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Mary Mastroeni

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Why Should Homebuyers Size up Smart Homes Carefully?

March 20, 2017 12:33 am

Smart homes and their related technology are only a few years old. That means that first generation of smart homes are just beginning to hit the marketplace as owners relocate or vacate those properties.

A recent NBC news report pointed out that while smart homes are still a small part of the overall market, they are expected to grow significantly in the next few years as more homeowners install these devices and homebuyers come to expect them.

As a result, the National Association of REALTORS is now teaching its agents how to spot IoT devices and how to deal with them at closing.

Recently, Parks Associates announced new research showing that approximately one-third of smart home device owners experience problems with their smart home devices and nearly 10 percent report problems connecting a smart home device to the home network router.

Consumers encounter these issues more often when setting up smart sprinkler systems, networked security cameras, and water leak detectors compared to other smart home devices the study found.
Ed Oswald at cheatsheet.com says there are four major reasons why homebuyers might do well to consider a smart home purchase - or upgrade - very carefully:

1. It can be hacked. This started happening way back in 2014, when security researchers showed that hackers can take complete control of Belkin WeMo smart home devices.

2. The technology is moody. When you use a smart switch or press a smart button to operate a connected device, the signal first heads to your smart hub, then the hub sends it to the cloud, where it is sent back to your hub, and finally to your device. What happens when this fails? Those devices don’t work.

3. Many competing “standards.” The sheer number of smart home platforms and technologies is staggering, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WeMo, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and a host of others. Not every platform talks to one another, and many aren’t even compatible with others, making the problem worse.

4. The price is too high. Before you know it, you could be in deep — to the tune of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And what if you want to switch smart home technologies? There’s no guarantee what you just bought will even work.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Spring Cleaning Tips

March 20, 2017 12:33 am

We all know we’re “supposed” to clean for springtime. While we should ideally be cleaning our spaces well year-round, a little seasonal push can sometimes offer the motivation we need to give our home a good scrub. Below are a handful of simple spring cleaning tips from BISSELL.

- Get an early start and dive in before the weather tempts you to spend Saturdays outdoors—this will ensure you won't skip any important tasks.

- When it comes to deep cleaning any floor surface, make sure to vacuum or sweep first, and move as much furniture as possible for a blank slate.

- Don't forget about the furniture. Items like couches, beds and cabinets are in constant use year-round and need a thorough clean.

- Clean from the top of the room down. Get the cobwebs in the corners, ceiling fans and the tops of appliances clean and work your way down to the floor. That way you don't have to clean anything twice.

- Use your vacuum crevice tool to clean dust off of baseboards, from between kitchen chair spokes and on the stairs.Source: www.bissell.com.

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Tips Beautify Your Property – Sustainably!

March 18, 2017 12:33 am

I recently attended a workshop on water conservation. Depending on which part of the country you live in, water conservation and preservation are a hot subject. One of the presenters said that if every homeowner did just one thing, it could make an exponential difference toward ensuring we could pour fresh drinkable water every time we turn the tap. That one thing is installing one or more home rain barrels.

Our contacts at the Missouri Botanical Garden says a key to maximizing your property's sustainability is conserving water and controlling water runoff.

Your lawn:
- Water plants only when they need it. Lawns only need about 1 inch of rain a week. Set up a rain gauge to record weekly rainfall.
- For lawns, use a low-angle spray instead of oscillating sprinklers as they result in less water loss due to evaporation.
- Position watering devices to prevent water loss by water falling in storm gutters, walkways or in the street.

Your garden:
- Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses instead of oscillating sprinklers as they result in less water loss due to evaporation.
- Position watering devices to prevent water loss by water falling in storm gutters, walkways or in the street.
- Add mulch beds to help retain soil moisture.
- Set up a rain barrel to collect rainwater for watering plants.

