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Mary Mastroeni

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Housing Survey Reveals Trends in Neighbors, Public Transit and Disaster Preparedness

October 22, 2014 1:50 am

Among the findings of the 2013 American Housing Survey, roughly half of all American households report getting along with their next door neighbors and are willing to lend a helping hand if needed. The survey was recently released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The survey includes information about neighborhood social life, use of public transportation, and the extent to which American families are prepared for disaster:

Neighborhood Social Life
  • More than three-quarters of households report talking to their neighbor within the past month (82.4 percent).
  • Over half of households strongly agree they get along with their neighbors (50.7 percent).
  • Nearly half are very willing to help their neighbors (49.7 percent).
Public Transportation/Biking/Walking
  • Twenty million households use some form of public transportation, primarily local buses.
  • More than 40 percent (40.2 percent) of households report biking or walking to nearby destinations such as entertainment, grocery stores, shopping centers, work, school and places of worship.
  • Sixty-four million households report sidewalks in their neighborhood.
  • Less than 15 percent of households report their neighborhoods have dedicated bike lanes (14.5 percent).
Disaster Preparedness
  • Over 75 percent of households claim to have enough non-perishable food to sustain family members for three days (83.7 percent).
  • Thirty-eight percent of 2-or-more-person households have an agreed-upon meeting location in the event of an emergency.
  • More than 56 million households have a pet, with 15.2 million requiring help evacuating their pets in the event of an emergency.
  • Over one-fifth of households do not have sufficient funds ($2000) in the event of an emergency evacuation (27.7 percent).
Source: HUD

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Replace It When You Can Paint It

October 21, 2014 1:50 am

I recently became acquainted with Lisa Kaplan Gordon, a builder of luxury homes in McLean, VA. She has published a wonderful guide to help evaluate whether homeowners can refresh certain areas or furnishings with a new coat of paint.

In this first of several segments, we'll look at a couple of unconventional areas where a few cans of paint can save consumers hundreds if their alternative is replacing the item.

First, let's consider appliances.

Gordon says use indoor appliance paint to change colors, or a liquid stainless steel application to give your appliance a stainless steel look. Use a roller for small touch-ups; and two or three thin coats of spray paint for total appliance coverage.

To prep:

1. Clean appliance exteriors with a heavy-duty cleaning solution and, if needed, a scrubbing pad.

2. Remove handles and hardware; place painters tape over trim and logos.

3. Sand the exterior.

Then:

Be sure the front of your appliance is metal, not plastic. Plastic exteriors will require priming.

If spray-painting, haul the appliance outdoors to avoid getting paint on cabinets and floors.

If painting indoors, open windows to promote ventilation.

For the stainless look, apply Liquid Stainless Steel with a brush.

Gordon also loves the idea of covering stains and reviving carpets with upholstery paint. Her source, Kathie Smula of Spray It New upholstery paint says carpets with a short pile are the best candidates for painting; unfortunately, long-pile carpets become hard and matted when painted.

To prep:

1. Thoroughly clean the carpet. You don’t have to steam clean, but scrub the worst stains and vacuum so dirt doesn’t mix with paint.

2. Skip priming and just spray paint two or three coats, depending on how deep you want the color. Make sure it’s dry to the touch before spraying another coat.

Then:

Don’t confuse upholstery paint for carpets, with fabric paint, which is good for T-shirts.

If you get paint clumps, loosen the area with a bristle brush and dab up excess paint.

Six cans of spray paint will cover an 8-foot-by-10-foot carpet with at least two coats.

In future segments we'll touch base with Gordon on other ways to touch-up with paint versus replacing!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Clear Up Cluttered Kitchen Countertops

October 21, 2014 1:50 am

While homebuyers seek ample kitchen counter space when searching for a home, surface area tends to fill up quickly as homeowners settle in to their new digs. Reclaim your countertops in time for the holidays with these clutter-busting tricks.

Designate an area for paper.
Adopt a storage solution for mail or loose papers, such as a kitchen desk, tray or basket. Set up your paper station away from cook tops, sinks and other food preparation areas where they can get damaged.

Reserve counters for essentials only. Keep counters clear by stowing away appliances and tools your family does not use on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is to store items that have not been used in over a month.

