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Mary Mastroeni

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7 Patio Hacks to Try This Summer

June 8, 2015 3:35 am

When you’re not soaking up the sun on the beach or taking in a game at the ball park, your backyard is likely playing host to summertime activities. To crank up the good times at home, add these unconventional upgrades served up on your patio for endless fun all summer long.

1. Chandelier and Sconces – Today’s outdoor lighting designs have evolved beyond tiki torches and paper lanterns. String up tiny twinklers, repurpose a chandelier or install sconces to add some sparkle to your summer.

2. Suspended Sofa – Outdoor spaces have become an extension of the interior of the home, and your patio should be no exception. Suspend a sofa for lounging, create a coffee nook for weekend mornings or a cozy bench to tackle your summer reading list.

3. Pizza Oven
– It’s no secret outdoor kitchens are in high demand. Add your very own to your backyard by installing a pizza oven. For the non-handy homeowner, pre-manufactured pizza ovens are available, but do-it-yourselfers can construct one in a weekend.

4. Foldable Bar – A bar is a must if you regularly host guests. If your patio doesn’t permit a full bar set, DIY a foldable bar. The best part? It can be stored at a moment’s notice – not that you’d want to!

5. Movie Screen – An outdoor movie at home is a fun way to spend warm summer nights without breaking the bank. String clothesline between deck posts or trees and use a white sheet and a projector to create your very own theater.

6. Dance Floor – If your patio is spacious, up the entertainment factor with a portable dance floor. If your patio is natural wood, reserve a corner for when Saturday Night Fever rolls around.

7. Container Garden – Your patio is the perfect place for a container garden. Inject life onto a stone slab by growing your own vegetables (tomatoes are easy) or summer blooms.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Homeowners and Renters Can Apply for Disaster Assistance

June 8, 2015 3:35 am

With storms battering many parts of the country, homeowners and renters in disaster-designated counties who sustained damage to their homes, vehicles or personal property as a result of severe storms should know that they may qualify for disaster assistance. According to FEMA, applicants can:

• Apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov
• Apply by smartphone or web-enabled device at m.fema.gov
• Apply by phone at toll-free 800-621-3362800-621-3362 FREE or 1-800-462-75851-800-462-7585 FREE

Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs and uninsured and underinsured personal property losses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

You should apply for assistance even if you have insurance because you may find you have unmet needs after you receive your settlement. If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, do so right away. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But insurance does not cover many expenses, so disaster programs may be able to help. You should not wait for your insurance settlement to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the SBA.

After you apply, FEMA will send you a copy of your application and a copy of “Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program,” which will answer many of your questions. This useful publication explains how FEMA’s disaster assistance program works; describes additional kinds of help you may qualify for from other federal, state and voluntary agencies; and gives you many important tips on how best to make all these programs work for you.

If your home or its contents are damaged and you are uninsured or underinsured, a FEMA inspector may contact you within about 10 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet with you at your damaged home. All inspectors carry photo ID that shows they are affiliated with the U.S. government.

If you’re a homeowner, you may borrow up to $200,000 from SBA to repair or replace your primary residence. Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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A Positive First Impression Opens the Door to a Successful Transaction

June 5, 2015 11:40 am

Creating a positive first impression is the name of the game in today’s competitive market, but you don’t have to break the bank in order to give your home a leg up on the competition. In fact, creating a welcoming environment is often more than enough to help your home stand out, and it all begins with the front door.

If your home has a unique front door that draws attention because it’s painted an untraditional color, prospective buyers will have an easy way to differentiate your home from all the others they’ve seen.

Even if your front door doesn’t pop due to its color, you’ll want to do whatever you can to ensure it’s as attractive as it can be when prospective buyers drop by.

This means making sure it’s clean, that no cracks are apparent and that the paint hasn’t worn too thin. You want the front door to be the first welcome sign of your home, so having it look its best is important.

If you do decide to give the front door a facelift, it’s important to put some thought into your color choice beforehand. While many real estate professionals advise that you stick to the color scheme of the neighborhood, choosing a bold color can go a long way toward attracting younger buyers.