Elsewhere on your property:
- Plant a rain garden or developing a swale to help retain water in the soil and prevent runoff.
- Install a cistern to collect water to use for plants, washing clothes, bathing and other non-potable uses as local ordinances allow.
- Investigate the use of grey water use in your area.
- Remove hard surfaces in your landscape to allow water to percolate into the soil and not run off in storm gutters. Replace with a porous surface if needed.
- Incorporate “rainscaping” features such to manage storm water.
- Don’t use the hose to wash off your driveway, deck or walkway. Instead use a broom or an electric blower (gas-powered blowers produce more pollutants).

Learn more at missouribotanicalgarden.org.

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Aging in Place? Make Sure Your Home is Ready

March 18, 2017 12:33 am

As more and more baby boomers opt to stay close to children and grandchildren, aging in place - or choosing to stay in your home instead of moving to a retirement community - is an increasingly popular trend.

If you or your loved ones plan to remain in the family home, AARP recommends making sure modifications are made in the following areas to ensure a smooth transition into the golden years.

Lighting: Make sure there is plenty of lighting in all exterior locations: driveways, porches, decks, pathways, etc. Inside the home, ramp up lighting in stairwells, closets, hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms. Consider light-sensor night lights in such locations and install glow-in-the-dark light switches. In kitchens, install under-cabinet and stove lighting to better spotlight work areas. AARP recommends halogen bulbs, which reduce glare, and full-spectrum bulbs that better simulate daylight.

Mobility: Make it easy to move around your home by installing rolling casters on chairs. Make daily life more accessible by installing a walk-in or no-threshold shower with a bench and hand-held showerhead, and lower rods and shelves in closets and cabinets.

Safety: Lots of small details will make your home much safer as you age. Make sure there are handrails on both sides of the stairs, and install them in any area of your home where you may need more support, like the shower stall or front stoop. Check your doors and make sure locks are easy to use and that you have a peephole, viewing panel or security camera at the main entrance. Make sure your interior doorways are wide enough (at least 36 inches), carpets are secure, and electrical and phone cords are neatly arranged to prevent tripping hazards.

Taking the time to outfit your home now will allow you to safely enjoy many more years to come under the same roof.

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How to Save Your Home From Hail Damage

March 18, 2017 12:33 am

Warmer months may mean less snow trouble, but they bring about their own slew of weather-related dangers. These include floods, electric storms, and in some instances, hail. As a homeowner, there are things you can do to prep for hail hazards.  

Prepare your home's exterior. Take the time to reinforce roofs before storm season hits. Hurricane straps or clips can be installed to help secure the roof-to-wall connections. 

Secure your windows with storm shutters. Don't have shutters? You can make do with soft protective coverings, like blankets, in your home away from windows. You can also use them to help shield yourself from any flying debris.

Consider bringing outdoor items inside to protect them. If you can't get them all inside remember to protect glass tables and secure lawn furniture/umbrellas and trash receptacles.

Stay inside during a hailstorm, if possible. Try to stay away from skylights and doors. Close drapes, blinds or window shades to prevent the wind from blowing shattered window glass inside. Be sure your family is safe and don't forget to bring pets inside, too.

Keep materials on hand to cover any broken windows or other openings to your home. It's important to keep wind and water out of these areas to prevent further storm damage.

Don't neglect your roof gutters. You can minimize the potential for water damage or even ice dams by keeping your gutters free of clogs and debris, and repairing sections of gutters or downspouts that have come loose.

Consider installing a sewer backflow valve. Designed to temporarily prevent return flow into a home from sewer lines, this valve can come in handy during periods of significant rainfall when the capacity of some sewers may be exceeded and a combination of storm water and wastewater could be released into your basement.

Landscape with a purpose. Moisture-seeking trees, bushes and shrubs can infiltrate very small cracks in sewer pipes and, as their roots grow, can widen cracks and cause blockages. A plumber can intervene to get to the "root" cause.

Keep an eye on your French drains. These drains are a great way to keep outside water from coming into your house. However, you need to make sure that your French drains aren't connected to your sanitary sewer as the water from the drains can create sewer backups.Source: http://www.farmers.com/news/seasonal-smarts.

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How to Do White Right

March 17, 2017 6:27 pm

Designers and homeowners continue to love the look of white walls for kitchens, dining rooms and living spaces, but there are hundreds of shades in the white color palette. Choosing the right one is critical to achieving the look and ambience you’re striving for.