Arrange items according to function. Group items similarly to stay organized and avoid cluttering other areas of your kitchen. For instance, keep your coffee maker, coffee, cups and filters confined to one section of your countertop.

Cut down on food storage containers. To remove Tupperware from countertops, reduce the amount you own to only those that fit within each other. This will make them easier to store, freeing up even more space on your kitchen counter.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Is Your Car Ready for Winter?

October 21, 2014 1:50 am

Consumers have leveraged the changing of the clocks to remember important but infrequent tasks like replacing smoke alarm batteries. AAA suggests motorists also use this event, taking place at 2:00 a.m. on November 2, as a reminder to check their vehicle for winter readiness.

"The end of daylight savings time means that winter weather is on the way, which can be rough on your car," says AAA's director of Automotive Engineering, Greg Brannon. "This is a good time to have vehicle systems checked and perform important maintenance to ensure your car is in peak condition."

Harsh winter conditions make your vehicle work harder, particularly the charging and starting system, headlights, tires and windshield wipers. AAA recommends that motorists:
  • Clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections and wash all surfaces with battery terminal cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water. Have the battery checked by a professional to ensure it is strong enough to face cold weather.
  • Have any engine drivability problems corrected at a good repair shop. Symptoms like hard starts, rough idling, stalling or diminished power could signal a problem that would be exacerbated by cold weather.
  • Replace worn windshield-wiper blades. If your climate is harsh, purchase one-piece beam-type or rubber-clad "winter" blades to fight snow and ice build-up. Use cold-weather windshield washer solvent and carry an ice-scraper.
  • Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace burned out bulbs. Clean road grime or clouding from all lenses.
  • Have your mechanic check the exhaust system for leaks and look for any holes in the trunk and floorboards.
  • Examine tires for tread depth, uneven wearing and cupping. Check tire pressures once a month when tires are cold before driving for any distance. In extreme climates, a set of winter snow tires may be a wise investment.
Sourc

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The Top 5 Most Haunted Destinations in America

October 20, 2014 1:50 am

Every town has a ghost story, but some destinations embrace their haunted pasts in a way that attracts an influx of tourism during the Halloween season. The travel experts at Hotels.com® have named the five best Halloween travel destinations stemming from spooky literature, film and folklore.
  • Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.: Home of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" author Washington Irving, this quaint Hudson River Valley town one hour north of Manhattan transforms into a festive Halloween celebration in October. Visitors can tour Irving's Sunnyside estate, hear live readings of the short story and visit the famous Sleepy Hollow Cemetery that served as its setting.
  • Salem, Mass.: Infamous for the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century, this city outside of Boston draws visitors year round with various tours, museums and a thriving witchcraft culture. The festivities are amplified in October, when the annual Haunted Happenings celebration offers a variety of attractions, including haunted houses, theatre performances, films and parades.
  • New Orleans, La.: While most tourists visit New Orleans for its nightlife and music scene, the city is also renowned for its vampire folklore, which has inspired a number of novels and films. In addition to various vampire walking tours that are offered around the French Quarter year round, New Orleans also hosts several vampire-themed events around Halloween, including masquerade balls, cocktail parties and book signings.
  • Estes Park, Colo.: Located at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is famous for being home to The Stanley Hotel, which inspired one of the most popular modern horror novels of our time. The hotel offers haunted tours to the public and hosts a number of Halloween events, including a masquerade ball and a murder mystery dinner. Visitors can also try the Redrum Ale at Estes Park Brewery or get dressed up for the Estes Park Community Trick-or-Treat event downtown.
  • Charleston, S.C.: In addition to being South Carolina's oldest city and having a rich haunted history, Charleston also has connections to Edgar Allan Poe. Bulldog Tours offers a private tour of locations that purportedly inspired Poe's work, including the Unitarian Churchyard that is said to be haunted by the subject of his last completed poem – Annabel Lee. Nearby Sullivan's Island, where Poe was stationed in the military, is home to the Edgar Allan Poe Library and Poe's Tavern, where diners can order from an extensive themed menu.
Source: Hotels.com

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How to Make Your Home Safe for Trick-or-Treaters

October 20, 2014 1:50 am

If you’re expecting trick-or-treaters at your home this Halloween, take time to rid your yard of any potential hazards that can compromise a child’s safety. Follow these steps for a fun and safe Halloween in your neighborhood. The costumed crowd, and their parents or guardians, will thank you.