Odds are you’re not going to have to replace the entire door, but it’s a good idea to make sure your front door is not only sturdy, but in good working condition as well. For instance, if your key constantly gets stuck, now’s a good time to invest in a new lock. You’ll also want to make sure the lock goes in place easily. If you’re simply looking to add some pizzazz, a new doorknob is an inexpensive way to get the job done. An antique doorknocker can also add some decorative appeal. And don’t forget the numbers that sit on or above your door. If they’re fading or not clear, get some new ones.

And last but not least, make sure the door itself (whether it’s a storm door or a screen door)—and any windows surrounding the door—are clean.

When buyers walk through the front door, you want them to imagine doing so for the next 20 years, so do what you can to make those first steps memorable.

Contact our office today for more tips on making a good first impression.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Separating Fact from Fiction - What You Need to Know About the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program

June 5, 2015 11:40 am

This past May, at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asked the National Association of REALTORS® for help in debunking common misconceptions regarding the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program.

First established 70 years ago as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, the VA loan guaranty is a military benefit available for any individual who has served in active duty in any branch of the U.S. military for a minimum of 90 days. Since its inception, it has helped more than 21 million veterans.

At the meeting, John Bell, the Department of Veterans Affairs assistant director of loan policy and valuation, thanked REALTORS® for their role in helping make sense of the home-buying process.

“I have been so impressed with being able to work with the National Association of REALTORS® and its members on improving our outreach to the community,” said Bell. “You are the front line of defense when it comes to helping veterans understand this program. Without REALTORS®, veterans will not come.”

One common misconception regarding the loan concerns eligibility. While many believe the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program is just for servicemen and servicewomen, non-active duty personnel, such as those in the Army Reserves or National Guard, may also apply for a VA-backed mortgage—provided they have completed six years of service. Additionally, spouses of deceased or missing military members are also eligible if they’ve never remarried.

Another common misconception is the notion that VA-backed loans cost more than traditional loans over the long run, but this could not be further from the truth. In fact, one major advantage of a VA loan is that it doesn’t require a down payment. Another factor that ultimately keeps the cost down is the fact that VA loans don’t come with private mortgage insurance.

A VA loan will, however, require a borrower to pay a one-time funding fee on their purchase, which can be paid up front or financed into the total cost of the loan. The funding fee for regular military members is 2.15 percent of the loan, while reservists pay a fee of 2.40 percent. Bell recommends that REALTORS® remind lenders to request an appraisal early on in the process to make sure a VA-certified appraiser is able to value the property in advance of the closing date.

“People worry that they’re challenging to close or difficult to underwrite, and that the appraisal process drags on too long, yet the facts show that appraisal and closing times are on par with the rest of the industry,” Bell said.

To qualify, borrowers must show enough monthly income after paying personal debts and housing costs to meet “residual income” levels set by the department. A VA loan must be for a primary residence and the limits on the amount someone can get are based on median home prices in the area.

For more information about the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Small Space, Big Impression: Using Space Wisely Key to Making Rooms Appear Larger

June 5, 2015 11:40 am

The latest report from the National Association of REALTORS® shows that members of the millennial generation are buying smaller homes than their parents did. In fact, for homebuyers 33 and under, 48 percent of all buyers purchased a home with 2,000 square feet or less last year. And for all buyers, the median home size was 1,900 square feet.

While some buyers are purchasing smaller homes due to financial issues, others are opting for less space because of their concern for the environment or the notion that we’re living in a world too fixated on possessions. Whatever the reason, a small space doesn’t have to be a negative thing. With the right design, furniture and color choices, one can leave a big impression in a small space.

There are a number of things homeowners can do to create space in a room and make a small room appear larger than it actually is. One great way to do this is to create a focal point by hanging one large painting in a prominent space. Keep in mind that a number of smaller prints throughout a room will make the space feel crowded because there’s too much commanding attention.