"You'll want to consider three key factors when choosing the perfect white," explains Sara McLean, color expert at Dunn-Edwards. "Number one is your home's lighting; second is where you live, and third is the architectural style."          

According to McLean, north-facing rooms don't tend to have as much natural light, needing warmer whites to give the space some life. Warm whites are those with yellow, brown or even red undertones.

Conversely, south-facing rooms get more sunlight, so cooler whites—those with subtle gray or blue tints—can help add balance. "Be sure to paint large samples on the walls and live with them for a couple days. You'll be able to see how the light reflects off each color at different times of the day." 

Where you live is yet another factor that has a big influence on which whites to choose for your home. Warmer whites work well in northern climates, which have cooler, bluer natural lighting. Conversely, southern climates tend to have warmer, natural lighting, so cooler whites can help create a clean, cool look.

Your home's architectural style can also help narrow down your choice for whites. Warmer whites are ideal for traditional Spanish-style and desert ranch and Craftsman homes. Tropical designs come alive with tinted and warmer whites that reflect the natural elements in the room, such as wood and bamboo. Mid-century modern homes and Scandinavian designs tend to favor neutral and cooler whites.

Be sure to carry out your due diligence instead of just choosing any white. The differences among them may be subtle, but the variance in results is dramatic.

Source: Dunn-Edwards Paints

Contact me today for more tips on successfully bringing white into your home.

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Need to Downsize? Make a Little Money in the Process

March 17, 2017 6:27 pm

If you’re getting ready to downsize, or are settling the estate of a loved one, you will be confronted with the often overwhelming task of getting rid of furniture and belongings. These tips from MaxSold will not only help you streamline the process, but possibly bring in some money along the way:

Decide What to Keep
The KonMari Method of decluttering from Marie Kondo offers the sage advice of keeping those items that bring you joy and that you also have room for. If an item doesn’t fall into both of these categories, set it aside in a separate room or designated nook of the house.

Don’t Go Straight to the Dump
Instead of adding to landfills, try to recover money for your unwanted items. What may be “junk” in your eyes is just the thing someone else may be looking for, whether it’s a broken-in easy chair or a box of extension cords.

Take Your Time with High-Value Items
If you’re getting rid of something that truly has value, take your time and price it right. If you post an ad online and get an instant response, you might have underpriced the item. Conversely, if you’re getting no responses, you may have priced your item too high. Auction sites—like MaxSold—might be the best option, as they encourage bidding, and therefore, a good price for your prized possession.

Avoid Storage
If you can’t get the price you think an item deserves, you may think storage is a good option while you hold out for the right price. However, this strategy usually ends up costing you more, as you pay potentially thousands for storage while your item depreciates in value. Unless you have a family member to give it to, a better financial decision is to get it sold.

Research Online Sales Sites
When looking for the right site to sell your items through, do your research. Choose a company with proven methodologies, good online reviews and a process that eliminates security risk.

Source: MaxSold

For more tips on bringing in money as you downsize, contact me today.

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Homeowners Back on the Remodeling Bandwagon

March 17, 2017 6:27 pm

From older homeowners to millennials buying more affordable homes that need some work, remodeling is making a comeback. According to the recent “Demographic Change and Remodeling Outlook” report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, the residential remodeling market, which includes spending on improvements and repairs by both homeowners and rental property owners, reached an all-time high of $340 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase 2 percent per year on average through 2025 after adjusting for inflation.

The baby boom generation has led home improvement spending for the past 20 years, and its influence shows no signs of waning. Older homeowners will continue to dominate the remodeling market as they make investments to age in place safely and comfortably. Expenditures by homeowners age 55 and over are expected to grow by nearly 33 percent by 2025, accounting for more than three-quarters of total gains over the decade. The share of market spending by homeowners age 55 and over is projected to reach 56 percent by 2025, up from only 31 percent in 2005.