Secure your entryway. Before trick-or-treaters come bounding up your doorstep, look for trip hazards like loose pavers or extension cords. Guide children around these dangers with markers, or restrict access completely.

Avoid using flammable materials in your décor. According to FEMA, more fires occur on Halloween night. Swap out the candles in your jack-o’-lanterns for LED alternatives, and be cautious when using seasonal flammable décor, like hay or dried cornstalks, which can easily catch fire if too close to heat sources.

Light up the night. Aside from keeping all porch lights on, consider turning the lights on in rooms that have windows facing the street. If you have a longer walkway, add tea lights or glow sticks to light the path.

Contain your pet.
Costumes can sometimes spook dogs, even those who are normally well behaved around strangers. Set your pooch up with a comfortable space inside and away from the front door.

Source: Zillow

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Safely Operate Your Portable Generator

October 20, 2014 1:50 am

(Family Features) In a variety of situations, portable generators can supply temporary or remote electric power. From emergencies to recreational and construction activities, portable generators become a welcome addition to any instance when power is needed. For outdoor events such as tailgating, hunting and camping, an inverter generator is a quiet, reliable option. These temporary power sources can be used to power televisions, radios, small appliances, fans and space heaters. However, it is important for operators to understand that there are risks involved when operating a portable generator.

"Portable generators are helpful in various situations, but the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by their improper use are very real," said Joe Harding, representative for Portable Generator Manufacturers' Association (PGMA).

Before using one of these helpful devices at your next event, there are a few things to remember in order to keep friends and family safe.

  • Do not run portable generators inside homes, garages, basements, crawlspaces, sheds or other partially-enclosed spaces, even if using fans or opening doors and windows. Carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these spaces and linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
  • Only operate a portable generator outside, far away from windows, doors and vents to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide gas accumulating and potentially being drawn toward occupied spaces.
  • Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms or plug-in alarms with battery backup according to the manufacturer's instructions. Smoke alarms cannot detect carbon monoxide gas.
  • Always place your portable generator downwind and point the engine exhaust away from occupied spaces.
  • The symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to those caused by other illness such as cold, flu or food poisoning. If you suspect you or a family member are experiencing any of these symptoms due to carbon monoxide poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical attention.
  • Always refer to the generator owner's manual for further information about safe operation and potential hazards.
Regardless of the events requiring the use of portable generators, safety precautions should be considered in order to reduce risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Source: PGMA

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Roofing Issues to Take into Consideration before Listing Your Home

October 17, 2014 12:47 pm

When it comes to looking for that dream home, prospective buyers are pulling out all the stops, questioning any and everything. And the roof is no exception.

While a ground-level inspection won’t divulge much, sellers should arm their agent with any and all pertinent information regarding the roof. This means knowing the age of the roof, the year it was replaced (if applicable), and any leaks or other problems that have popped up through the years. While all of this will come out during the inspection, it’s best to be honest from the get-go.

If the roof is old—or potential problems are on the horizon—as the seller, you may want to consider replacing the roof before the sale. In fact, some in the industry feel this is a smart idea because it eases the mind of potential buyers, however, whether or not the investment is returned is up for debate. If there’s potential to receive multiple offers on your home, a new roof can be a great incentive for potential buyers. However, if the market is slow, a new roof won’t do much when it comes to getting your price.

If the roof is simply in need of minor repairs, there’s no need to replace the entire thing. In this scenario, the best thing to do is call in a roof expert and see what they think before putting the house on the market. If the roof seems to be draining properly and there are no clear signs of wear and tear, it’s probably best not to do anything.

Another reason to forego replacing the roof? Some buyers actually prefer to take care of the job themselves after they move in with a company they hand-pick. If you had a roof inspection completed prior to the sale of your home, share the pricing information with the buyer to show them what the projected cost would be.

It’s also important to keep in mind that it may be difficult for a potential buyer to get a mortgage if the roof is in bad shape because a leaky roof can cause major problems to the house itself. This might make it necessary to do something.