When it comes to choosing furniture that will make a room appear larger, it’s also important to focus on one central object. For example, a master bedroom should be all about the bed, while the dining room should have its focus on the table. Be sure to arrange the rest of the room so the focus is given to one specific area, and keep the décor throughout the rest of the space to a minimum.

Natural light can also make a room seem larger than it actually is, which is why keeping the shades up and curtains open is important for any house showing. Bright colors are also said to do wonders for small rooms. In fact, many home stagers recommend incorporating icy blues and cream colors into small spaces. On the flip side, stay away from heavy, dark colors that absorb light, making a small space seem even smaller.

If your kitchen happens to be a bit on the smaller side, use cabinets to keep things organized so that the counters remain clear. Smaller chairs or stools are good choices for smaller spaces, as are round tables. Again, focusing on natural light and color is a simple way to help the space appear larger.

In the end, remember that just because a room is small doesn’t mean it can’t be attractive and eye-catching.

To learn more about taking advantage of smaller spaces within your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Lawn Care Tips to Get Your Home's Exterior in Tip Top Shape

June 5, 2015 11:40 am

Now that the warmer weather has arrived, the increase in the amount of prospective buyers looking for their dream home means sellers need to pay more attention to the exterior of their home—especially the lawn.

While real estate professionals across the board stress the importance of curb appeal, staging the deck or patio and adding flowers or shrubbery, more often than not, the lawn itself is overlooked.

For sellers, the simple act of neglecting the lawn can do more harm than good when it comes to attracting prospective buyers. In fact, keeping your grass well-maintained is a simple way to attract buyers, especially if the photos they’re viewing prior to visiting look like they came straight from the pages of a magazine.

Perhaps even more important, grass is considered to be one of nature’s best remedies for removing carbon and other impurities from the atmosphere. Through the process of photosynthesis, grass takes carbon from the air and stores it in the ground.

When it comes to growing grass—and keeping it looking its best—consistent care is key, and failure to invest in long-term turf management can open the window to a host of problems. It’s also important to give your grass the fertilizing lawn care and control treatments it needs depending on the season. For example, your yard has different needs in June than it does during the late summer months and into the fall.

If you want to help your yard stand out even more, you’ll want to be mindful of the way in which you mow the lawn, as it can affect the grass. According to landscape experts, not only should grass be kept high in the spring, you want to avoid cutting more than a third of the total blade height. If you trim too low, you could accidentally chop off the food-producing parts of the grass blade and end up with a brown lawn.

Another important tip you’ll want to keep in mind when mowing has to do with the actual clippings that are left behind by the mower. While many lawnmowers have a bag that picks up grass clippings as they’re mowed, it’s better to leave them on the lawn to help recycle important lawn fertilizing nutrients.

And last but not least, properly watering your lawn is one of the most important components involved in the growing process. Be sure to water your lawn every other day and soak it deeply so that the water drips to at least six inches in depth. If you notice that your lawn is beginning to dull, increase the amount of water.

A healthy, fresh-cut, green lawn is the perfect place for kids to play or adults to stroll, so make sure your turf gives the best impression it can.

To learn more about caring for your lawn, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips to Take the Heat Out of the Summer Selling Season

June 5, 2015 11:40 am

It’s no secret that the amount of houses on the market increases substantially during the summer months, making it more important than ever that your home is ready for the increased competition.

If you’re looking to avoid some of the common issues that can negatively affect a summer showing, take the following tips into consideration.

1. Keep the Air On. Even if you like a warm house, the last thing you want is for prospective buyers to be uncomfortable. When a potential buyer walks through your home on a hot day, you want them to be greeted with cool air, which will go a long way toward starting the showing on a positive note. Not only will a warm home during the hot summer months cause a level of discomfort, it can also drive someone out of the house before they’ve even had a chance to form a real impression.

2. Offer Refreshments. While you never want to be at the actual showing, you can still create a positive first impression by leaving a pitcher of iced tea or lemonade on the kitchen table with a little note inviting house hunters to cool off with a refreshing drink. Many prospective buyers spend all day in the heat driving from house to house, so this is a great way to create a memorable first impression.

