Mary Mastroeni
GoogleLinked InYoutubePinterest
 
Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Remodeling? High-Ranking Kitchen Brands to Consider

April 28, 2016 12:31 am

Quality materials matter in any remodel—and when renovating the kitchen, no material matters more than the cabinets.

“One of the most critical times in a remodel or new construction is when customers order their kitchen cabinets,” says Greg Truex, senior director of the at-home practice at J.D. Power.

J.D. Power recently released their annual report of the kitchen cabinetmakers ranked highest in customer satisfaction, rated by factors including design, operational performance and price. The top five are:

1. Thomasville
2. SEKTION (IKEA)
3. American Woodmark
4. KraftMaid
5. Hampton Bay

Also included in the report are the purchasing behaviors of kitchen remodelers. Notably, 66 percent are first-time kitchen cabinet buyers, and 34 percent have not purchased a kitchen cabinet in nine years—possibly signaling a correlation between the rankings and the preferences of newer homeowners.

Source: J.D. Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

5 Ways to Grow a Garden…Without a Garden

April 28, 2016 12:31 am

Apartments and condos rarely offer much opportunity to garden, even with balconies or patios. ApartmentTherapy.com recently rounded up container gardening tips that’ll help satisfy small-space green thumbs. Some are viable even in apartments with no outdoor space at all!

1. Ceramic Pots – Dwarf fruit trees, such as Calamondin Orange, Eureka Lemon, Improved Meyer, Orangequat, Persian Lime and Ponderosa, do well in ceramic pots. Consult with experts at your local nursery for the proper mix of soil. Ensure the trees receive plenty of sunshine and regular watering.

2. Jars – Plant slow-growing herbs in mason jars, which can be purchased at your local hardware or housewares store. Mount them vertically on a board out on the patio, or set them out on your kitchen counter, tied with decorative ribbon or rope.

3. Shoe Organizer – Hang up a vinyl shoe organizer, and fill each compartment with potting soil and plants, such as mixed salad leaves, herbs, sorrel, peas, and mini tomatoes.

4. Water Container – Container water gardens are a collection of submerged potted plants. Pots with dark interiors give the impression of depth and discourage algae. Place bricks below the surface to vary the height of the plants; tall grasses, cascading species and water flowers are ideal. Top up the water in your container every few days.

5. Wine Boxes – Buy (or wheedle a few) wooden wine boxes from your local liquor store. Place them on a table or on the floor of your balcony or patio. Fill them with potting soil and small-growing plants, like cherry tomatoes, radishes, some lettuce varieties and herbs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Refund Refurbish: Paint Your Home!

April 28, 2016 12:31 am

Eight in 10 taxpayers receive refunds each year. Most will obtain their refunds in May or June—ideal months for paint projects. What better way to purpose your tax refund than improving your home with paint?

Because paint is a relatively inexpensive product, your refund doesn’t have to be substantial to have an impact. According to the Paint Quality Institute, supplies for an interior painting project cost less than $100. In fact, if you’re a taxpayer receiving the average $2,800 refund, you can feasibly repaint the entire interior of your home!

Exterior painting is more costly, but your refund may cover a significant portion of the expense, including the product. The quality of ordinary exterior paint lasts for about four years; 100 percent-acrylic latex paint lasts 10 years. Purchasing a durable product is ultimately more cost-effective than buying a less expensive alternative.

Consider spending your refund on small-scale paint projects, too, such as a applying a fresh coat on the front door or an accent color in a built-in feature. These minor improvements will have major effects come resale.

Keep in mind, also, that if you run a home-based business, some of your painting expenses may be tax-deductible on next year’s return. Be sure to consult with your tax professional to determine your eligibility.

How are you purposing this year’s refund? Will you invest it back into your home?

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Moving? Here's Your Checklist!

April 26, 2016 12:31 am

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, getting ready takes lots of pre-planning. From Real Simple magazine, a moving checklist:

Two Months Before

• Sort and Purge
– Go through every room in your home and decide what you will take and what you will get rid of. Plan a garage sale and/or gather up your charitable donations now.

• Get Estimates – Get a few onsite moving estimates—not over the phone—in writing. Keep all estimates, receipts and notes in a binder.

• Transfer School Records – Arrange for all school records to be transferred to the new school district.

Six Weeks Before

• Gather Supplies
– Start stockpiling moving boxes, tape and markers.

• Pare Down – Begin using up stuff you don’t want to move, like frozen foods and cleaning supplies.

One Month Before

• Choose a Mover – Get written confirmation of the date, costs and details.

• Start Packing – Begin with things you use least often, like extra dishes, out-of-season clothing and recreational items. Label boxes in terms of content, and where in the new house they should go.

