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Mary Mastroeni

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Understanding Countertops and Their Role in Attracting Prospective Buyers

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

As the heart of the home, the kitchen is typically a major selling point when prospective buyers view homes and decide to move forward with an offer. In addition to updated appliances and open floor plans, countertops are a crucial element that can’t be ignored. With a variety of materials, colors and textures to choose from, choosing the perfect countertop can be a daunting task.

If you’re ready to replace the counters in your kitchen, but not sure where to begin, here’s a rundown of the various options you have to choose from.

Granite.
One of the most popular—though expensive—options for kitchen countertop material, granite is available in numerous colors and shades of green, black, white, red, blue and brown. Granite countertops should be treated with an impregnating sealer to ensure that there are no small cracks that will harbor bacteria.

Plastic Laminate. A durable, hardwearing countertop surface with matte and fine matte finishes, plastic laminate is available in a variety of colors and patterns.

Quartz. Offering much of the same look that stone yields, quartz requires much less maintenance. Quartz comes in numerous vibrant colors and patterns that echo granite and marble.

Soapstone. A natural stone option available in greenish black or gray-green, soapstone is the least expensive natural stone for countertops. Not only is soapstone porous, it needs to be sealed with mineral oil to reduce stains.

Slate. A dense stone that comes in subtle colors such as green, gray, red, purple and black, slate is a softer stone that can scratch easily, however, scratches can be removed by buffing with steel wool. Slate also comes with a soft matte sheen.

Kitchen countertops are also available in synthetic solid surfaces, which are made of acrylic, polyester or a combination of both. They are resistant to stains and scratches and can be renewed and repaired.

If you’re looking to make a splash with your kitchen prior to a sale, redoing your countertops is a great way to grab a potential house hunter’s attention.

Contact our office today for more information about replacing countertops.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring into the Home-Buying Season with These Home Improvement Projects

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

No matter where you live, the spring season is associated with cleaning and change. From saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new, the season also offers the perfect opportunity for sellers to take care of projects they’ve been putting off all winter. Whether it’s painting, replacing bathroom fixtures, sanding kitchen cabinets, staining the deck or re-grouting the bathroom, now’s the time to get the ball rolling on various home improvement projects that will pay big dividends when prospective buyers come to view your home.

While most of the home improvement projects you’re ready to tackle require detailed planning and preparation, you’ve more than likely been gearing up for these projects throughout the winter season. Even if you’re just getting around to planning your project, a visit to your local hardware store or a YouTube video of a DIY project can go a long way toward helping you get your project get off the ground.

Now that spring has sprung, you can also change various accessories within the home to create a totally different look. Bringing spring colors into the home is easy, especially with accessories like throw pillows, area rugs, artwork, towels and bedspreads. Designers recommend bringing in certain colors (think pears, eggs and seashells) to play off the spring theme. You can also incorporate leaf patterns in fabrics, wicker, real leather and rust metal to add a level of contrast.

Turning to the yard, one doesn’t need a green thumb to help their lawn look top-notch. In fact, adding flowers around the outside of the home is an easy way to create a beautiful color scheme. Flowers can either be put directly into the ground or arranged in planter’s boxes that can then be situated on a porch, in a sunroom or on a windowsill.

Flowers that are most manageable include marigolds, pansies, snapdragons and alyssum. Marigolds can be found in bright yellow and vivid orange, while pansies typically range from dark purple to pale violet. Snapdragons are taller and range from pink to blood red, while alyssum—used to fill out the space between plants—has tiny white or purple flowers on a bed of green.

You can also add shrubs to your lawn, planting a mixture of interesting bushes with architectural form and texture, which will add year-round ornamental value.

With the brutal winter behind us, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about spring cleaning and getting your home and yard in shape for the warmer weather headed our way.

For more information on getting your home ready for spring, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Simple Tips to Secure the Necessary Down Payment Funds

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

Purchasing a home is an expensive proposition, and for many buyers, securing funds for a down payment is a challenge in and of itself. But before you cross the idea of ever being able to afford a house off the list, the following ideas will go a long way toward helping you come up with the money you need to get into your dream home.

1. Family Matters. Don’t be too shy or stubborn to ask your parents or other family members for help. Often, your relatives will be more than happy to help you get the home of your dreams. After all, they probably received help from family members themselves when they went to buy their first home. If you do get help from a family member, the lender will ask you to sign a form called a gift letter, attesting to the relationship. The lender may also require mom and dad to explain where they got the money and prove that they are financially able to make such a gift.

2. Dig Into Your IRA. Assuming you’ve started a retirement account with your job, this may be an easy way to get the money you need quickly. Whether it’s a 401(k), a Roth or traditional IRA, first-time homebuyers are allowed to borrow up to $10,000 for a down payment on a house without incurring a penalty. For those who are self-employed, you can also borrow up to $50,000 from your retirement fund and pay yourself back over five years at a low interest rate.