Gen Xers are now in their prime remodeling years, and while some are still recovering from home equity losses after the housing crash, many in this generation will undertake discretionary projects deferred during the downturn. And as younger households move into homeownership, they will supplement the already thriving improvement market.

Additionally, as a new generation of homeowners enters the remodeling market, specialty niches focused on energy-efficiency, environmental sustainability, and healthy homes are likely to see significant growth. Home automation—encompassing everything from entertainment systems to home energy management, lighting, appliance control, and security—is also emerging as a strong growth market, particularly among younger households.

If you’re considering a remodeling project in your near future, keep in mind those renovations that recoup the most in value. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost vs. Value Report, you will see the most return on investment from the following mid-range remodels:
  • Fiberglass attic insulation - 107.7 percent of cost recouped
  • Entry door replacement (steel) - 90.7 percent of cost recouped
  • Manufactured stone veneer - 89.4 percent of cost recouped
  • Minor kitchen remodel - 80.2 percent of cost recouped
  • Garage door replacement - 76.9 percent of cost recouped
For more information about today's remodeling market, contact me today.

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Boomers Anxious About Housing Affordability

March 17, 2017 6:27 pm

The road to retirement is supposed to lead toward a more relaxed, enriched phase of life. But these days, it seems to be fraught with anxiety.

According to a survey of 1,000 Americans aged 55+ from The NHP Foundation, a not-for-profit provider of affordable housing, 30 percent of Americans experience anxiety at least once a month about being able to afford where they live, with 42 percent of retirees reporting such anxiety at least once daily. The greatest anxiety comes from being able to afford “desirable retirement living.”

Sixty-four percent of boomer parents also experience anxiety over their adult children’s ability to afford their rent or mortgage, with 43 percent most concerned about the next generation’s ability to save for retirement.
 
If housing affordability is a concern for you or your loved ones, here are some tips from IMB Bank to ease the burden:
  • Consider becoming a “rentvestor”; purchase a home in a more affordable location as an investment and rent a smaller place for yourself in your ideal location.
  • Consider buying an apartment. Not only will this most likely be more affordable, it may allow you to live in the area you most desire.
  • Consider buying a home with another family member or close friend, or converting part of your existing home into rental space.
  • Consider a fixer-upper and plan to affordably space out remodeling projects over time. 
By rethinking your approach to housing, not only will you uncover ways to make your living situation more affordable, but you will also gain a much-needed level of peace of mind.
 
Contact me today for more tips to help ease the anxiety associated with housing affordability.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Let Spring into Your Home

March 17, 2017 6:27 pm

No matter how mild or harsh your winter may have been, spring is a rite of passage that should be recognized throughout your home with elements of renewal. This will not only serve as a refresh for your living environment, but for your state of mind as well. Here are some simple yet highly effective ways to infuse spring throughout your home:
  1. Lighten up...literally. One of the best things about spring is the extension of daylight hours, so make sure to let all that extra light into your home. Trade in heavy drapes for sheer curtains and keep shades and blinds raised as often as possible. Survey your yard and trim back any trees and bushes that may be blocking the flow of light into your home.
  2. Bring spring growth indoors. Among the sweetest harbingers of spring are buds, bulbs and new green growth. Capture this inspiration indoors by forcing bulbs in a decorative pot or collecting forsythia branches in a vase to force their famous yellow blooms indoors. Cut forsythia stalks at an angle once the weather has been above freezing for a few days, but before they bloom. Place them in water right away, and watch them work their magic.
  3. Play with color. Take some of your favorite spring colors—yellow, purple, bright green, soft pink—and add them to your home décor with throw pillows, table linens, towels and pillow shams. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, paint a wall, a set of shelves, or your cabinet doors in a spring shade.
  4. Fresh air. When the temperature permits, open your windows and let in that refreshing spring air. Even if it’s just for an hour during the warmest part of the day, the fresh air will help weed out winter mustiness and renew the air quality in your home.
  5. Spring scents. Cut or buy a bunch of lilacs or hyacinths and place them in vases around your home. Alternatively, light candles in spring-time scents to permeate your home with the scents of the season. 
For more ways to infuse spring into your home, contact me today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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