As the seller, if you decide to replace the roof on your own, be sure to get quotes from at least three roofers. And check out their references both online and by phone. You’ll also want to ensure that the project fits your timetable. The last thing you want is to have to hold off on a listing because your roof replacement is delayed.

To learn more about potential roof issues—and what can be done to repair them when preparing your home for sale—contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Let Your Pet Derail Your Home Sale

October 17, 2014 12:47 pm

You love your pet so much that he or she is like part of the family, right? But if you’re trying to sell your home, it might be best to keep your furry friend out of the way so that they don’t work against you and put a damper on the home-selling process.

When it comes to selling a home where there’s a pet involved, it’s important to keep in mind that people who don’t like pets might be afraid of the animal, or even bothered by it. And fellow animal lovers might spend so much time playing with—or talking about—your cat or dog, that they may not focus on your home. Plus, there’s always the prospect of liability if your dog was to bite someone who is looking at the house.

When you have appointments scheduled for people to look at your home, consider having your dog stay with a friend or family member. If there’s just one appointment scheduled for a certain time, take your dog for a walk while the prospective buyers are looking. Another idea is to schedule a pet daycare or grooming appointment when people are coming to look at the house.

It’s especially important to keep pets out of the house during open houses. The more people in the home, the more likely the animal is to be distracting. Most important, with so many people coming in and out of the house, you don’t want to worry about a pet getting out while you’re trying to showcase your home.

You should also assess any damage your pet has caused both inside and outside the home. Hair, spills around a water bowl, and minor damage are all part of living with a pet. Clean thoroughly, and vacuum up hair. Put the pet’s bowls away and thoroughly clean and dry the area. And it’s imperative that cat owners keep litter boxes thoroughly cleaned so that unpleasant odors don’t make their way through the home.

If the weather is appropriate, open your windows to let in fresh air. Use air fresheners and products that remove pet odors from carpets and furniture. After doing all of this, invite friends and relatives over and ask them to honestly say if there are any odors in the home—sometimes it can be difficult for a pet owner to notice smells caused by the animal.

And don’t forget the outside. Fill any holes your dog might have dug up. Get rid of any plants or decorations a dog might have chewed. And it goes without saying that any messes from a pet need to be cleaned up.

Don’t let your pet be the reason that your home doesn’t sell.

For more information about selling your home when a pet’s involved, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Tips to Choose a Stager That's Right for You

October 17, 2014 12:47 pm

Having trouble selling your home? Looking to give it that extra something to attract a wide range of prospective buyers? Then it might be time to hire a stager.

Once you’ve made the decision to bring in a stager, you must find the right person for you. Not every stager is the same, and you’ll want to make sure the person you choose has a vision you can get behind.

The first thing you should do when deciding among stagers is look at their portfolios and see what they have done for other homes. If you don’t like their previous work, it’s a good bet that you might not like what they do for you.

Even if you’re not pleased with what you see, a conversation about their thoughts and vision is warranted. Remember that a stager is an artist, and they may have ideas for your home that aren’t showcased in their book or even on their website. Be sure to tell them your ideas, listen to theirs, and see if you can come up with a happy medium.

When choosing a stager, it’s also a good idea to get references and ask about their experience staging in your local area. Remember, a stager is a professional who is trained to know exactly what house hunters are looking for, so even if it’s not your cup of tea, if they have had success getting homes sold in your neighborhood, you might want to trust in their opinion.

You’ll also want to ensure that the stager you choose isn’t making your home look like every other home they have previously staged. Remember, the whole reason for hiring someone is to make your home stand out. If they’re bringing in the same furniture and colors that they use in countless other homes, it might not be making the statement you want.

The cost of a stager should also play a role in your decision. You don’t want to be paying more than you can afford, even if it does mean having your home look exquisite while on the market, so make sure you choose a stager who’s within your budget.

One thing many sellers don’t think about when hiring a stager is insurance, however, this is a key area that can’t be overlooked. Be sure the stager you ultimately pick is insured just in case an unforeseen accident happens while in your home, or a piece of antique furniture they bring in breaks.

Finally, choose someone who you can talk with and work with favorably. You don’t want to be butting heads with the person who’s trying to help you sell your home. Find someone whose talent you admire, is open to dialogue and has experienced success. Once you do, your home stager will help you and your home on the way to a sale.

To learn more about hiring a stager, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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