3. Add It to Your Registry. If you’re getting married, doesn’t it make more sense to ask for some help in getting a house rather than a toaster or coffee maker? Numerous mortgage companies allow those getting hitched to set up a down payment registry and many guests think it’s a great way to celebrate the joining of two people they love.

4. Take Advantage of Grants. Down payment assistance and community redevelopment programs offer affordable housing opportunities to first-time homebuyers, low-income and moderate-income individuals and families who wish to achieve homeownership.

5. Propose a Lease/Purchase Agreement. Homeowners who need to sell their home quickly may be amenable to cutting a deal with buyers on a lease/purchase agreement where the buyer rents the home they want to purchase with a percentage of the rent applied toward the down payment. If you go this route, make sure you get a contract outlining all the details so both parties are safe.

If you find that none of the above options work for your individual circumstances, there’s always the old-fashioned idea of setting up a rainy day fund by putting aside 10 percent of your paycheck each week and making your lunch instead of going out. Forget that vacation and walk or ride your bike instead of using the car. It may seem like a lot, but the sacrifice will be well worth it when you’re inside your very own home.

Contact our office today for more tips on finding the funds for your down payment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Preparation Key to Interior Painting Success

April 17, 2015 10:39 am

One of the easiest ways to give a room a quick makeover before putting your home on the market is by adding a fresh coat of paint. While picking the right color is typically an exciting part of the process, it’s crucial that you prepare well ahead of time by formulating a plan of action for your interior painting project.

If you’re tackling the paint job yourself, one trip to the local paint store or hardware supply store should be enough to find everything you’ll need for the job. In addition to the paint itself, you’ll need rollers, brushes (of various sizes), a trim edger, paint sticks, protective cloth and a paint pan. Additional items that may come in handy along the way include a tape measure, screwdriver, sandpaper, sponges, household cleaner and drop cloths.

To properly prepare the room, set aside some time to clean it first. This includes removing any small items or furniture that can easily be cleared from the space. For larger items that are too much trouble to move, bring them to the center of the room and cover them with plastic cloths to keep them from getting covered with paint. Next, use blue masking tape to protect light fixtures, switch panels, hinges and knobs, and a drop cloth to protect the floor. It’s also a good idea to keep a window open for ventilation.

Any surfaces that aren’t being painted will have to be masked off with tape as well. This includes the trim on doors and windows, bookshelves and baseboards. The corners between walls and ceilings may also need to be masked off.

As for the walls that are being painted, examine the drywall to see if there are any holes, as these must be repaired before painting. Once drywall repairs are made, the area must be sanded and primed before the paint is applied. If the plaster has any cracks, they’ll need to be fixed with a paste that can be made from Plaster of Paris and water. Be sure to remove any nails from the wall as well.

If the walls have never been painted before—or they were previously painted a dark color/stain—priming is an essential part of the process that can’t be ignored. The primer will help conceal the old color and any unsightly stains that may otherwise show through the new paint.

Once all this is done, it’s time to paint. Bring in some friends and family members and make it fun. Blast some good music, order some pizza for lunch and make it a painting party no one will ever forget.

For more painting preparation tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Down Payments

April 17, 2015 10:39 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 the importance of formulating a plan of action before undertaking a painting project. Other topics covered this month include simple home improvement projects to take care of this spring and how choosing the right countertops will go a long way toward attracting prospective buyers. 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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Mortgage Rates Hover Near 2-Year Low

April 17, 2015 3:18 am

According to Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey, mortgage rates pulled back this week, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate dipping to 3.79 percent and the average 15-year fixed mortgage rate inching lower to 3.03 percent.

The jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage set a new record low of 3.90 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) were mixed, with the 5-year ARM nosing higher to 3.08 percent and the 10-year ARM drifting down to 3.54 percent.

Mortgage rates are at a 23-month low, a fact which could motivate buyers off the sidelines, particularly with the likelihood of higher rates later in the year. As evidenced by recent uneven data, the cold winter put a chill on the economy. The softness in economic releases continues to keep everyone guessing about the timing of the Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.

Source: Bankrate.com

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Smart Homes Met with Mixed Attitudes

April 17, 2015 3:18 am

Though consumers expect smart homes to “arrive” well before smart cars or wearable tech, their enthusiasm is tempered by some confusion around the smart home concept, according to research firm iModerate. This stems from concerns over price, ease of use and physical and data security.

Participants in a recent iModerate study said they think a smart home would be most beneficial when they’re away from home. Specifically, they said a smart home would alleviate worries of leaving an appliance on, help lower energy bills and reduce burglary concerns.

However, consumers see the smart home as something of a double-edged sword: they believe it will offer peace of mind to them and their families, but they are wary of the security and privacy issues a smart home could expose. They like the idea of being able to peek in to their homes, to remotely control home functions, and to receive alerts if there is an attempted intrusion or mechanical problem that occurs while they’re away.

Conversely, consumers are fearful that security measures could backfire, data collected by smart home systems could be exploited, and smart locks could be easily hacked.