3. Keep the Lawn Manicured. You don’t need to hire a professional landscaper, but at the very least, be sure to keep the lawn mowed and clear of any sticks. It’s also important to make sure there’s nothing in the way that will keep prospective buyers from being able to take a walk around the yard. A yard full of weeds—or one that looks like it hasn’t been taken care of—can quickly turn off a buyer.

4. Let There be Light. Take advantage of the bright sun that summer has to offer and keep your curtains open and your shades up, allowing plenty of natural light to shine through the space. A room with plenty of natural light will get prospective buyers thinking about different color schemes they can incorporate into the space once it’s theirs.

5. Consider Outside Entertainment. Those shopping for a home during the summer months often have visions of outdoor barbeques and fun gatherings with friends and family on their minds. Make sure your patio or deck is organized, giving off a festive atmosphere. Decorate with fun outdoor fixtures and be sure to clean the grill. For those with pools, have the filter on and keep the water sparkling blue to really entice buyers.

For more summer selling tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: VA Home Loan Guarantee Program

June 5, 2015 11:40 am

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines five common issues that can negatively affect a summer showing. Other topics covered this month include simple lawn care tips to get your yard in tip top shape and the importance of creating a positive first impression. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Kitchen Design Goes Global

June 5, 2015 3:34 am

(BPT) – Every great kitchen starts with great design. Whether you favor clean, contemporary lines or err on the side of traditional, trends today draw inspiration from global sources, incorporating cultural influences from around the world while balancing the practical needs of families. To add worldly flair to your kitchen, start by:

Getting Fancy with Flooring

Certain materials establish a regional look because they are widely available in that region. In India, where quarries make natural stones easily affordable, kitchens commonly feature floors of glossy marble or other stone. Ceramic tile is abundant in Spain, and a wide variety of styles are available to create the underpinning for any regionally-inspired kitchen design.

Paving the Way with Walls


Kitchens around the world have signature design elements when it comes to walls. Wood paneling is a hallmark of English country kitchens, while modern Japanese kitchens, which are often limited in space, are made to look larger with walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. And arches and bright tile accents lend themselves to Mexican design.

Opening Up with Cabinetry


The material and color you choose for your cabinets will play a defining role in the overall appearance of your kitchen. Flat white or frosted glass doors can impart a very modern, European flair, while distressed woods in rustic hues create a Tuscan effect.

Coloring Your World


Specific colors are tied to certain world cultures, regions and locations – walls in a soft mandarin paired with burgundy window treatments can build an Asian-inspired backdrop, and Aegean blue and sand backsplash tiles speak of a subtle Mediterranean influence.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Replacing the Roof? Add This Energy-Efficient Feature

June 5, 2015 3:34 am

Did you know a roof replacement can return nearly three-quarters of its cost when the home is sold? Homeowners can reap even more benefits by completing other roof work simultaneously, say the experts at VeluxUSA.com. If you’re planning to reroof your home, consider installing new – or replacing existing – skylights. This energy-efficient measure can not only increase natural light inside the home, but lead to serious savings come tax season.

If you have older skylights, the flashing around them may have deteriorated over time, making them susceptible to leaks and less energy-efficient. Modern fresh air skylights can improve indoor air quality through passive ventilation. At the same time, they reduce dependence on expensive artificial light sources and mechanical ventilation.

Adding blinds further increases energy efficiency to reduce power bills. A blackout blind can improve the energy performance rating of the skylight as much as 45 percent, a light filtering blind by as much as 39 percent, and a Venetian blind by as much as 34 percent.

Both products, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. (Because of this, skylights and blinds with rain sensors and programmable touchpad remote control can be less expensive than an entry-level fixed skylight in some cases.)

Most building codes require that skylights installed out-of-reach utilize laminated glass for safety.

Combining reroofing work with other improvements saves installation or replacement time and allows the synchronization of warranty coverage for all the products. It also assures roofing materials will coordinate with new features.

Source:
VeluxUSA.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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