• Separate What You Will Carry – Stow away any valuables, like jewelry or important papers, that you will be transporting yourself in a safe box.

• Change Your Address – Do it online or at your local post office. Alert your bank, credit card issuer, utility company and any magazine providers to the change. Ask a neighbor to check your mailbox for a few weeks after your move.

• Forward Medical Records – Arrange to have them sent to your new medical provider.

Two Weeks Before

• Withdraw Your Safety Deposit Box
– Store valuables in your safe box at home.

• Confirm Moving Arrangements – Call the moving company to confirm the date and time.

One Week Before

• Refill Prescriptions
– Be sure you have enough for several weeks.

• Get Serious about Packing – Pack suitcases for each family member with enough to wear for a few days.

Two Days Before

• Defrost the Fridge/Freezer – Give away any perishables.

Moving Day

• Sign Mover Inventory List – Keep a copy for your records.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Homeowners Insurance Costs Creeping Up? Here's Why

April 26, 2016 12:31 am

Most homeowners don't consider themselves magicians, but we know you have to keep a number of plates spinning to ensure all the demands of your home are met. One of the most important is maintaining the appropriate amount of homeowners insurance coverage.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners' (NAIC) recently released their latest Homeowners Insurance Report, providing data on market distribution and average cost by policy form and amount of insurance. John M. Huff, president of the NAIC, says the report is the largest insurance repository of data and analysis, with an abundance of resources to help homeowners and renters make informed decisions.

National- and state-specific premium and exposure information for homeowners insurance policies and non-commercial dwelling fire insurance is included in the report. It also contains data descriptions and a discussion about the way certain economic, demographic and natural phenomena impact the cost of homeowners insurance.

If you’re looking to understand exactly why you’re paying the amount you are for homeowners or other types of insurance protection, drill into the report’s tables, which show your state and countrywide exposures by policy type, individual policy form and insurance coverage amount.

According to the report—validating why we frequently report on this particular natural hazard—Superstorm Sandy represented seven of the top 10 most costly occurrences from an insurance perspective since data collection began. A 2011 Alabama tornado, the Northridge, Calif., earthquake and 9/11 rounded out the list.

Learn how the insurance industry calculates the cost of policies by visiting www.naic.org/documents/prod_serv_statistical_hmr_zu.pdf.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

5 Energy-Efficient Home Upgrades

April 26, 2016 12:31 am

Did you know that the energy used by homes in the U.S. accounts for almost one-quarter of the country’s overall energy consumption? Or that the average household spends upwards of $2,200 a month on utilities?

Improving your home’s energy efficiency can be accomplished in several ways, ranging from inexpensive upgrades to out-of-bounds costly overhauls.

“From whole-home energy audits to simply swapping out a water-guzzling toilet, there are dozens of ways homeowners can make their homes more energy-efficient,” says Mike Agugliaro, co-owner of New Jersey-based Gold Medal Service. “Even a few small changes can have a big impact on energy consumption, helping the Earth and helping to lower energy bills at the same time.”

Agugliaro recommends homeowners start with these five upgrades:

1. Ceiling Fans – Installing ceiling fans in your home is a low-cost way to reduce energy consumption. On hot days, ceiling fans can cut cooling costs by up to 40 percent, and on colder days, they help circulate air, saving you up to 10 percent on heating costs.

2. LED Lights – Swap out incandescent light bulbs for ENERGY STAR®-qualified LED lights—you'll consume a whopping 75 percent less energy! LED lights also last up to 50 times longer than incandescent ones, and up to five times longer than fluorescent ones, saving you the expense of replacement.

3. Smart Thermostat – Programmable thermostats can instantly make your heating and cooling system more efficient. The latest models allow you to set temperatures for different times of day, so you aren't paying to heat or cool your home when no one is there.

4. Tankless Water Heater – Tankless water heaters—sometimes called “on-demand”—heat water as needed. ENERGY STAR® tankless water heaters can reduce your annual water costs by up to 30 percent. They last nearly 20 years—double the lifespan of a traditional hot water heater.

5. Whole-Home Energy System – The average home is hit with over 20 energy spikes each day. These can wreak havoc on your energy bills. Prevent them from occurring with a home energy management system with surge protection.

For those who want a hand improving the energy efficiency of their homes, an HVAC, plumbing and electrical professional can assess current energy usage and recommend ways to make the home more efficient.

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Earth Day: 10 Housing Facts

April 26, 2016 12:31 am

Earth Day began 46 years ago as a means to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment. Housing plays an important role in this mission, because many of our boots-on-the-ground green efforts happen in the home.