“We found our conversations with consumers fascinating in terms of how eager people are to embrace the smart home,” says Adam Rossow, partner, iModerate. “They perceive the technology would generally better the home experience. Only 7 percent indicated concern that it would make their homes feel cold and uninviting, whereas the majority envisioned smart home technology as a silent task-master, freeing up time they’d typically spend on household chores and, in turn, allowing them more time with their families.”

Source: iModerate

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Breaking Down Spring Home Project Costs

April 17, 2015 3:18 am

(Family Features) Before you grab your toolkit or enlist the help of a professional for spring projects this season, do your wallet a favor and conduct some research.

HomeAdvisor’s most recent True Cost Report found that 38 percent of homeowners don't know how much it will cost to hire a professional for home projects, and nearly 70 percent are concerned about overpaying as a consequence of not having reliable cost information.

If you’ve got any of these projects on the agenda this spring, keep in mind these tips.
  • Repairing the roof: Maintaining the roof protects a home from the elements and can raise property values. Small repairs keep a roof in good shape for several years and help avoid costly damages. Most homeowners assume repairing a roof can be costly. In fact, the average roof fix only costs $550, according to the True Cost Report.
  • Remodeling a kitchen: Kitchen remodels boost a home's resale value and add functionality to the most utilized space in a home. Many factors go into remodeling a kitchen, including flooring, plumbing, appliances and electrical, so bear in mind these additional costs when budgeting.
  • Remodeling a bathroom: Homeowners can choose from different types of bathroom remodels, depending on style preferences and budget. The average cost of remodeling a bathroom is $9,000, says HomeAdvisor.
  • Painting the home's exterior: Painting the home's exterior not only boosts its curb appeal, but it also acts as a home's primary defense against weather, insects, and other damage. Consider your region’s climate before selecting a color and/or finish.
  • Installing landscaping: Landscaping can dramatically change the look of a house and property. Adding landscaping such as an outdoor patio, flowers or shrubs can increase the value of a home. The True Cost Report points to an average cost of $2,938 for landscaping.
Source: HomeAdvisor

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HUD Grants to Assist 1.5 Million Households

April 16, 2015 3:18 am

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is helping individuals and families get smarter about homeownership with $36 million in counseling grants to hundreds of national, regional and local organizations to assist with housing needs. The counseling grants are expected to help over 1.5 million households locate housing or prevent future foreclosures and make more informed housing decisions.

The grants will help homebuyers:
  • Reevaluate their readiness for a home purchase
  • Understand their financing and down payment options
  • Locate affordable rental housing
  • Become financially literate, especially if struggling to repair credit issues
  • Seek reverse mortgages or HECM, especially if elderly
  • Review loan documentation
  • Avoid potential mortgage scams, unreasonably high interest rates, inflated appraisals or unaffordable repayment terms
  • Prevent foreclosure through expense reduction, negotiation with lenders and loan servicers and loss mitigation
Recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the Urban Institute continues to find substantial benefits to housing counseling for families who purchase their first homes and those struggling to prevent foreclosure.

To locate a HUD-approved housing counseling agency, visit HUD.gov.

Source: HUD

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Ceiling Trends That Raise Rooms to New Heights

April 16, 2015 3:18 am

(BPT) - Want to infuse your home with architectural interest? Start at the top, says Brian Patrick Flynn, owner of FlynnsideOut Productions and whose interiors are regularly featured on HGTV.com.

"The ceiling is the most overlooked design element in a space, hands down," says Flynn. "Just like people, rooms need different layers to be one-of-a kind. That includes a ceiling that makes people look up and scan the entire space."

The largest solid surface in a room - besides the floor - is the ceiling. Instead of leaving it bright white or builder beige, convert this blank canvas into a decorative canopy of color and texture with these hot ceiling trends.

Layer on the Luster – Stamped metal ceilings have added shine and sophistication to American homes since they were introduced in the 1880s. Besides beauty, metal ceilings offer practicality. They resist mold and mildew, offer sag resistance and last longer than plaster or drywall. Regardless of the finish, the texture of the tiles creates a tactile top layer to the space.

Mix and Match Styles – Some interior designers are combining different decorating elements at the top, such as inlaying the recesses of coffered ceilings with gold or copper tiles. Flynn says he's also a fan of tongue-and-groove ceilings accented with beams. "This adds a ton of visual interest to the room, and can make it feel much larger.”

Create Character with Wood – From rustic timber to sleek teak, wood hues help set the tone in a room. Besides imparting a sense of warmth, the grains and knots in wood panels add a textural layer that contrasts nicely with smooth surfaces like painted walls and granite countertops.

Add Architectural Depth – Coffered ceilings first appeared in Roman architecture, and their geometric elegance has graced grand buildings ever since. Today, the cost and complexity of building coffered ceilings have been reduced by lightweight materials and easy-to-install prefabricated systems.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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