, and to entertain out-of-town guests. Most importantly, proceeds benefit NECC, supporting its many fine programs for children, seniors, families, and individuals.

                                        Visit www.neccmillerton.org for tickets and more information.

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