In honor of Earth Day, we’ve compiled these housing facts, relating to the environment and energy, from the Census Bureau. Enjoy!

1. 620,000 single-family homes were built in 2014.

2. The median size of the single-family homes built was 2,453 square feet.

3. 282,000 single-family homes built in 2014 had 4 or more bedrooms.

4. 64,000 single-family homes built in 2014 had 2 or fewer bedrooms.

5. Ninety-one percent of single-family homes built in 2014 had air conditioning.

6. The average sale price of a new single-family home sold in 2014 was $345,800.

7. 11,000 multifamily buildings were constructed in 2014.

8. 56,800,000—or 48.8 percent of—occupied housing units were primarily heated by utility gas in 2014.

9. 2,500,000—or 2.1 percent of—occupied housing units were primarily heated by wood in 2014.

10. 59,558—or less than 1 percent of—occupied housing units were primarily heated by solar energy in 2014.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Report: Saving Money…and It Feels So Good

April 26, 2016 12:31 am

More of us are padding our coffers—and boy, do we feel good about it!

A recent report by Bankrate.com shows that Americans’ feelings of financial security have reached a high, thanks to rising net worth, job security and “comfortable” debt levels. Nearly 30 percent of Americans included in the report have a higher net worth now than they did a year ago.

Millennials are saving more money than any other age group: over 5 percent of their incomes, according to the report. Some are even saving more than 10 percent.

Still, all age groups are setting aside more than they did last year, with 1 in 6 working Americans saving 15 percent of their incomes, and just 21 percent saving 5 percent or less of their incomes.

“The good news is that many working Americans, millennials in particular, are saving, and saving more than last year,” says Greg McBridge, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. “The bad news is that 21 percent of employed Americans claim not to be saving any of their paycheck—nothing for retirement, nothing for emergencies, and nothing for other financial goals.”

In the report, higher savings rates predictably skewed toward higher incomes—but nearly 30 percent of lower-income savers (earning between $30,000 and $50,000 each year) are socking away more than 10 percent of their incomes, besting the 24 percent of $50,000-$75,000 households doing the same.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Headed to an Open House? Mind These Tips!

April 26, 2016 12:31 am

In a previous segment, “Sellers: Remember These Tips for a Safe Showing,” we provided sellers guidance for the real estate listing process. In this segment, we're offering critical advice from a few sources to buyers touring potential new homes.

Frugalwoods.com, a blog by a Boston couple who’ve visited over 270 open houses (and counting!) recommends this tip:

• Take a listing sheet containing photos of the house, specs and the asking price—and read through it. Ask the listing agent any clarifying questions and take notes.

StyleAtHome.com suggests these tips:

• Overlook elaborate staging. During open houses, interiors (and exteriors) could be dressed to the nines. Try to inspect the home as it really is.

• Examine the parking situation, and be on the look-out for broken appliances.

The experts for the Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate (CAARE) organization advise the following:

• Work with a buyer’s agent, if possible. He or she will have your best interests in mind when visiting an open house.

Most importantly, avoid visiting an open house without your real estate agent—doing so could be detrimental to your home search. Keep in mind the listing agent will likely focus on visitors who show up with an agent in tow!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags:

Renovating? The Type of Project Matters

April 26, 2016 12:31 am

Homeowners undertaking a renovation may either reap rewards come resale, or regrettably find themselves in the red. The latter, says Scott Robinson, president of the Appraisal Institute, is more likely—somewhat.

“Home improvement projects are not necessarily investments in which a homeowner should expect a dollar-for-dollar return,” explains Robinson, who oversees the nation’s largest association of real estate appraisers. “Rather, these projects can increase the likelihood of a sale, or that a property will be comparable to other properties in a neighborhood.”

Robinson advises renovators to consider if the improvement is in keeping within what’s standard in the community.

“Projects that take a home significantly beyond community norms are often not worth the cost when the owner sells the home,” Robinson says. “If the improvements don’t match what’s standard in a community, they’ll be considered excessive.”

Robinson notes renovators may find it best to hold off on large-scale projects if they’re unsure of how long they’ll be in their home. Generally, the longer a homeowner stays in a home, the greater the opportunity for a return on investment.

A real estate appraiser can conduct a feasibility study, which offers an unbiased analysis of what the home would be worth before and after a project. During the study, the appraiser will analyze the property, weigh the cost of rehabilitation, and provide an estimate of the property’s value before and after the improvement.

Currently, the projects with the highest expected return on investment (ROI) are attic insulation, manufactured stone veneer and a garage door replacement, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. Other projects with potential payoffs are an entry door replacement and a minor kitchen remodel.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tags: